The international year in review: 2017

Even before 2017 started many people had a good idea of who would be the major story maker this year. Even before Donald John Trump became President of the United States, all of the signs were that there would be a rocky transition from the administration of President Barak Hussein Obama and an even more turbulent first year – and Mr Trump did not disappoint. Below are just a few of the highlights of Mr Trump’s first year in office:

  • The federal indictment led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller
  • Withdrawing from the Paris Accord
  • Ratcheting up the drum beat of war against North Korea to deafening levels
  • The wa(r)ll  against illegal immigrants and the anti-Muslim profiling
  • Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the massive backlash and U.S. counter response

Perhaps the saddest story of the year goes to the desecration of our natural ecosystem and the declaration by scientists that the world has officially entered a mass extinction phase where biodiversity is being killed off far faster than it can undo the damage. Whilst this extinction has been underway for some time, it faces the dubious prospect of being the first that can be demonstrably linked to humankind’s insatiable appetite for resources, the pollution caused by developing those resources – not just the holes in the ground from open cast mining, but also the rivers polluted to the extent nothing lives in them any more, the dumping of toxins in the environment and the carbonization of the oceans.

Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump have one thing in common. Both LOVE the limelight. They seem to love doing things perceived by the rest of the world to be crazy, reckless or dangerous. Both also have bizarre hair and a few too many pounds. In a competition that looks like two boys waving with their privates on a world stage, how much further can Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump take their rhetoric before one or the other does something they – and ultimately the world – end up regretting?

Techno threat of the year must go to the Wanna Cry ransomware attack in May. This highly damaging event caused massive disruption across the world by infecting computers with infected software that would freeze access to computer files, and then, if a ransom was not paid within a certain time, start making them disappear. North Korea is suspected of having been behind it, but this is not yet proven.

Robot of the year award would have to go to British Prime Minister Theresa May for her completely detached response to the Grenfell tower fire. This, aside from being an unintended arsenal for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the campaign trail after Mrs May called a snap election, gave rise to the term “Maybot”. In the background concerns about how the Brexit negotiations are going continue to rumble like a distant thunderstorm.

And yet, there were some compelling good news stories among all of the doom and gloom. Far too often, these slide under the radar of a media that seems bent on doom and gloom. So, here are a few highlights:

  • After a year long campaign caused by a tortured political process, Australia said yes to same sex marriage – this came  in the same year Mr Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
  • Zimbabwean dictator Robert Gabriel Mugabe was ousted by his own party from office after 37 years, to be replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa. The world is waiting to see if the billions of dollars suspected to have been taken by Mr Mugabe and his Government officials will be returned.
  • Saudi Arabia became the very last country in the world to permit women to drive.

Disaster of the year award in any other case probably would have gone to Hurricane Irma for its sheer size and the damage that it caused. However Hurricane Maria, which followed a few days later and devastated Puerto Rico upstages it  in a year where hurricanes with girls names were more catastrophic than those with boys names.

To those of you not in New Zealand, enjoy what is left of 2017 and I will see you in 2018.

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