THE YEAR IN US NEWS

AP Photo: Rex C. Curry
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Komen & Planned Parenthood cut ties

The top events in domestic news of 2012. See gallery

The relationship between the nation's largest abortion provider and the country's largest breast cancer organization hit a snag in early 2012. After providing funding for breast exams to low-income and uninsured women over the past five years, Susan G. Komen decided to cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to Planned Parenthood, citing a congressional investigation. However, the groups that prompted the investigation are anti-abortion advocacy organizations. Komen’s decision not only outraged many people, it was chastised in social media and lost much financial support. On the other hand, Planned Parenthood received more than $400,000 in donations and a grant from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg soon after the news broke.

Find: Susan G. Komen Foundation

AP Photo: John Minchillo
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Trayvon Martin

People across the country marched in protest over the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in February. At the heart of the controversy was the question of why Zimmerman went after an unarmed teenager in the Florida community. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, insisted he acted on self-defense after an altercation with Martin, who was African American. As the case unfolded, 911 recordings revealed Zimmerman used an expletive to refer to Martin, which added to the controversy. The case received so much national attention that it prompted Fox to rename its upcoming movie at the time from "Neighborhood Watch" to "The Watch." The Justice Department got involved after Martin's parents filed petitions calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. In April, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. His trial date has been set for June 10, 2013.   

Find: Trayvon Martin

AP Photo: Stuart Price
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Controversy over Kony

From the moment Invisible Children’s video, “Kony 2012,” hit the Internet, drama developed. The 30-minute spot, which gained 74 million views within a week of its release, gained a groundswell of new supporters in the fight to oust Ugandan militia leader and warlord Joseph Kony. But soon, cries of cinematic "slacktivism" followed from those accusing Invisible Children founder and filmmaker Jason Russell of oversimplifying the facts of a complicated conflict, providing misleading information and creating a cultish mystique around a war criminal. But no one could have foreseen what happened next: a second video went viral less than two weeks later, showing a naked Russell stalking a San Diego street corner while yelling at passing cars. Russell’s family blamed the episode on a "brief reactive psychosis" brought on by stress. Joseph Kony is still at large.

Find: Kony 2012

AP Photo: Julio Cortez
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'Tan Mom' arrested on child endangerment allegations

Deeply-bronzed New Jersey mom Patricia Krentcil was arrested in April and charged with child endangerment after she allegedly had her five-year-old daughter use a tanning bed. The girl suffered burns to her body, but her father said she simply got sunburned while playing outside. Krentcil pleaded not guilty — "I never once in my life would let my daughter, especially at that age, go into a tanning booth," she said on “Good Morning America” — and became known to pop-culture gawkers as “Tan Mom” as she was parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and made a drunken appearance at a New York City drag show. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the endangerment charge.

AP Photo: Richard Drew
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NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg bans drinks larger than 16 ounces

When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in May that he would seek to ban the sales of large soft drinks in the city, he promoted the move as a way to help fight obesity. Others saw it as a case of the “nanny state” run amuck. The ban would prevent the sale of a range of sugary drinks, everything from popular sodas to iced tea and energy drinks, in sizes larger than 16 ounces. Bloomberg said public health officials around the country were wringing their hands about the obesity crisis and “New York is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something.” The ban was passed on Sept. 13 and will take effect on March 12, 2013 unless a legal challenge filed in October by the soft-drink industry and several restaurant and business groups in New York succeeds in overturning it.

AP Photo: Matt Rourke
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Penn State scandal & Jerry Sandusky's trial

A school once known for its legendary head coach and successful football program, Penn State, is now associated with child sex abuse because of the scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Over the years, there have been multiple reports about inappropriate behavior involving the former coach and young boys but nothing was done. Sandusky was eventually arrested in November 2011 and in June of this year, he was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges for molesting boys over a 15-year span and in October, was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison. As for the school, its image has already been tarnished but the damage was only beginning. On July 22, Penn State pulled down the Joe Paterno statue in front of the stadium. The very next day, they were with hit by a number of NCAA sanctions including a $60 million fine, 4-year bowl ban, 5 years of probation, removal of 40 scholarships over 4 years, and the vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011.

