After months of primaries and caucuses, Mitt Romney finally won the Republican presidential nomination, beating out fellow presidential hopefuls like Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. He then picked Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate. Republicans were optimistic that they could defeat Obama thanks to the poor state of the economy, but gaffes, like when Romney said that 47% of Americans thought of themselves as victims, didn't help. The pair fought hard during their exceedingly expensive campaign, raising hundreds of millions of dollars and garnering nearly 61 million votes. If you were running for president, what would your big issue be? Learn more.
November 6th was a momentous day as Americans cast their vote to determine the next president. By the end of the night, the winner was clear. Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the election, earning him a second term as America's 44th president. The Obama/Biden ticket won but one swing state including Florida, a state that was once again so close that it took days for a winner to emerge. But unlike in the 2000 election, this time it didn't really matter. While Romney won the support of more white people and older American, Obama won more support from women, young voters and minorities, which led him to victory. What do you want Obama to do in his next term? Learn more.
In June, President Obama announced that undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children will be able to remain in the United States so long as they are either still in school, high school graduates or military veterans, and not over 30. This change in policy will affect up to 800,000 immigrants. The change was made by executive action, which means that President Obama did not consult with Congress. In 2010, Republicans in Congress blocked the Dream Act, which would have granted immigrants similar rights. Do you think at some point in the future people will be able to move wherever they want in the world or will we always have borders? Learn more.
President Obama (and Vice President Biden) made history by stating his support for same-sex marriage in May, after saying that his views on the matter were “evolving” for the last few years. This makes him the first president to publicly endorse same-sex marriage. Then in November, same-sex marriage referendums were on the ballot in a few states. In Maryland and Maine, voters were presented with the issue of whether same-sex marriage should be made legal, and in Washington, voters weighed in on the state legislature's decision to legalize it earlier this year. For the first time in US history, same-sex marriage was approved at the state level by popular vote. Nine of the 50 states have now legalized same-sex marriage, though previously it had only been through the legislature or the courts. What are the pros and cons of putting an issue like this directly to the voters instead of through the legislature? Learn more.
In 2010, Congress passed sweeping reform of healthcare with the Affordable Care Act, often called “Obamacare.” The law requires people not covered by an employer to purchase minimal health insurance, with the goal of lowering healthcare costs for all. But some questioned whether the health care law was constitutional, and the question eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court. In June of this year, the Supreme Court announced that it had upheld most of the law, including the “individual mandate.” Perhaps most surprising was that conservative justice John Roberts broke with the other conservative members to uphold the law. What's your opinion of the Supreme Court? Learn more.
In the November election, legalization of non-medical marijuana on the state level was approved in Colorado and Washington state. In both states, marijuana will be regulated similarly to alcohol, with restrictions on amount and the age of users. Supporters argued that legalizing the drug would allow law enforcement officials to focus their resources on bigger crimes. While opponents were concerned that, despite age restrictions, the law could lead to more drug use among teens. The drug is currently illegal on a national level. How much of a priority should drug offenses be for law enforcement officials? Learn more.
In May, Facebook became a publicly traded company for the first time. Before May, Facebook was privately owned, mostly by founder Mark Zuckerberg and the large firms that gave him money. In May it began selling shares of the company to the public with its Initial Public Offering (IPO). The IPO was the biggest in tech history, raising $16 billion, and at its peak the company was valued at $104 billion. Quickly, though, many thought the company was overhyped and the value plunged by more than 30% over the next few months. Do you think Facebook will be around in 10 years? Learn more.
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager with no criminal record, was killed in February by George Zimmerman, a Florida man on neighborhood watch who thought that Trayvon looked suspicious and then had an altercation with him. Zimmerman claimed that he shot Martin in self defense. Initially, Zimmerman wasn't arrested because of a Florida law called “Stand Your Ground” which permits people to kill those who they perceive as a threat. People around the country were outraged over Martin's death, claiming that there were racial overtones to the altercation and that Florida's self-defense law only propagates further violence. Protestors, including Trayvon's parents, civil rights leaders, professional athletes and celebrities, demanded that Zimmerman be arrested. He was not charged until six weeks after Trayvon's death. His trial is ongoing. What do you think about Florida's Stand Your Ground law? Learn more.
2012 saw a number of tragic mass shootings across the country, including a high school shooting in Ohio in February that left three students dead and another shooting at Oikos University in California that killed seven. One of the most shocking occurred this summer when a man opened fire at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. About a half hour after the start of the much-anticipated film, James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 more. Only two weeks later, a man went to a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and shot and killed six people, wounding three others. The man, Wade M. Page, was then killed by police. These tragic incidents have raised a debate about gun control and the glorification of violence in our society. Do you think our gun control laws are adequate? Learn more about the shooting in Aurora..
