5 Stories to Watch This Summer
You may get a summer vacation, but the news doesn’t. Here are some stories to keep an eye on.
A worker at Alcoa, the nation’s largest aluminum producer, in South Carolina (Stephen Morton / Bloomberg / Getty Images)
After more than 10 years of war, the U.S. is looking to wrap up its military mission in Afghanistan and hand over responsibility to Afghan troops by 2014. The U.S. Secretary of Defense recently expressed hope that American combat forces might even be able to leave Afghanistan as early as mid-2013.
But the situation on the ground is far from stable. Many Afghans resent the U.S. military presence. And recent Taliban attacks in the capital, Kabul, and three eastern provinces have shown how fragile the Afghan government remains.
Can it maintain control in the years ahead without U.S. help? Developments over the next few months may give U.S. authorities the answer.
2. Summer Blockbusters
For major film studios, summertime is movie time. That’s usually when they roll out the action flicks that they expect will be the year’s big hits. The 2012 season started early with the March release of Hunger Games, and several other big films are slated to open soon. Here are some of the most anticipated:
- The Avengers (a who’s who of Marvel superheroes)
- Dark Shadows (vampire humor)
- Men in Black III
- Brave (Pixar animation)
- The Amazing Spider-Man
- The Dark Knight Rises (the Caped Crusader returns)
3. The Summer Olympics
The Summer Games are scheduled to begin in London on July 27. Women’s boxing, banned in many countries until recently, will make its debut as an official Olympic sport. Marlen Esparza, Quanitta “Queen” Underwood, and Claressa Shields are the Americans hoping to punch their way to gold.
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps is also sure to be the focus of attention. He made history four years ago by winning eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics. Hard on his heels will be teammate Ryan Lochte (see cover), who bested Phelps in last summer’s world championships.
South African runner Oscar Pistorius is trying to become the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. Pistorius, who runs on high-tech prostheses, has until late June to qualify for the Games.
In all, athletes from 205 countries and territories are expected to compete in 26 sports. Let the Games begin!
4. Election 2012
Now that former Governor Mitt Romney appears headed for the Republican nomination, he has turned his attention to President Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, who is running for a second term. The two men are already attacking each other in public forums.
Both candidates and their vice-presidential running mates will be formally nominated at the party’s conventions—the Republicans in Tampa, Florida, starting on August 27, and the Democrats in Charlotte, North Carolina, starting on September 3.
After the conventions, the race for the White House will kick into high gear. While the candidates may debate foreign policy and other concerns, for now the top issue appears to be the economy (see below).
5. The Economy
The American economy is recovering from a severe recession, though to the millions of people still unemployed, it may not feel that way.
The stock market and consumer spending have rebounded in recent months. But the housing market remains weak in much of the country. And businesses seem hesitant to hire new workers.
When JS went to press, the unemployment rate hovered around 8 percent, with many workers settling for part-time jobs.
If gas prices continue to rise, that could also hamper the recovery. Expect lots of debate all summer as President Obama defends his efforts to revive the economy, and Mitt Romney tries to make the case that he’d do a better job in the White House.
Of course the news is unpredictable, so anything could happen this summer. Here are a few more stories to watch:
- How will the Supreme Court rule on the provision in President Obama’s health-care law requiring everyone to buy health insurance?
- What will happen in Syria, where a rebellion against the dictatorship of President Assad continues?
- Will Israel attack Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?
- The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1. Will it bring storms as devastating as last summer’s Hurricane Irene?