January issue 2013
Of Triumphs and Tears
New World Order
2012 saw the emergence of new leaders on the political front. Mohamed Morsi assumed office as President after winning 51.7% of the votes in Egypt’s presidential elections on June 30. Ghana and Mexico, too, elected new presidents, with John Dramani Mahama and Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto being sworn in on July 24 and December 1, respectively. After 17 years of Kim Jong-il’s reign, 2012 saw his son, Kim Jong-un take charge as the supreme leader of North Korea, following his father’s death in 2011. At 29, Kim Jong-un is currently the world’s youngest head of state. Also in 2012, Pranab Mukherjee became the first Bengali to serve as President of India, while China appointed a new general secretary for the ruling Communist Party, with Xi Jinping replacing Hu Jintao.
6/2 – Long Live the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II celebrated six decades as a monarch — a rare diamond jubilee. The continued existence of a monarchy in Britain remains controversial, with skeptics labeling the throne a relic of the past, and loyalists rallying around it. With the crowds the event drew, Queen Elizabeth II could have echoed grandmother, Victoria’s sentiments, who wrote of her jubilee celebration: “No one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets… The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with real joy. I was much moved and gratified.”
Rock ‘n’ Riots – 21/12
Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk-rock collective based in Moscow, gained the attention of the world with their opposition to sexism and President Vladimir Putin, and their unorthodox approach in expressing these sentiments. On February 21, five members of the variable eleven staged a performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to protest against the Orthodox Church leader’s support for Putin. Three of the members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and after a long, controversial trial, each was sentenced to two years imprisonment. One of them has since been freed, while the other two have been sent to different prison camps.
An American Horror Story – 20/7
July 20 was a night that moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, had long anticipated: they were going to be watching the final film from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. However, events took a horribly violent turn when medical student James Holmes entered the cinema clad in a bullet-proof vest and gas mask. After lobbing a gas bomb at the crowd 20 minutes into the movie, Holmes shot indiscriminately at everyone present, ten of whom died on the spot — the youngest believed to be 12. Two others subsequently succumbed to the injuries they sustained, and 58 more were injured. Charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder, Holmes currently faces trial. While he has pleaded insanity, he is still likely to be convicted.
A Game of Many Firsts – 27/7
The London Olympics 2012 were held from July 27 to August 12, with participants from 204 countries. Over a period of 17 days, 302 events were held in 26 different sports. The London Olympics received widespread commendation for their excellent organisation and planning. Not only was it the first time women from many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar, participated, but also the first Olympic event at which every sport had female competitors. Swimmer Michael Phelps emerged as the star of the games after winning his 22nd medal, and was titled the greatest Olympian ever. Records were also shattered by Usain Bolt for the 100m sprint, and by Mo Farah for the 5,000m and 10,000m sprints.
Mission to Mars – 6/8
Making its place in the history books, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Red Planet on August 6. The nine-foot, one-ton, six-wheeled, nuclear-powered vehicle is the most sophisticated robot to have ever been sent to outer space in order to discover and understand another planet’s ecosystem and geology. Originally, the mission was to last for one Mars year — i.e. 23 Earth months — but has been extended indefinitely as the search for signs of life still goes on.
24/8 – Fallen Hero
On August 24, the beacon of cancer survival and a record seven consecutive times Tour de France champion was found guilty of using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs. On October 22, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, backed by the International Cycling Union, stripped Lance Armstrong of all competitive titles from 1998 to the present, thereby striking down his most prominent victories. This was followed by a lifetime ban preventing him from participating in any activity or competition that is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. Armstrong stepped down as board member and chairman of his cancer-fighting charity, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation formally changed its name to “Livestrong” to repair damages of 2012’s biggest drug-induced scandal.
31/8 – Clash of the Titans
The ongoing clash between the two electronics titans landed in court when Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung on August 31. In the spring of 2011, Apple began litigating against Samsung for patent infringement and recently asserted that 17 other Samsung products are also in violation of Apple patents. The fierce competition for the global market made this a multination litigation claim. The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple USD 1 billion in damages after finding close to two dozen of its products to be using technology controlled by Apple. However, Samsung took the case to the federal court on December 6, seeking to overturn the previous jury verdict, while Apple is looking to add USD 500 million more to the award.
