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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Major Events of 2014

Today is the last day of 2014 and many major events have taken place this year. From the crisis in Ukraine growing in seriousness rapidly, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to jubilation over sporting events in the Commonwealth Games and humanity learning more about our universe. Here are just some of the events which had managed to shape 2014.

The Scottish Referendum
Following the formation of a Scottish Parliament in 1999 Scottish nationalism had been rising and under the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond this nationalism grew. Salmond was the leader of the SNP, (Scottish National Party), which fueled Scottish nationalism which put pressure on the British government to hold a referendum to allow the Scottish people to decide whether Scotland should remain part of the UK or become independent. Salmond's Yes Scotland campaign campaigned against the Better Together campaign about the pros and cons of independence with all manner of things coming up including the North Sea oil reserves, whether Scotland should have the pound sterling and EU membership. On September 18th the referendum took place and 2,001,926 people voted to remain part of the UK to 1,617,989 wishing independence, (or 55.3% not wanting independence to 44.7% wanting it). Although Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, voted for independence. Following the referendum the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition government promised to create a more decentralized state by allowing English MPs to vote only on matters concerning England, Scottish MPs on Scotland, Welsh MPs on Wales and Northern Irish MPs on Northern Ireland. Salmond also resigned as First Minister with Nicola Sturgeon becoming the new First Minister. Scotland's referendum however influenced other calls for independence from Catalonia in Spain and Corsica in France which could affect the future.

The Ukrainian Crisis Deepens
(Information from Al Jazeera). On January 16th President Yanukovych's anti-protest laws were described as 'draconian' and as protest turned violent between pro-West and pro-Russian protesters Yanukovych was forced to release one of his greatest critics former Prime Minister Tymoshenko after two days prior on February 20th sees the greatest violence in Kiev for 70 years as 88 people are killed in 48 hours. Following accusations Yanukovych had ordered snipers to shoot at protesters and pro-Russian uprisings in Crimea caused Yanukovych to resign and flee to Russia. The Russian Upper House gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the ability to send troops to Ukraine to protect Russian interests in Crimea and as pro-Russian forces seized the main airport in Sevastopol the new Ukrainian government accused Putin of virtually declaring war. The new President Oleksander Turchinov did not help however with opposition accusing him of being a neo-Nazi and xenophobia from the his government offending Russians in Ukraine after Russian was banned. Crimea broke away and in a referendum which was contended by the West the peninsular was annexed by Russia. The EU and NATO placed embargoes on Russian exports, principally gas, as Donetsk and Lugansk rose up who merged to form the self declared Novorossiya Republic which itself has had little recognition. Russia was even excluded from attending the G8 meeting through this. Unfortunately many civilians were killed as Malaysia Airlines MH17 was shot down over rebel occupied areas in Ukraine with both sides pointing the finger at each other. Tensions rose between Russia and NATO as Russian ships and jets have been sighted off the coasts of NATO aligned nations, such as a submarine possibly seen near Stockholm, and NATO jets doing patrols near Russian borders, like RAF planes doing patrols over the Baltic region. With a possibility of there being a second Cold War and criticism of the actions of the West and Putin the crisis is still ongoing. However the Western embargo on Russia may be stinging the Kremlin with the Ruble losing its value, (although a fall in oil prices did aid in this), which has forced the Central Bank to intervene on December 16th. What the future holds for Russia and Ukraine though is uncertain with Putin's credibility through the new financial crisis slowly dipping.

The Final Frontier More Understood
On June 24th the Curiosity completed a Martian year, (687 Earth days), as its mission was extended after finding evidence that Mars once had an environment suitable for microbial life. More photos was taken of the red planet as the Curiosity gave us more information on Mars. Two more satellites entered the Martian atmosphere including the Atlas  V 401 launched by NASA and the PSLV-XL from India. This was monumental as it put India among the few nations to explore space and showed the entire world that India is quickly becoming a dominant economic power. However what is more important is that the satellites and the Curiosity allowed more information on Mars for Mars 2020, Earth's first colony. With this the Mars 2020 can see more success and the world of sci-fi becoming science fact so in a few generations Total Recall and Destiny could be a possibility. On November 12th we also saw the Rosetta make its landing on a comet and send data back allowing us to better understand the universe from the data gathered and possibly enable us to make further reaches into the universe.

