Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Like any other year 2012 has been marked by both tragedy and celebration. There have been natural disasters, manmade catastrophes and unforgettable moments of joy and celebration.

As the year began world media focused on the sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia which floundered after crashing into rocks off the coast of Italy. At least 30 people died from a complement of some 4,252 passengers and crew on board. Following the disaster came prosecutions and questions over the safety of other Costa cruises and a focus on the cruise industry in general [Costa Concordia disaster].

European crisis

The financial crisis of 2008 returned with a vengeance enveloping much of Europe as Greece threatened to pull down the entire trading block. There was bailout after bailout in an attempt to stop the Greek economy floundering like the stricken cruise ship that had dominated headlines in January. By the end of 2012 more than €240 billion in rescue loans had been pledged to the stricken country that threaten to tear Europe apart [BBC].

There was continued uncertainty throughout the year for other countries within the EU including Ireland, Spain and Italy. There were even concerns about France which after a change of leadership appeared to slide into uncharted economic waters. France was stripped of a gold-plated credit rating in early November, days after a controversial cover in the Economist magazine showed a bundle of baguettes tied together with a lighted fuse to resemble a time bomb. Such assertions were angrily disputed by the French press who accused the Economist of "French bashing", with the Figaro creating a special page showing dozens of similar "anti-French" covers.

Britain's antithesis did not only extend towards the French. Throughout 2012 there was continuing debate about Britain's place in Europe with some even suggesting Britain pull out of Europe altogether. With 2012 coming to a close the prime minister was warned by pro-Europeans within the party that he could "risk leading Britain out of EU by accident".

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, who was at the heart of Britain's team during the Maastricht treaty negotiations in 1991, feared the UK was facing "bust-up time" with the other 26 EU countries. Meanwhile Lord Heseltine warned Britain could become semi-detached from Europe and allow Germany to dominate the EU. "I just see the German chancellor becoming more and more the leader of Europe. And I'm not in the business of that happening at the expense of this country. I have no criticisms of the German position. They're doing what I would do in their position," Heseltine said [Guardian].

Phone-hacking scandal

In the midst of continuing allegations against News International and with the Leveson Inquiry still being played out in the High Court, James Murdoch quit from his role as executive chairman of News International in February later resigning from his position of chairman at BSkyB. The resignations were widely seen as an attempt to distance himself and the broadcaster from the phone-hacking scandal.

North Korea

In April North Korea attempted the launch of Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3, a North Korean Earth observation satellite. The launch was planned to mark the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the republic. However it brought only embarrassment after it exploded shortly after launch. Undaunted, North Korea made another attempt in December which appeared successful. But while North Korea celebrated, the launch was swiftly condemned by the international community and the United Nations Security Council [tvnewswatch].

In June, China too made a history in space after Shenzhou 9, a Chinese spacecraft carrying three Chinese astronauts, including the first-ever female one, docked manually with an orbiting module Tiangong 1. It marked the, first time such a venture had been achieved by the country, making them the third country, after the United States and Russia, to successfully perform such a mission.

'God particle discovered'

Closer to home CERN announced in July  the discovery of a new particle with properties consistent with the Higgs boson after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. Earlier attempts to find the elusive particles had failed to destroy the Earth as some had predicted back in 2008 [tvnewswatch]. And while an important moment in the history of science and particle physics, for broadcasters and newspapers, reporting the event proved a challenge in itself due to the complexity of the subject [BBC]. Some of the best explanations could be found on YouTube [see playlist here].

London 2012

July also marked the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games dubbed as "the best games ever" by some [tvnewswatch]. Certainly the event brought record audiences and a much needed boost to Britain's economy. Television audiences were recorded as some of the highest seen for an Olympic Games, though for a few days numbers might have dipped after the worst power outage in world history left some 620 million people across India without power.

August brought more news connected with space as Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory mission's rover, successfully landed on Mars.

Terror threats

On the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks a series of incidents highlighted the continued threat from extremists. A series of terrorist attacks were directed against United States diplomatic missions worldwide, as well as diplomatic missions of Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In the US, opinions were divided over whether the attacks are a reaction to a YouTube trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims. In one of the worst attacks US ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed after insurgents attacked the diplomatic mission in  Libya.

Political changes

There were major changes in the political world too. France saw a change of leadership with President Sarkozy losing to François Hollande. South Korea saw its first female president Park Geun-hye elected and there were major changes in Burma where long time opponent of the military junta Aung San Suu kyi was elected to the lower house of the Burmese parliament. President Obama clung on to his position as the commander in chief in US elections, however the second largest economy saw a change in leadership, though few expect any real political change. The 18th National Congress of Chinese Communist Party, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, saw the inauguration of Xi Jinping who was chosen as the new General Secretary of the Communist Party of China [tvnewswatch].