14/10 – The Sky is the Limit
Breaking world records along with the sound barrier, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner leaped from a 39-km altitude and became the first-ever human to go faster than the speed of sound without a vehicle. After facing initial technical difficulties, battling a case of claustrophobia and other problems early into the jump, Baumgartner used the experience of his 2,500 career dives to descend successfully in just under 10 minutes. Although to many this event may have seemed like just another daredevil adventure, Baumgartner’s stunt on October 14 provided invaluable scientific data for professionals in the field, who will now harness the knowledge gained to help in their ongoing research on various aspects of science and technology. Apart from the astounding feats achieved in regard to height and speed, Baumgartner also smashed the records of online live streaming as eight million people tuned in to watch him make history.
22/10 – In the Eye of the Storm
Late October saw the largest Atlantic hurricane on record with Hurricane Sandy, a natural disaster that, despite early warnings, took the lives of at least 253 people along its path through seven countries, ending with a snow shower. Following its rampage, more than four million people were without electricity for days — some for weeks — and losses due to damage and business shutdowns are estimated at over $53 billion in the US alone. However, the world came together to support the victims, with the United Nations and World Food Programme donating money and giving relief aid to the places most damaged. An effective disaster management system also helped the people get back on their feet much sooner than expected.
Four More Years… – 6/11
In the US Presidential Election of November 6, Democratic nominee Barack Obama won his second term in office with 332 electoral votes against Republican nominee, Senator Mitt Romney’s 206. The election was preceded by lengthy political campaigning and four presidential debates which may have helped shape voter opinion, though traditional Republican and Democratic state support stayed mostly the same. Polls following the first debate indicated that Romney was in the lead but, later, Obama‘s quick response to Hurricane Sandy seemed to tilt the balance in his favour.
Birth Certificate for Palestine – 30/11
In a momentous vote, on November 30, Palestine was recognised by the UN as a non-member state. The UN General Assembly approved a motion in favour of Palestine, following a 65-year struggle. It was held on the 65th anniversary of the vote to divide the former British Mandate of Palestine into two states — one Jewish and one Arab. 138 countries voted to upgrade Palestine to a non-member state of the UN, while the US, Canada and Israel were three of the nine permanent US members that voted against the recognition of Palestine.
Black Friday – 14/12
Another mass shooting — and the deadliest in America since the Virginia Tech rampage in 2007 — transfixed the world. One more grisly drama of children being mowed down in school played out in one of the United States’ ostensibly safest havens. A 20-year old-man wearing combat gear and armed with handguns and a rifle, killed 26 people — 20 of them children — in an attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14. The shooter, Adam Lanza, is reportedly mentally ill and although investigations into the rampage are still ongoing, what is known is that during the killing spree Lanza also gunned down his own mother. Tiny survivors being escorted out of the school single file, with hands on each other’s shoulders, captured the public imagination for days following.
President Obama was visibly moved by the incident, saying that he responded to the news not as a President, but as a father overwhelmed by grief. The attack also sparked fresh debate the world over on the issue of gun control. Some supporters of the 2nd Amendment, which protects the right of people to bear arms held that a similar attack took place in China the same day, where 22 children, between ages six and 11, were attacked by a knife-wielding man at a primary school in the Hunan province in China. The unasked question then — new laws for knife control? Fortunately the incident in China did not result in any fatalities.
Doomsday Delayed – 21/12
December 21, 2012 was perhaps the most focused-on date by the greatest number of people in recorded history. But contrary to Mayan philosophy, and to the disbelief of new-age subscribers to their theories, as well as the cast and crew of the movie 2012, the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012 as predicted in ancient Mayan lore. And as the date drew closer, even the Mayans began to hedge their bets and retract their claims, maintaining that they actually meant that December 21 would mark the beginning of a new era, not the end of life.