Debt ceiling crisis
The debate in Congress over increasing the debt ceiling and cutting government spending went on for weeks in late July under the looming threat of federal default.
A government default, the failure to pay interest on national debt, could have caused interest rates connected to treasury securities, such as those on mortgage and car loans, to rise and many people would have been temporarily denied government services.
The crisis was resolved when the bill to raise the debt ceiling was passed by the House of Representatives on Aug. 1 and the Senate on Aug. 2 in a 74-26 vote. President Barack Obama signed the bill immediately after the Senate and a government default was avoided.
Leading administrators leave the UA
The UA has to fill several positions after prominent faculty members resigned during the summer. Among those who stepped down was former UA President Robert Shelton. Shelton announced his resignation in June and assumed his new position as executive director of the Fiesta Bowl on Aug. 1. Eugene Sander, former dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, now acts as interim president of the UA.
Meredith Hay, formerly the UA provost, also left her position this summer. Hay, who had held the provost position since 2008, will become special adviser to the board Chair for Strategic Initiatives for the Arizona Board of Regents. She will be working directly under Fred DuVal, new regents chairman.
Others who left the UA include Steve MacCarthy, former UA vice president for external relations, and Dr. William M. Crist, vice president of health affairs, who will retire in September.
Giffords returns to Congress
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returned to the House of Representatives on Aug. 1 to cast her vote on the bill to raise the national debt ceiling. Giffords was welcomed to the House chamber with open arms and standing applause. She cast her vote in favor of the bill and said she had been closely following the debate.
This marked Giffords’ first appearance in the chamber since she was shot in the head on Jan. 8, in a shooting on Tucson’s northwest side that killed six.
Water on Mars
Briny water may flow on Mars. Using images taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers observed long, dark features flowing down the slopes of the planet’s warmer regions.
Alfred McEwen, the principal investigator for the HiRISE camera and a planetary geologist at the UA’s Planetary Image Research Laboratory, said briny water is the best explanation for the features so far. Other explanations still remain possible and the research team is continuing to work to find more information about liquid and life on Mars.
Dust storms plague Arizona
Phoenix and surrounding areas were hit with massive dust storms in July that delayed flights, created hazardous driving conditions and caused power outages throughout the city. Part of Arizona’s monsoon season, the two major dust storms created powerful winds and appeared as a massive wall of dust.
The first dust storm, which occurred on July 6, reached a height of 5,000 feet when it reached Phoenix. The second storm, on July 19, was about 3,000 feet high.
UA hosts National 9/11 Flag at Centennial Hall
The National 9/11 Flag appeared on display in Centennial Hall on July 8, six months after the Tucson shooting that killed six and critically injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The flag, part of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, was destroyed by the aftermath of 9/11 and stitched back together by tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kan., in 2008. It previously flew in Tucson on Jan. 13 at the funeral of Christina Taylor-Green, a 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting. The community was invited to ceremoniously add stitches to the flag to help mend the emotional wounds caused by that day.
Regents to change funding formula
The state Legislature required the Arizona Board of Regents to submit a new funding model following a national performance-based funding trend that would link state funding for the three state universities with gains in select performance areas. Research spending, enrollment and graduation are among the performance metrics.
In July, the regents approved 33 metrics for growth and productivity. The board now must focus on increasing the freshman retention rate in order to move forward with the model.
South Sudan becomes newest nation
The United Nations recognized the official independence of South Sudan on July 9, becoming the world’s 193rd recognized nation. Juba, the country’s official capital, was full of celebration as a new national anthem played and South Sudanese flags were flown. The 2005 Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by Sudan and the main rebel group ended decades of conflict and was the first step toward creating South Sudan.
NY legalizes same-sex marriage
New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize same-sex marriage in June. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law June 24 after it was passed by the state Senate with a 33-29 margin. The law took effect 30 days later and hundreds of gay and lesbian couples were wed in the state’s town halls and clerk’s offices.
Riots sparked in London in early August after police shot and killed a young man. People demanding justice for the man’s death set fire to two police cars, a bus and a building on Aug. 6 in front of the Tottenham Police Station. The rioting quickly spread to other cities over the weekend as violence and theft spread throughout the U.K. Hundreds were arrested and at least one person was killed during the riots.