It’s been another entertaining year here on planet earth, let’s have a look at some of the highlights and lowlights…

A – ALS Ice bucket challenge

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was the internet fad of the year, inspiring everyone from politicians to breakfast television hosts, celebrities and narcissistic twenty-something’s to drench themselves buckets of ice cold water to raise money for… anybody remember, anybody, anybody at all? In the end over $100 million was raised, thousands of litres of water wasted and at least two people died.

B – Burkina Faso

One of the world’s least recognised and reported countries lead the news for one day, when President of 27 years Blaise Compaoré was toppled from power. Like many African leaders before him, Compaoré was attempting to amend the constitution, to allow an indefinite extension of his reign. Protests across the country came to a head in the capital Ouagadougou and he fled the country. Elections are scheduled for November 2015.

C – Crimea

Hands up who could locate Crimea on a map this time last year? The year’s most famous peninsula ‘returned’ to Russia in March when Vladimir Putin ‘annexed’ it, following Ukraine’s February revolution. Ever since, the resulting conflict between the countries – and the fallout – has never been far from the headlines.

Protests in Ukraine against Putin's 'annexation' of Crimea
Protests in Ukraine against Putin’s ‘annexation’ of Crimea

D – Drought

Drought continued to plague the Horn of Africa this year. While not at the famine levels of 2011, hundreds of thousands of people across the region continue to go hungry. In October the UN estimated that 16 million people were in urgent need of food and humanitarian assistance.

E – Ebola

It was the other side of the African continent grabbing all the headlines this year. The worst ever outbreak of Ebola claimed over 7,000 lives in 2014, with the West Africa countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone being hit the hardest. While the rate of infection and deaths has slowed there is still much to be done.

An education campaign against the transmission of Ebola
An education campaign against the transmission of Ebola

F – Ferguson

Racial tensions are never far from the surface in the US. Following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, by a white policeman, and the subsequent decision by a Grand Jury to not pursue the officer for criminal charges, protests and riots spread across the nation. Sadly, more deaths followed, both of unarmed black men and two NYPD officers, shot in symbolic revenge.

G – Glasgow

The usually quiet Scottish capital was the centre of attention twice in 2014. In July / August the city hosted the 20th Commonwealth Games, where the Pacific nation of Kiribati won its first ever medal, gold in the 105kg men’s weightlifting. It was England though who came out on top, finishing first on the medal tally and then again claiming victory in September’s referendum. While a close run race, the Scots ultimately voted ‘NO,’ and thus remain part of the United Kingdom. The campaign also coined one of the words of the year, ‘indyref.’

H – Hashtags

In 2014, barely did a major event pass without an accompanying hashtag. Some of the more memorable were #illridewithyou, following the Sydney siege, #bringbackourgirls, after the abduction of over 200 school girls in Nigeria, #notinmyname, Muslims tweeting against the IS movement and #blacklivesmatter, in response to the deaths of unarmed black men by white police in the US.

I – Islamic State

The terrorists formerly known as ISIS / ISIL settled on ‘Islamic State’ and have been arguably the biggest news story of the year. Since capturing a swathe of land across Iraq and Syria and declaring it their caliphate, ‘IS’ have become the most powerful and feared group in the Middle East. Beheading foreigners, recruiting wives from across the globe, sex slavery of non-Muslims and attempting to exterminate the Yazidi tribe in Iraq, they show no signs of slowing in 2015.

Men in Black 2014: Islamic State fighters
Men in Black 2014: Islamic State fighters

J – Joints

On 1 January 2014 residents of Colorado were able to legally purchase up to 28 grams of marijuana under new state laws. The changes have been widely regarded as a success and Americans have voted for similar laws in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC.

K – Korea, North

North Korea’s oddball leader began the year by executing his late uncle’s entire family and apparently feeing them to 120 rabid dogs. This news was followed by revelations that the regime landed an astronaut on the sun and ordered men throughout the country to cut their hair the leaders same style – although anyone who shared his name was ordered to change it. Kim Jong Un continued the family tradition of arbitrary detention, disappearances and general repression and ended the year executing 80 people for ‘reading Bibles and watching television,’ before infamously cyber attacking Sony in response to the Hollywood movie ‘The Interview.’

L – Long lasting love

Maurice and Helen Kaye, from Bournemouth, met in 1929, now 102 and 101, they said the secret to a happy marriage was being tolerant of each other and being willing to ‘forgive and forget.’

Clem and Millie Mintz celebrated their 80th year of marriage and were recognised as having the longest marriage in Canada.

Elsie and Rowland Olarenshaw, Australia’s longest married couple, celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary in 2013 and both reached triple figures in the past year.

In The Netherlands, a man’s proposal went awry when a crane he had hired to descend into his girlfriend’s window toppled over, smashing the roof, luckily she said yes.

Finally, at the end of 2014 sixteen countries recognise marriage equality, Luxembourg will become the 17th on 1st January 2015.

M – Malaysian airlines

Lightning struck the Asian airline twice this year, though in the second instance it came in the form of a Russian anti-aircraft missile. Following the disappearance of MH370 with 239 passengers on board, MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine, with 298 people perishing. Families from around the world were left grieving for their loved ones, while a nation was left shattered. Proving that bad things happen in 3, the year ended with yet another Asian plane disaster when flight QZ8501 from Indonesia disappeared en route to Singapore with 162 aboard.

