The year 2012 had some unforgettable headlines with stories ranging from massacres to the re-election of a president. Here are the top world news stories in this busy news year.
Just as my generation was transfixed by the lone man who stood in front of a line of menacing People's Republic tanks on June 5, 1989, in Tiananmen Square, one Pakistani teen stood in front of the extremists who threaten to take her generation into the dark ages. Malala Yousafzai, 15, was a longtime foe of the Taliban as an advocate for girls' education in her country's conservative Swat valley. She blogged about her fight, did TV interviews, demonstrated for her rights. Then in October, a Taliban assassin put a bullet through her head and wounded two of her friends as the girls were coming home from school. Furthermore, these beasts proudly took credit for the attack. Malala lived, went to Britain to recover from her injuries, and has vowed -- with the blessing of her father -- to continue her fight. But it's not just her fight anymore: journalists who even dare to cover the story are targeted for death by the Taliban, and a country of people who want to move forward, of dreamers like Malala, have been inspired to rally for a better future free of extremism. This girl has been able to do what politicians hunkered in Islamabad haven't -- challenge the cultural way of thinking and pull Pakistanis from all walks of life together.
On Nov. 6, 2012, after a hard-fought campaign against Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected to another four-year term in the White House. It wasn't a small feat considering the stagnant economy recovery from recession and sagging popularity for the former Illinois senator. But just when it looked like Romney could overtake the incumbent on Election Day, former President Bill Clinton swooped in to rally the troops and bring a less-than-excited electorate to the polls when it mattered for his party. Not only did Clinton show he's still got what it takes to move history, he paved a nice path for his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to run in four years if she so chooses.
Will the bloodshed here ever end? Inspired by other Arab Spring movements, protests began against the brutal rule of Bashar al-Assad on Jan. 26. 2011. The ongoing protests escalated to an uprising in March 2011, with thousands taking to the streets in numerous cities to demand the ouster of Assad. The protests have been met with brutal government force, including tanks and sniper fire, with thousands killed. With the world barely taking notice, the death toll easily passed 45,000, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, warned 100,000 Syrians could die in this humanitarian disaster with the new year.
2012 saw fresh clashes in the region when Israel responded to ongoing rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. With a Muslim Brotherhood president now in power in Egypt, it also raised questions about the dynamic in the future: Will the peace treaty with Israel be honored, or will Cairo begin to side with the Islamist aims of Hamas? Taking the conflict to another dimension, on Nov. 29, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted 138-9, with 41 abstentions, to admit the Palestinian Authority as a nonmember observer state. The United States and Israel were among the opposition.
On Oct. 28, 2012, the much-feared "Frankenstorm," named so for its proximity to Halloween, began to affect the Eastern United States with rain, wind, and high tides. Hurricane Sandy moved onshore the next evening at New Jersey with a 900-mile-wide reach that hit areas from North Carolina to Maine. Much of New York City was flooded and left in the dark, and a total of 8 million Americans were without power on the morning of Oct. 30 thanks to the historic storm that left dozens dead from the Caribbean to America.
Islamists hurriedly pushed out Egypt's new constitution -- but if they'd hoped that would stem the protests over President Mohamed Morsi's power grab, they were very mistaken. So soon after winning their freedom from the long autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians learned that their Tahrir Square battle had just begun. On Dec. 26, despite protests that democracy was not being favored in post-Arab Spring Egypt, Morsi signed into law the new constitution. It was drafted without the participation of opposition and minority groups, and was put to a referendum just days before. It passed by 64 percent, but wide boycotts resulted in just a third of the electorate voting.
On Sept. 11, 2012, a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked in an hours-long onslaught. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed, and Libyans who recognized Stevens' role in helping them win freedom from the tyranny of Moammar Gadhafi openly mourned his death in street demonstrations and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice. The attack took on a decidedly political role in the U.S. campaign season, though, with the Obama administration coming under attack for initially blaming the attack on anger over an anti-Muhammed video on YouTube. Congressional hearings swung into action, but despite an impassioned conservative base the scandal didn't get enough traction to affect Obama's re-election. The investigation continues, with Obama concluding from internal reviews that "sloppiness" led to the diplomatic security having its guard down and falling victim to the terrorist attack.
You could say that Vladmir Putin got punked this year. Three members of the all-girl Russian punk band were sentenced to two years in prison for protesting the Putin regime. But their case drew international condemnation and highlighted the Kremlin's continuing backslide into authoritarianism, with increasing crackdowns upon free speech, free press, and anyone who stands against the regime. And this attempt to silence its critics has just served to stoke the anger -- and resolve -- of the opposition.
On July 20, 2012, a gunman opened fire on moviegoers catching a midnight showing of the new Batman film at a theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and injuring 58. On Aug. 5, 2012, a gunman burst into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six. On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman started shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six adults. The year's tragedies touched off a heated debate over gun control and personal safety in a country where gun ownership is protected by the 2nd Amendment. And that debate is likely to continue well into the new year.
It took a video with, by year's end, more than 95 million views on YouTube to rocket Lord's Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony to international superstardom. The hunt for Kony, wanted for kidnapping children to use as soldiers and other war crimes, continues as before, but without the 15 minutes of fame to propel it. He's still somewhere at large in central Africa, despite an international effort -- and social media sensation -- to bring him to justice.