The year 2010 was all about the ground under our feet: from the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China to the Deepwater Horizon explosion that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and the dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days.
Then there was the political groundswell that forced incumbents out of office and gave rise to the Tea Party. There was also a lack of high ground in Pakistan where more than 15-hundred people died and a million were left homeless due to unprecedented flooding.
January’s quake in Haiti was centered in the capital of Port-au-Prince where 230-thousand people in the poverty-stricken nation were killed. The rebuilding effort has been slow and communicable diseases like cholera now threaten to claim even more lives. Celebrities rallied to help earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
A George Clooney-led telethon helped Wyclef Jean’s charity. “Hope For Haiti Now” posted a multi-million-dollar intake. Participants included Bono and Justin Timberlake.
Speaking of Jean, Haiti’s search for a new president inspired him to make a bid for the top post. Even though the rap star announced his campaign plan in his homeland, he soon found out he was not eligible.
An explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was instantly seen as a tragedy when eleven workers lost their lives. However, it would take weeks and even months before the full scope of the disaster was realized. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill tested the limits of American technology and exposed the dangers of deepwater drilling as crews rushed to cap a leaking well that spewed oil into the Gulf for 86 days.
Live images of BP’s broken pipeline were shown on cable news as the seafood and tourism industries watched their businesses collapse. An estimated five-million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf and the government says most of it evaporated while controversial chemical dispersants helped limit the devastation. Environmental experts say the true impact of the disaster could take years to evaluate.
Continued high unemployment also headlined business news this year, hovering in the nine to ten percent range. Jobless benefits were extended by Congress as the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve kept trying to jump-start the economy by pumping money into the public and private sectors.
A lingering effect of the high jobless rate is the continued crisis in housing, with foreclosures still dogging the market. Three-million foreclosures during 2009 paled in comparison to the more than four-million this year. A government program aimed at helping those millions stay in their homes became an admitted failure, with only about 170-thousand people helped with mortgage modifications.
While Main Street didn’t bounce back this year, Wall Street did. The Dow Jones Industrials climbed from a low 96-hundred in July to above eleven-thousand this month. Early in December, both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 Index hit two-year highs.
The backbone of American manufacturing, the auto industry, also staged a slow recovery this year. While Chrysler’s sales figures remained depressed, vehicle sales by Ford and General Motors registered well above those of 2009 as consumers returned to showrooms.
In West Virginia, 29 men were killed in a coal mine explosion, making it the worst disaster in decades. Other deadly accidents were reported in New Zealand and China but the most inspirational story came out of Chile where 33 men survived underground for 69 days.
President Obama’s agenda got off to a rough start early in 2010 when Republican Scott Brown was elected to succeed the late Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Obama’s administration would take more political punches as the president made health care reform a top priority.
Opponents labeled it a “government takeover,” giving rise to the Tea Party movement. Health care reform legislation was signed but later the GOP would win back 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives and take six seats in the Senate.
The president was able to reach a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia and he declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, however thousands of troops still remain there while the war in Afghanistan has gotten even more dangerous. In fact, 2010 was the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan with more than 475 confirmed fatalities.
And last spring, Stanley McChrystal, the Commander in Afghanistan, was fired after giving an interview to “Rolling Stone” critical of how the war was handled. He was replaced by Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command and architect of the Iraq surge.
The year was also marked by government efforts to halt future financial disasters. President Obama signed into law the Financial Reform Act on July 22nd. The legislation was aimed at more transparent regulation of banks and brokerages as well as the products they sell, such as derivatives. The law also set up a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose funding was still a political football in Washington at year’s end.
Around the world law enforcement agencies worked closer than ever to try and stop terrorism. A plot using toner cartridges to hide bombs in cargo planes bound for the U.S. was foiled with hours to spare and a street vendor was credited for alerting police to a poorly-designed car bomb that nearly detonated in New York’s Times Square.
Sometimes, however, terrorists hit their mark. Like the suicide bombers in Russia who targeted subways or in Iraq where an Army recruiting office was destroyed. Dozens of people died in each attack.
Even the man who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas was accused of committing an act of terror. Fear of terrorism sparked a protest by a Florida preacher who threatened to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11 until he was convinced it would put American troops at risk.
Late this year, the founder of WikiLeaks was called a terrorist by some for releasing classified military and state department communications. So far all Julian Assange has been arrested for is suspicion of rape.
Other events making 2010 memorable include the volcanoes in Iceland that disrupted European air travel, the controversial immigration bill singed by Arizona’s governor, and a decision overturning California’s ban on gay marriage. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted on one of the 24 corruption charges he faced and a SeaWorld trainer was killed by a killer whale.
Then there were the passings, including soul singer Teddy Pendergrass as well as J.D. Salinger, author of “Catcher In the Rye.” And it was farewell for “Easy Rider” Dennis Hopper as the cancer-stricken actor wore a brave face at his Hollywood Walk of Fame honor.
Rocker Ronnie James Dio and Slipknot’s Paul Gray were among those we lost. There was also Lynn Redgrave, Art Linkletter and former child star Gary Coleman, who passed away at 42.
A third “Golden Girl,” passed away withthe death of Rue McClanahan. The world also lost county music star and sausage king, Jimmy Dean. This was followed by the passing of two former teen-idols: Eddie Fisher at 82; Tony Curtis, who was 85.
The Beaver’s mom, Barbara Billingsley died, as did the Tom Bosley, the father in “Happy Days.” Also pass was Bob Guccione, the founder of “Penthouse” magazine.
Finally, there was the death of actor and funny-man Leslie Neilson. Surely he’ll be remebered for such spoofs as “Airplane,” but don’t call him Shirley.
Lately though, tensions have been mounting between North and South Korea and in Europe austerity measures have triggered demonstrations in France and England while the E-U has put together bailouts for several member nations. Unemployment, however, remains the biggest obstacle her and abroad, to achieving growth for 2011.