Biggest news stories of 2012

© Ed Andrieski/AP; Charles Dharapak/AP; Paul Hanna/Reuters; Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
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The Biggest News Stories

It has been quite a year! Plenty of interesting stories hit the headlines this year (like the latest royal news and a Secret Service scandal). Take a trip down memory lane with details on many of the year's top stories here. See gallery

© Paul Hanna: Reuters
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The Costa Concordia cruise ship capsized off the coast of Italy

When: Jan. 13

What happened: The Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground and partially sank when it veered off course off the coast of Italy (where, exactly?). Thousands of passengers had to be evacuated and at least 30 died. Capt. Francesco Schettino (see photos) is now under investigation for his role in the disaster.


Why did the ship change its route?

What has Schettino been accused of? | Watch his controversial apology

What’s happening to the ship now?

Search: A sinking ship


© Wikipedia: AP
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SOPA protests

When: Jan. 18

What happened: A number of websites (how many?) protested against two proposed copyright infringement laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Some extremely popular websites, including these two, even closed down their content for a period of time. Why did they protest?


How many people emailed Congress to oppose the bills?

How many tweeted about SOPA?

What was the outcome of the protests?

Search: An online protest

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Gabrielle Giffords resigned from Congress

When: Jan. 22

What happened: Gabrielle Giffords (see photos) resigned from Congress (which district did she represent?) so she could concentrate on recovering from the shooting that nearly killed her a year before. Read more about the incident.


Watch a video of her announcing her resignation

Which political party does she support?

Search: A Representative resigns

© Dan Honda: Contra Costa Times: MCT: ZUMA Press
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Proposition 8 ruled unconstitutional by federal appeals court

When: Feb. 7

What happened: California’s Proposition 8 (when was it approved?), which outlawed same-sex marriage, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. There were much publicized and highly funded campaigns for and against the measure. Watch news coverage following the ruling.


How much did campaigns for Prop 8 raise?

How much did campaigns against Prop 8 raise?

What did proponents of the proposition do?

Search: A proposition overturned

© Mel Evans: AP
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Whitney Houston died

When: Feb. 11

What happened: Singing sensation Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room (at which luxury hotel?) the night before this award show. Celebrities paid tribute to the star at the event. Watch Jennifer Hudson’s performance.


What was the cause of death?

Check out the late star’s filmography

Search: The departure of a diva

© Jonathan Alcorn: Reuters
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Trayvon Martin is shot

When: Feb. 26

What happened: Unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in what some claim was a racially motivated act. Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense (according to this Florida law), but he was later charged with second-degree murder.


What was Martin doing before he was shot?

How did Zimmerman plea?

What’s happening now?

Search: The shooting of a teenager




© Pedro Mendoza: AP
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Secret Service agents fired for prostitution scandal

When: April

What happened: Several (how many?) U.S. Secret Service agents were involved in a prostitution scandal in Colombia before the Summit of the Americas (what’s that?). Some of those involved resigned, were fired or were allowed to retire following the incident. 


What were the agents there to do?

How many women reportedly were involved?

Is prostitution legal in Colombia?

Search: A Secret Service scandal

(© Kevin Lamarque: Reuters
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President Obama signs agreement with president of Afghanistan

When: May 1

What happened: President Obama and Afghan president Hamid Karzai signed an agreement committing the U.S. (for how long?) to helping the Asian country. The agreement, dubbed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, came a year after this very significant event.


Where did the two leaders sign the agreement?

Watch news coverage of the event

When did it officially start?

Search: An agreement for Afghanistan


© Daniel Acker: Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Facebook shares go public

When: May 18

What happened: Facebook, the most popular social networking site in the world (what’s second?), went public earlier this year, with trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market beginning the morning of May 18. What was the original price of each share?


Watch news coverage of the first day of trading

How much are shares sold for now?

Why did the company decide to go public?

Search: Social media shares

© Sang Tan: AP
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The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee central weekend

When: June 2-5

What happened: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (see photos) celebrated 60 years of reigning over England with celebrations throughout the year. The central weekend for her Diamond Jubilee was in June. What did she do to celebrate?


When did she start her reign?

How many Commonwealth realms does she reign over?