 

REUTERS: Jonathan Alcorn
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Rodney King anniversary and death

When an amateur videotape showing Los Angeles Police Department officers beating 25-year-old black motorist Rodney King was broadcast in 1991, it forced the city to confront its ugly history of racism and sparked city-wide rioting. King, who was on parole, tried to outrun the police. After stopping him, four officers beat him in view of an amateur videographer. The officers were later acquitted and King spent the next 20 years struggling to cope with his unwanted fame. The $3.8 million he won from the city for violating his civil rights was soon gone. There were problems with drug addiction and the lingering effects of a brain injury from the beating. In 2003, high on PCP, he drove off the road and hit a tree. King was found drowned in a swimming pool at his home on June 17. Drugs and alcohol were partly to blame, authorities said.

Find: Rodney King

AP Photo: David Tulis
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Chick-fil-A protests

Chick-fil-A, the popular fast food chain known for its boneless chicken breast sandwich, had been donating millions to conservative groups with anti-gay stances for years. But it all blew up in June and July of 2012, when Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” of working to prevent marriage equality. He said that his company wanted to "support biblical families." Mayors from Chicago and Boston vowed to block the expansion of the franchise in their cities, business partners ended their relationships with Chick-fil-A, protesters staged same-sex “kiss-ins” at their restaurants while supporters flocked to patronize the business on a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day." By September, protests had waned as the company released a statement of inclusiveness, though it did not say it would stop donating to groups with anti-gay stances. The chicken sandwiches didn’t suffer in the end, though: in November, a Market Force survey announced America’s favorite chicken chain: Chick-fil-A.

Find: Chick-fil-A

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Theater shooting in Aurora, Colo.

People all over the country took to the movie theaters in July for the final and third installment of the Batman trilogy "The Dark Knight Rises." But what was supposed to be a night of entertainment turned into horrific nightmare at the Century Aurora 16 theater in Colorado. A man, dressed in tactical attire and armed with multiple firearms, opened fire into the audience killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The gunman, identified as James Eagan Holmes, was apprehended by police a short time later. Holmes was charged with 24 counts of first degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. Private donations poured into a relief fund where families of the 12 killed and seriously injured received majority of the funds. The Century Aurora 16 theater is set to re-open on January 17, 2013.

Read more: Therapist declined temporary confinement for accused Colorado gunman: report

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Midwest summer droughts and wildfires

One of the worst droughts in U.S. history hit the Midwest in July, crippling agriculture and stoking wildfires throughout a huge portion of the country. The drought was spurred on by record high temperatures and a lack of snowfall last winter, causing extremely dry ground conditions. Nebraska was hit hardest, with 100 percent of the state still considered to be in a state of severe drought or worse in November. Perilously low water levels in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes hampered fishing and shipping commerce. The U.S. government said the drought’s devastating effect on crops would likely drive up the price of groceries by 4 to 5 percent next year.

Related: Drought expands in many farm states

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Sikh Temple shooting

It was a place of peace, a Sikh temple, where many people of Indian descent have gone for prayer in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. On one tragic August morning, a man identified as Wade Michael Page killed six people and wounded four others at the temple before turning the gun on himself. Among the people killed were five men and one woman, including the founder of the temple and an assistant priest. All of the men wore turbans and kept long beards, which are common characteristics for Sikhs. President Obama offered flags at federal buildings flown at half-staff for several days to honor the victims. Although the tragedy made national headlines, it was one of the more underreported stories of 2012. Coming on the heels of the Colorado theater shooting just two weeks prior, minorities voiced their frustrations and said the shooting did not receive the same level of attention and coverage from the media.

Find: Sikh temple shooting
 

AP Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
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Chicago teachers go on strike

The Chicago Teachers Union launched a strike in September — its first in 25 years — when contract negotiations with Mayor Rahm Emmanuel broke down. The biggest sticking points were Emmanuel’s proposals to factor students’ standardized test performances into teacher evaluations and to give more hiring power to school principals. Some 29,000 teachers left their classrooms and took to the picket lines, leaving 350,000 students with nowhere to go during the day. The strike went into a second week before the union and the mayor agreed on a new contract — one that kept Emmanuel’s proposals in place, but also raised teachers’ pay and gave laid-off educators preference for rehiring.