October saw storms wreaking havoc across parts of the US.  Hurricane Sandy killed at least 209 people in the Caribbean, Bahamas, United States and Canada. The considerable storm surge damage caused major disruption to the eastern seaboard of the United States even hitting New York which was least prepared for such meteorological events. The Philippines were also ravaged by devastating typhoons leaving hundreds dead.

A drought was declared in the south east of England in January but by the end of the year the country was experiencing some of the worst floods in a decade as rain, which did not appear to stop all summer, continued to raise river levels by late December.

British embarrassment

As the year drew to an end it emerged that former PM Margaret Thatcher had been "surprised" by the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Islands [BBC]. The revelations were contained in documents released under the 30-year rule to the National Archive. The publication of  documents came in the same year that Britain commemorated the war which occurred 30 years ago.

Also revealed were communications with the late, and now disgraced, Jimmy Savile concerning tax deductions for charitable donations following his fund raising for Stoke Mandeville hospital.

The Jimmy Savile saga had already cast a shadow over the BBC where he had been employed for many years. And by association the reputation of many other individuals and institutions has also been sullied or destroyed.

It wasn't only Savile and others that surrounded him that were hauled over the coals. The British media was also lambasted with the publication of the much awaited Leveson Report [tvnewswatch].

The British police also came under scrutiny after another inquiry showed some members of the force had deliberately falsified statements following the Hillsborough tragedy in the 1980s. Then came revelations detailed in the Leveson report which showed that some officers in the Met had taken bribes from members of the press. And then came the suggestion that police might have fabricated a tirade between chief whip Andrew Mitchell and police in Downing Street when CCTV footage emerged which questioned the official version of events.

As Britain reflected upon its media, the sordid behaviour of past celebrities and a police force apparently riddled with corruption, the US was once again sent reeling after a gunman stormed into a school shooting dead a number of children with automatic weapons. The incident which shocked the nation once again fired up the debate over gun ownership, though it may be some time before any legislation comes into force curtailing US citizens right to bear arms [tvnewswatch].

Farewell to people and things

As well as the countless numbers lost in battle in places like Syria, shot on the streets of America or killed in tragic accidents, there were many stars and famous celebrities who passed away in 2012.

Whitney Houston died in February and was later reported in some papers as having been murdered [Fox News / Sun]. Donna Summer, famous for her 1970s hit I Feel Love, also passed away as did the much loved English singer Davy Jones who fronted the 1960s pop group the Monkees. Another icon of pop history, the Beegees singer Robin Gibb, died in May after a long battle with cancer. Singer Andy Williams and Ravi Shankar, who popularised the sitar, also passed away. Dave Brubeck, the influential jazz musician most famous for the composition Take Five, passed away in early December.

And shortly before Christmas amateur astronomer and broadcaster Patrick Moore died at his home. The a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), he was most well known for presenting the BBC programme The Sky at Night, and was perhaps one of the most recognised faces in British television. The astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the first man to have step foot on the moon, joined the list of departed.

Several authors also passed on amongst them the much acclaimed Gore Vidal. Ray Bradbury who wrote the 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 which changed the whole nature of science fiction writing died in June. Creator of the television series Thunderbirds, Gerry Anderson also left the world behind after several years suffering with dementia [BBCSky].

Retired US General Norman Schwarzkopf, often referred to as Stormin' Norman who led troops in the 1991 Gulf War, also died aged 78 [BBC].

2012 also saw the end of several iconic items. After 244 years since its first publication, the Encyclopædia Britannica discontinued its print edition marking an end to an era [BBC].

Some younger technological innovations were also retired in 2012. BBC closed its teletext service CEEFAX and analogue terrestrial television broadcast ended in Britain with the final switchover to digital broadcasting [BBC].

The last typewriter to be made in Britain also rolled off the production line marking yet another milestone in the changing face of a technological world [BBC].

The world was also supposed to have ended on the 21st December according to some people's interpretation of Mayan prophecies, though it was only the end of one calendar and the beginning of another [BBC / Sky]. Despite even NASA taking to YouTube  to dispel the suggestion that the end of days were near, there were still some that appeared convinced.

But the only thing that came to an end was the year 2012 itself seen on this BBC video in only 201.2 seconds.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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