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What got the world talking in 2014

December 22, 2014 11:43 IST
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The year 2014 is coming to an end. It was the year of conflict, the year of strife.

Year 2014 will be remembered for several reasons -- the rise and threat of the Islamic State, the downing of two Malayasia Airlines aircraft and the sudden and effective way of using hastags on social media to generate a buzz about the event.  After all, who can forget #theicebucket challenge and the phenomenon it grew into.

Read on as we bring you an overview of international news and events of 2014.

1) ISIS and beheadings


In 2014, the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant or now known as the Islamic State came into prominence. The group has shocked and stunned the world with its barbarity. Beheadings, mass executions, kidnapping and selling of women, they have done it all and continue to terrify people with its brutality.

The Islamic State, began life as an Iraqi franchise of Al Qaeda, a relatively minor force confined to fighting British and US troops in the areas around Baghdad.

In June, they became front page news when they stormed northern Iraq aiming to capture the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad and overthrow the Shiite government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Led by a former Al-Qaeda recruit Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, they stated that their aim was to set up an Islamic Caliphate.

Almost 1,000 people have been executed in Iraq over the last four months, most in areas controlled by the Islamic State, according to a tally based on numbers provided by Iraq Body Count, an independent monitoring group tracking civilian deaths in Iraq

They then shocked the world once again in August again when they released a video of executing American journalist James Foley. In the video, the IS had said that the execution was revenge for Obama ordering air strikes in Iraq against the terrorists.

The terrorists also took advantage of the chaos in Syria and set up a strong base there and started running brothels. Today, IS has using social media spread its evil tentacles in UK, US, Saudi Arabia and even has a following in India. 

2) Pakistan school massacre


On December 17, seven Tehreek i-Taliban stormed the Army Public School in the morning and opened fire on the students and children, killing 148, including 130 children and injuring another 130.

Dressed in para-military Frontier Corps uniforms, the seven Arabic-speaking terrorists entered the Army Public School on Warsak Road around 10 am (local time) from the rear side and went from classroom to classroom shooting innocent children indiscriminately in one of the most gruesome terror attacks anywhere.

The massacre finally came to an end eight hours later when the Pakistan Army stormed the school and gunned down the remaining two militants. The attack, the Taliban said, was revenge for the military's operation against militants in the North Waziristan tribal area close to Peshawar.

In the aftermath of the deadliest attack on a civilian target in its history, Pakistan has lifted a moratorium on executions in terrorism-related cases. 

3) Ebola outbreak


The Ebola outbreak has become the most dangerous outbreak of an emerging infectious disease since the appearance of HIV, in the early 1980s, claiming the lives of over 7,000 people worldwide.

In fact, the current epidemic sweeping across the region has now killed more than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined.

Up to December 15, 6,856 people had been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.

The total number of reported cases is more than 18,000.

Soon, the disease was no longer just a concern for the African countries when two Spanish nurses contracted Ebola and were transferred to Spain for treatment where they both died. Later, in October, a nursing assistant was also diagnosed with the virus in America and it was then a world-wide concern.

India, too began screenings of all people flying in from the African continent in attempts to keep the virus at bay.

The Ebola workers who have been fighting the virus and taking care of those afflicted were also named TIME magazine’s Person of the Year for answering the call, for their risks and their sacrifice. 

4) Downing of Flight MH370 and MH17


Did the plane crash? Was it shot down? Was it hijacked for the purpose of a future terror plot? These questions continue to be asked nine months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing suddenly disappeared air traffic controllers' radar screens along with the 239 people who were on board.

The plane took off on March 8 and was heading towards the Chinese capital when suddenly the plane lost contact with the air traffic control and has never been found since.

What ensued was a multinational search effort, which began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea, then spread to the AnadamanSea and ended in the Indian Ocean. The search has also become the largest and most expensive search operation with families of the 239 people who were on board still hoping against all hope.

The disappearance also spawned a long list of conspiracies, with some believing that it was shot down mistakenly during a military operation, while others claim that it was a hijacking by Afghan terrorists. There was also the most unbelievable claim that it had been abducted by aliens.

