1. Obama’s Second Term Begins
In honor of Barack Obama’s inauguration for a second term as president of the United States on January 21, we looked at some surprising facts about presidential inaugurations of the past, and toured some lesser-known presidential inaugural sites.
2. Change at the Vatican
On February 11, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics when he announced he was resigning for health reasons. It was the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years. In March, more than 100 cardinals from around the world traveled to the Vatican to elect a new pontiff, gathering in conclave to conduct their deliberations. While some expected a long wait, it was barely more than 24 hours before white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina would become Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff of the modern era and the first from Latin America.
3. Threats from North Korea
North Korea and its young leader, Kim Jong-Un, set off alarms worldwide with a series of aggressive rhetoric and actions this year, including verbal threats of missile attacks against the United States and South Korea. We took a look at what you need to know about this mysterious “hermit kingdom” and the threats it could pose to international security.
4. Life on Mars?
This spring, NASA revealed the much-anticipated results of analysis carried out by its rover Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in August 2012. The verdict? The Red Planet could have supported life in the past, scientists say.
5. Evidence of Cannibalism at Jamestown
In one of the year’s more important (and gruesome) historical finds, new archaeological evidence was uncovered confirming earlier written accounts that some of the starving colonists at the Virginia settlement of Jamestown resorted to cannibalism during the harsh winter of 1609-10.
6. Looking Back at the Battle of Gettysburg
This July marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloody struggle fought in Pennsylvania that marked a turning point in the Civil War in the summer of 1863. We rounded up some important facts about the battle itself, took a detailed look back at what happened on Little Round Top on the battle’s crucial second day and remembered the only civilian to die at Gettysburg. We also looked at some surprising facts about the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln’s short but unforgettable speech delivered in November 1863 at the dedication ceremony for the Gettysburg military cemetery.
7. England’s Royal Baby Arrives
All eyes were on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (perhaps better known as Prince William and the former Kate Middleton) this summer as they awaited the arrival of their first child. Prince George Alexander Louis arrived on July 22, and took his rightful place as third in line for the British throne. In honor of the royal baby’s birth, we took a look at the complicated issues surrounding the baby’s surname and some surprising facts about royal births.
8. Anniversary of Civil Rights Milestones
The year 1963 was a momentous one in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. In honor of the 50th anniversary of these events, we took a look back at the historic letter Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in April 1963 while imprisoned in a Birmingham jail, as well as the notorious bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four young black girls in September 1963. We also remembered the March on Washington held that summer, and explored some things you might not know about civil rights icon Rosa Parks on the 100th anniversary of her birth.
9. Assassination in Dallas, 50 Years Later
November 22 marked 50 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. In commemoration of that historic tragedy, we spent a week looking back, including an exploration of JFK’s final 100 days and the last hours in the life of his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald; found out what happened to eight key figures in the years after the assassination; saw scores of Kennedy memorabilia auctioned off for tidy sums; and profiled the other victims caught in the line of fire that day. For good measure, we shared some things you might not know about the 35th U.S. president as well as the controversial investigation into his death.
10. Remembering Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
When Nelson Mandela turned 95 in July, we took a look back at the life and legacy of the beloved anti-apartheid leader and first black president of South Africa. At the time, Mandela had been hospitalized in Pretoria for a recurring lung infection, and was placed on life support after his condition deteriorated. Released in September after a three-month stay, he died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5. As millions in South Africa and around the world mourned, we examined Mandela’s life and legacy and took a look back at the “pop star’s welcome” he received during his first U.S. visit in 1990.