N – Neuwirth, Thomas

You have probably never heard of Thomas Neuwirth, although you may be more familiar with him, or her, as Eurovision songstress Conchita Wurst, the first bearded lady to win the European song contest. Wurst claimed the title with her song ‘Rise like a Phoneix.’ Wurst’s performance was replicated on a little known Australian TV show, The Full Brazillian, by sports commentator Richard Parkin, check it out here.

Conchita Wurst performing at Eurovision
Conchita Wurst performing at Eurovision

O – Occupied Territories

Never far from the front pages, Palestine again dominated the headlines and as usual, for all the wrong reasons. A seven week siege by the IDF against Hamas and citizens of Gaza resulted in the loss of over 2,200 Palestinian lives, mostly civilians and further destruction of one of the most already destructed places on earth. If anything positive can be taken from the year it is that the idea of a Palestinian state continues to gain support, with the European parliament continuing to warm to the idea. Watch this space.

P – Pistorius, Oscar

The greatest celebrity trial of the year was the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa. The seven month courtroom drama concluded with Pistorius receiving a 5 year prison term for the ‘culpable homicide’ of his former girlfriend Reeva Steeenkamp.

Q – Quick!

Quick is what the Rosetta spacecraft had to be, when it travelled 6.4 billion kilometers to land the Philae probe on the comet 67P, a piece of rock four kilometers in diameter and travelling at 135,000kms/hr. Described as ‘landing a washing machine on a speeding bullet’ the event gave nerds across the world a collective funny feeling in their pants.

R – Refugees

For the first time since the end of World War II the world has more than 50 million refugees, more than half which are children. A further 33 million are classified as internally displaced. Syrians make up the fastest growing number of refugees, while the conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic have created new populations in Africa, alongside long term conflicts in Somalia and DR Congo. The countries hosting most of the 50 million plus are Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Once again Australia’s (hysterical over)reaction to refugees attracted international condemnation, following riots, claims of sexual abuse and two deaths in the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan

S – School children

It has been an unusually depressing year for school children. In April almost 300 girls were abducted in Chibok, Nigeria, with many still missing. Shortly afterwards, over 200 students died when a South Korean ferry sunk. In Mexico 43 missing children were discovered in a mass grave, having been executed. Finally, in Pakistan, in an attack so horrendous even the Afghan Taliban condemned it, the Pakistani Taliban opened fire at a military school, killing 132 children.

T – Thailand

The world’s most colourful protesters were at it again this year in the South East Asian kingdom. In the yellow corner, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-o-cha launched his coup d’état against the caretaker government and was supported by the monarch. In the red corner, government supporters protested in Bangkok. After many disappearances, arrests and show trials, elections were promised for October 2015.

U – Umbrella Revolution

No, Apple did not unveil the iUmbrella. Protests in Hong Kong erupted after mainland China moved to disrupt their democratic electoral process. The protesters used umbrellas against the authorities’ pepper spray. While since shrinking in number, the protests are continuing amid a violent crackdown.

V – Vape

The Oxford English Dictionary’s word of year is ‘vape,’ defined as ‘to inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.’ Runners up included bae, indyref, budtender, slacktivism, contactless and normcore. Click here to find out what they all mean.  Another notable phrase doing the rounds in 2014 was ‘shirtfront,’ which Tony Abbott promised to do to Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Brisbane.  Though the Russian warships hovering on the edge of international waters during the conference reminded the Australian PM exactly where he stood on the world stage.

W – World Cup

The Brasilian World Cup was probably the happiest four weeks of 2014, except if you were Brazilian. Germany claimed their fourth title with a 1-0 win over Argentina, following an infamous 7-0 destruction of the hosts to reach the final. The world’s greatest sporting tournament provided plenty of headlines including spectacular goals, the unearthing of new champions and the downfall of old ones, as well as a Luis Suarez bite and an incredible amount of beautiful women on our TV screens.

X

The death of actor Robin Williams was one of the more tragic of the year, particularly because it came about by his own hand. Williams’ death shone a brief light on the struggle many men face with mental illness and their inability to deal with it. Other familiar names, faces and voices to depart in 2014 included Gough Whitlam, Rik Mayall, Peaches Geldof, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joan Rivers, Richard Attenborough, Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter, Harold Ramis, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Bob Hoskins, Joe Cocker, Philip Hughes, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and Ariel Sharon.

For those who like their death with a dash of black humour, you can check out the candidates for the 2014 Darwin Awards here.

Y – Yousafzai, Malala (and Kailash Satyarthi)

Everyone’s favourite activist, Malala Yousafzai, became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.

Z

These lists are always a great idea until you get to the end… X, Z, even Q can be tough. Hmm, Z… well, the Zombie fad has pretty much died off in 2014, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there was a movie called Z Storm, ‘…a story about the biggest financial fraud attempted in Hong Kong, directed at the Government and involving all 7 million Hong Kong citizens… no one is free from the scheme.’ And remember when Solange went crazy at Jay Z in the elevator – that was pretty funny! That’s all I’ve got for Z.

The most famous night vision footage since Paris Hilton
The most famous night vision footage since Paris Hilton’s home movies

Thanks to everyone who visited stublogs during 2014, including the almost 130,000 who read this piece on Australia’s efforts at the world cup, giving me my first taste of going viral.

Happy New Year and let’s hope 2015 is even better than 2014!!!

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