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Year in Review: 15 Top News Stories of 2017

Year in Review: 15 Top News Stories of 2017

By    |   Friday, 29 December 2017 01:05 PM

2017 has been an interesting year, to say the least.

Twitter’s top list for the year probably sums it up best. The social media platform released its list of most retweeted tweets earlier this month and there seems to be a theme of sadness, but also hope, throughout the year.

We grappled with heightened racial tension and terror attacks on our home soil, and watched as sexual harassment scandal after scandal ripped through the worlds of Hollywood, politics, and media.

But it wasn’t all bad. 

We welcomed a new president. The stock market is soaring. Unemployment rates are down, and Congress just passed the most sweeping tax reform overhaul in decades.

Here are some of the stories that dominated the news and shaped 2017:

1. The Trump presidency — Real estate mogul and billionaire businessman Donald Trump took office as the 45th president of the United States on January 20 after defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the White House will probably never be the same again.

Just four days later, The Associated Press reported that Trump had signed executive actions to “aggressively overhaul America’s energy policy." The result was that the Keystone XL project, otherwise known as the Dakota pipeline, would move forward, despite major protests from Native Americans concerned about the impact the pipeline would have on the environment.

This was swiftly followed by Trump introducing his controversial travel ban, where entry into the U.S. would be restricted for travelers from certain Muslim-majority countries. This ban has since made the rounds in various courts, with The New York Times reporting in early December that a third version of the ban had finally been allowed to go into effect. 

In April, the U.S. launched airstrikes in Syria, before dropping a bomb nicknamed “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan.  

Environmentalists around the world expressed their shock in June when Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate accord, which is intended to address global greenhouse gas levels. New York magazine reported at the time that Trump felt the terms of the agreement were unfair to the American people.

Trump may just have one piece of major legislation under his belt — tax reform — but he's signed dozens and dozens of bills into law. You can view a full list of bills approved by Trump on the White House website.

In July, Fortune reported that GDP growth to inflation and unemployment rates had improved under the Trump administration — meaning the president had delivered on one of his campaign promises.  

In November, Trump conducted a 12-day tour of Asia, the longest presidential tour of the region since 1992. The trip was a success, with Trump mainly focusing on trade agreements.

Trump sparked some controversy in early December when he announced that the U.S. would officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a decision that set off a fresh wave of protests across the Middle East.

He wrapped up the year by delivering "a big beautiful Christmas present" to the American people in the form of a massive overhaul to the tax system.

And, of course, Trump's Twitter feed also kept Americans (and the media) busy this year (remember "covfefe"?).

2. Robert Mueller and the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — Former FBI director Robert Mueller was officially appointed in May as special counsel to lead the investigation into possible Russian interference, but to fully understand this story, we need to go all the way back to October 2016.

That’s when the Obama administration confirmed it believed Russia was involved in a hack that exposed suspicious emails from inside the Democratic National Committee.

According to NPR, then-President Barack Obama retaliated last December by imposing new sanctions on Russia.

The very next day, former national security adviser Michael Flynn reportedly contacted the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and discussed the sanctions, promising better relations after President Trump’s inauguration.

Flynn vehemently denied speaking to anyone regarding the sanctions, but the FBI wasn't convinced and just four days after Trump took office, the agency interviewed his national security adviser.

Trump eventually fired Flynn in February, and allegedly told then-FBI director James Comey he hoped he could "let this go," meaning the investigation. He didn’t and, in March, the FBI officially announced it was investigating Russian interference. Trump fired Comey in May.

The New York Times reported the news along with a suggestion from Democrats to appoint a special counsel to lead the investigation.

Whether the Trump administration heeded this call or not, former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed to lead the Office of Special Counsel in mid-May.

Fast forward five months and the first person to be charged in the investigation was Trump’s former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, who was accused of lying to the FBI in an interview.

Papadopoulos pleaded guilty and his statement proved illuminating, as he admitted to trying to set up a meeting between Trump and the Russian government.

The next set of charges was filed against Trump’s one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Richard “Rick” Gates at the end of October. Both men pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of financial crimes that were unearthed as part of the investigation, including money laundering and conspiracy against the U.S.

The investigation’s biggest indictment, according to The Washington Post, came on December 1, when Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to charges of making false statements to the FBI.

The investigation is ongoing but Trump has repeatedly and vehemently denied that there was any collusion whatsoever between his campaign and the Russians.

