War is over, if you want it. ~John Lennon
This is a time of year, as we draw 2011 to a close and embark on 2012, to reminisce about the events of the last year. It’s a tradition followed by journalists, bloggers, and opinionistas alike. But since today marks the day where the War in Iraq is officially drawn to a close, I thought I’d share some of the top stories of the past nearly 8 years. The world has changed drastically. For those who served, bled and maybe died… we salute you.
50. Saddaam Hussein Captured (December 13, 2003)
A mere 9 months after the U.S. Invasion began, Sadaam Hussein is captured by Special Forces and turned over to the interim Iraqi Government. He was tried and convicted for crimes against humanity and was later executed by hanging.
49. NASA Mars Rover Confirms Water (March 2, 2004)
NASA Rover Opportunity confirms that the area where she landed on the surface of Mars once was covered in water. The discovery was made when Opportunity confirmed the presence of gypsum, a compound formed when calcium water encounters sulfates.
48. Massachusetts Gay Marriage (May 17, 2004)
Massachusetts becomes the first state in the United States to formally legalize gay marriage. This came about after a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision deemed it unconstitutional to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. Governor Mitt Romney ordered State agencies and government to issue marriage licenses in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling. Efforts continue to formally amend the Massachusetts Constitution.
47. Freedom Tower Groundbreaking (July 4, 2004)
After several years of planning and politics, ground is broke for the building of the new Freedom Tower at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. When complete, the tower will stand 105 stories and cost over $3.1B. It is estimated to open in 2013.
46. Boston Red Sox win Game 4 of the ALCS (Oct 17, 2004)
Red Sox faithful are given a spark of hope when, after being down to the New York Yankees 3 games to none in a best-of-seven series, came from behind in the 9th inning to avoid elimination in Game 4. The game proved to be pivotal as the Red Sox went on to win the ALCS 4-3 taking the Yankees to Game 7 and then sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for their first World Series win since 1918.
45. South Asian Tsunami (Dec 26, 2004)
Tragedy struck on Boxing Day as a powerful sub-oceanic earthquake triggers a tsunami that would affect the entire Indian Ocean rim. Most devastating were the effects in Sri Lanka and Indonesia where confirmed deaths approached 170k.
44. Scott Peterson Sentenced to Death (March 16, 2005)
Scott Peterson is convicted of the capital crime of murdering his wife, Laci Peterson, and their unborn child. Laci was 8 months pregnant and had gone missing. While Scott was a “person of interest”, it wasn’t until the remains of Laci and their child were discovered, that Scott was arrested and ultimately convicted. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection and remains on death row in San Quentin Prison.
43. Pope John Paul II Dies (April 2, 2005)
The Catholic Church and the world go into mourning at the passing of 84 year old Pope John Paul II. Born Karol Jósef Wojtyla to Polish parents, the Pope was renowned for his progressive world views and is widely credited with helping to bring about the end of communism in Poland. He served for 26 years.
42. Deep Throat Revealed (May 31, 2005)
Since 1972, the identity of the notorious Watergate informer was speculated on but never really known except to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who legendarily covered the scandal. On May 31, 2005, Mark Felt, then the number two guy at the CIA, revealed himself as Deep Throat. Bob Woodward, when reached for confirmation, acknowledged the revelation to be true bringing to an end one of the most intriguing conspiracy stories of recent history.
41. Steve Jobs Gives His Stanford Commencement Address (June 12, 2005)
Since the death of Steve Jobs a few months ago, his famous “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” commencement address at Stanford University has seen a resurgence. In this 15 minute address, Jobs relates three anecdotes from his life and lessons learned from them. It would go on to become a window into the kind of man Jobs was and continues to serve as inspiration.
40. Lance Armstrong Wins His 7th Tour de France (July 24, 2005)
Lance Armstrong, the six-time Tour de France winner, notches his 7th win, an unprecedented feat. Armstrongs story in inspiring considering his battle with (and his defeat of) testicular cancer.
39. Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005)
A devastating time in American history, Katrina became the biggest natural disaster ever to occur in the United States. The initial brunt of the storm wreaked havoc on the Mississippi and Alabama coastline, but the whiplash effect that occurs as a storm passes by proved to be as devastating. As the storm passed over Mississippi, the back winds pushed water from Lake Pontchatrain on the north-side of New Orleans over and through levees setup to hold the water back from the sub-sea level city. The media coverage was vast. The horrors and atrocities deplorable. And the political response wreaked of incompetence.
38. The Sago Mine rescue (January 5, 2006)
A mining explosion deep in the tunnels of the Sago Mine in West Virginia trapped 13 miners underground for over 2 days. Ultimately, only one survived. This came after the mine released misinformation that led news outlets to report the exact opposite – that one miner was found dead and 12 rescued.