Search: A royal celebration



© Charles Dharapak: AP
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Supreme Court rules against most of Arizona’s Immigration Law

When: June 25

What happened: The Supreme Court ruled against most of Arizona’s controversial immigration law Arizona SB 1070 (read more about it). Those opposing the law claimed it encouraged racial profiling. What’s the one part of the law that was upheld?


When was the law passed?

How did President Obama respond to it?

How did the justices vote?

Search: Immigration law overturned


© Kris Connor: Getty Images
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President Obama’s Health Care Act is upheld

When: June 28

What happened: The Supreme Court voted to uphold most of Obamacare, the president’s plan for U.S. health care reform (what’s the full name of the law?).  The core of the law requires most Americans to have health insurance. How many Americans were uninsured in 2010?


How did the Supreme Court justices vote?

When did the act originally become a law?

Which state has the highest percentage of uninsured people?

Search: A healthy choice

© Galon Wampler: AP
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Wildfires in Colorado and New Mexico

When: June

What happened: Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes after dangerous wildfires spread in both New Mexico (through this beautiful national forest) and Colorado (near this college town). C-130 air tankers (see photos) were even called in to assist in fighting the fires.


What is thought to have contributed to the Colorado fire?

Watch news coverage of the fires

Search: Wildfires wreak havoc

© Ed Andrieski: AP
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Colorado theater shooting

When: July 20

What happened: James Holmes (see photos) opened fire at a midnight screening of this film at a theater in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed, 58 were injured and Holmes was arrested immediately afterward. What has he been charged with


What did Holmes do before he shot into the audience?

What happened to gun sales following the shooting?

Search: Theater tragedy


© Streeter Lecka: Getty Images
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Summer Olympic Games

When: July 27 to Aug. 12

What happened: Athletes from around the world (how many countries and territories were represented?) traveled to London for the Summer Olympics. Famed director Danny Boyle (which 2008 film did he win an Oscar for?) directed the opening ceremony. Watch clips of the show here.


Which country won the most medals? | How many did it win?

What was the most watched sporting event?

Search: The Summer Games


© Tom Lynn: Reuters
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Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin

When: Aug. 5

What happened: Wade Michael Page (see photos) killed six people when he opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin (what is Sikhism?). It is unclear what Page’s motive was; he was killed at the scene.  


Page was reportedly a member of this white supremacist group

Watch news coverage of the tragedy

Search: Temple tragedy



Photos © Reuters
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Rover lands on Mars

When: Aug. 5

What happened: A NASA rover (what’s it called?) made it to Mars in August and completed what was said to be a challenging landing without any problems. What will it do there?  


What’s the total cost of the Mars mission?

What’s Curiosity powered by? | See photos of the rover

Search: Mission on Mars

© Chris Helgren: Reuters
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Ecuador grants Julian Assange political asylum

When: Aug. 16

What happened: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (see photos) was controversially granted political asylum by Ecuador in August. Assange had been staying at the Ecuador embassy in London while Britain attempted to extradite him to Sweden (why?).  


Why did Ecuador grant Assange political asylum?

Where is Assange now? | He is reportedly suffering from health problems

Search: Political asylum granted

© Joe Skipper: Reuters
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Mitt Romney gets Republican party nomination

When: Aug. 28

What happened: Mitt Romney (see photos) was officially selected as the Republican party’s presidential candidate at the end of August. He accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention. Watch his acceptance speech.


Who was Romney’s running mate? | When did he choose him?

What delayed the Republican National Convention?

Search: Republican candidate selected

© Esam Al-Fetori: Reuters
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U.S. embassies attacked

When: September

What happened: A number of U.S. embassies ― including those in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and this South Asian country ― were attacked following the release of an anti-Islam video on YouTube (what’s it called?). Protests at many other embassies across the globe ensued and a number of people lost their lives.  


Who reportedly released the video? | What were the consequences?

How did YouTube respond?

Search: Violence at U.S. embassies


© Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Reuters
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Cases of West Nile virus in Texas increase

When: September  

What happened: The number of cases of West Nile Virus (what’s that?) in the U.S., and in particular this Southern state, increased dramatically in September. What causes West Nile Virus in humans?


How many cases have been reported in 2012? | How many deaths?

Is there a vaccine?