3. Sexual harassment scandals and the rise of #MeToo — Beginning perhaps with October's explosive Harvey Weinstein stories from The New Yorker and The New York Times, sexual harassment scandals involving prominent men in Hollywood, politics, and the media have dominated headlines.

From movie execs and A-list actors to sitting senators and morning show hosts, there was a new story breaking every day, it seemed.

The swirl of allegations and the victims' bravery in speaking out garnered the attention of Time magazine, which dubbed the men and women known as the "Silence Breakers" the 2017 "Person of the Year."

Others across the world shared their experiences with sexual harassment and assault on social media under the hashtag #MeToo.

4. The fight against terror — Though terror attacks remain rampant in the Middle East, the west has seen its fair share of attacks this year too.

In March, 50 people were injured and five people were killed outside the Parliament Building in London, England, in an attack that ISIS has since claimed responsibility for. According to The Telegraph, the attacker mowed down four victims on Westminster Bridge before plowing his hired Hyundai SUV into the railings of Parliament Yard and attempting to burst into the grounds of the Palace of Westminster.

He then fatally stabbed an unarmed man before being shot by a protection officer.

The month of May saw 22 people killed in a suicide attack outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. According to NBC News, the attack targeted concertgoers as they were leaving the Manchester Arena and the incident, which left at least another 59 injured, was Britain’s deadliest terror attack since 2005.

Just days later, eight more were killed and 48 injured when three men hurtled through pedestrians on London Bridge. The trio then left their vehicle and ran down the road attacking people as they made their way to Borough Market.

And that's only a sampling of the bloodshed at the hands of terrorists this year. There was a bombing in St. Petersburg, Russia; a truck attack in Stockholm; police officers shot on the Champs-Élysée Boulevard in Paris; and vehicle attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, and New York City, among other attacks.

Still, the Trump administration is making progress on stamping out terror. In late December, the president tweeted a graphic showing the loss of ISIS territory. According to the graphic and the accompanying tweet, the number of ISIS fighters is down to 1,000 from 35,000 three years ago.

5. Confederate monument chaos — White supremacy and the alt-right movement have been quietly simmering around the world for some time now. Things got a little hotter in the U.S. over the summer after a man rammed his car into a group of counter protestors near a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman.

The fateful rally raised questions and sparked fiery debate on freedom of speech and the validity of confederate monuments.

President Trump then drew criticism when he denounced "hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides," instead of explicitly singling out white supremacists.

The group behind the Unite the Right rally has applied for a permit to march again next year on the anniversary of the Charlottesville chaos, but The New York Times reported this month that their permit has been denied.

6. Horror on the home front — Mass shootings in the United States continued to make headlines in 2017. According to the website MassShootingTracker.org, some 2,100 people have been shot and 565 of them died as a result of mass shootings in the U.S. this year alone.

A mass shooting is typically defined as an incident where four or more people are shot at the same general time or place. Though many of the incidents on record were domestic in nature, 2017 also saw two of the country's deadliest mass shootings in modern history, according to CNN.

One of the worst was at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on October 1 when 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on festivalgoers from his 32nd floor hotel room, killing 58 people and leaving more than 500 injured. CNN reports that the motive for Paddock’s attack is still unknown.

Only a month later, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people in a Texas Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in what CNN called the deadliest shooting in Texas history.

7. Nuclear North KoreaAccording to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, North Korea has conducted six “increasingly sophisticated” nuclear tests since 2006, after pulling out of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2003.

In January, Politico reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had started his new year off by announcing the country was perfecting its intercontinental missiles that could pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies. President Trump quickly responded on Twitter with a taunt, but North Korea tested another ballistic missile in February, this one falling into the Sea of Japan while Trump was entertaining Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Florida.

The Communist nation tested various other short- and mid-range missiles over the next several months and, in June, CBS News reported that North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test had been a success, with weapons analysts confirming that the missile was strong enough to have reached Alaska with a proper trajectory.

Trump again taunted Kim Jong Un on Twitter, while the Chinese government called for restraint on both sides.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea would strike the U.S if it attempted to remove Kim's regime from power.

The UN Security Council responded to the nuclear threat in August by imposing new sanctions on North Korea. According to CNN, North Korea clapped back, accusing the U.S of "trying to drive the situation of the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war."

In early September, the BBC reported that North Korea had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which "Rocket Man" (as Trump refers to Kim Jong Un) apparently intends to load onto a long-range missile.

According to Vox, North Korea’s latest test at the end of November shows it now has the capability to strike the mainland United States.