This year we some icons pass away. Few could match the vocal talent of Whitney Houston in her prime. She died at age 48 after struggling for years with drug addiction. Dick Clark, who hosted American Bandstand for decades and later hosted an annual New Year's Eve show in Times Square, died at 82 in April. In June, author Ray Bradbury, best known for his book Fahrenheit 451, passed away at the age of 91. Sally Ride, the first woman to launch into space, passed away in July. Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, died in August at age 82. Who do you think left the biggest legacy? Learn more.
Lance Armstrong has long been a hero to many. After fighting off a cancer that his doctors said he wouldn't survive, he went on to become the best cyclist the world has ever known. He won the most competitive bike race, the Tour de France, seven times in a row. However, he can no longer say that he won the Tour de France even once. That's because in July, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused him of doping - taking performance-enhancing drugs, which violates the rules of the sport. Amidst mounting evidence, Armstrong stopped fighting the case. He has been stripped of all his Tour de France titles. Do you think we should still respect Armstrong's accomplishments? Learn more.
In October, Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football assistant coach, was convicted of sexually abusing minors and sentences to 30 years in prison. Since he is 68 years old, this is more or less a life sentence. Back in January, Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach, died just months after being fired in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal. Officials believed that Paterno had knowledge of Sandusky's behavior and had not taken proper steps to report him. In July, the NCAA announced penalties for Penn State's football program. The team was fined $60 million, banned from the postseason for the next four years, and and had all wins since 1998 erased from the record books. Penn State then took down its statue of Joe Paterno. Does that scandal affect your opinion of Penn State? Learn more.
In February, a record 111.3 million viewers tuned in for Superbowl XLVI as the New York Giants became the 2012 champions. In October, another group of Giants won another championship when San Francisco beat Detroit in the World Series. Back in June, the Miami heat became the 2012 NBA champions, winning out over Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron James won his first title ever, and was MVP of the finals and of the regular season. Which of those teams is most likely to repeat in 2013?
Usain Bolt finished first place in the 100 and 200 meter dashes, and if there were a gold medal for social media, he'd have won that as well. Bolt was mentioned more than any other Olympic athlete on Twitter and Facebook during the London Olympics. He was mentioned on Twitter over a million times, garnering 80,000 tweets per minute during his 100 meter race. He ran that race in an astounding 9.63 seconds – the second-fastest time in history. Who ran the fastest time? Usain Bolt, when he made it in 9.58 seconds in 2009. Do you feel confident naming Bolt the fastest person ever? Learn more.
London hosted the summer Olympics this year, and their opening ceremonies featured a re-enactment of a traffic jam. Michael Phelps made history by winning an additional four gold and two silver medals, bringing his total to twenty-two medals overall (eighteen of them gold). When he hit nineteen, he became the record holder for most Olympic medals ever. History was also made by women from Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Qatar, who were the first female athletes to ever represent these countries. In the end, the United States came out with the most gold and the most total medals (46 and 104, respectively), followed by China and Great Britain. Do you think it matters which country wins the most golds? Learn more.
The Twilight Saga concluded this year with the fourth and final film, Breaking Dawn Part 2, which had a $340.9 million worldwide opening, the largest for the franchise. As one phenomenon ends, another begins: The Hunger Games made $155 million during its opening weekend, which made it the third-best debut ever in terms of revenue. The second movie of the trilogy, Catching Fire, is currently in production. Another mega movies series looms on the horizon; Disney plans to create another Star Wars trilogy, with Episode 7 in early stages of development. Disney bought Lucasfilm Ltd. for $4.05 billion this fall, acquiring the Star Wars rights. What was your favorite movie of 2012?
South Korean artist PSY garnered unprecedented amounts of attention with his single “Gangnam Style.” With 931 million views and counting, the song's music video is the most-viewed video on YouTube ever, surpassing Justin Beiber's “Baby.” It's worth remembering that just 10 years ago, YouTube didn't exist. What's your favorite YouTube video of 2012?
Last year, Egyptians overthrew their dictator and demanded a voice. In 2012, they participated in democracy for the first time with a presidential election in June. With the dictator, Hosni Mubarak, in jail, voters hoped that the election of President Mohamed Morsi would signal a democratic shift for their country. Many were alarmed, however, when Morsi issued decrees that put his laws above the scrutiny of the courts – at least until a new constitution is drafted. Protesters fear he is becoming yet another authoritarian leader. Supporters of Morsi say these new powers are simply a temporary measure to ease Egypt through its transition to democracy. Are you optimistic about Egyptian democracy? Learn more.
Libya also had their first free election in decades this summer. After the overthrow and death of the dictator Muammar Qaddafi last fall, Libyans voted in their first free election in 60 years. The National Forces Alliance, a more secular party, won a majority of seats in the election. Do you think democracy will last in Libya? Learn more.
