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Published: Sunday, 1/6/2013

Overlooked stories

There's never enough time or space to give every important story the consideration it deserves. National politics consumes much of what’s available in election years. Scandals, wars, natural disasters, and man-made tragedies push each other from the headlines in rapid succession as they vie for what’s left.

The result is that major events, especially those that play out gradually over time, can get short shrift. Here are a few of the more important stories that sometimes got lost in the shuffle in 2012:

Myanmar’s remarkable and unexpected march toward democracy continued, despite religious and ethnic tensions. Scores of people died and thousands were driven from their homes in violence between Buddhists and the country’s Rohingya minority, which is largely Muslim. The Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, are considered one of the world’s most persecuted people.

The West African nation of Mali descended into near chaos. Tuareg mercenaries returned from Libya and allied with Islamic extremists to take over most of the country’s northern half, which has become a terrorist training ground. Two coups left Mali without an effective government. The United Nations Security Council is sending thousands of African troops there to try to oust the insurgents.

Haiti made news when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton visited to dedicate a new industrial park that, it is hoped, will provide thousands of jobs. But days later, Hurricane Sandy swept across the island nation, killing scores of people and causing a spike in cholera cases. Nearly three years after an earthquake devastated the poverty-stricken country, hundreds of thousands of people still live in unhealthy tent cities.

Last year’s elections and the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school highlighted other topics that have not gotten enough sustained attention.

Mitt Romney’s failed presidential bid revealed the growing influence of Hispanic voters. Latinos make up 37 percent of the population of Texas, the nation’s richest electoral prize. They could constitute the majority in fewer than 20 years, and more of them are voting for Democratic candidates. National Republican leaders are re-examining their party’s position on immigration, which is seen by many as “Latino bashing.”

Mental illness is a contributing factor in many cases of domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, and drug addiction. But we tend to pay attention only when a tragedy occurs. Guns are not the only topic that should be debated in the Connecticut mass shooting’s aftermath.

Not all the overlooked news was bad. In Africa, Ghana held peaceful elections for a sixth time. Voters in Senegal rejected their unpopular president’s bid for a third term.

Malawi got its first — and Africa’s second — female head of state when Vice President Joyce Banda was sworn in after the death of its president. Somalia, which hasn’t had an effective government in two decades, held successful elections.

Most of the time, it’s easy to decide what people need to know. But there always will be more news — good and bad — than there is room to report.



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