Now to a scientist looking back at the year that's about to end, commentator Adam Frank is an astrophysicist. And in the category of science, he is confident about the headline for 2012.
ADAM FRANK: Something remarkable has happened that may etch this year into history for centuries to come. Twenty-twelve's importance comes not through elections, economic shifts or the new movements in art. No, 2012 may well be remembered for something far more elemental.
This was the year that climate change got real for Americans.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
7.7 percent, that's the current unemployment rate. It's a full percentage point lower than this time last year. That sounds like progress, a modest number of new jobs are being added every month. But labor force participation, a measure of both people who are working and those who are actively looking for work, is at its lowest point in three decades.
It's been a mixed year for Alzheimer's research. Some promising drugs failed to stop or even slow the disease. But researchers also found reasons to think that treatments can work if they just start sooner.
Scientists who study Alzheimer's say they aren't discouraged by the drug failures. "I actually think it was a phenomenal year for research," says Bill Rebeck, a brain scientist at Georgetown University.
Brazilian health officials say an epidemic is taking hold — an outbreak of crack cocaine use nationwide, from the major cities on the coast to places deep in the Amazon.
It's an image at odds with the one Brazil wants to project as the country prepares to host soccer's World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics two years later. But the problem has become too big to ignore.
The Luz district of central Sao Paulo was once grand, with its old train station and opulent buildings. Now, this neighborhood is known as Cracolandia — Crackland.
The war in Syria is taking a huge toll on the children. An international team of researchers that interviewed Syrian kids in a refugee camp in Turkey found that 3 out of 4 have lost a loved one. Almost half have post-traumatic stress disorder and elevated levels of depression.
There are efforts to help, but it's challenging. In the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep, the bell rings at 8 a.m. at the Friendship Elementary School. Syrian kids, in fresh school uniforms, cram into desks, with more than 40 students in every classroom.