For a select few, the clock can't signal the start of 2013 soon enough. Whether it was a scandal, bad business, or terrible decision-making, the following list is filled with those that won't be sorry to leave 2012 in the rear-view mirror.
Up until late 2012, not only could Lance Armstrong be considered one of the greatest athletes in U.S. history, he was one of the biggest names raising money and awareness for victimsof cancer. Over the course of a decade, many claimed that Armstrong had cheated his way to his seven Tour De France titles, a charge he repeatedly denied, pointing to a long list of passed drug tests.
That all vanished in October, when the U.S. Anti Doping Agency released a 1,000 page report detailing a vast and sophisticated blood doping scheme that allowed Armstrong to dominate his sport over the course of nearly a decade.
Armstrong was subsequently stripped of his titles, banned from competitive cycling, released from his multiple endorsement deals, and forced to step down as chairman of his charitable organization.
If the nation's financial system has been performing a high-wire act over the course of the past few years, Jamie Dimon was the guy who came perilously close to slipping off the rope.
In May, the CEO of JPMorganChase revealed to the public that his bank lost nearly $2 billion, mainly due to the actions of a rogue trader that bet big on credit default swaps, a strategy that was supposed to "hedge" risk, but instead inflated it.
Shortly after the bad trades were revealed, Dimon owned up to his bank's massive error, calling the trades, "flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, and poorly executed." It may have been a smart PR move, but it didn't stop the bleeding: revised estimates in July estimated JPMorgan's loss to be nearly $6 billion.
If things weren't bad enough, Dimon's bank was then slapped with subpoenas from four different countries in August, stemming from the investigations into the global manipulation of the LIBOR rates, a scandal that is considered to be among the biggest in banking history.
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY
The wounds of 2011 were exacerbated over the course of 2012 for Penn State University, which saw the punitive fallout of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal play out over the course of the year.
The year started out on a somber note, with longtime football coach Joe Paterno passing away from lung cancer in January. Paterno, who had been let go after the abuse allegations came to light in Nov. 2011, was further disgraced when an independent report led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that Paterno, along with a number of high-ranking Penn State officials, showed "total disregard" for Sandusky's victims over the course of nearly 15 years.
The findings of the Freeh Report led the NCAA to issue crippling sanctions on Penn State's football program, heavily reducing the number of football scholarships over a four-year period and leveling the school a $60 million fine.
Even as Sandusky was sentenced to jail for the rest of his life in October, the fallout continues to unfold. Two ex-Penn State officials are currently awaiting trial stemming from perjury charges related to the case, and two separate investigations are being conducted by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Education, looking into whether the university violated federal law by not properly responding to Sandusky's crimes.
At the start of 2012, there were very few people in America who could give you detailed information on any of the following subjects: the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony, and the non-profit group Invisible Children and its co-founder, Jason Russell.
That all changed—and rather quickly—in March. Russell's non-profit released a video on YouTube, entitled KONY 2012, that chronicled Joseph Kony, leader of a guerrilla army that has clashed with the Ugandan military and forced thousands of children to fight in its battles or be killed.
The video, which was viewed over 35 million times over the course of five days, was met with a fierce backlash. From calls that Invisible Children was commodifying human rights violations, to critics who claimed the video did not focus on the true problem, the reaction to KONY 2012 ground Russell's campaign to a halt.
The avalanche of criticism took its toll on Russell, who was filmed marching around a San Diego, Calif. street corner, ranting to passing traffic and pedestrians while naked. Russell's family would later reveal that he was suffering from "reactive psychosis." The diagnosis did not stop the public from lampooning Russell's actions, with South Park parodying the incident in an April episode.
Despite all the privacy that should come with running America's top spy agency, a very public scandal rocked the leader of the Central Intelligence Agency in late 2012.
Shortly after Election Day, David Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA after acknowledging an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, a reserve army officer who published a flattering biography about the four-star general earlier in the year.
The affair came to light after an investigation into E-mails Broadwell sent Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, allegedly harassing and warning her to stay away from Petraeus and General John Allen, the current U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
The affair had gone on over the course of 8 months, as Broadwell researched information for her book.
Both Petraeus and Broadwell are still being investigated in relation to the affair. The Pentagon is looking into whether Broadwell has allegedly mishandled classified information, while the CIA is investigating Petraeus' conduct to examine whether he may have used CIA resources to further his relationship with Broadwell.
If you predicted the phrases "bath salts" and "zombie apocalypse" would go hand-in-hand by the time 2012 closed, you probably should have spent some money on a Powerball ticket.
The frenzy of news surrounding bath salts began in May when a 31-year-old naked Miami, Fla. man was found chewing on the face of a homeless man. The incident, which was one of many that involved people exhibiting bizarre behavior, sparked national attention over the synthetic drug, despite the fact that no bath salts were found in the Florida assailant's system.
