At one point, each one of these world news stories completely consumed conversations between friends, colleagues and families. Looking back now, we can relive the pain, sorrow, joy or laughter that we experienced during these times. It’s truly incredible to look back on 2014.
10. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
During July and August of this year, the Ice Bucket Challenge, an activity consisting of dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head, recording it and posting it on social media to get other people to do so, went viral promoting awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The idea was to pour the ice water on one’s head, nominate others to do the same and if they did not comply within 24 hours of the posted date, they would have to donate to the cause.
On August 29, the ALS Association announced that since July 29, they had received more than $100 million in donations.
Although it received criticism for being self-congratulatory and more of a way to get attention on social media than bring awareness to a cause, the widespread outreach of the challenge is an example of just how deeply-imbedded social media is in today’s society.
9. 2014 Winter Olympics
While the U.S. faired well in the games, ranking fourth with a combined 28 medals, the games and their facilities became a bit of a joke among the athletes and media. Sochi was the warmest place to have ever hosted the Winter Games, making the snow and ice difficult to maintain. Athletes also used social media to report inferior living facilities.
8. Celebrity Deaths
Literature lovers everywhere mourned the passing of two beloved authors this year: prolific Colombian writer Gabriel García Máquez, writer of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Love in the Time of Cholera,” on April 17, and poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, known for her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” on May 28.
Comedy greats Robin Williams and Joan Rivers left us on August 11 and September 4 respectively. Williams was known for his high energy comedy as well as his ability to take a serious turn in movies such as “Good Will Hunting.” Rivers combined her love of fashion and comedy as a red carpet interview staple and stand-up comedian.
The fashion world lost a much-loved icon in Oscar de la Renta on October 20.
Lastly, three Hollywood legends passed away this year: Philip Seymour Hoffman on February 2, Shirley Tempe on February 10 and Lauren Bacall on August 12.
7. Scotland Votes Against Independence
Scotland and England came under the same power for the first time in 1603 when James VI of Scotland was declared King of England. However, the two were officially united in 1707 with the Treaty of Union when the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed.
After winning the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the Scottish National Party worked with the UK Government until October 2012 when an agreement was made that the Scottish Government could hold a national vote.
On September 18, Scottish citizens were asked to vote either “Yes” or “No” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” With a voter turnout of 84.5 percent, the “No” vote prevailed with a 55 percent majority.
6. Midterm Elections
November 4 held the 2014 midterm elections, during which all 435 seats in the United State House of Representatives and 36 of the United States Senate were contested. In addition, 38 state and territorial governorships and 46 state legislatures were up for election.
The midterm elections showed the lowest voter turnout since 1942 and resulted in gains across the board for the Republican Party. For the first time since January 2007, the Republicans will gain control of the Senate in January 2015 and increase their majority in the House gaining the largest majority in Congress overall since 1928.
Despite losing congressional power, President Barack Obama seems intent on not simply riding out his last two years in office. Within a few days, the president granted legal status to five million undocumented immigrants and announced a deal with China over climate change, both of which upset the conservative right. One thing is for sure, it’ll be interesting to see how the two opposing branches of government work together for the next two years.
5. Crimean Crisis
Prompted by the Ukrainian Revolution, the Crimean Crisis is, at time of writing, still unfolding. In the end of February, former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the capital of Kiev prior to the Ukrainian parliament removing him from office. Appointed by parliament, interim President Oleksandr Turchynov formed an interim government, which was recognized by the U.S. and European Union but rejected by Russia.
Although an autonomous republic since 1991, Crimea has been part of the independent Ukraine prior to February of this year. After the Russian rejection of the interim Ukrainian government, pro-Russian protests began in the Crimean city of Sevastopol and quickly after that, pro-Russian forces began to occupy strategic positions across the Crimean peninsula.
On March 16, a referendum on whether to join Russia was held in Crimea with an official turnout of 83 percent. The reported result was a 96.77 percent affirmative vote, but the referendum was condemned by the European Union, the U.S. and Ukraine. On March 18, Russia and Crimea signed a treaty of accession into Russia.
4. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Goes Missing
As hour after hour, day after day, week after week passed, disbelief encompassed the world. Losing a whole plane still seems impossible and, yet, nine months later, it is still entirely unknown what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
Leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport and heading to Beijing Capital International Airport, the flight lost contact with air traffic control over the Andaman Sea. Twelve Malaysian crew members and 227 passengers from 15 different nations were on board.
The largest and most expensive multinational search effort in history attempted to find even the smallest piece of evidence, but as of press date, still no confirmation of flight debris or a crash site have been confirmed.
This year, ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also translated as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, came to worldwide prominence. A Sunni jihadist rebel group that controls territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS also operates in eastern Libya, parts of Egypt and other surrounding areas in the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty International has reported ISIS guilty of ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale” and it has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the European Union, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, amongst others.
On June 29, ISIS proclaimed a worldwide caliphate in which they claim to have religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. They appointed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, known by his supporters as Amir al-Mu’minin, as their caliph, or successor to Muhammad, and changed their name to the Islamic State.
Beginning in Guinea in December 2013, the most widespread epidemic of Ebola virus disease in history has caused significant loss this year.
The disease spread quickly in West Africa, most commonly Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. As of December 8, the World Health Organization reported a total of 17,991 cases and 6,756 deaths, though they believe only about one third of cases has been reported.
The news hit close to home in early October when a Liberian man visiting the U.S. was diagnosed with Ebola. Two of his nurses became the second and third cases of Ebola in the U.S. Of the total 10 cases of Ebola in the U.S., two died.
1. Civil Unrest Over Police Brutality
The terms “Ferguson,” “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” all permeated the news as story after story of alleged police brutality, racism and protests were released in the latter half of 2014.
Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 8. Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, on July 17. Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix on December 2. All were unarmed African American men and all died at the hands of police officers.
As racial tensions rise, the stories and photos of protests and reactions to court decisions have perhaps become bigger stories than the deaths and court decisions themselves, and they don’t appear to be slowing down. We’ll have to look to 2015 to see what changes and effects come from this civil unrest.