For fans and players of the disappointing French and Italian national soccer teams, the 2010 FIFA World Cup is one they'd like to soon forget. But for billions of soccer fans around the world the summer tournament in South Africa will ring in their memories-and ears-for years to come. Record audiences from 70 nations tuned in to watch broadcasts of the 64 matches and were met with the irrepressible drone of buzzing vuvuzelas-a sound so oppressive and constant from thousands of horn-blowing spectators that French player Patrice Evra sought to blame his team's abysmal performance on the noise. But the tournament represented the most-watched television event in history: More than 700 million people witnessed Spain's 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final. Nevertheless, the 2010 World Cup may be long remembered not for Spain but for aural pain.
Gay marriage supporters in California and Hawaii took their cases to the courts-and appear likely headed to the Supreme Court. After Gov. Linda Lingle of Hawaii vetoed a same-sex civil union bill, gay-rights groups filed a lawsuit claiming that Hawaii denies same-sex couples the rights and protections it gives to heterosexual couples. But the election of Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who supports same-sex civil unions, as governor means legislation is on the table again. In California, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker reversed California's state amendment banning gay marriage, sending the case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in August, which heard oral arguments on Dec. 6. Walker faulted defenders of the measure, known as Prop 8, for bringing only two witnesses and threw out the testimony of one witness entirely. After the ruling, lawyers waged another brief battle over whether same-sex marriages could continue while the case is being appealed, a fight that Proposition 8 defenders won when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that same-sex marriages could not proceed until the case is decided. Both sides have vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Barack Obama knew he had a fight on his hands with Senate Republicans over his choice for a top medical post. So during the Independence Day recess, when nominations don't require normal Senate approval, he bypassed the Senate to make the key administrative appointment. By tapping Harvard professor Donald Berwick to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, Obama placed at the center of America's new healthcare program a proponent of medical rationing and a supporter of England's socialized national health system. Berwick, who said it is "not whether or not we will ration care-the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open," was placed in charge of a Medicaid program that is expected to expand by at least 16 million more patients thanks to Obamacare.
Over the August recess, Obama did it again, making four recess appointments to top administrative posts without Senate approval. But that would be the last time: Senate Democrats joined with Republicans in October to block additional recess appointments. By going into "pro forma" sessions throughout the campaign season recess, senators signaled to Obama that sidestepping congressional privilege is not condoned by lawmakers from either party.
So-called natural disasters piled up, as China endured its worst flooding in decades, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs estimated some 1,400 people had died by August. Pakistan and India also suffered severe floods, with Pakistan facing an added threat: Terrorist groups mobilized quick and effective aid efforts that government officials feared would endear corrupt forces to needy Pakistanis. Meanwhile, Christian relief groups covertly shuttled aid to Pakistani churches facing the long-standing danger of being a washed-out religious minority in a predominantly Muslim nation.