The drug, which sparks similar effects to that of crystal meth and LSD, also led to many dubbing the behavior as the beginning of a world ruled by zombies. The conversation grew to such a level that CDC had to issue a statement saying there are "no known viruses or conditions that would re-animate the dead."
Politicians quickly moved to combat the problem, with President Barack Obama signing a law in July outlawing synthetic drugs, including bath salts. However, it was shortly revealed after Obama signed the bill that the drug's makers are constantly finding new ways to skirt the law.
The top echelon of football was not immune to its own round of controversy in 2012. From player health to quality control, the man that oversees America's most popular sport took his share of licks over the course of the year.
Things took a bad turn for the NFL commissioner in March, when the league launched an investigation into the New Orleans Saints, finding that the team orchestrated a "bounty program," a plan to knock opposing players out of games for financial reward. Goodell suspended a number of Saints' players and coaches for portions of or the entirety of the 2012 season, decisions that were later reduced or vacated after a separate review by Goodell's predecessor in December.
The impetus behind the suspensions was Goodell's focus on player safety. The NFL has been under heavy scrutiny over the past few years as former players, including a number of whom committed suicide, have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of multiple concussions during their playing days. The NFL was sued by more than 60 players in May, who claim the NFL did not properly protect them from concussions in years past. A study released in September did not help matters: it found that football players develop neurological diseases three times more frequently than the general population.
On the field, the first few weeks of the 2012 season were not a welcome distraction for Goodell. The NFL found itself in a bitter labor dispute with its officials, forcing the league to use replacement referees until a contract was reached. The officials, some of whom who previously worked in the Lingerie Football League, were severely unqualified to serve as replacements, causing headaches for players and coaches. The impasse came to a boiling point in late September when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers after replacement officials incorrectly awarded a last-second touchdown to Seattle, despite video evidence that showed the play clearly ended in an interception. Two days after the controversial play, Goodell reached a labor agreement with the officials.
CABLE TV OPERATORS
In an economy where families are looking to save money at any and all costs, the cable TV industry is feeling the belt tighten as more and more households "cut the cord" in 2012.
Multiple reports surfaced throughout the year, ranging from testimonials to earnings reports, that showed people were leaving their cable subscriptions for a number of different Video On Demand or a-la carte television services.
A big reason people are walking away from high cable bills is the added cost applied by sports stations. ESPN pulls in over $5.50 per cable subscriber, forcing customers to purchase the channel lineup despite a good portion of the viewing public never tuning into the network's programming.
With some people using high-speed Internet access and DVD rentals to drop their monthly television bill to as low as $8 a month, 2013 could usher in the year the majority of television watchers tune cable out once and for all.
Normally, Apple products arrive with such a fanfare, anyone found criticizing them are usually met with disdain from the Apple community. However, one Apple product released this year was so bad, Australian police called it "life-threatening."
Apple Maps, bundled with the release of the iOS6 operating system update, was supposed to be Apple's in-house replacement to Google Maps, offering a better GPS along with stunning 3-D visuals. The app was a disaster, with landmarks moved to random locations, other locations dropping off the map entirely, and 3-D pictures that reminded users of a bad acid trip.
The app's GPS proved to be a danger to some drivers in Australia, where it led them to the middle of a desert instead of a town of about 30,000 people. The town's police department put out a press release after the incident saying that the app was dangerous for use.
The blowback to Apple Maps was so bad, Apple CEO Tim Cook had to issue an apology. Apple has been slowly fixing the problems, but Google may have beaten Apple to the punch. Google released an updated maps app for iOS in December, which people praised while simultaneously continuing to dump on Apple.
The Australian media magnate may not have had as scandalous of a year as he had in 2011, but 2012 could have been a lot better for Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch's media empire started the year by announcing that a number of its newspapers would lose over $100 million in both the U.S. and UK over the course of the year. A few months later, following negative publicity from a celebrity phone-hacking scandal and pressure from shareholders, News Corp. split its news and entertainment divisions into two separate companies.
The hacking scandal wasn't the only bit of legal trouble Murdoch dealt with in 2012. In November, is was reported that U.S. authorities were looking into photos of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein that ran in two of Murdoch's papers. It is alleged that News Corp. bribed a U.S. military figure in order to obtain the photos, which is against federal law. The company said in response: News Corp said: 'We didn't believe then, and certainly don't believe now, that it was wrong to acquire and publish newsworthy photographs of a notorious war criminal.'
Murdoch's company also took a big hit when it was forced to shutter The Daily, News Corp's iPad-only digital newspaper, in December. Reports said the venture lost as much as $30 million over the course of its first year.
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Greg Otto is a news editor at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at email@example.com.