The National Scene in review 

What a strange 12 months it’s been. This year we learned the meaning of both “wide stance” and “waterboarding.” The situation in Iraq may be slightly improving — for the moment, at least — while things in Afghanistan seem to be getting worse. And Paris Hilton got throwed in jail.

Thankfully, one truly great American has restored our nation’s global reputation and dominance: Joey Chestnut, we salute you!

Ignoring the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and despite congressional opposition and an increasingly war-weary public, President Bush announces his intention to send an additional 21,500 troops (later 30,000) to Iraq. Hillary and Barack enter the race for Democratic presidential nominee. The Indianapolis Colts win the AFC title, sending them to the Super Bowl for the first time. And Indy’s own most notorious kook (1978-’81), Brett “The Speedway Bomber” Kimberlin, is featured in a three-page article in TIME magazine about his efforts to reform electronic voting.

The city goes bonkers after the Colts defeat the Bears, 29-17, to win Super Bowl XLI. Pop culture icon Anna Nicole Smith is found dead at age 39. North Korea agrees to shut down its main nuclear reactor in exchange for supplies of fuel oil. The Kansas Board of Education repeals its mandate to teach “intelligent design” in science classes. The famously anti-Bush Dixie Chicks win five Grammys, including song of the year for “Not Ready to Make Nice.” The House passes a non-binding resolution opposing a large troop increase in Iraq. Oh, and did I mention the Colts won the Super Bowl?

Three top military advisors resign after reports of inadequate treatment, intolerable conditions and crushing bureaucracy at Walter Reed Hospital. On his way to a party after a concert in Stockholm, Snoop Dogg is pulled over by police and held overnight on suspicion of using illegal narcotics. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and several key players at the White House find themselves in hot water over the firing of eight federal prosecutors last year. People around the world protest and mourn on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War. Fifteen British sailors are captured in the Persian Gulf by Iranian naval forces; Iran claims the Brits’ ship was in Iranian waters.

After 13 days, Iran releases the captured British sailors. Don Imus is fired by CBS Radio and MSNBC for referring to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” Kurt Vonnegut dies at age 84. David Letterman turns 60. Snoop Dogg pleads no contest to felony gun and drug charges stemming from an incident at a California airport last year; Snoop avoids prison, but is placed on five years probation and must serve 800 hours of community service. Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old student, kills 32 people at Virginia Tech; it is the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias, the Bush Administration’s first “AIDS czar” and former Eli Lilly chairman, resigns after being outed in the media as a client of the infamous D.C. Madam.

President Bush vetoes legislation calling for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Marion County’s primary election is marred by a myriad of snafus. After five retired four-star generals refuse the position, three-star Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute is appointed the new “war czar” overseeing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz agrees to resign in the wake of controversy involving his bank employee-girlfriend’s pay raise. A 400-pound gorilla escapes from a zoo in the Netherlands and injures four people before being subdued with a sedative dart.

Assisted-suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian (“Dr. Death”), 79, is released from prison. Socialite Paris Hilton is jailed — briefly released, then re-jailed — in L.A. for probation violation. After hosting The Price is Right for 35 years, Bob Barker tapes his final show at age 83. U.S. military deaths in Iraq reach 3,500. The Palestinian coalition government splits violently; Hamas takes over the Gaza Strip and President Abbas’ Fatah party is forced to operate from the West Bank. For the second time, President Bush vetoes stem cell legislation; a Newsweek poll shows his approval rating at an all-time low of 26 percent. Famous writer and bon vivant Harry Cheese turns 50!

President Bush commutes the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Funny guy writer Dave Barry turns 60; comedienne Phyllis Diller turns 90. Joey Chestnut defeats six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi in the annual Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest at Coney Island, N.Y., gobbling down 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes — a new world record! Al Gore and friends stage Live Earth concerts worldwide to call attention to global warming. Marion County residents are shocked by huge property tax increases; after much public protest, the governor grants a reprieve … for now.

An interstate bridge collapses in Minneapolis, spilling dozens of cars into the Mississippi River; 13 people are killed or missing and presumed dead. Bulky batter Barry Bonds hits home run number 756, breaking the record held by Hank Aaron for 33 years. Indy swelters in the grips of a heat wave and drought. Long-serving Bush aide Karl Rove resigns. At 114, Shelbyville’s Edna Parker becomes the world’s oldest living person. Four suicide bombers kill approximately 300 people in a Kurdish region of Iraq. Six miners are trapped in a collapsed tunnel in a Utah mine; rescue operations stop after three more miners are killed in another collapsing tunnel. Embattled A.G. Alberto Gonzales resigns.

Busy month. After having been busted in a police sex-sting operation in a Minneapolis airport men’s room, Idaho Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig resigns. A plane piloted by millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, 63, disappears while flying over Wyoming. Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti dies at age 71. Sporting a freshly cut and dyed black beard, Osama bin Laden releases a new video — plus two bonus videos! Gen. David Petraeus delivers to Congress a cautiously optimistic report on the troop surge in Iraq. O.J. Simpson and a crew of his buddies bungle a Las Vegas sports memorabilia heist. Thousands march in Jena, La., to protest the jailing of six black teens accused of beating a white classmate in a racially charged incident. Beefy singer/actor Meat Loaf and scary writer Stephen King turn 60. Masterful mime Marcel Marceau dies at age 84. In Burma, thousands of Buddhist monks march to protest the country’s repressive regime; military forces respond with batons and bullets, killing more than a dozen people.

President Bush vetoes expansion of the SCHIP program, which provides health insurance for poor children. Sen. Larry Craig announces his intention to serve out the remainder of his term. Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reduce global warming. Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez says of the Iraq war, “America is living a nightmare with no end in sight.” Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan; as tens of thousands line the streets to welcome her, a suicide bombing close to her vehicle kills more than 140 people. The last surviving member of the legendary Rat Pack, comedian Joey Bishop, dies at age 89. California is ravaged by wildfires. Hillary Clinton turns 60.

Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney delivers a speech at the Indiana World War Memorial in which he justifies the use of harsh interrogation techniques. Pakistan’s President Musharraf declares a state of national emergency. In a stunning upset victory, Republican Greg Ballard defeats two-term Democrat incumbent Bart Peterson to become mayor of Indianapolis. Feisty writer Norman Mailer dies at 84. Baseball’s embattled Barry Bonds is indicted on charges related to his alleged steroid use. After detecting an irregular heartbeat, doctors give Dick Cheney an electric shock to kick-start his heart’s normal rhythm. Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel dies at 69.

Larry Craig is once again on the hot seat when eight men in Boise, Idaho, claim to either have had sex with the senator or were approached by him for sex. The Spice Girls are back! The Spice Girls are back! Hoosier violin virtuoso Joshua Bell turns 40. Legendary R&B musician Ike Turner dies at age 76. Indiana Congresswoman Julia Carson dies at 69. Pakistan’s president, Musharraf, ends his country’s state of emergency. Former Sen. George Mitchell releases a damning report on the use of performance enhancing drugs by pro baseball players over the past two decades (now officially known as “the Steroid Era”). Santa Claus, all of his elves and millions of hopeful people around the world await the upcoming countdown of the final year of the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush.

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