A New Face of Terrorism
Although active before 2014 the Islamic States, IS, (also called ISIL and ISIS), made worldwide headlines through their barbarity and quick victories. Their beheading of humanitarians and journalists including Alan Henning as well as Shia Muslims, Christians and Kurds who they captured in Iraq and Syria quickly brought them condemnation. Ironically the broadcasting of their extremist views have offended more people than they managed to attract and has united the West, Middle East, Iran, Russia and even the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda have condemned them. The IS had even started to train extremists from Chechnya to wage war against Russia while their threats against Iran has brought it closer its to former enemy the US. President Obama had called for a coalition to fight the terrorist organisation with countries including the UK, Canada, Australia, France and the US leading drone strikes against the group. The US and Saudi Arabia had even started to train moderates to go into IS held territory to fight the group although the group did become so powerful that its secretive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself a Caliph, (which none have recognized). If reports are to be believed Kurdish fighters and bombing are starting to push the group out of key areas such as Mosul although whether this is propaganda or not is yet to be seen. At the start of the year in Nigeria the organisation Boko Haram kidnapped 276 female students in Chibok and posted images of them online. With terrorists using the internet as a way to broadcast their views and drones being used to combat them propaganda and warfare has definitely changed for the 21st century.

Police killings in the US
On August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. With Michael Brown being black and unarmed caused a wave of outcry worldwide against the actions of Darren Wilson. The 'Hands up, Don't Shoot' gesture was used by protesters to show their support for the family of Michael Brown which gained widespread support ranging from the St Louis Rams to CNN Newsroom members. Despite media portrayals there was largely peaceful protests but some of these became violent and caused the Missouri Governor to call in the National Guard. Groups such as Anonymous managed to spread the support of the protesters across the world. However tensions rose and rioting broke out after Darren Wilson was acquitted by a jury but many people, (including some me and some friends in the UK), found the verdict unfair as the jury represented the Missouri/St Louis population and not the Ferguson population. The use of rubber bullets tear gas against protesters during the second wave of protests even brought in Amnesty International to help the protesters. Unfortunately Michael Brown's death wasn't the only one with Eric Garner being choked to death in New York; his last words 'I can't breathe' becoming a rally call for protesters. Even more horrifying was the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice for carrying a toy gun. All these unfortunate deaths have prompted Obama to spend money in putting cameras on police uniforms but let us pay respect for the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.

The Ebola Crisis
Although it started in the December of 2013 the deadly virus Ebola became widespread. With Ebola being very contagious and having a 70% death rate it became a serious threat. The virus quickly spread across West Africa affecting Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. Although luckily the virus has been contained in Nigeria and Senegal. The outbreak had also spread to the US, UK and Spain; the UK two days ago. Although the better facilities in Spain and the US meant that they quickly quarantined it and undoubtedly the outbreak in the UK, (affecting one person), will quickly be cured. The worse hit areas largely spread thanks to the poor housing and sanitation in close communities which made the virus very deadly. According to the WHO by the 29th December there has been 20,164 people have been infected and 7,894 have died thanks to the virus. Thankfully the worldwide response to the virus has been great with a wide range of countries from the EU, US and even Cuba sending aid to help battle the virus.

The Sporting Events of 2014

 The world of sports, (something quite alien to me so I apologize for any errors), saw many events this year. The 20th Commonwealth Games took place in Glasgow this year with a jubilant personified Scottish thistle as the mascot. England, Australia and Canada won the most medals with the host nation coming fourth. This year we also saw the most expensive Olympic Games with the Sochi Olympics costing US$12 billion and a grand opening display which the Russians made a joke of. They had five stars that would turn into the rings of the Olympics but one failed to open so in the closing ceremony they had dancers who would go into a star shape before moving into the shape of the rings. The organizers however got one of the star dancers to remain as a star as a joke. However it was marred in controversy with Russia's then new homophobic laws offending some of the athletes, the overall cost of the Olympic grounds going over budget and Russia's intervention in Ukraine offending the Ukrainian paralympic team where only one member attended the opening ceremony. Finally we also have the World Cup held in Brazil. In the semi-finals Germany trounced Brazil and the final, Germany v. Argentina, saw Germany win the world cup. However what caused controversy, (and a barrage of internet memes), was Luis Suarez biting another player which gave him a four month ban.

The start of 2015- With 2014 coming to a close we come to 2015. What the next year will bring we do not know but for sure whatever happens next year will change our history.

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