Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Year in Review: 2017

I hope 2017 has been good to you – in general, at a global level, I’d suggest that 2017 has been an interesting year, for sake of more stronger words and I wonder how history will look back on it. The rich have definitely got richer and the poor, poorer. Corruption has continued to increase in both business and politics; customer service seems to be an afterthought; and the US turned its back on dealing with Global Warming. Let’s hope 2018 is a better year for all.   
The year started with the inauguration of Donald Trump in January as the 45th President of the United States. The Trump Administration caused controversy in the days after the inauguration when it claimed to have ‘perhaps record-breaking crowd attendance’, despite photographic evidence suggesting otherwise. The President’s then Press Secretary Sean Spicer boasted the crowd ‘was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe’, later accusing the media of reporting inaccurate crowd estimates.
Setting the tone for a year when elections brought big changes in governance, in January Adama Barrow ended Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule in the Gambia. Jammeh, whose exit terms meant he avoided prosecution and was able to keep many assets, departed only after mediation by West African neighbours and the threat of armed intervention.
Kim Jong-un grabbed the headlines on February 12 when he ordered the launch of a ballistic missile over the Sea of Japan. It was the nation’s first missile test of Mr Trump’s presidency and sparked a bitter feud between Kim and the US leader, which is ongoing still.
Also in February while Chad’s foreign minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was elected as the new head of the African Union, outgoing chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the proposed US travel ban on refugees from Somalia, Libya and Sudan. Morocco rejoined the AU after a row over the status of Western Sahara more than 30 years ago. Three UN agencies warned that Somalia was facing a ‘very real’ risk of famine, with more than 6 million people, half the population, facing acute food insecurity. Humanitarian groups said there was a ‘small window’ to stop a repeat of the 2011 famine, when an estimated 260,000 people starved to death in the country after a slow response from donors.
March saw Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, finally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially starting the process of the UK’s departure from the European Union. The Prime Minister told the Commons at the time: ‘This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union.’ Britain is currently due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.
Also in March International Women’s Day on 8 March included a call for a global strike. In New York, the Commission on the Status of Women ended with commitments by states to advance women’s economic empowerment by implementing equal pay policies, gender audits and job evaluations. El Salvador made history as the first nation to impose a blanket ban on metal mining. Campaigners celebrated a victory for ‘water over gold’. Also a powerful video report showed how anti-slavery activists are often the only chance of escape for the thousands of vulnerable Russians lured from cities to the remote republic of Dagestan, where they are enslaved in rural brick factories and farms.
On the morning of April 7, US President Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired at the Shayrat airbase in Syria. The strike was in response to a chemical attack three days earlier, which saw the Syrian Government allegedly airdrop toxic gas on the town of Khan Shaykhun, killing 74 people and injuring more than 557 others, according to the Idlib health authority.
Also in April it emerged that international aid agencies in Nepal were paying the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to get their projects approved. Citing year-long delays, they accused the authorities of hampering their work as the country struggles to recover from the 2015 earthquake. The World Health Organization (WHO) lauded record-breaking progress in tackling sleeping sickness, elephantiasis and other tropical diseases that affect one in six people globally.
On May 22, after an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in the UK, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds of others - many of them children. About two weeks later, the singer returned to the UK to host a benefit concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground dubbed One Love Manchester. The concert raised some £10million for the victims of the attack.
Also in May G20 health ministers in Berlin called for a faster response to global health risks, such as infectious disease outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance; and research by a coalition of UK and African campaigners showed that more wealth leaves Africa every year than enters it, by more than $40bn.
In June the US President, Donald Trump, announced that America would be pulling out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Trump claimed the Paris agreement ‘front-loads costs on American people’, ‘disadvantages the US to benefit other countries’ and causes ‘vastly diminished economic production’. The move was widely condemned by other world leaders.
Also in June supermarkets in the UK pulled corned beef off shelves after the Guardian UK and Brazilian journalists found the products could contain meat linked to slave labour on cattle farms.
On July 4, North Korean officials launched its first test of an intercontinental missile, which the reclusive nation claimed could strike ‘anywhere in the world’. In response to the launch Mr Trump tweeted: ‘North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?’
A stunning total solar eclipse, dubbed The Great American Eclipse, blocked out the Sun across the US on August 21. The path of totality crossed 14 states and was the first total solar eclipse to be visible from all of the US since 1918.
Also in August the number of South Sudanese fleeing across the border to Uganda passed a million. A further million had fled into Ethiopia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in what has become the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.