Find: Chicago teacher's strike

 

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Boy Scouts release 'perversion files'

The Boy Scouts of America came under fire after 14,500 pages of the so-called "perversion files" revealed allegations of sex abuse by former scouts. The confidential information became public after the Supreme Court ordered the files to be released. Detailed in the files are reports of sex abuse that occurred between 1959 to 1985, all across the country plus on military bases overseas. An array of authorities including police chiefs, pastors and prosecutors had protected the Scouts' name for decades by allegedly doing nothing despite countless reports of the abuse. The organization has since pledged they would go back into the files and report any offenders who may have committed illegal acts. That could set off a new round of criminal prosecutions for offenders who have slipped under the radar.

Related:

Del. man sues Boy Scouts, Mormons over sex abuse

 

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TSA stops using full body scanners

Controversial X-ray body scanners that the Transportation Safety Administration had touted as a key component in the war in terror began to quietly be removed from major airports in October. The machines were decried by privacy advocates because they produce a detailed image of a person’s body under their clothes. Others feared the machines X-rays were a health hazard. Despite assurances the machines were safe and the images protected, the TSA began to quietly replace them with newer machines that use radio waves and produce a cartoon image of the body. The TSA said the move was made to speed up security lines. You may still have to step in to one of the old machines, though -- they’re being sent to smaller airports.

Find more: Airport security

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Superstorm Sandy devastates the East Coast

A week before Sandy made landfall, the airwaves were already hysterical about a “Frankenstorm” that would potentially wallop most of the Eastern U.S. But jaded Northeasterners had Hurricane Irene on their minds – a storm that had barreled toward them one year earlier only to largely fizzle out. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was relentless in berating stragglers who refused to evacuate low-lying areas and in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg shut down the entire subway for only the second time in the system’s 108-year history. Many didn’t evacuate and some paid a terrible price; more than 100 people died (mostly from New York and New Jersey). The financial cost is expected to top $70 billion, making Sandy the second most-expensive hurricane in US history, after Katrina. And in the collective American memory, Sandy will be remembered as a big one – the Superstorm that destroyed the Jersey Shore and left the nation’s largest city in the dark for days on end.

See more:  Pets among those rescued after Superstorm Sandy

More info:  Sandy by the numbers

Photos:  Recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy

AP Photo: Ross D. Franklin
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Jared Loughner sentenced

When former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords finally came face-to-face with the man who shot her at a political rally in January 2011, it marked the end of a horrifying event that left six people dead and others, including Giffords, permanently scarred. Jared Lee Loughner, 24, opened fire during an event Giffords was attending at a Tucson supermarket. He felt Giffords was the embodiment of the government he said he hated. After his arrest, Loughner was diagnosed as schizophrenic and had to be forcibly medicated so that he would be competent to understand the charges against him. Giffords did not speak during Loughner’s sentencing on Nov. 8, but her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly did, saying, “Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit.” Loughner, who agreed to plead guilty, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Read more: Loughner sentenced to seven life terms in prison

AP Photo: Newtown Bee, Shannon Hicks
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Tragedy in Newtown

Peace was shattered in the small, idyllic community of Newtown, Conn. on the morning of Dec. 14, when a gunman entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 six- and seven-year-old children along with six teachers and administrators. Earlier, the 20-year-old suspect shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, to death in their home. President Obama visited Newtown two days later to comfort the victims’ families, decrying the fact that it was the fourth time during his administration that he had to make such a trip. As investigators continued to search for a motive in the mass killing of innocents, the debate over gun control in the United States reignited with an urgency – and willingness to enact reform – not typically seen in the wake of other such incidents in recent years. Five days after the shootings, Obama announced a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden to come up with policy recommendations on curbing gun violence. Setting a January deadline, Obama said, "this time, the words need to lead to action."

See more: Remembering the victims of Newtown