Associated Press/Photo by Ben Curtis


News of Year

Issue: "News of the Year," Jan. 2, 2010

In the aftermath of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's improbably large June 12 reelection victory came an improbably large response: Millions turned out in protest. "Nothing has been seen upon the streets of Tehran like this since the revolution right back in 1979," said BBC veteran John Simpson, whose camera crew was briefly arrested. Brutal reprisals by police and paramilitary units followed. Iranian officials tried to censor coverage of the demonstrations, but protesters used social networking sites like Twitter to feed real-time news of the violent crackdown around the globe, including the soon iconic imagery of protester Neda Agha-Soltan's murder. Theocratic officials certified the election results, but the protesters did not stopped rallying for change: Six months after the fraudulent election thousands of students braved tear gas and worse to march again on National Students Day Dec. 7.

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Instead of tax refunds, California taxpayers got IOUs in their mailboxes this year. California boasts the world's eighth-largest economy, but the state government faced near meltdown in the face of a $26 billion deficit. Major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America quit accepting the state's IOUs in July. After a series of summer skirmishes in Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature agreed to cut spending deeply on prisons and education, and sent public employees on furloughs. Then in November the state began raising an estimated $1.7 billion by extracting involuntary, interest-free loans from the population's paychecks in the form of higher withholdings. California won't emerge from the debt tunnel next year, though it may see light at the end of it. An estimated $7 billion budget gap will persist because tax revenues are expected to remain flat.

Town halls

Don't be surprised if congressional lawmakers remember August 2009 as the hottest August on record. Americans from coast to coast stormed constituent meetings with politicians during the traditional month-long congressional recess, stunning law­makers used to benign, sparsely attended summer homecomings in their districts. But voters were in no mood for handshakes and photo-ops. The town halls became a live referendum on congressional healthcare overhaul efforts as attendees protested the takeover of one of the nation's largest industries under the Democrat-controlled Congress. Longtime legislators like Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank found themselves in heated exchanges with constituents they long had taken for granted. Frank and others, faced with on-camera showdowns, tried to discredit their constituents, calling them "un-American," "evil mongers," and "extremist mobs," whose "fear-mongering" was akin to "political terrorists." Did these lawmakers forget that August recess comes every year, and elections every other?

TEA parties

It began with 30,000 protestors spread across more than 40 cities in February who said they were Taxed Enough Already. Two months later, on the April 15 tax-filing deadline, nearly half a million demonstrators joined 278 tea parties from Alabama to Wyoming. The nationwide movement, inspired by Boston patriots of 1773 and spawned by anger over runaway government spending, growing federal deficits, and increased taxation, may not become its own political party but won the attention of the other two. On Sept. 15 perhaps a million big-government protestors took over the Mall in Washington, suggesting that the movement may well have staying power through next year's already heavily web-promoted National Tax Day Tea Party II.


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