In September hurricanes devastate the Americas. Where the Caribbean and swathes of the US were battered by a string of hurricanes including the powerful Irma and Maria. The two storms killed more than 200 people and caused billions of dollars-worth of damage.
Also in September Brazil investigated the alleged slaughter of Amazonian tribespeople by gold miners, while the scale of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya in Myanmar became more apparent to the world.
On October 1, 58 people were killed when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crown of concert-goers from his hotel room in Las Vegas Nevada. The attack is the deadliest US mass shooting to date and reignited calls for tougher gun control laws nationwide, throughout the US.
October also saw Catalonia vote for independence from Spain in a referendum that was later declared unlawful by the international community.
On November 5, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung released millions of documents, dubbed the Panama Papers, highlighting the dubious financial activities of some politicians, celebrities and businesses.
Also in November, after 37 years in power, Robert Mugabe was forced to resign as President of Zimbabwe, following a military coup in the southern African nation. The six-day takeover resulted in Mugabe’s former ally Emmerson Mnangagwa being sworn in as President.
On December 6, Donald Trump made the controversial decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move was widely condemned and Mr Trump was even accused of issuing a ‘declaration of war’. Most world leaders branded the President’s speech as ‘unhelpful’, arguing that it could/would destabilise peace in the region.
Finally in December there was a sense of deja vu about a report on women in sub-Saharan Africa being forced to have sex to pay off their medical bills, an issue that remains perennially under-addressed; and sadly like so many other issues in the world today simply does not get enough attention from the main stream media, as passing mention is simply not good enough.
As the world struggles to re-find the true value of democracy, power in politics and business, seem to be the theme in the 21st Century and I can only hope and pray that we, the world, find some truly great leaders to set a new course of prosperity for all – not just the privileged few.
And let’s remember just a few people who departed during 2017;
Gordon Kaye, the 'Allo 'Allo! Star, passed away aged 75 on 23 January in a care home. The actor - who is best known for his role as Rene Artois in the British TV comedy - left behind an impressive legacy and career. He appeared in all 84 episodes of the show for a decade until 1992, and reprised the role 1,2000 times in the stage adaptation.
Mary Tyler Moore, the American actress, died on 25 January at the age of 80. Moore shot to stardom as a suburban housewife in 1960s comedy The Dick Van Dyke Show. She went on to play the role as Mary Richards on 'The Mary Tyler Moore' show from 1970 to 1977. The TV icon had a long battle with diabetes.
Sir John Hurt, the actor, died on 25 January, aged 77, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He played roles in a number of blockbuster films, including Elephant Man, Alien and Harry Potter. He also appears in the biopic Jackie, about the widow of John F Kennedy.
Tara Palmer-Tomkinson died on 8 February, aged 45. The former It girl, who more recently appeared on I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, had recently revealed a secret year-long battle with a brain tumour. Doctors discovered the tumour in January last year.
Neil Fingleton - Britain and the EU's tallest man died on 25 February, reportedly of heart failure. The County Durham native was best-known for his portrayal of Mag the Mighty in HBO's Game of Thrones and as Doctor Who villain the Fischer King. Moving to the US to pursue a career in basketball, Fingleton eventually found his calling in the acting industry.
John Surtees, the only man to win the Formula One and motorcycle Grand Prix titles, died on March 10 at the age of 83. Surtees, who won the F1 title in 1964 to add to his 500cc motorcycle world titles from 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960, "passed away peacefully".
Chuck Berry – The musical icon died on March 18 at the age of 90. The rock n' roll legend - known as the father of that movement - had been producing music since the 1950s and wrote pioneering tracks such as Johnny B Goode. His first No.1 came in 1972 with My Ding-a-Ling. He was the great-grandchild of African-American slaves, and his parents, Martha and Henry Berry, migrated from the South during World War I to St Louis in search of work.
Ugo Ehiogu – The Tottenham Hotspur Under-23 coach passed away on April 21. The former England and Aston Villa defender was rushed to hospital after collapsing at Tottenham's training centre. The 44-year-old received medical treatment on site before being transferred to hospital by ambulance. But doctors were unable to save him.
Erin Moran, best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on Happy days, died on April 22, aged 56. According to TMZ, the actress was found unresponsive on Saturday afternoon by authorities in Indiana. Henry Winkler, who starred opposite Moran as The Fonz in the iconic series, tweeted: "OH you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth."
