‘Miracles’ of 2013: Some of our favories
Today is the day Christians around the world celebrate one of the central miracles of the New Testament: the birth of God’s son on Earth. Since then, the “miracle” bar has been lowered and the label has been secularized, attached by the media to all manner of unexpected and wondrous feats — from rescue workers finding a baby alive in the rubble five days after the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010 to the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s stunning upset victory over Russia in 1980.
This past year had its share of deeds and events that, while not truly miraculous, were still remarkable, surprising and at least a little awe-inspiring. Here are some of our favorites:
NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first vessel launched from Earth to venture out of our solar system. There’s no telling how long it will take Voyager to reach another solar system, and when it does, its data transmissions may be too faint to detect. Nevertheless, Voyager’s 36-year odyssey from the sun is a singular achievement in humanity’s quest for knowledge.
At the eleventh-hour, just as the United States was preparing a military strike to punish Bashar Assad’s government for using toxic nerve agents against civilians in a Damascus suburb, Syria agreed to a Russian-proposed deal to turn over its chemical weapons to international authorities. The downside of the deal is that it may solidify Assad’s shaky hold on power.
The liberal Senate Democrat and the conservative House Republican who authored their chambers’ seemingly irreconcilable budget proposals early in 2013 came up with a compromise version in December, quietly and without drama. Just as amazing, they persuaded their respective parties to support it.
In another budget miracle, the California Legislature adopted a balanced budget on time without gimmicks, borrowing or a razor-thin reserve.
A meteor the size of a small building hurtled toward Russia at about 42,000 miles per hour in February, but it didn’t kill a single person when it crashed near the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk. Although many were injured, deaths were averted when the meteor blew apart 15 miles above the Earth’s surface.
The glaring digital billboards in Los Angeles were switched off. It’s only a temporary respite, but a surprising and welcome one nonetheless.
The seemingly endless mayoral debates in Los Angeles finally came to an end.
The United States began serious talks with Iran — a country with which the U.S. has had no relations for nearly three decades — on solving the long-standing nuclear standoff. The discussions led to a historic interim agreement and a plan to continue the negotiations.
Doctors found a way to eradicate HIV in a baby born with the infection. The baby was put on anti-retroviral drugs shortly after delivery and the therapy continued for 18 months, at which point the virus was undetectable. After 12 months without further treatment, doctors could still find no evidence of the virus in the young patient’s body.
Support for same-sex marriage grew at an astonishing rate. Courts, legislators or voters legalized same-sex unions in California and nine other states, bringing the total to 18, and the Supreme Court threw out the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred the federal government from recognizing such marriages. France, England and Wales also legalized gay marriage.
Newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said “no” to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said “yes” to an outside examination of the county’s embattled child protection system.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan actually moved to the public comment stage, after seven years of wrangling over what to put into the first draft.
A lot of pundits considered it a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court would flatly bar the University of Texas (and by extension, the rest of the nation’s public colleges and universities) from considering an applicant’s race. Instead, Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in higher education once again.
The board of the financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Art has nearly quadrupled the museum’s anemic $23-million endowment. Quite a feat for a museum that earlier this year looked like it might need to be taken over by a bigger institution to survive.
The “layaway Santa” phenomenon — in which an anonymous benefactor goes into a store and pays for all the toys that parents had put on layaway — continued around the county. For example, a Los Angeles mother, recently laid off from an entertainment industry job and going through a divorce, said she put some presents on layaway at Toys R Us because, well, who wants to skimp on your kids’ Christmas amid so much upheaval? Ten days before Christmas, the store called and told her that an anonymous couple had paid off several customers’ layaway plans, including hers. Empathy for those struggling in hard times. Generosity without expecting thanks. These “Layaway Santas” remind of us of what’s best about this season.
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