Tragedy then struck the already beleaguered Malaysia Airlines on July 17 when a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

The plane crashed near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Again, there was a controversy over who had shot the plane. Was it the pro-Russian separatists or was it the Ukraine government? 

Ukraine’s security agency indicate Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a group of Russian-backed Cossack militants northwest of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk with the help of a Buk surface-to-air missile. However, there are many that say that the shooting of the plane was Ukraine’s payback against Russia.

5) Sydney siege


About 9 pm, local time on December 16, heavily armed Australian police wearing night vision equipment raided the Lindt Café in Sydney’s financial district. There, a lone extremist gunman with a criminal record, Man Haran Monis, was holding hostages for almost seventeen hours amidst tense negotiations. The standoff ended with at least three deaths, including the gunman.  

The crisis began when Monis entered the Lindt Chocolate Café at 53 Martin Place, Sydney and took the place hostage. He then demanded an Islamic State flag and a call with the Australian PM Tony Abbott.

However, later in the day, two hostages escaped from the front entrance of the building, followed by a third hostage, an employee, who ran out from a fire exit at the side of the building.

It was only later at night when a few more hostages ran out that the members of the Pioneer Task Force threw flashbang grenades in and stormed the café, after which further hostages ran from the building in two groups. Police declared the siege over soon after, later confirming that Monis was killed in the raid. Two hostages also died, and another three were injured during the raid. In addition, a police officer suffered a gunshot wound to the face.

6) Race protests in USA


The United States of America broke out into protests, chaos descended on the night of August 9, 2014 when a grand jury in Missouri gave the all clear to a white policeman, who shot dead an 18-year-old African-American male.

The suburbs of Ferguson erupted with violence, stores were ransacked, people took to the streets, arson, looting took place. Enraged protesters set fire to buildings and cars, and looted businesses in an orgy of violence and destruction.

The situation worsened when a similar verdict of not guilty was given to police officer  Daniel Pantaleo, a New York police officer, for killing a Eric Garner by chokehold. 

Around 170 cities staged largely peaceful demonstrations both in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and in demand of a vision of social justice that far surpasses the imagination of most contemporary politicians and pundits.

7) Hong Kong protests


In September, all eyes turned towards Hong Kong. The Umbrella Revolution captured the minds of people all over the world when pro-democracy supporters took to the streets demanding that China give the former British colony full universal suffrage.

Political commentators called the 79-day protest the biggest challenge to Beijing since the 1989 Tiananmen protests.

The protest that began back in September as a student-led civil disobedience campaign, with thousands of students skipping classes to protest the Chinese communist government's refusal to allow free elections, grew into something bigger, with global backing.

The members of the Umbrella movement camped on the streets and blocked traffic in the Admiralty neighbourhood. However, the protest was not just about the lack of freedom.

Many young people in Hong Kong are dissatisfied with the economy, and see a system rigged against them by the territory’s wealthy tycoons. They also resent the creeping influence of the mainland over a place they feel is special. Educated mainlanders take jobs sought by Hong Kong graduates.

However, protesters finally gave in and on December 15, the protests ended and the streets were cleared. About 1,000 people were arrested in Occupy Central’s 11 weeks. Police said an investigation of those involved would be completed within three months.

And unfortunately, China had its way, saying it would vet the candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive elections in 2017.

8) Gaza-Israel 50-day war


On August 26, an open-ended ceasefire came into effect bringing an end to the latest fighting in and around Gaza. During the previous 50 days of armed conflict 2,104 Palestinians were killed, including 253 women and 495 children. During the same period, 69 Israelis were killed including four civilians.

The crisis is the latest in a long history of conflict between the two sides. This year’s outbreak of violence was marked by continuous trade of rocket fire, attempts to broker truces, and the swift rise in casualties.

The situation further got compounded when three Israeli teens who had been abducted in the beginning of June were found dead in June 30. Overnight, Israel launched a new series of air strikes against 34 sites in the Gaza Strip.

The attacks were highly condemned by the United Nations with the UN calling  for a de-escalation of violence, urging both sides to respect "international humanitarian laws.