Since March 2011, rebels in Syria have been waging an uprising against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who has responded with war-like force. Assad is a “president” but unlike in the United States, Syria doesn't have regular elections, so Syrians are unable to change the government by voting. In August, Riyad Hijab resigned as Prime Minister of Syria to join the uprising, calling Bashar al-Assad's rule a “terrorist, murderous regime.” Cease fire attempts in April and October failed within a few short days. As violence spills over Syria's border, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are being drawn into the war. It seems a resolution to the nearly two-year conflict is still far off. Do you think the United States should be more involved in the Syrian Conflict? Learn more.
On September 11, Islamist militants stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack. This was the first assassination of an American ambassador since 1979. Libyan authorities have been reluctant to assist in the investigation against suspected members of extremist militias, and even now, no one has been arrested for the attack. What are the benefits and drawbacks of having ambassadors in foreign countries? Learn more.
Malala Yousufzai, a teenage Pakistani activist, gained worldwide recognition for speaking out against the Taliban and promoting girls' education. The Taliban retaliated by attempting to assassinate the 15 year-old, shooting her in the head. She was flown to the UK for emergency treatment and is in recovery. Having survived the attack, she has become an international icon for education equality. The UN has declared November 10 as Malala Day, a global day of action in her honor. What would you do if you were not allowed an education? Learn more.
In an effort to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations, the UN voted and granted Palestine "non-member observer" statehood. The Palestinians, whose land has been recognized as a "territory," have sought for years to be considered their own state. While the vast majority of countries around the world are in support of a Palestinian state, the US, a close ally with Israel, voted against it. The US has taken a firm stance against a Palestinian state as long as Palestine is under the rule of Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist group. Do you think it's time for Palestine to be its own state? Learn more.
Arctic ice this summer shrunk to an all-time low, further evidence of widespread climate change. Diminishing sea ice means higher temperatures around the world. Reflecting more than 90 percent of the sun's heat off the Earth, sea ice acts like a natural air conditioner. However, when it melts it is replaced by dark ocean, and absorbs more than half of the sun's heat. As the ice melts, extreme weather changes have been occurring worldwide, including more storms and higher temperatures. Do you think addressing global climate change will become a priority? Learn more.
The summer of 2012 saw a severe drought that hit more than half the country. 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the U.S., with July 2012 as the hottest month. The drought was a huge blow to crop growth, impacting the production of corn, soybeans, other crops, and food for livestock. Did the drought affect where you live? Learn more.
Hurricane Sandy was one of the largest storms to hit the Mid-Atlantic. Dubbed "Frankenstorm," Sandy made landfall on the evening of October 29 in New Jersey. According to the National Hurricane Center, at landfall there were maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. The superstorm caused massive storm surges, flooding, and widespread power outages. The storm has been blamed for more than 100 deaths in the US. Entire neighborhoods in New Jersey and New York were destroyed. Officials estimated that it caused $50 billion in economic losses, due to lost business and property damage. This makes Hurricane Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina. Areas affected by the storm will likely be rebuilding for years. Are you and your family prepared for a natural disaster? Learn more.
In August, NASA landed a rover called Curiosity on Mars. The product of a $2.5 billion investment, Curiosity is equipped with a 7-foot arm and a tool kit that includes everything it needs to search for evidence of the possibility of life on the planet. It has been sending back images and video as it explores. Also, the rover beamed Will.i.am's single “Reach for the Stars” back to Earth, making him the first artist to stream a single from Mars. Curiosity's mission, initially planned to last two years, was extended indefinitely in December. Would you live on Mars if that was possible someday? Learn more.
The space shuttle Discovery may no longer be taking trips into the great unknown, but retirement for a space shuttle has some unique perks. Before being grounded for good and given to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, the Discovery got a piggyback ride on a jumbo jet. The bizarre flying duo made a few stops around the country. Discovery is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. Would you like to see the shuttle? Learn more.
In October, Felix Baumgartner attempted something no one has ever done before. The skydiver jumped from 24 miles up in space, setting a new world record for the highest altitude for a skydive. He was in freefall for over four minutes and became the first skydiver to break the sound barrier, traveling a maximum speed of 834 mph. He fell safely to Earth and was all smiles when he took off his helmet. How long do you think his record will stand? Learn more.
The Mayan civilization built a pretty awesome and complex calendar that differs dramatically from our 12-month calendar. According to their Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, on December 21, 2012 we will enter another age, or b'ak'tun. Some people believe, or want to believe, that this will be the end of the world. But we're betting that we'll be back in 2013 bringing you more Week in Raps. Happy 2012 to everybody. We hope you made it great. What do you think was the biggest story of 2012? Learn more.