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Who is the TIME Person of the Year? Barack Obama Wins the Award

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TIME Person of the Year 2012 is Barack Obama

Barack Obama is the TIME Magazine Person of the Year for the second time, the magazine announced on the Today show on Wednesday. 

Why was the president chosen? As managing editor Rick Stengel writes in his editor’s letter, “We are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.”

Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her crusade for better girls’ education, was the first runners-up.

As it has for the past 85 years, the weekly newsmagazine selected the person (or sometimes group, or thing) that its editors deemed had the single greatest impact during the past year, for better or for worse.

TIME's Person of the Year has been a perennial topic of year-end debate ever since aviator Charles Lindbergh was chosen the first Man of the Year back in 1927 (the title was amended to Person of the Year in 1999). But the title is not necessarily an accolade; while many presidents, political leaders, innovators and captains of industry have been cited, some of the more notorious Persons of the Year include Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1943 and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. There have also been more conceptual choices, such as “the American Fighting-Man” (1950), “Middle Americans” (1969), and last year’s choice, "The Protester."

This marks the second time that Obama has won the award. 

In 2008, the president beat out politicians Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, comedian Tina Fey, Olympian Michael Phelps, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, oil executive and renewable energy proponent T. Boone Pickens, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Zhang Yimou, director of the Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

The 2012 runners-up for the award were (in descening order): Malala Yousafzai,; Apple CEO Tim Cook; Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi; and Fabiola Gianotti, one of the lead researchers working on the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

Kind of a meh line-up, if you ask me. 

Debate will, of course, now rage over whether or not the president — who has been criticized for his inability to turn around the economy (see: high unemployment), his role is possible human rights issues (Guantanamo Bay), and his sometimes hawkish foreign policy (especially with drone strikes) — deserves yet another high-profile award.

Here is a look at the TIME cover, out this week: 

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Who is the TIME Person of the Year? Barack Obama Wins the Award

The 2012 TIME Magazine Person of The Year, selected by TIME’s editors, will be announced on December 19th.

A range of names and groups have been suggested, ranging from hotshot political players, to iconic activists, to business leaders, to major scientific break-throughs.

Tuesday morning, hosts named the eight front-runners for this year’s cover. The short list rounds up an elite list of famous names in business, politics and science. It includes Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her crusade for better girls’ education; U.S. president Barack Obama; Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi; and Bill and Hillary Clinton for their global humanitarian and political activism. Two prominent business leaders also made the cut: Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, along with the Higgs Boson — the particle of the year — and the three scientists who discovered it.

Last year "the protester" was the TIME PotY, as the magazine highlighted the contributions protesters around the world -- from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street -- had on politics.  

If the editor’s choice is identical to the online voting, then North Korean Kim Jong-un will win the award. In a poll, readers picked the North Korean leader as their own PotY.

But TIME freely admits the poll is “completely unscientific.” Well, it’s a little worse than that: one has to wonder if the results reflect anyone’s opinion but a bunch of online parodists. 4chan hackers successfully were able to game the poll so much that the results, in order, spell ‘KJU GAS CHAMBERS’ (a reference to the North Korean regime’s continued use of death camps to deal with political enemies).

Stay tuned to see who it is!