Michael Mantenuto – The former Disney star, best known for his role as Jack O'Callahan in the 2004 film Miracle, died on April 24, aged 35. The actor committed suicide at Saltwater State park, where his body was found in his car. The former actor - who had quit Hollywood for the army - was a University of Maine hockey star before getting his acting break in Miracle, which chronicled the victory of the U.S. hockey team over the much favored Soviet Union team in the 1980 Olympic Games.
Sir Roger Moore died on May 23, aged 89, in Switzerland after a short battle with cancer. The London-born star is best known for playing famous secret agent James Bond, 007.
John Noakes of Blue Peter fame died on May 28 aged 83. John was Blue Peter’s longest-serving presenter. He joined the hit children's show on 30th December 1956 and left the programme after twelve and a half years on 26th June 1978. He is considered by many to have been the most successful and memorable Blue Peter presenter in its entire history. He was known for his daredevil stunts and looked after Blue Peter dog Shep.
Michael Bond – The revered creator of Paddington Bear passed away at the age of 91 on June 28. Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children's Books, said: "I feel privileged to have been Michael Bond's publisher - he was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers. He will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffle coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”
Martin Landau passed away aged 89 on July 15. The Oscar-winner died of "unexpected complications" during a brief spell in a Los Angeles hospital, his publicist Dick Guttman said. Landau's career began in the 1950s when he landed a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. He then went on to become a series regular in Mission Impossible.
Deborah Watling – the Doctor Who actress passed away on July 21, six weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Watling began her acting career aged just 9 years old, but her big TV break came when she landed the role of companion in Doctor Who, alongside the 2nd Doctor Patrick Troughton.
Glen Campbell – The country music legend died on August 8 at the age of 81. The singer passed away after a "long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease" in Nashville, with the news of his death revealed in a statement on his official website. Campbell, best known for his hits Rhinestone Cowboy, Wichita Lineman and Gentle On My Mind, was being cared for in a specialist unit.
Jerry Lewis - On August 20, the legendary American comedian and actor passed away aged 91. Jerry, along with his comedy partner Dean Martin, dominated American show business in the 1950s and beyond with his own brand of slapstick humour. As well as his comedy, Jerry was also an actor, singer and director - as well as a humanitarian activist.
Bruce Forsyth – The legendary entertainer and face of dance show Strictly Come Dancing died at the age of 89. Bruce is recognised by the Guinness World Records as having the longest television career for a male entertainer. He shot to fame in the mid-1950s on ITV series Sunday Night at the London Palladium, before hosting shows like The Generation Game, Play Your Cards Right, The Price Is Right and You Bet! - and was well known for his catchphrase, "Nice to see you, to see you nice" – which went on to be voted the most popular UK catchphrase in 2007 by the British public.
Hugh Hefner - The founder of Playboy died on September 27 at the age of 91. A spokesman said he died "peacefully" from "natural causes" at his home The Playboy Mansion in Hollywood "surrounded by loved ones." Hefner launched Playboy magazine in 1953 and the X-rated brand spawned TV and film companies and the famous mansion where he lived alongside dozens of his 'Bunnies'.
Fats Domino – The legendary rock and roll singer died on October 25 at the age of 89. His biggest hits included Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That A Shame. The star amassed 35 US Billboard Top 40 successes, selling over 100 million records and influencing a number of other musicians including Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
Heather North - The actress, best known for voicing the character of Daphne in Scooby Doo, died on November 30 aged 71. The star voiced the character for 33 years and reportedly died at her home in Los Angeles after battling an illness for a long time. She also starred in Days of Our Lives and The Fugitive, and played Kurt Russell's love interest in Disney's 1971 movie, The Barefoot Executive.
David Cassidy – The former teen heartthrob died aged 67 after suffering acute liver and kidney failure. The Partridge Family star had been in a medically induced coma after being taken to hospital in Florida when his faltering health declined. The 67-year-old pop idol, who suffered years of alcohol abuse, had been battling dementia in the final months of his life following his dramatic fall from grace of the adoration he once knew.
Christine Keeler - The model, whose affair with Tory Cabinet Minister John Profumo rocked British politics to its core, died aged 75 after suffering from a lung condition for several months. She was propelled into the global spotlight at only age 19 after an affair with the Secretary of State for War and a Russian diplomat during the Cold War.
And may all who left us in 2017 rest eternally in peace:
Lamble, L. (2017). The year’s top development stories: 2017 in Review. The Guardian UK. Published 11:00 Dec 25, 2017.
Tambini, J. (2017). Year in review 2017. The Shocking events that changed the world in 2017. The Express UK. Published 13:57 Dec 23, 2017.