It is always customary for leading news shows, magazines, newspapers, columns, etc. to close out an old year by reviewing the top stories of the year and provide a brief summary of the year that was. Following in that tradition, Notes from the Pond, being a leading column wanna-be, has spared no expense in time, effort, or money to bring you a personalized 2011 synopsis.
If I were to choose one word to accurately describe 2011 it would be extra-ordinary. (OK, that is actually two words hyphenated to make one.) I could use the word extraordinary which is essentially the same word but, to me, extraordinary denotes a very good year. Although 2011 was marked with many big news stories, I would not call it an excellent year. It was a year with many notable events which will have long-lasting effects but some of the consequences may not be predominantly good.
It was a year marked with the loss of many famous people. Perhaps the most important news story of the year was the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military, compliments of Seal Team Six. At last, our country’s chief nemesis met his end and was sent to sleep with the fishes. It was a gutsy call by President Obama and carried out with precision by all involved from the president on down. Bin Laden had vowed continued attacks and it was a sigh of relief that he was taken out before the ten year observance of 9/11 when it was thought he would stage another disastrous event.
The rise of the Arab Spring saw revolution across the Middle East and North Africa that ended the 30 year reign of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (who is currently on trial) and the death of Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi. The end of the year was marked by the death of another world leader, Kim Yung Il of North Korea. The loss of these leaders from the world stage will certainly change the look of world politics.
On the pop scene, one of the last surviving true glamorous Hollywood stars, Elizabeth Taylor, died this year. We also lost an incredible genius who was responsible for more changes in our daily lives since the invention of Edison’s electric light, Steve Jobs. Jobs was cofounder of Apple and a pioneer in the world of computers.
Natural disasters world-wide grabbed our attention a good part of the year. In March Japan suffered a 9.0 earthquake with resulting tsunamis that destroyed everything in its path including a nuclear power plant. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility suffered a meltdown of three reactors spilling radiation in the air and surrounding ocean. The long term effects may remain unknown for quite some time.
The following month, April 27, the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded marched across the South, Midwest and Northeast touching down 207 times and taking 346 lives. Alabama received the worst of it, particularly in the college town of Tuscaloosa. Three weeks later Joplin Missouri had a mile-wide tornado killing more than 150 people making it the deadliest tornado in 60 years.
A rash of earthquakes was felt across the world including a 5.8 quake that hit the East Coast on August 23. Tremors were felt from North Carolina to Buffalo and Boston and as far west as Detroit. The tremors traveled across Ohio and some in my city of Columbus, Ohio even felt it. The quake damaged a few of our national monuments in Washington D.C. including the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.
You might say economy around the world suffered a quake of its own. Prime ministers in Greece and Italy quit due to economic turmoil and fiscal instability continues across Europe. In the U.S. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time ever. After a long-time stalemate, Congress finally came to an eleventh-hour agreement to raise the debt ceiling but it was too little and too late to stabilize our stagnant economy. Shortly after the agreement our credit rating was dropped from AAA to AA+ after threats of shutting down the government during the government gridlock.
A grassroots movement, Occupy Wall Street, spread across the nation as a reaction against policies favoring the richest 1%. The Occupy Movement, which began on Wall Street, has spread around the world and is described as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth.
By the end of 2011 U.S. unemployment was at 9%. Arguments continue between Congress and the President over jobs bills and unemployment benefits.
Individuals in the news
The political scene saw one of its own become a victim of a crazed gunman. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head as she met with constituents at a local mall. Giffords survived and is making a remarkable recovery but six people died.
Several other individuals were prominent in the news during 2011. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the international Monetary Fund was accused of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper; however, charges were later dropped.
Charlie Sheen dominated the pop news for a while with his raging absurdities that eventually resulted in his termination from his TV show Two and a Half Men. He even turned his rants into a road show. The show, peppered with the words such as winning,tiger blood and other words not worth repeating here, was eventually canceled after it became apparent the public had tired of his foolish narcissism.
Locally, a homeless man burst on the national scene when a Columbus Dispatch photographer found him on the side of the road with a sign advertising his golden voice. Ted Williams, a former DJ, became known as the man with the golden voice and he went from living in a tent to appearing on national TV shows literally overnight. With fame also came public pressure as he was forced to face his demons under the glare of the public spotlight. He was in and out of rehab and then just as suddenly dropped from sight as he struggled to get his act together. He is now back with his mellow honey tones extolling the benefits of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and he will be working with Entertainment Tonight.
The trial of Casey Anthony dominated much of the year and ended when she was found not guilty of murdering her daughter. As that trial was ending the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray began. Murray was eventually convicted in the death of singer Michael Jackson. Amanda Knox was finally freed from an Italian prison after being convicted in the death of her roommate. She won her freedom on appeal.
Trouble in sports paradise
The year was marked with several sports scandals. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
Ohio State began the year by winning the Sugar Bowl under a cloud of suspicion. Tattoo-gate came to light just as 2010 was ending but the players who traded OSU memorabilia for tattoos were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. It was thought at the time that their infractions weren’t too serious but it soon came to light that the problem went much deeper. The final result was that Ohio State’s successful and beloved coach, Jim Tressel, was asked to leave for allegedly covering up the scandal; and their outstanding quarterback, Terrell Pryor, left the school in disgrace and went to the pros. The players who remained served suspensions for anywhere from one to ten games. The final NCAA decision was announced in December. Assistant coach, Luke Fickle, was handed the impossible task of running a team under very difficult circumstances. Although he ended the regular season 6 and 6 and lost in the Gator Bowl he handled all the diversity with class and restored some of the honor to the school. Now, if only we could say the same about some of the fans.
As if Ohio State’s problems weren’t bad enough, we soon learned the University of Miami (Florida) had been having one big party for quite some time. Their infractions included hanging out on party boats with unsavory characters, strippers, paying for an abortion, and pay for severely injuring players of opposing teams. Their case is still before the NCAA.
Tongues were still wagging over these scandals when the big shocker hit the news. A coach at squeaky-clean Penn State was accused of molesting children. Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach to Joe Paterno, was accused of molesting young boys and had been doing so for many years. This scandal brought down long time coach Joe Paterno, the university’s president, the athletic director, and a vice president.
Following this scandal, an associate basketball coach at Syracuse, Bernie Fine, was also accused of child molestation and fired.
A big year for weddings
One bright spot in the year was the fairy tale wedding of Prince William to his long time love, Kate Middleton in April. Prince William and Catherine were wed at Westminster Abbey and were made the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge by his grandmother, Queen Elisabeth. The wedding was simple by royal standards and the prince and his brother and best man, Prince Harry, were dashing in their ceremonial military uniforms. The bride was stunningly elegant and so was her sister and attendant, Pippa Middleton.
On the pop scene, a big wedding (or non-wedding) was the farce of Kim Kardashian and her short-term love, Kris Humphries. The wedding cost millions and made them millions. Who makes money from their own wedding? It was nothing more than a money grabbing publicity stunt and made a mockery of weddings as the marriage lasted less than three months. It was billed as a fairytale but was totally crass compared to the real fairytale wedding of the real prince (William) and his bride.
Here’s hoping for a better 2012
The year 2011 was an eventful year marked by many absurdities. Here’s hoping that 2012 will be a better year for everybody.