December 21, 2011 Edition

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What a year

What a year this has been. Looking back it seems to have been one earth-shaking event following another with very little respite in between. Starting in January with "Arab Spring" which began with Egyptian citizens protesting in Tahir Square and the eventual ouster of President Hosni Mubarat, cries for freedom from tyranny spread rapidly to other countries as the year progressed.

In March Japan experienced a magnitude 9 earthquake, one of the most devastating and powerful earthquakes on record. The quake generated 133-feet-high tsunami waves that laid waste to most of the eastern coastal region. In addition the tsunami also caused meltdowns in three reactors, which resulted in contamination to surrounding land and sea areas. Nearly 16,000 people died in the disaster, thousands were injured and thousands are still missing.

Navy Seals took the life of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May. Bin Laden's death was pronounced a closure for all those who were affected by the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In early August the debt ceiling crisis arrived. Though it had been knocking on our door for several years it still hit with a force that sent us reeling. From foreclosures to bailouts of those too big to fail corporations our economy tanked with such force that the reverberations traveled the globe and the resulting chaos is still sending shockwaves of economic distress around the world.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began quietly in September but as the movement grew those who were occupying and those who were against the occupation became more and more vocal.

The end of the Iraq War has been very quiet. Fears are great that Iraq will descend into civil warfare between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

In December as thousands of military personnel travel home there is both joy and fear. The anxiety of reentering a job market that is sluggish at best is yet another challenge these tired warriors must face.

The recent death of Kim Jong Il, who has ruled North Korea for the last 17 years, has brought more uncertainty to a world that seems to be forever teetering on an uncertain precipice. Governments wait anxiously to see how this latest turn of events plays out on the both economic and political fronts with hopes that tensions will not escalate once again.

Is there any good news then? Well yes, there is.

A lack of tolerance for inequality has become a dominant theme around the globe. There is a small burgeoning hope that oppression, tyranny, persecution and corruption can be conquered.

Global markets are showing signs of recovery. It's too soon to shout from the rooftops, but there is some hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train.

U.S. unemployment rates are falling with the sharpest decline reported in November when the jobless rate fell to 8.6 percent.

Nine months after the devastating events in Japan the landscape looks barren along the eastern coastline. Much of the debris has been removed and there is a sense that recovery and progress is being made.

Our soldiers have taken down the U.S. flag in Iraq and brought it home. After nine years of war, it's over. There has been no fanfare, no parades, no bands playing, yet even in the quietness there is a sense of joy in having them back.

This is a year many will not regret seeing end, though others will celebrate victories and newfound freedoms. How we measure it depends on the yardstick used.

December 31 will come and a new year will begin at midnight with all the hopes and fears of an unknown future. Let our hearts be glad that we have the chance to make it wonderful.

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