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2016 – The year in retrospect
December 24, 2016, 4:59 pm

It was a year of achievements, of ground-breaking discoveries, in space, science, medicine and technology; of shattering records in individual athletics and new benchmarks set in sports and games. It was the year when politics rose to its heights and also sunk to its nadirs; it was the year when peace prevailed and longstanding conflicts were resolved, it was also the year when simmering discontent boiled over into violence. The year gone by saw many stalwarts in music, entertainment and literary fields fade away, while a raft of young and energetic artistes moved in. It was the year of the Olympics, of presidential elections, of new beginnings and sad endings. If nothing else, it was a year as disparate as any other.

Iran nuclear deal sees sanctions dismantled

17 January: After more than a decade of sanctions for allegedly not complying with its international nuclear obligations, the United States, European Union and the United Nations agree to lift nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran and release around US$100 billion of its assets. This came in the wake of the report by international inspectors that Iran had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program and reduce its stockpiles of fissile materials and centrifuges. As part of the deal to ease sanctions, Iran also agreed to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to all nuclear facilities so as to monitor and verify the country’s compliance with the agreement.

US-Cuba relations thaw with first visit by US President in 90 Years

21 March: US President Barack Obama becomes first sitting US president to visit Havana since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, which led to over five decades of hostilities and sanctions between the US and Cuba. Speaking during the visit, President Obama admitted that "what we did for 50 years did not serve our interests or the interests of the Cuban people." In August 2015, the two countries had opened their respective embassies in Washington and Havana.

Panama Papers reveal hidden wealth of rich and famous

03 April: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) publishes the first stories along with 150 documents detailing the operations of the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca. Journalists from 107 media organizations in 80 countries were involved in analyzing the over 11.5 million documents that disclosed the financial and attorney–client information of 214,488 offshore entities handled by Mossack Fonseca. Among the highlights from the leaked documents were the widespread use by the rich, famous and politically connected of shell corporations for fraud and tax evasion.

World’s longest traffic tunnel opens and a canal expands

01 June: The Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), a railway base tunnel through the Alps in Switzerland begins initial operations. With full operations commencing on December 11, the full route length of 57.09 km makes GBT the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps. The base tunnel bypasses most of the Gotthard Railway, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, and establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains. In true Swiss fashion, the $12 billion project, which was 20 years in the making, saw completion ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, another engineering marvel opened for traffic in Central America. On June 26, Panama expanded its century-old canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans making it passable for large container ships.

The ‘Greatest’ is no more

03 June: American professional boxer and activist, born Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1942, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, dies at his home in Arizona. Arguably one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century, Ali was known as an inspiring, controversial, and polarizing figure both inside and outside the ring. At age 22 in 1964, he won the WBA, WBC and lineal heavyweight titles from Sonny Liston in an upset. He set an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. In 1966, two years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali further antagonized the white establishment in the US by refusing to be conscripted into the military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation. After retiring from boxing in 1981, Ali devoted his life to religious and charitable work. In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome, which his doctors attributed to boxing-related brain injuries.

United Kingdom votes to leave the EU

23 June: The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, also known as Brexit referendum, takes place in the United Kingdom (UK) and Gibraltar to measure public support for the country either remaining a member of, or leaving, the European Union (EU). The referendum results in 51.9 percent of voters favoring leaving the European Union. The protracted process of leaving the EU is expected to take several years, and the UK government has announced that it intends to start the formal process of invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on EU by March 2017, which would put the country on course to complete the withdrawal process by March 2019.

Juno probe enters orbit around Jupiter

5 July: Exactly a month short of five years since its launch on August 2011, NASA’s space probe Juno covers a distance of 2.8 billion kilometer to enter into orbit around the planet Jupiter. The probe is expected to conduct a 20-month scientific investigation of the planet, during which it will measure Jupiter's composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. It will also search for clues about how the planet formed, including whether it has a rocky core, the amount of water present within the deep atmosphere, mass distribution, and its deep winds, which can reach speeds of 618 kilometers per hour. Following the completion of its mission, Juno will be intentionally deorbited into Jupiter's atmosphere.

Coup d’état in Turkey

 15 July: A coup d'état attempt in Turkey by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces is thwarted by forces loyal to the state. The coup organizers cited an alleged erosion of secularism, the elimination of democratic rule, a disregard for human rights, and Turkey's loss of credibility in the international arena as reasons for the coup. The government accused the coup leaders of being linked to the Gülen movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish businessman and influential cleric who lives in Pennsylvania, United States. Since the coup, the Gulen movement, which is designated a terrorist organization by the Republic of Turkey, has seen its members working in the media, academics, law enforcement and in public life being arrested by the authorities. 

Solar-powered aircraft circumnavigates the Earth

26 July: More than 16 months after it took off from Abu Dhabi on 9 March, 2015, Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered fixed wing aircraft, successfully circumnavigates the Earth and lands back in Abu Dhabi. During its nearly 42,000 kilometer multi-stage trip, the Solar Impulse was piloted alternatively by Swiss engineer and businessman André Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard. In July 2015, after completing the longest leg of its journey, from Japan to Hawaii, the aircraft's batteries sustained thermal damage that took months to repair. Solar Impulse 2 resumed the circumnavigation only in April 2016, when it flew to California, then across the US to New York and then over the Atlantic to Spain. After a short stopover in Egypt, the Solar Impulse finally landed in Abu Dhabi

Rio 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil

5 August: The 2016 Summer Olympics opens to great fanfare in Rio de Janeiro’s 74,738-seat Maracanã Stadium in Brazil. Officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, the Rio 2016 sees more than 11,000 athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees participate in multi-sport events. The event, which drew to a conclusion on 21 August, was marked by controversies, including the instability of the country's federal government; health and safety concerns surrounding the Zika virus and significant pollution in the Guanabara Bay; and a doping scandal that targeted the Russian team and prevented the participation of its athletes in the Games. The United States led the medal tally with a total haul of 121 medals, followed by China with 70 and Great Britain with 67.

