The year brought its share of shocks across the water, from the UK's Jimmy Savile scandal to Superstorm Sandy in the US - but Newtown overshadowed them all
At a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, as hundreds of people, some dressed as characters from the film, settled into their seats, smoke bombs were detonated and gunfire broke out. James Holmes (24), a former University of Colorado graduate student, is awaiting trial, accused of killing 12 people and wounding 50 others at the screening. Among the dead were a six-year-old girl, a 27-year-old celebrating his birthday and an aspiring sports broadcaster who missed by minutes being on the scene of a Toronto mall shooting earlier in the summer.
G'day for women everywhere
Within seconds of Australian prime minister Julia Gillard's 15-minute smackdown of opposition leader Tony Abbott in October, people were already speculating about a possible movie version starring Jodie Foster.
Women across the world cheered as she excoriated Abbot, skewering him with repeated examples of his "sexism and misogyny". Gillard was responding to a motion tabled by Abbott to sack speaker Peter Slipper over lewd text messages. But for the global viewer it wasn't about Abbott. In her blistering speech Gillard seemed to speak for every woman who has ever had to endure casual sexism, misogyny or gender-based discrimination.
She didn't realise what a fuss would be made of the speech - 2.2 million YouTube hits and counting - until she sat down and told a colleague she was going to finish some correspondence. "Yeah, you can't really give the 'I accuse' speech and settle back and do your correspondence," he rightly pointed out.
Highlights, of which there were several, include: "If he [ Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror."
Four more years
The components were hardly promising. Obama's superstitious digital team had given no thought to a victory plan, so in the early hours after election day, it was left to an exhausted staffer to pick the caption, "Four more years", to accompany a four-month-old campaign picture of a heartfelt , presidential hug. But the two combined sang to Obama supporters of sweet relief and celebration and they made it the most retweeted and favourited in Twitter history. For Romney's side, the misery was compounded when his team mistakenly hit "publish" on its transition (to presidency) website.
Army of followers
This year, the list of potential recipients for your unsolicited tweets expanded to include a new category: armed groups with whom you are at war.
In late 2012, the Israeli army launched yet another offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As pointless rounds of bloodletting in the region tend to go, this was to prove (if nothing else) the most social-media savvy to date.
On November 14th, the official Israeli Defence Forces account (@IDFSpokesperson) tweeted a recommendation that "no Hamas operatives . . . show their faces above ground in the days ahead". Hamas's armed wing @AlqassamBrigade immediately tweeted back a warning: "Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)".
As it happened, there was more than a hint of bluster on both sides. The military skirmish petered out within a week. But the social-media exchange did, at least, prove the custodians of one of the world's oldest, most intractable and divisive conflicts are continuing to find new and innovative ways to insult each other.
Members of political punk band Pussy Riot became a cause celebre when they were tried for hooliganism after dancing on the altar of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The group are long-time critics of Vladimir Putin's government, and in August two of its members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were sentenced to two years in prison, a terrifyingly steep sentence for causing some offence. Amnesty has designated them prisoners of conscience. Putin's government is increasingly clamping down on free speech and dissent.
Since the terrible revelations about Jimmy Savile were broadcast in an ITV documentary in October, Scotland Yard has questioned other well-known personalities as part of its Operation Yewtree investigation, including radio presenter Dave Lee Travis, comedian Freddie Starr and PR man to the stars Max Clifford.
With more entertainment figures - nearly all men in their 60s and 70s - under investigation, we are being confronted with the dark side of the light entertainment world of the past.
Taliban targets teenager Malala Yousafazi
In the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley, back in 2008, Pakistani army gunships roared across the skies, while the mutilated corpses of anyone who defied the militants' edicts were frequently found dumped in public squares. It was against this backdrop of horrific violence that young Malala Yousafazi became one of Pakistan's best known education activists.
A headmaster's daughter, with ambitions to become a doctor, Malala spoke out fearlessly against the Taliban's ban on female education, first in a BBC blog, and later in a New York Times documentary.
As her profile increased, so did the threats against her.
On October 9th this year, Taliban gunmen boarded a school bus on which Malala was travelling and shot her in the head.