Thursday, December 29, 2011
From this Blogger's perspective, here are the top 10 news stories of 2011. Each was chosen based on their potential on-going long-term effects on humanity. In no particular order, they are:
1) The Arab Spring: Erupting in Tunisia and spreading across the Arab world, the entire year was characterized by protests and political changes in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, as well as on-going protests in a dozen nations (currently (most serious in Syria and Yemen) represent serious winds of change throughout the geo-political sphere. A timeline of protests throughout the Arab world can be found at The Guardian
2) Weather Extremes and Global Warming: Once a matter of debate, the vast majority of the world’s climatologists agree that global warming is happening at an even faster rate than expected, with significant changes in the ocean temperatures and subsequent weather patterns. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were an all-time record of twelve weather disasters costing more than $1 billion each in 2011 (for a total of 45 billion dollars in damage). The previous record was nine such disasters in 2008. Weather events included a blizzard across much of North America on February 2, record wilfires in the US west, a tornado outbreak that levelled Joplin, Missouri, Hurricane Irene (which uncharacteristically inundated and devastated inland communities in Vermont and Upstate New York), and a foot-and-half snowfall at Halloween in the northeast US. Elsewhere, record high temperatures were recorded in Iraq and Kuwait, an all-time record low volume of Arctic sea was recorded, record floods inundated Australia and Asia, and the worst droughts in three decades affected Africa.
3) Osama bin Laden Killed: A decade after he masterminded the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, Osama bin Laden was killed in a surgical strike on his hideout in Pakistan. This represented the most visible and significant victory in the global fight against terrorism and the al Qaeda organization.
4) New York State Enacts Marriage Equality: Four days after its scheduled adjournment for the season, the New York State Senate gave its approval to Marriage Equality by a larger-than expected margin of 33-29 when four Republicans broke rank and joined the majority of Democrats, making New York the seventh and largest jurisdiction in the US to permit same-sex marriage. Full story at Tully's Page
5) Occupy Wall Street and Police Brutality: Beginning on September 17 in New York City, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in many ways inaugurated an American version of the Arab Spring. Spreading to other cities across the nation, thousands of Americans from all walks of life took to the streets to protest persistent unemployment, indebtedness, foreclosures and economic injustice in raw juxtaposition to the trillions of bailouts received by Wall Street financial houses and executives. The movement elicited a brutal response by police forces, and the use of pepper spray against peaceful protesters, young women, and veterans became a national outrage. The movement propelled Time magazine to name “The Protester” as it’s Person of the Year.
6) Federal Reserve Bailouts Revealed: For almost 100 years, the Federal Reserve System, which serves as the nations Central Bank, operated without an audit or significant political oversight. In the aftermath of the bank bailouts commencing in 2008, Congress began looking into the Fed’s activities using taxpayer dollars. In all, it was revealed that over 16 trillion in secret unpaid loans were made to both American and foreign banks. Sen. Bernie Sanders
7) Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown in Japan: On March 11, an 8.9 Magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, the worst earthquake in modern history. Over 16,000 people died from the quake and the tsunami that followed. When the Fukushima Daiichi power plant site in Fukushima was inundated by a 49-foot high tsunami wave, the nuclear reactors could not be cooled, began to overheat, and meltdowns began at three of the reactors. What followed was a release of radioactive cesium, evacuation of the surrounding area, and subsequent government and industry cover-ups of the extent of radiation. Fukushima Radiation
8) John Wheeler Murdered: On New Year’s Eve, after the death of 100,000 fish and 5,000 blackbirds in Arkansas, John P. Wheeler, a decades-long government expert in toxic chemicals, was found murdered in a dump as he was en route to Washington DC. The kills and murder came in the wake of the US Government’s Pine Bluffs Arsenal "disposal” of mustard and nerve gas in the area, as well as active “fracking” by energy companies. The incidences awakened a national concern for the environmental effects of these activities, and was the single most visited and cited webpage on this site: John Wheeler
9) Milton Hershey Rejects HIV Positive Student: In an almost incomprehensible burst of ignorance, prejudice, and chutzpah, the highly-vaunted Milton Hershey School (a private, tuition-free boarding school), issued a statement coinciding with World AIDs Day explaining their refusal to admit a student due to his HIV positive status, in direct violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Outrage was swift, and brought additional publicity to continuing ignorance about HIV transmission. Milton Hershey
10) European Debt Crisis: Beginning in Greece, the ability of some Eurozone member nations to repay their government debts created continental – and global – concern. Ireland, once seen as the “Celtic Tiger” for its explosive, high-tech-driven growth found itself enacting austerity measures and slashing government spending; Italy, Portugal, and Spain found themselves in a similar condition. The downgrading of these nations bonds began a record weakening of the Euro against the US Dollar that continued throughout the year. A weakened Euro makes it more difficult for the Eurozone members to purchase American goods, endangering the US recovery.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Perhaps the most closely watched ballot initiative was in Ohio, where voters rejected “Issue #2,” a Republican-supported initiative that would have severely restricted the rights of unions to pursue collective bargaining agreements. The vote was not even close, as voters in this swing-state rejected Republican Governor John Kasich’s bill by more than a 2:1 margin.
At the same time, voters in Maine have decisively rejected conservatives efforts to eliminate same-day registration for voting by a margin of 60% - 40%.
And in Kentucky, a state that saw a Republican Senate win in a special election just last year, voters elected to give four out of five statewide offices to Democrats. And in New York's Suffolk County (Long Island), where Republicans made the County Executive race a "referendum" on President Obama, the Republican candidate was losing by a surprisingly large margin of 55%-45% with roughly 40% of all precinct reporting. Further south in Virginia, that state elected its first openly gay State Senator, Adam Ebbin.
[Update from the West: Russell Pearce, the Arizona state senator from the Republican-dominated suburbs of Phoenix who wrote Arizona's controversial immigration law lost, was recalled last night 55%-45%. The election was widely seen as a referendum on tough measures against illegal immigrants.]
Nationally, Republicans have waged multi-state campaigns to restrict collective bargaining rights, oppose gay rights, impede voters from accessing the polls, and fomenting anti-immigrant sentiment. In my home state of New Hampshire, the Republican-dominated legislature supported all such measures.
When one considers that off-year elections tend to result in losses for the President’s party….and considering that the lower turnouts associated with these off-year elections almost always benefit Republicans...and considering the continuing economic malaise – these results should send a very clear message to the GOP:
Americans may not be thrilled with how Obama has handled his Presidency so far - in fact, they may be downright unhappy, frustrated, and/or disappointed - but by even greater numbers they completely reject the agenda of the current extremist Republicans.