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The News That Shaped the Year – 2016

January – by Michael van Rhee

Happy New Year! New round, new opportunities, as we say in Dutch. Göran Persson, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, probably said it best: “Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we’ll be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.” However, it seems that not everyone heard this message, because it’s been a turbulent year — if not plain hectic.

The year was barely underway when David Bowie suddenly passed away on January 10 — merely two days after releasing his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday. It would soon prove to be his parting gift to the world, a swan song of no proportions (or should I say ‘swan album’?). Much to everyone’s surprise, Bowie died from liver cancer — something he hadn’t made public. It would prove to be a very bad omen, because 2016 was a year full of celebrity deaths. More on that below.

February – by Raffaele Di Carlo

February opened with Martin O’Malley, former candidate to the presidential elections in the United States, dropping out of the race as a result of the primary votes in Iowa.

On the 4th of February, twelve nations, including the United States and New Zealand, signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland. In addition, the suspect of the murder of Dutch minister Els Borst, finally confessed, pleading guilty, and was sentenced to eight years in prison by the public prosecution.

On the 11th, tensions between North and South Korea escalated, with South Korea withdrawing all workers and energy supplies from the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex.

On the 12th, Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow met in Havana, Cuba, for the first time in history. On the 15th, an airstrike, reportedly from the Russian air force, accidentally destroyed a Syrian hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières.

On the 16th, a historical agreement between the US and Cuba was reached, that allowed the two countries to ease the embargo, ongoing since the Missile Crisis in 1962.

On the 19th, two prominent literary figures, Harper Lee – famous for “To Kill a Mockingbird” – and Umberto Eco, died on the same day.

On March the 7th, the world’s best-paid tennis player, Maria Sharapova, admitted to failing a doping test. The drug usage was spread as well among numerous, top-ranked athletes.

On the 13th, a car bomb has exploded in the commercial area of Ankara, causing a death of 37 people and with more than 125 injured. On the 15th, the Syrian Civil War has entered its 6th year, with more than 250,000 deaths and more than 11 million of people being forced to leave their homes up until then point.

In the U.S., on the 16th of March, President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Moreover, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were revealed as leading Republican and Democrat candidates, respectively.

The EU and Turkey have signed an agreement, according to which refugees reaching Greece, but have either not applied for asylum or had their application rejected, will be sent to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey gained for monetary remuneration, visa restrictions relief and E.U. membership reconsideration.

More than a million Brazilians have protested and demanded President Dilma Rousseff’s to resign from her position, due to corruption allegations.

For the first time in history, the reigning world champion of the ancient Chinese board game Go has lost an encounter with a computer engine developed by Google, called AlphaGo. It constituted a milestone for artificial intelligence development.

April  – by Michel Mijlof

In the beginning of April, the world was shocked by the disclosure of the Panama Papers. These papers contain information on famous and wealthy people, such as football player Lionel Messi, Ukrainian president Poroshenko or former UEFA chairman Michel Platini, about how they avoid paying taxes through ‘tax havens’. Due to these leaked information, many politicians had to quit their jobs. In the middle of April, there were some very strong earthquakes in the countries of Ecuador and Japan. There was also some good news, namely that the World Health Organization declared that Europe is the first continent to be malaria-free. At the end of April, 171 countries signed the Paris climate deal which was discussed earlier at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. Also, the metro station Maalbeek in Brussels and airport Zaventem were opened again after the terrorist attacks by the end of March.

May – by Yana Chernysh

Protests along with strike actions took place in France as a reaction to new labour law reforms. The workers complained about the reforms, which gave more freedom to the companies in terms of reducing payment and making the working hours longer.

Russian doping scandal became a crucial thing in the sports world with Rio Olympics being just around the corner. Investigation for a number of medalist of Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics has started, as they were suspected of using banned drugs. The director of a prominent laboratory said that the urine samples of the Russian athletes were switched. Later in the year 67 Russian athletes along with sportsmen from other disciplines were banned from competing in Rio Olympics.