9) Ukraine rebels


The horrifying crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine’s eastern regions center stage -- and raised all kinds of questions about who they are, what they want and who's in charge.

The rebels are pro-Russia militants concentrated in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with the industrial city of Donetsk a particular stronghold.

After popular protests toppled Ukraine's pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February, pro-Russia rebels first appeared in Ukraine's Crimea region, where they seized key infrastructure. The region was subsequently annexed by Russia.

Since the annexation of Crimea back in February, continued protests and violence has broken out in the area with a number of attacks on members of the press.

10)  The rise of Boko Haram and the Chibok kidnappings


In 2014, we were introduced to a new deadly breed of terrorists belonging to a group called Boko Haram, which roughly translates to ‘fake (Western) education is sinful, in Africa. Their aim: to institute Sharia, or Islamic law in the African continent.

In April, they shocked the world when they abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok in Borno, Nigeria.

A month later, a video emerged stating that the girls who had been abducted had been converted to Islam and then ‘married off to fighters. Abubakar Shekau, the mercurial leader of the Islamist group, in the video said, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

What followed was the birth of #bringbackourgirls, one of the first hashtags to become a global phenomenon. After a slow start, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, garnered international attention in May when it went viral. It attracted the attention of celebrities around the world, and even US First lady Michelle Obama joined the campaign, becoming the most shared tweet on the issue, with more than 57,000 retweets. Unfortunately, the hashtag died a slow death and the girls continue to be missing even today. 

11) Scotland referendum 


On September 18, 2014, the 307-year union with England and Wales as Great Britain was put to the test when a referendum was set to decide if the Land of the Loch Ness monster would remain an integral part of Great Britain.

Scottish voters said a big "No" to independence with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for "Yes". The vote came after a two-year long campaign.

Britain’s Prime Minister, who was delighted with the results, that shocked many, said, “The people of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations together and like millions of other people I am delighted. As I said during the campaign it would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end. So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward.”

12) Ice bucket challenge


Remember back in July-August when Facebook and Twitter timelines were clogged with people throwing buckets of iced water on their head or as people called it the Ice Bucket challenge. The #icebucketchallenge went viral and then went on to become one of the biggest stunts online during July–August 2014.

The challenge was started to raise awareness about the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or popularly known as Lou Gehrig disease. Everyone who’s anyone participated in the campaign from  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to Facebook  chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and performer Justin Timberlake.

The challenge raised over $100 million and led to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating on Facebook.

It also gave birth to a number of other challenges – the rice bucket challenge, the My Tree Challenge – in which a person is challenged to plant a tree sapling and challenging others to do so, and many others.

13) Polar Vortex


When it came to acts of God this year, it wasn’t a particularly active year. There wasn’t one single catastrophic event. However, that doesn’t mean Mother Nature wasn’t busy in 2014.

Brutal, life-threatening cold descended over America in January sending the mercury plummeting with Boston having temperatures of -17 degree Celsius and thick blankets of snow everywhere. The storm was so severe that over 2,000 flights to and within the country had to be cancelled. In New York, temperatures fell to a record low of −16 °C on January 7, which broke a 116-year record.

14) iCloud hack  


Almost every year, Apple creates a buzz in the market when it launches a new iPhone, iPad or iPod. However, in 2014, the iCloud was the centre of all the buzz, thanks to the hacking scandal occurred and revealed quite a few naked secrets of celebrities.

Since the end of August, almost 5,000 images of celebrities such as Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Big Bang actress Kaley Cuoco others were leaked. Following the controversy, Lawrence, whose naked images were circulated on the net after hack, said, “Just because I'm a public figure, just because I'm an actress, does not mean that I asked for this, It does not mean that it comes with the territory. It's my body, and it should be my choice, and the fact that it is not my choice is absolutely disgusting. I can't believe that we even live in that kind of world. It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. It is a sexual violation. It's disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change.”

Apple, the tech giant, also took a hit after the controversy as many believed that the tech company hadn’t taken enough precautions to prevent such incidents. 

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