37. Apple sells it’s 1B Song via the iTunes Store (February 22, 2006)
Announced to great hype and with great marketing prowess, Apple sold it’s 1 billionth song via the iTunes Store continuing to mark the iPod as one of the greatest market-transforming technologies ever built by the Cupertino, California company.
36. The Enron Trial Jury Conviction (May 25, 2006)
After a much publicized “media trial”, a jury convicts former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay and COO Jeffrey Skilling. Skilling was convicted on 19 counts of securities fraud and wire fraud. Lay was convicted on 6 counts. Lay died before sentencing and, accordingly, his conviction was vacated. Skilling is currently serving a 24 year sentence.
35. Twitter launched to the public (July 15, 2006)
Formerly known as Twittr and, really, at the time unknown to the public, Jack Dorsey launches a prototype of the short form status message service based on text messaging. With funding and support by Odeo’s Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter quickly becomes the horse they all rode in on. Twitter has become one of the most necessary and integrated forms of online communication and has contributed to social, economic, political and mundane events around the world.
34. Crocodile Hunter Steve Erwin Killed By a Stingray (September 4, 2006)
Beloved crazy man, Steve Erwin, is killed by a stingray who stung him through his chest to his heart while filming a stunt. He was known for putting himself in dangerous situations with unpredictable wildlife.
33. The Louisiana Superdome Re-opens After Katrina (September 25, 2006)
An emotional New Orleans celebrates the re-opening of the Superdome, the location of shelter and horrendous criminal actions following Hurricane Katrina. The Dome was re-opened with a New Orleans Saints-Atlanta Falcons Monday Night Football game. The halftime show featured U2 and Green Day. The Saints won an emotional game 23-3.
32. Facebook Opens It’s Walls to the Public (September 26, 2006)
Facebook before September 26, 2006, was only available to college students or select corporations that were registered with Facebook. That changed when the doors were opened for everyone. This was the first step for Facebook to dominate the Myspace-Facebook war.
31. North Korea Tests a Nuke (October 9, 2006)
North Korea gives a 6-day warning of an impending nuclear test, the first time that any country has ever done that. China is alerted 20 minutes ahead of the test and they promptly sent an emergency dispatch to Washington. North Korea explodes a small-time nuclear bomb under a mountain near the Chinese border. The test garnered international criticism and put troops in South Korea and Japan on high alert.
30. The Democratic Landslide of 2006 (November 7, 2006)
In an election widely scene as a referendum on President George W. Bush, Democrats won the day in a large and sweeping manner. Nationally, the Democrats took control of both the House and the Senate. In the Senate, the Democrats picked up 7 seats for a 51-49 majority. In the House, they commanded a 233-202 majority. They also took 6 Governorships from the GOP giving them a 28-22 majority there. In statewide elections, similar results were reflected as the national electorate was widely seen as rebuffing the Bush Administration.
29. The iPhone Launch (June 29, 2007)
To much pomp, circumstance and expectation, people lined up outside of Apple, AT&T and other partner carrier stores around the world to get their hands on the iPhone, a first of its kind product. To that date, no one had effectively released and mass-marketed a touch screen convergence device such as what Apple promised. People camped out for days to be the first to buy the phone with a price-tag of $600.
28. Public Vote for a Barry Bonds Asterisk on #756 (September 26, 2007)
Mark Ecko makes a controversial purchase of the homerun ball that was Barry Bonds 756th and record-setting homerun. Due to the steroids controversy, sports fans debated ad nauseum about whether the hall of fame ball (and player) should have an asterisk (the proverbial, “oh by the way this is controversial” indication).
Ecko put a website up asking the public to vote on whether his purchased ball, which he intended to donate to the Baseball Hall of Fame, should be marked with an asterisk prior to donation. The public thought it should, and so it does.
27. The Mitchell Report (December 13, 2007)
Former Senator George Mitchell releases his controversial report from the steroid investigation committee he chaired on behalf of Major League Baseball. The report blamed a culture of performance-enhancing drugs on both players and management and implicated a menagerie of current and former players, including Andy Pettite, Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi, in substance abuse problems.
26. Michael Phelps Wins 8 Gold Medals (August 17, 2008)
Baltimore-born swimming superstar, Michael Phelps, dominates mens swimming at the Beijing Olympics with a record 8 gold medals. He previously won 6 golds and 2 silvers in Athens.
25. Sarah Palin Makes Her National Debut (August 29, 2008)
In what may go down in history as one of politics biggest “oops” moment, GOP Presidential Candidate John McCain, wanting to make a statement with a woman VP candidate, names Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. The move proved to be disastrous as Palin was not prepared for the national spotlight. After the Campaign ended, controversy continued to swirl around her, her odd resignation as Governor and her personal and home life.