All European scientific papers should be free by 2020 – this was announced as a result of a meeting of the Competitiveness Council. The aim of this policy is to make science freely available and it is based on three main concepts: sharing knowledge freely, open access and reusing research data.

A lot of news in May were covering the “migrants crisis” as more and more refugees were escaping to Europe. One of the problems that Europe started facing was the integration of immigrants. Also, an issue of safety and security started rising among citizens of a number of European countries.

June – by Brunno Fontanetti

If 2016 was compared to a bad cake, let’s just say June would be the cherry on the top of it. We saw history being made in front of our eyes, with the UK voting to leave the European Union after 31 years as a member. Historically, the UK always rejected ideals such as fascism, or ultra-nationalism, but now the British seem to be following paths already taken by ultra-conservative governments.

More on Europe, in June, we had two massive terrorist attacks: one in France, where two men were killed in an attack orchestrated by ISIS, and one in Istanbul’s airport. The latter, also planned by ISIS, killed more than 40 people, and increased the tensions surrounding the war against the terrorist cells. After all, after June, more and more governments around the world started taking security measures at the expense of population’s freedom: prohibition of the use of Niqab by islam followers in France is an example of that.

Since every cake, even if it’s bad, has at least one good frosting, I couldn’t end my June Recap without commenting on the good news that happened during this month. The first female Mayor of Rome represents a milestone in Italy’s and women’s rights history. Moreover, after 50 years and 220,000 deaths, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, negotiated a historic ceasefire.

Just like any cake, 2016 had a lot of layers – facts which influenced the final result of our recipe. The end result, or, the cake, may not seem very good, but remember: just like any cake, you can only see what 2016 truly meant, if you cut it in the middle and see what is inside.

July – by Hải Đăng Vũ

Following the aftermath of the Brexit referendum outcome, Theresa May replaced David Cameron as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom and promised to ensure appropriate preparatory processes for the departure from European Union. Global political turmoil continued to follow as Turkey witnessed a coup d’etat attempt by a part of the military that divided the country, leaving more than 1,400 wounded with 6,000 people arrested. The International Court of Justice in the Hague also declared illegal reclamation of Chinese government in South China Sea. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were also officially announced as representatives of their parties to run for US president during their respective conventions and it marked the beginning of one of the craziest election seasons.

A tragic occurrence of Nice attack on July 14th, the French National Day, has again left the world astounded. Terrorist acts were condemned, but heroic efforts by ordinary citizens to prevent further fatalities were greatly respected throughout the world.

On a positive note, Portugal – against all odds – triumphed to win the most prestigious trophy of European football. The scientific community also congratulated its 5-year long attempt of successfully landing its spacecraft onto the surface of Jupiter.

Oh, and of course, not even one could have anticipated the fuzzy excitement of us finding Pokémons and ‘gotta catch them all’!

August – by Nando Slijkerman

In the first week of August, the people in Japan were startled by a video message from their Emperor Akihito, in which he hinted on his possible abdication. It was the second time during his 26-year reign that he spoke to his people on television. On August 24 2016, Colombia and the leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), made a peace deal to end a fifty-year conflict. Negotiators worked endlessly to make sure all sides of the deal were being handled and FARC was satisfied with the deal. Former rebels will have a minimum of ten seats in the congress for two years. For this deal to become permanent, the Colombian residents needed to vote on it in a referendum to be held in October. The level of quantitative easing was expanded from €60 to €80 billion by the ECB, and during August the ECB bought public and private sector assets worth €60 billion. On the 31st of August, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been removed from the office by the Senate and was succeeded by her Vice-President Michel Temer.

September – by Leonie Ernst

In September, when we were trying to get ‘back to normal’ at the university after the summer holidays, strange things kept happening all around the world. Although the situation in Aleppo has by then already taken so long that it almost seemed normal, there seemed to be a chance that the situation would really get a bit closer to ‘normal’ when a ceasefire was put in effect. Unfortunately, this truce only lasted a week, whereafter the bombings started again. Furthermore, the earthquake with magnitude 5.3 on the Richter Scale in North-Korea was confirmed to be the result of an underground nuclear weapon test. A few days later, the country was ravaged by floods as a result of the Typhoon. These floods caused a situation which the Red Cross called a ‘major and complex disaster’. At the same time, a lot of Americans speculated about Hillary Clinton’s possible health problems, and were shocked by the bombings during the marathon in New Jersey and in New York.

