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Rewind 2018: A rooler coaster ride

Rewind 2018: A rooler coaster ride
Highlights

It has been a rollercoaster ride for earthlings in 2018 Man has reached Mars again with his farreaching probe, but on Earth leaders of most countries, ...

It has been a roller-coaster ride for earthlings in 2018. Man has reached Mars again with his far-reaching probe, but on Earth leaders of most countries, including the so-called advanced ones, are yet to realise that the globe is hurtling towards the tipping point on the climate front. Weather extremes can now be taken for granted.

As for specifics, it has been another turbulent year in the Middle East. The regional chaos has been exacerbated by the internecine rivalry of Saudi Arabia and Iran. Having consolidated power, the young crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has initiated incredible cultural revolution and economic reforms in Riyadh.

Yet, the very same regime is believed to have killed Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, a journalist of repute who dared to question the ways of the ruling dynasty. In neighbouring Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, tens of millions are victims of famine that has been accentuated by crass politics, with UN aid bodies caught in the cross-fire.

Iran has formidable domestic challenges to overcome. Thousands of people there have been arrested and scores killed in the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic’s ruling clerics in recent years, fueled largely by rising prices. The Islamic State group, despite US President Donald Trump’s boast about its ‘defeat’ and the eventual withdrawal of US forces, may be down, but not out. In Syria, Saudi Arabia could be sidelined as the battle-scarred country embraces a political settlement with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, thanks to support from Moscow and Tehran.

In Turkey, there has been a serious deterioration in human rights and curtailing of freedom of speech as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strengthens his grip on power and further marginalises the Opposition ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections slated for 2019. In any case, Turkey has been drifting away from its traditional allies in America and Europe, partly due to mutual antagonism and partly because of Turkey’s strategic divergence from the West and its NATO allies. It will take years for Iraq to rebuild the country after an enervating, years-long campaign to oust IS from its strongholds. This year, Iraqi voters held their first election after driving out the Islamic State. Despite the defeat of IS in pockets of Iraq, terrorism remains a key challenge in the region, if not elsewhere.

Year 2018 saw at least four major terrorist strikes (Jan 27, July 13, July 25 and November 18), with the Taliban, IS and Boko Haram being perpetrators, be it through suicide car bombing, suicide bombing or shootings. The February 14 Florida school shooting was yet another reminder of the ills of tolerating ‘gun culture’. The only ‘terror’ that gave a shot in the arm for scientists was the touchdown of NASA’s robotic probe at Elysium Planitia—the designated landing site—at 2:54 p.m. ET on November 26th. InSight’s landing on Mars marks the end of a 301-million-mile journey that was ungoverned only by a stretch of chaotic ride through the Red Planet’s atmosphere. Its lurching descent was something that NASA preferred to call “the seven minutes of terror”.

During a June 2018 summit in Singapore, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un announced that he wanted to end the tension between his country and the United States by signing an agreement with President Trump, including the denuclearisation of his country. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, most parts of Puerto Rico were left without electricity for almost a year. What stood out in the crisis was the help that poured in from other nations. In Cuba, the Castro family's more than 50-year reign came to an end with the election of Miguel Díaz-Canel. Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) experienced a fall from grace this year.

Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal threw up dirt on how 50 million people's personal information was compromised in the name of ''research". Fortunately, the raging net neutrality debate came to a head, and the Federal Communications Commission's rules were repealed, thus putting the control back in the internet's hands.

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