Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Hudson Valley

A look back at this year's national stories

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Albany/HV: A look back at this year's national stories
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The massacre of 20 school children and six administrators in a quiet little town in Connecticut just weeks ago caused an outpouring of support from all over the world. Twelve little girls and eight little boys became the focus of one of the worse mass shootings in American history. Sadly, it wasn't the only shooting tragedy of its kind this year. Cheryl Wills takes a look back at some of the other major stories making national headlines this year.

UNITED STATES -- The February 26th shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida sparked protests across the nation and lead to the arrest of a gunman who was initially not charged with any crime. The parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the Rev. Al Sharpton turned the racially charged case into a political football, prompting comments from the White House and sparking a movement where students coast to coast wore hooded sweatshirts in Trayvon’s memory. George Zimmerman, who claims he acted in self-defense, now faces second degree murder charges.

It’s the third largest school district in the country and when more than 29,000 teachers walk off the job and hit the picket lines in early September, some 350,000 students are left in limbo. The job action lasts for seven long days until a new contract was reached. But the sticking points like merit pay and evaluations are issues facing teachers nationwide.

Two shooting rampages this summer in Colorado and Wisconsin catapulted two quiet towns onto the national stage amid the ongoing debate over gun control. A gunman wearing body armor opened fire inside a crowded movie theater in Aurora during a showing of ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ Among the dead: Twelve people. Dozens more are hurt.

Days later a white supremacist brandishing a legal handgun ambushes a Sikh Temple during worship services in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and killed six people before taking his own life. President Obama condemned both events, calling them tragic.

In June, all eyes are on Washington as the nation’s high court upholded President Obama’s controversial Affordable Healthcare Act. With republicans and democrats sharply divided over mandating health insurance for uninsured Americans, The court’s 5-4 ruling is seen as a victory for President Obama as he campaigns for re-election.

Also in June, President Obama signs an executive order that is widely hailed as a victory for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The move prevents immigrants under the age of 30 from being deported if they had been brought to the U.S. before they were sixteen years old. Tens of thousands of anxious immigrants fill out new forms called “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," which they hope will put them on a path to citizenship. The executive order, which some republicans call ‘unlawful,’ expires in February 28, 2013.

In a stunning fall from grace, the director of the CIA abruptly resigns just days after election day after admitting an extramarital affair with his biographer. David Petraeus, a four star general who spent nearly half of his life in the U.S. Army, came under scrutiny by the FBI after his mistress Paula Broadwell sent harassing emails to a family friend of Petraeus. The general, who led American troops through the crises in Iraq and Afghanistan, was once seen as a potential candidate for president of the United States.

President Obama continues to make history and headlines during his first term in office. Perhaps none more so than his political about-face and endorsement of same-sex marriage. After striking down "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" the president announces his support for gay marriage in a television interview last May that once again drew strong responses from a sharply divided nation.

And just months later in November, Maine, Washington and Maryland become the first states in the union to pass same-sex marriage laws by popular vote. Six other states - New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont - and the District of Columbia already have same-sex marriage laws in place.

Although marijuana is banned under federal law, residents in Washington and Colorado vote to legalize the drug for recreational use. The November referendums make it legal for some businesses to sell it and for anyone over the age of 21 to light up. President Obama does not endorse the move but said in a television interview that he won’t go after the two states that legalized pot.

And finally, junk food lovers end the year hoarding Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other sugar-loaded favorites. When parent company Hostess files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy officials suspend operations at all of its bakeries, prompting an uproar among Americans who cherished the "Golden sponge cake with creamy filling" that became popular during World War II. Hostess says the move to healthy eating and the war on sugary treats is what ultimately did the company in.

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