24. Market Crash of 2008 (October 2, 2008)
The Global Recession, by most accounts, began in late 2006 or early 2007, but it became acute and pronounced on October 2, 2008 when the Dow Jones fell 3.22% (~348 points). It would continue to fall for the rest of the week losing 22% of it’s value in 4 days. The market was exacerbated by the failure of Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and would ultimately lead to government bailouts or facilitated mergers of some of the worlds largest lending institituions under the mantra, “Too big to fail.”
23. Too Big to Fail – Bush Bailouts (October 3, 2008)
Under the Bush administration, with tremendous economic pressure and fatal outlooks, a $700B emergency bailout fund was established by Congress to assist in the closure, restructuring, merger and re-capitalization of major banks and institutions like Bank of America, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Wells Fargo, AIG and more. It became one of the most controversial economic storylines of recent times and was extended by the incoming Obama Administration.
22. Obama Landslide (November 4, 2008)
With celebrations in Washington, DC and major cities around the United States and world, Obama is elected as the 44th President of the United States marking the end of a terrible Bush Administration and marking the first time a black man was elected to the most powerful Office in the world. Impromptu celebrations were held in front of the White House and in the streets around the world.
21. California Adopts Proposition 8 (November 4, 2008)
In what has been viewed by equal rights organizations around the country as a severe regression, one of the most progressive states in the nation adopts Proposition 8, a statewide ballot initiative that would prohibit gay marriage in California. It also became a hot button issue for critics of special interest influence in politics as the ballot initiative was largely funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the Mormons – who executed a well-funded grass-roots effort to pass the proposition.
20. Obama is Inaugurated (January 20, 2009)
On a frigid day in January, 1.8M people descended on the National Mall to witness the Inauguration of America’s first African-American president. Parties included a concert the day before at the Lincoln Memorial where rapper Jay-Z sang “I’ve Got 99 Problems but a Bush ain’t one” and the ceremonial Marine One whisking away of the outgoing president was greeted by millions chanting, “Nah nah nah nah. Nah nah nah nah. Hey hey hey. Goodbye”.
19. The Birth of the Tea Party (April 15, 2009)
Around the country, on tax day in 2009, hundreds of thousands of Americans gathered to protest heavy taxation by the government. What began as an anti-tax movement, quickly turned into one of the most influential – and arguably nutty – political fraction groups in the history of the United States. In 2010, the Tea Party successfully elected pro-Tea Party Congressmen in the GOP takeover of the House of Representatives.
18. H1N1 (June 1, 2009)
The Swine flu became a hot button issue of concern for many fearing a pandemic – and a source of ridicule for Halloween goers later in the year who dressed up as the H1N1 virus. The swine flue was a strain of the common flu that was potentially fatal and caused deaths nationwide. The CDC, along with other sister agencies in other countries and the World Health Organization, ran heavy public education campaigns to reduce the risk of pandemic.
17. Michael Jackson Dies (June 25, 2009)
The world mourned the loss of Michael Jackson who died of an overdose mis-administered by his personal doctor. His death was not believed to be suicide, but was the result of negligence. Days later at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, a funeral was held with touching eulogies from his brother and father, among others.
16. Steve McNair Murdered by His Mistress (July 4, 2009)
NFL Quarterback Steve McNair, who played for both the Tennessee Titans and the Baltimore Ravens, was killed by his 22 year old mistress in Nashville. Rumors of jealousy and rage were circled as particular motives.
15. Wikileaks Bursts on the Scene with Cablegate (February 18, 2010)
The controversial grassroots organization founded by Aussie vigilante Julian Assange, Wikileaks, makes huge political waves by releasing State Department cables to select media organizations. Though redacted to protect the identities of spies, informants and individual workers, the cables represent damning internal and international diplomatic decision making and communications.
14. Health Care Reform Act (March 21, 2010)
After over a year of debate, arguing, politicking, and blockage, the House and Senate finally agree to a compromise Health Care Reform Bill that has become President Obama’s signature legislation. Parts of the bill are under judicial review.
13. Icelandic Volcano Grounds Europe (April 14, 2010)
Mount Eyjafjallajökull erupts in Iceland spreading volcanic ash across the UK, Europe and the trans-atlantic flight corridors. Flights are grounded for days and passengers stranded. Some passengers reported trying to drive across Europe to other countries, like Spain, to get to an airport with outgoing flights – like Barcelona – but with no success. It became a massive economic problem.