Read up on how to avoid getting the virus

Search: A deadly virus outbreak



© Jonathan Ernst: Reuters
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NFL replacement refs

When: September

What happened: The National Football League decided to hire replacement referees (what was their officiating background?) while their regular officials were locked out (over what?). As a result, the first three weeks of the NFL season were filled with controversial calls.


Which call seemingly led to the end of the lockout? | Watch a clip of it

How much did NFL refs make before the lockout? | How much will they make now?

Search: Football fuss

© Pat Little: Reuters
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Jerry Sandusky sentenced

When: Oct. 9

What happened: In June, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (see photos) was found guilty of sexually abusing children. On Oct. 9, he was sentenced. How many years will he be in prison?


How many charges was he found guilty of?

What did Sandusky say the night before the sentencing?

Where is he serving the sentence?

Search: A long time behind bars


© Mike Segar: Reuters
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Unemployment rate in U.S. is lowest since 2009

When: October

What happened: It was revealed in October that the U.S. unemployment rate in September was the lowest it had been in three years (since when exactly?). Down to just 7.8 percent (so how many people were unemployed?), it showed that the economy is perhaps improving.  


Which state has the highest unemployment rate? | Which state has the lowest?

When was the highest unemployment rate in the U.S.? | What percent were unemployed?

Search: Workin’ hard

© Mario Tama: Getty Images
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Hurricane Sandy

When: October

What happened: After developing in the Caribbean (south of this major Caribbean city), Hurricane Sandy (see a satellite view of the storm) wreaked havoc on the Northeastern U.S. It has since been classed as the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history after this 2005 disaster.


How many states were affected by the storm?

How much will it cost to repair the damage Sandy caused?

Search: A serious storm

© Jerome Delay: AP
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President Obama is re-elected

When: Nov. 6

What happened: President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term (how many electoral votes did he win?). He defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney (see photos) and will serve as president until 2017.     


What percent of the popular vote did he receive?

Watch clips of his speech following the victory | Watch Mitt Romney’s concession speech

Search: Another four years



© AP
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Petraeus scandal

When: Nov. 9

What happened: Gen. David Petraeus resigned from the CIA (what was his position?) after news of his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell broke. Broadwell (see photos) co-authored a biography about Petraeus that was released earlier this year. Shop for it here.      


How did the affair come to light?

How many years was Petraeus in the Army?

Search: CIA scandal


© Suzanne Kreiter: The Boston Globe via Getty Images
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BP to pay billions for 2010 oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

When: Nov. 15

What happened: The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (see photos of the spill) turned out to be extremely costly for oil giant BP. In November, the company agreed to pay a colossal amount in fines and penalties. How much will it pay?


What was the name of the oil rig? | What caused it to leak oil? | How much oil leaked?

What was BP charged with? | How did BP plead?

Search: A spendy spill


© Goran Tomasevic: Reuters
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Events in Syria

When: December

What happened: Fighting in Syria has continued throughout 2012, with numerous, often violent, protests against the government (run by which party?). A number of countries have now officially started recognizing the Syrian rebel coalition.    


When did the war start?

Who is the president of Syria?

Search: Violence continues in Syria




© Rex Features
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A royal baby

When: Dec. 3

What happened: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, also known as Prince William and Kate Middleton (see photos of their 2011 wedding), announced they are expecting a baby. The news came after Duchess Kate was hospitalized with severe morning sickness (what type?).


When was she discharged from the hospital? | See photos

How far along is the pregnancy?

A prank call to the hospital led to a tragic incident

Search: A royal baby


© Adrees Latif: Reuters
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Newtown, Conn.

When: Dec. 14

What happened: 28 people, 20 of whom were children, were killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed his mother at home, then opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. before committing suicide. It's the second worst school shooting in US history, next to the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.


Read about the victims of the tragedy

The latest on the investigation

Search: Connecticut school shooting


Kevin Lamarque/Reuters; George Gojkovich/Getty Images; Stuart Wilson/Getty Images; Startraks Photo/Rex Features
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Next slideshow Biggest scandals of 2012

Biggest Scandals of 2012

 Former CIA Director David Petraeus, Rush Limbaugh, Kristen Stewart & Halle Berry