But besides of all the negatively strange things that happened, we were able to enjoy the Paralympics in Rio, and the first Presidential Debate between Trump and Clinton (and most of all we could enjoy the video in which they are singing the famous ‘Time of my Life’), and we could be glad that the United States of America and China ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change. Most of us would end the month with midterms, unless you were taking the third-year Econometrics course…

October – by Tsz-Tian Lu

There is numerous sad news that took place in October, but before that, let’s start with a good one:

Scientists in the UK are getting closer to finding the cure for HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS. The method, dubbed “kick and kill”, has been successful in lab tests back in 2014. The first patient receives this treatment shown no detectable signs of HIV.

AT&T confirmed acquisition of Time Warner for $85.4 billion: This is one of the largest acquisitions of all time, which brings concerns about too much concentration of power if the two combined and may lead to a threat to media plurality.

The dead of the Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej: The monarch died on 13th October, aged 88, after a 70-year-long reign. He was the world’s longest-serving monarch and survived sixteen coups during his time on the throne. Despite his controversial political stance, he is deeply loved in Thailand and regarded by many Thais as semi-divine.

The battle for Mosul: In the hope to retake this northern Iraqi city which has been seized by ISIS (aka Daesh) since summer 2014, a coalition of Iraqi forces and Kurdish militias backed by the United States started the military operation in mid-October. This still ongoing war caused hundreds of refugees to flee their homes and they desperately need help from the international community.

November – by Artur Rymer

Without a doubt, the 8th of November was one of the days that have defined not only 2016, but also the years to come. The American people have voted and, with an almost 3 million vote lead, Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote. That however doesn’t matter and, thanks to the existence of the Electoral College, it is Donald Trump who will be the 45th President of the United States of America. If somehow you are not tired of American politics and would like to read more about this, then I would like to remind you it’s Holidays. Go talk to your friends and family instead.

On the same day as US elections, India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has announced that his government would withdraw two denominations of the country’s currency: 500 and 1000 Indian rupee banknotes. Many have criticised the move as it has caused massive cash problems across the country and the ones who have been hit the hardest are not criminal groups but some of the most vulnerable who rely on cash heavily such as the poorest and women.

The final offensive of Aleppo by the Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian military, has begun in November and was concluded on the 22nd of December with the rebel’s defeat. The offensive has hit the headlines of the global media due to the reports and fear of war crimes committed on civilians by the government.

On the 22nd of November, the outgoing President Barack Obama has awarded American Medals of Freedom, the highest civilian award, to 21 famous persons with achievements in the fields of art, philanthropy, science and sports. You can watch it here and find out why we “all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole”. December – by Artur Rymer

On the 4th of December, Austrians chose their new president, while the Italians made voices heard in a referendum. The former have elected an independent, supported by the Greens, Alexander Van der Bellen. His victory prevented his opponent, Norbert Hofer, from becoming the first far-right head of state in Europe since World War II. In Italy, the constitutional referendum has been rejected and, as a result, the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has resigned.

The 19th of December was one of the darkest days of an already dark year. Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was assassinated in Ankara. In Zurich, 3 people were wounded in a shooting at an Islamic Center. In Berlin, a terrorist drove a hijacked truck into a Christmas market, killing 12 people and wounding almost 60 (he has been shot by the police in Milan 4 days later). Also on the 19th of December, the Electoral College has officially elected Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

On a lighter note, 2016 will finally end in a bit over a week. Let us hope that the last week will be as uneventful as possible and that the next year will be better. However, it is us who have to work hard to make sure that next December we can all say that the world has become a better place in the previous 12 months. And hey, 2016 has prepared us for that like nothing else could. Happy Holidays, everyone!


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