Though the U.S. military is developing a weapon with microwave technology to stop nuclear attacks, Senator Tammy Duckworth, who’s also an Iraq war veteran, says another war could be closer than Americans realize.

8. The death of Obamacare? — One of Trump’s campaign promises was to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, and the Senate wasted no time in trying to fulfill his wishes.

National Public Radio reported in January that the Senate had approved a budget resolution that would eventually lead to the repeal of the ACA.

And one of Trump’s first actions as president was to sign an executive order minimizing the “unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens” of Obamacare.

In March Republicans finally unveiled their replacement bill, which, according to CNN, would keep Obamacare’s protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

But many members of Congress expressed concern that the bill would leave many Americans without medical care.

Still, the House officially repealed Obamacare with a narrow vote passed in May, but the resolution would still need pass in the Senate. That's when GOP Sen. John McCain killed the bill with a decisive thumbs down “no” vote that left the Senate shocked.

Democrats’ joy over the decision was short-lived, however, as Trump signed an executive order in October to immediately halt payments to Affordable Health Care Act insurers.

Republicans also squeezed a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate into the tax reform bill, continuing the dismantling of Obama's signature healthcare program.

9. Natural disasters wreak havoc across the U.S. — Whether it's heat waves, brutal cold snaps, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, or wildfires, America has seen natural disasters of biblical proportions this year.

By October, USA Today reported that 15 separate natural disasters had already caused billions of dollars of damage across the country.

Perhaps the most destructive was the trio of hurricanes: Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  

An estimated 13 million people from Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky were affected by the category 4 Hurricane Harvey that hit Texas in August.

The devastating storm left most of Houston underwater, causing some $180 billion in damage and killing at least 82 people.  

At the same time, Hurricane Irma was hurtling towards Florida. CNN reported that this category 5 hurricane took out a string of Caribbean Islands before making landfall again in Florida and South Carolina.

At its peak, Irma’s cloud field was the size of Texas and, according to HuffPost, it was the strongest hurricane the Atlantic Ocean has ever produced, maintaining wind speeds of 185 miles per hour for 37 hours.

Before the area had a chance to recover, Hurricane Maria was on its way. The category 5 storm obliterated Puerto Rico before moving over the United States.

The official death toll confirmed by Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety was 64, but a CNN investigation put that number much higher.

The Weather Channel estimates that Maria likely claimed close to 500 lives, but it also wrecked the island’s infrastructure, leaving its citizens without water, electricity, and phone lines for weeks.

Two and a half months after Maria, USA Today reported that hospitals on the mainland are still trying to deal with supply shortages.

On the other side of the spectrum — and country — California’s 2017 fire season is set to shatter records, too.

In Santa Barbara, firefighters battled a 20-acre fire across the coast, according to Cal Fire. Meanwhile, the 249,500-acre Thomas Fire in Ventura County is still raging, alongside two fires in Los Angeles and another in San Diego.

Five other wildfires in the region have already been contained.

The Thomas Fire claimed its second victim on in mid-December when CNN reported that a 32-year-old fire apparatus engineer from San Diego named Cory Iverson was killed.

So far, 95,000 residents have been evacuated from Southern California in total.

10. Academy Awards Best Picture flubThe Hollywood Reporter’s headline probably summed it up best: "How the Wrong Envelope Triggered a Best Picture Fiasco."

In what can only be described as the most awkward Oscars moment in history, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidently announced the wrong film as the winner of the 89th Oscars Best Picture award.

Both Beatty and Dunaway paused and seemed confused as they announced "La La Land" as the winner.

It seems an accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers — which has been counting the Oscars votes for 83 years — accidently handed Beatty the envelope for “Best Actress," which had just been announced.

"La La Land" producer Fred Berger was already halfway through his acceptance speech by the time producer Jordan Horowitz realized something wasn’t right.

After seeing the correct envelope with the name "Moonlight" inside, The Hollywood Reporter says Horowitz grabbed it before jumping in behind the mic and announcing, “There’s been a mistake. Moonlight, you won best picture. This is not a joke."

PricewaterhouseCoopers later issued an apology for the mix-up, which was attributed to the wrong category envelope being handed to the presenters. The firm said the two accountants responsible will no longer work on an Oscars shows again, according to The Associated Press.

