Historic space missions, laser weapons, ISIS, and more: here are 14 important things that happened in 2014.
1. The rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq
Photo courtesy of FreedomHouse via Flickr. Modified by Curiousmatic.
Rebels met with Syria’s government in January for the first time in peace talks overseen by the United Nations, as announced on the world body’s website.
Hopes were that talks would help end the country’s conflict, which killed more than 100,000 people and displaced another 8 million.
Instead, instability in Syria and Iraq enabled the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), a terrorist organization which has gained control over much of both Syria and Iraq over the course of 2014. The resulting chaos prompted airstrikes by a U.S.-led international coalition.
2. Controversy in Russia: Olympic games and conflict in Ukraine
Photo courtesy of Stefan Krasowski via Flickr. Modified by Curiousmatic.
The 2014 winter Olympics Games in February, set in the lush Sochi region, were great symbol of power and wealth for Russia — in fact, they were the most expensive games ever.
As internal conflict in neighboring Ukraine escalated into a forced outing of its president, Russia became more intimately involved than Western leaders were fond of. By annexing the region Crimea and mobilizing troops in and around Ukraine, Russia’s actions prompted a number of crippling sanctions by the West.
3. The Ebola virus spread in West Africa, America
The Ebola virus, a hemorrhaging fever that has killed thousands, saw its largest yet outbreak in West Africa this year, where it spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The disease also made isolated appearances in Nigeria, Spain, and the U.S. Though these countries are now Ebola-free, the virus remains a concern for West Africa.
4. Scotland voted against independence from the U.K.
Photo courtesy of ㇹヮィㇳ via Flickr. Modified by Curiousmatic.
Scotland took a vote on whether it should be independent from the United Kingdom, which would separate the two after 300 years of sometimes contentious history. After much fanfare and campaigning, 55 percent of Scots chose “No, thanks” to a divorce from their longtime partner.
5. The soccer World Cup happened in Brazil
Photo courtesy of Thomás via Flickr.
Brazil, an emerging economic power similar to Russia or China, hosted the soccer World Cup. There were tensions ahead of the games, both over the cost of building stadiums and buildings, as well as concerns over security during the event.
6. NASA and the European Space Agency launched groundbreaking missions
Photo courtesy of NASA via Flickr.
NASA, which currently has no capability of its own to launch manned missions, is testing its new Orion ship, which could take humans to the moon, Mars, or even deep space.
Meanwhile, the ESA landed its Rosetta craft on a comet orbiting the Sun, a feat never accomplished before. It is studying the minerals and organic matter the comet emits, and seeks to discover whether water first came to Earth by comets — right now, it looks like the answer may be no.
7. Malaysia Airlines: One flight lost, another shot down
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mysteriously vanished in February, 2014. In spite of rigorous searches involving over 25 countries in the Indian Ocean, a majority of the wreckage has yet to be recovered.
In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down, allegedly by Russian separatists in Ukraine. The investigation is expected to continue until August of 2015.
8. A police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri prompted nationwide protests
After the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, protests of police treatment of minorities began — as did international conversations on race relations in America and the use of excessive force.
After the officer in question’s non-indictment, the similarly charged non-indictment of a Staten Island officer, and other shootings like that of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Ohio, protests have grown and sparked what could be a national movement, albeit a polarizing one.
9. A major climate change report was released
Photo courtesy of Pranav Yaddana-Pudi via Flickr.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report assessed the impact of climate change.
When the last report was released in 2007, it confirmed that evidence of climate change was “unequivocal,” changing the landscape of the discussion. The newest report reaffirmed that warming will have “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural, though cutting emissions, if done soon, will be both effective and affordable.
10. Obama flexed his executive muscle
Both before and after Republicans swept the floor in 2014’s midterm elections, Obama, unable or unwilling to compromise with Congress, issues several executive orders.
One such order will stop millions of immigrants from deportation; another will normalize America’s relations with Cuba after a 53 year embargo.
11. A year of cyber hacks: Celebrities, Sony, and the White House
With fears of cyber war mounting, several anonymous hacks have proven how vulnerable the government, corporations, and individuals are when up against cyber criminals.
Such hacks include that of hundreds of female celebrities’ iPhones, from which nude photos were stolen and released, and the extensive hacking of Sony pictures over their North Korea-based comedy, The Interview.
Large scale cyber breaches of the government are seeing an uptick as well, as was evidenced most recently in October when the White House was infiltrated by suspected Russian hackers.
12. The U.S. military deployed its first laser weapon
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy website.
Nope, it’s not a joke: the Navy debuted its ship-mounted laser gun, which can shoot down drones or even pirate vessels at long ranges.
13. The CIA’s “torture report” was released in part
After years in the making, the Senate released a 500+ page summary of its 6,000 page report on the enhanced interrogation methods used by the CIA in the wake of 9/11 during the Bush administration.
The report concluded that these methods were not effective, though the CIA challenges this assertion.
14. NATO’s withdraw from Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army via Flickr.
On December 31, U.S. and NATO troops will withdraw from Afghanistan after 13 years, marking the end of the America’s longest war.
Originally published as predictions on Jan 3, 2014.