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Lynn Hummel: 2013-14 reflections and predictions

There is a point somewhere in middle age when, once past that point, time runs faster and faster — like plunging on the downside of a roller coaster. I am on that plunge right now and I can’t believe 2013 is almost over — the paint just dried on 2012. So here are my reflections on the past year and fearless predictions for 2014.

FORGOTTEN HEROES? For the 11th year in a row (too long, too long) the heroes of the year are the brave young men and women serving our country in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan and other outposts around the globe. To date, 2,153 Americans have died in Afghanistan, 155 in the past year, including six in the past two weeks. Over 50,000 have been wounded, including many at home with missing limbs and concussive and stress injuries. These heroes should never be forgotten. We can’t have a truly Happy New Year until that war is over and they’re all safely at home and healed.

PERSON OF THE YEAR: I usually pick my person of the year before TIME Magazine makes its choice. This year the TIME people were early and named Pope Francis. I couldn’t agree more. I second the motion.

CANINE HERO: A black lab named Orlando, a service dog, saved the life of his blind 60 year old master, Cecil Williams, after Williams fainted from the effects of diabetes and fell onto the tracks of a New York City subway with a train coming. Orlando jumped down and dragged his master to the space between the tracks where they both lay while the train went over them. They both survived with minor injuries. Williams said, “I’m thinking about God, why did he save me, help me, I do believe it’s for a reason and one day I’ll find out.”

TEEN HERO: Fifteen year old Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for making statements like “I want every girl, every child to be educated.” She lived, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and has addressed the United Nations. Malala will be recognized as a world leader one day.

PICKPOCKET OF THE YEAR: Edward Snowden, the American computer specialist, delivered 1.7 million National Security Agency classified documents ,causing us all to wonder if our government is spying on us and everybody else around the world, including German Chancellor, Angela Markel.

PHONY OF THE YEAR: Thamsanqua Jantie provided fake sign language to the world as he interpreted speeches at the Nelson Mandella memorial service. Only deaf people and genuine signing interpreters knew his signs were meaningless. The poor guy — he later told reporters he was schizophrenic and hearing voices. Scary situation.

RUTHLESS NEPHEW OF THE YEAR: Kim Jong Un, the young dictator of North Korea, had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed for treason. Uncle Jang had been the second most powerful person in that country. We have reason to suspect that whoever moved up to second most powerful is now sleeping with one eye open.

QUESTION OF THE YEAR: “Who am I to judge?” This was the answer of Pope Francis when a reporter asked him about homosexuality among the clergy.

WORDS OF THE YEAR: This was the year of many ugly words or expressions of misery like fiscal cliff, sequester, shutdown and shooting. But two words stand out as the best words of the year. The first is forgiveness. Forgiveness is how the late Nelson Mandella came to terms with his oppressors after 27 years of unjust imprisonment. He forgave them and went on to lead South Africa out of its apartheid policies of racial segregation. The second positive word is compromise. Through a bipartisan effort, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress have passed a budget plan. The plan is considered “modest” in scope and members of both parties are unhappy about items included and not included in the bill, but the law is a rare achievement of a divided congress that has spent the last two years throwing dirt and getting nothing done. They did it by compromising. It’s a baby step, but it’s the first step forward in a long time.

Review of Predictions for 2013:

ROYAL BABY: I told you the royal baby would be a girl named Victoria Elizabeth. Close. It was a boy named George Alexander Louis. But he has the same nickname a girl would have had — “Babykins.” Close enough.

SYRIAN DICTATOR: I predicted Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, who has killed 126,000 Syrians, including 11,000 children, some by gas, would leave Syria in a bodybag. Not yet.

GUN CONTROL: I predicted Congress would limit magazine capacity of semi-automatic weapons. Wrong. Apparently we need unlimited capacity. The only limit we have now is a shortage of ammo.

BROTHERHOOD PICNIC: Contrary to my prediction, no “brotherhood and compromise” picnic was scheduled for all U.S. Senators and Congressmen. They wouldn’t have gone anyway.

THE ECONOMY: I predicted the economy would continue to improve and unemployment would go below seven percent. The economy certainly has improved but unemployment is now at 7.0 percent. Close, but not good enough. The economy will be even better in 2014, but unemployment will not go down fast enough. We need more jobs.

Predictions — only one prediction this year.

BULLY PULPIT: At the urging of Pope Francis preaching from his bully pulpit, the world will pick up the pace of tending to the needs of the poor and hungry. As a result, Pope Francis will be named Person of the Year two years in a row.

You the readers thank you for your comments, calls and letters. Bless you and Happy New Year to all.