11. Fights for freedom — Two countries made headlines in their fights for freedom this year. In Zimbabwe, the BBC reports that residents of the nation’s capital celebrated in November after their 93-year-old president Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military takeover by vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Considered to be one of Africa’s last dictators, Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, driving the once prosperous country into financial turmoil. Mnangagwa’s presidency still leaves the ruling Zanu-PF in charge, and News24 reported that he’ll still need to win the country’s affection if he wants to win the upcoming 2018 election.

In Venezuela, the fight for independence continues.

In the same week as Zimbabwe’s military coup, Investor’s Business Daily reported that Venezuela defaulted on its debt.

The once-thriving nation, known for its oil-based economy, was seized by socialist military dictator Hugo Chavez in 1999, before his successor Nicolas Maduro took over in 2003.

Now, the country is bankrupt, can hardly feed its citizens, and is ranked at 179 on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.

In November, opposition leader and former mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma managed to escape the country and flee to Colombia after spending two years under house arrest for allegedly plotting to overthrow Maduro.

From Colombia, Ledezma flew to Spain, where he told The Associated Press: "Venezuela is completely collapsing. We can't wait any longer. We don't have any resources left, only our morale."

According to Reuters, opposition leaders met with the Venezuelan government in the Dominican Republic on December 1 to begin a new round of talks to find a solution to the political standoff.

The opposition is hoping to install a new National Electoral Council to agree on special conditions for the 2018 national election, and to replace the National Constituent Assembly with a new National Assembly.

12. Deplorable data and corporate corruption — The last two years have been full of data leaks, shedding light on how the 1 percent preserves their wealth.

Last year, in partnership with Süddeutsche Zeitung, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released their research into a leak that has become known as The Panama Papers.

The leak was the largest in history and revealed the names of politicians, criminals, and businesses that were hiding money in offshore accounts. It also revealed which industries were helping them hide their wealth.

While a team of investigative journalists is still trawling through the data, a second leak, named “The Paradise Papers,” surfaced in November, revealing more corruption and adding even bigger names to the list.

The ICIJ says key findings include the revelation of offshore interests and activities by at least 120 world leaders and politicians including Queen Elizabeth II and other high-profile names. The leak also shows how 100 multinational businesses, including Apple and Nike, allegedly engaged in tax engineering.

There’s still a lot of data to wade through, so it’s likely this story will continue unfolding into next year.

13. Brexit blowback — In June 2016, residents of the United Kingdom voted yes to a referendum that would divorce the UK from the European Union. The vote and the UK’s exit from the EU has since been referred to as “Brexit” and, according to the BBC, the first round of negation talks around expat citizens took place in June this year.

The meeting came two days after the British government announced that its parliament would be sitting for two years instead of one to give ministers enough time to make sure the country has all the required laws in place for the EU exit, which will take effect on March 29, 2019.  This is according to a “Brexit Timeline” report released by the House of Commons.

In July, the government introduced its European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, outlining its stance on privileges and immunities, ongoing judicial and administrative duties, and nuclear materials and safeguard issues.

The bill was passed in the House of Commons in September.

In November, Bloomberg reported that the negotiations had reached a stalemate around the Irish border and what the financial settlement would be.

In early December, however, the BBC announced that a breakthrough had finally been made, which opens the door for trade talks to begin.

According to the BBC, leaving the EU is going to cost Britain between £35bn and £39bn (roughly between $47.3 billion and $52.7 billion USD).

The UK has also agreed that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic and that the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK — and vice versa — will be protected. 

14. "The Great American Eclipse" —Billed as a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience, the U.S. was treated to a total solar eclipse over the summer, the first time such an event has been visible from the entire contiguous United States since 1918.

People traveled to prime viewing states, held eclipse parties, bought out stocks of eclipse viewing glasses, and Bonnie Tyler even performed her hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" aboard Royal Caribbean's Total Eclipse Cruise to make for a truly memorable national event.

15. NFL National Anthem protests — Though Colin Kaepernick first started silently protesting police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the National Anthem last year, the issue picked up steam and dominated headlines — and the president's Twitter feed — on an ongoing basis in 2017.

Trump addressed protesting NFL players in September during a rally in Alabama, and encouraged NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during the song played before games. He also called for fans to walk out as a form of counterprotest.

More and more players participated in the kneeling protests after that, with the public spotlight shining each weekend to see who would kneel and who would stand.

In response, Trump often took to Twitter to hit the league's "weak" ratings and "disrespect for our country, our flag."

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2017 has been an interesting year, to say the least.
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2017-05-29
Friday, 29 December 2017 01:05 PM
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