Straits Herald December 23, 2019

2019 is drawing to a close. Here are some of the biggest events that unfolded around the world:

Global Climate Emergency

2019 is set to be the second hottest year ever recorded. Record temperatures in Europe, North Pole, and Australia. Young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg inspires climate protests worldwide, culminating in her being named as Time Magazine Person of the Year.

First Black Hole Photo

Image drawn from mountains of data captures two years earlier by telescopes across the world show supermassive black hole 50 million lightyears away.

Notre Dame Burns

Flames destroy the spire and roof of Paris’ beloved and most iconic cathedral. Firefighters manage to save the Gothic-era building from collapsing altogether. 

Trump Impeachment Bid

If 2017 & 2018 has not yet been enough about Trump, 2019 certainly takes the cake! US President Donald Trump faces Senate trial after being impeached by the House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Becoming only the third president ever to be impeached.

US Disengagement

US pursues trade wars with China. This culminates in a major thawing of cold relations on December 13th. US also pursues protracted trade wars with EU and withdraws from the Paris accord on climate change. US also officially quits the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. China’s economy grinds to slowest pace in 27 years.

Big Tech Tackled

US regulators fine Facebook a record US$5 billion for data protection violations. Despite this, some critics argue that US regulators ‘are still missing a few zeros from that number’ indicating that this record fine is not enough of a deterrent for Facebook and like-minded tech firm. Tech giants are criticized for failing to protect consumers and are under pressure to reform.

Hong Kong Violence

Anger over a bill that would allow extradition to China erupts into full-on violence for the first time in June 2019. Hong Kong citizens continue to hold pro-democracy protests in huge numbers. Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam continues to hold on to power with Beijing watching from beyond the island with all the political tools to disarm the situation. The crisis is still ongoing well into Christmas of 2019.

Brexit Delayed

Brexit deadline delayed again, Theresa May bows out, Boris Johnson takes the helm. Now boosted with a comfortable win, in the recently concluded general elections, Johnson is confident of a new deal being achieved in Parliament. Brexit new deadline is now 31 January 2020.

Turkey Moves In Syria

In another cataclysmic move by the US, Donald Trump seemingly gave the ‘go ahead’ to Turkey president to move into Syria. Turkey launches offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria (after US withdrawal of troops). Turkey then halts its operations after two weeks in action, as US and Russia agree to ensure fighters leave the region.

IS Leader: Killed

Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is killed in a US special forces raid in Syria in October 2019. After five years offensive in Iraq and Syria, the jihadists are driven out of their border and their last bastion in March this year.

Boeing Max Grounded

Global grounding of Boeing 737 MAX planes after Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019, and Indonesia’s Lion Air crash in October 2018. Boeing says that the 737 MAX will continue to be grounded well into 2020. FAA and other regulators now find plenty of misdeeds with Boeing in allowing the 737 MAX to be certified in the first place.

Middle East Fury

Massive riots turn violent in Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran. Big and mostly peaceful protests in Algeria.

Protests Sweep Latin America

Major protests in Venezuela, Haiti, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. The APEC Summit was cancelled because of ongoing protests.

Iran Escalation

Tehran restarts parts of nuclear programme after it is halted by the 2015 nuclear deal and which the US quit in 2018. The US blames Iran for a series of attacks in the Gulf and Saudi Oil facilities, all of which has been categorically denied by Tehran.