Global CO2 levels exceed 400ppm

29 September: Global CO2 levels exceed 400 ppm at the time of year normally associated with minimum levels. Despite its relatively small concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere, CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas and plays a vital role in regulating our planet’s surface temperature. The global annual mean concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Revolution, from 280 ppm, the level it had for the last 10,000 years leading up to the mid-18th century, to 399 ppm as of 2015. The present concentration is the highest in at least the past 800,000 years and likely the highest in the past 20 million years. The increase has been caused by anthropogenic sources, particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Paris Agreement gathers threshold to enter into force

5 October: The threshold of 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions depositing their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession is achieved with the ratification by the European Union. This crossing of the 55/55 number leads to the Agreement’s entry into force a month later on 4 November and the  first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) taking place in Marrakech, Morocco from 15-18 November. Meanwhile, an epic El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean helped set global-temperature records in the first five months of the year. This put 2016 on track to become the third straight warmest year in a row.

Trump weaves his way to White House

8 November: Donald John Trump is set to be the 45th President of the United States. In what has been described as a seismic upheaval, the president-elect stunned pollsters and pundits by decisively winning an election marked by a populist and polarizing campaign. The triumph of Trump, 70, a braggart real-estate developer with no government experience and a penchant for saying the wrong things at the wrong time, was a powerful rejection of the established media, business and government forces that had allied against him. The president-elect’s victory was  a decisive demonstration of power by the largely silent, vastly ignored,  mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters who felt that the promise of the United States had slipped their grasp following decades of globalization, multiculturalism and political correctness.

India demonetizes ₹500 and ₹1000 currency notes

 8 November: In an unexpected nation-wide live televised address at 20:15 Indian Standard Time (IST) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that banknotes of ₹500 and ₹1000, which accounted for 86 percent of currency in circulation, would no longer be legal tender beginning at midnight. The issuance of new ₹500 and ₹2,000 banknotes in exchange for the old banknotes was also announced. The government claimed that the demonetization was an effort to stop counterfeiting allegedly used for funding terrorism, as well as to crack-down on corruption and black money in the country. However, in the days following the demonetization, banks and ATMs across the country faced severe cash shortages, causing hardship to ordinary people, small businesses, agriculture and transportation.

Fidel Castro passes away

25 November: Global revolutionary icon, communist leader and politician Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, Prime Minister of Republic of Cuba from 1959 to 1976 and then President from 1976 to 2008, passes away at his home in Havana. Under his administration, which came to power following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Cuba became a one-party socialist state; industry and business were nationalized, and state socialist reforms implemented throughout society. His anti-imperialist moves antagonized Cuba’s big and powerful neighbor the United States, which would go on to oppose Castro's government, and unsuccessfully attempt to remove him by assassination, economic blockade, and counter-revolution. Countering these threats, Castro formed an alliance with the Soviet Union and allowed the Soviets to place nuclear weapons in Cuba in 1962. This sparked off the Cuban Missile Crisis, which until it was diffused 13 days later, threatened to ignite a nuclear confrontation between the two super powers during the Cold War.

Nobel Prizes: Greatest benefit to Mankind

10 December: In 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace - the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Since 1901, the Nobel Prizes have been presented to the Laureates at ceremonies. The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway and the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine and Literature and the Prize in Economic Sciences are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden.

Eleven persons were awarded Nobel Prizes in 2016.

David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz – Physics

Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard L. Feringa – Chemistry

Yoshinori Ohsumi – Physiology or Medicine

Bob Dylan – Literature

Juan Manuel Santos – Peace

Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström – Economic Sciences (Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel)


Gravitational Waves Are Real

11 February: When it comes to scientific discoveries it does not get much bigger than a fundamental discovery about the nature of reality, which is exactly what physicists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) served up this year, when they confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, not once, but twice. It turns out that spacetime is not a rigid box. Rather, it is a rippling ocean, alive with subatomic waves generated when black holes, neutron stars, and other incredibly massive objects collide. Called gravitational waves, these spacetime ripples were first ‘heard’ by LIGO’s detectors last September, although the discovery was not announced until February. Then on 15 June, LIGO physicists detected gravitational waves again, and now, they are on the hunt for even more.

Scumbags 0  Rest of the world 100

The year gone by was not without its share of cowardly attacks that claimed the lives and limbs of hundreds of innocent people around the world. The deranged deviants who go by various in different parts of the world had only one thing in common, to cause as much mayhem by killing and maiming unarmed people. Whether the innocent bystanders were out strolling in the streets, enjoying a music concert, praying in a church or in a mosque, the infidels had only one wish, to destroy. But they failed and failed miserably. The resilience of people everywhere and their determination not to allow a bunch of brain-dead morons to dictate how they should lead their lives came through after each dastardly attack. A tolerant society where people live together in peace and harmony is the most fitting reply to deviants everywhere; it is a reverberating response that says their evil will never triumph.

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