12. The BP Oil Spill (April 20, 2010)
An explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig operated by BP caused the rig to collapse and snap the pipe dug into the earths crust. The result was 3 months of oil continually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Multiple solutions were attempted to seal the well but nothing was successul until September. Cleanup continues to this day.
11. Reggie Bush Gives His Heisman Trophy Back (September 15, 2010)
New Orleans Saints Running Back Reggie Bush, who won the 2005 Heisman Trophy while at USC, gave back his Heisman Trophy amid public pressure after sanctions were dropped on USC for recruiting and other violations. USC was required to vacate all 2004-2005 wins including their National Championship win over Oklahoma, and is banned from post-season play for both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Bush became the first player ever to return a Heisman Trophy.
10. Brett Favre’s Penis (October 7, 2010)
Brett Favre apparently has a little penis, or so the pictures say. The news of Favre texting pictures of his junk to, then-Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger was broken by sports-gossip blog Deadspin. Brett’s taste in women… impeccable. Brett’s taste in text message appropriateness… questionable.
9. The Republicans Win Back the House (November 2, 2010)
In a national referendum on Obama, the GOP retook the House of Representatives and made significant strides in the Senate on a wave of Tea Party momentum. Freshman Republican legislators, such as Rand Paul, would become influential in the budget and taxation issues in the current Congress.
8. The Arab Spring Begins (December 17, 2010)
The Arab Spring, a coordinated series of protests that would ultimately turn the Middle East on its head, begins with a Tunisian man setting himself on fire in protest of police confiscating his vegetable cart. An uprising would subsequently occur that saw the fall of the Tunisian government. Other Arabs, buoyed by a sense of enablement, protested and in some case achieved regime change in Egypt and Lybia. Unrest and calls for revolution were also heard in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Iran and Algeria.
7. Japanese Nuclear Fallout (March 11, 2011)
After a devastating earthquake rocked Japan, concern began to spread to the Fukushima Nuclear reactor. Despite efforts to contain damage – and initial reports that the reactor was safe and not breached – it became clear that containment was not possible. Though ultimately contained, it did not happen until significant amounts of radiation escaped into the ground, water and atmosphere. Trace amounts of I-131 radiation (non-harmful doses) were detected as far away as California.
6. Osama Bin Laden Killed (April 30, 2011)
With a dramatic late-night address to the nation – called with only an hour warning – President Obama informed America and the world of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Osama was killed by Navy SEAL Team 6 in a raid on a Pakistani compound. Later, some would question the death because the Administration decided not to release pictures.
5. Amy Winehouse Joins the 27 Club (July 23, 2011)
British pop superstar, Amy Winehouse dies of an apparent drug overdose at Age 27. She joins the “Club of 27”, a group of musicians that include Jimmie Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, who also died at Age 27.
4. Faster than Light (September 22, 2011)
Battlestar Galactica fans would endorse the concept “Faster than Light”, but physicists at the CERN research center in Switzerland release a preliminary report showing that they had found a neutrino – a tiny sub-atomic particle – that traveled faster than light. Secondary test would reveal the same finding. Other scientific researchers question the results, however. If true, the discovery would undermine the core building block of modern science – that nothing is faster than light. Albert Einstein is turning over in his grave.
3. Occupy Wall Street (September 17, 2011)
The economic difficulties and political climate in the past few years finally force a boil over of sentiment toward the perceptions of class-entitlement. The mantra “We are the 99%” has become a rallying cry for anyone who feels slighted by entitlement. The Occupy Wall Street Movement, while protesting excesses on Wall Street, has been mirrored across the country. In some incidents, occupy movements have turned into political hot potatoes that shine the light on police corruption and brutality as was the case when a police officer casually pepper sprayed a series of kneeling protestors on the campus of UC-Berkeley.
2. Moammar Ghaddafi Killed (October 20, 2011)
After months of civil war, belligerent resistance to national and international calls to step down – generally in the form of hapless, wandering, rambling televised addresses – NATO military intervention and repeated rumors (but no proof) of his death, Moammar Ghaddafi is confirmed dead in Libya. After a NATO airstrike hit a convoy he was riding in, he took shelter in a drainage ditch where he was captured by National Transitional Council forces. He died en route to the hospital.
1. Penn State Child Sex Scandal (November 5, 2011)
We are rocked by the grand jury indictments handed down on former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky is charged with multiple sex abuse charges as they relate to 4 alleged victims. In the wake of the scandal, fingers are pointed at various people and blame is passed. Ultimately, Penn State’s Board of Trustees remove the President, Athletic Directory, Head Coach Joe Paterno and others from their responsibilities.
So there we have it. 8 years of war. An entire different country. Have we learned from our mistakes? Probably not. We’ll see. Happy Christmas! War is Over! If You Want It!