Saturday, December 31, 2011


cover story

It was a year of shakeups – political, economic, and even seismic. The last twelve months have reshaped the world we live in, while changing our lives, thoughts, and perspectives. As we bid adieu to 2011, we take a look at some of the significant events of the year:

- Arab Spring: From the very start of the year, it was fairly obvious that 2011 would not exactly be the best year to be a dictator. Sure enough, the uprising of the Arab people eventually led to many leaders stepping down or being ousted. Fuelled by a desire to seek change, the waves of protests resulted in the fall of the governments of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (January); Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (February); Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi (August), who was overthrown and later killed in October; and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who signed an agreement in November to relinquish office the following month.
- Terrorist attacks: Terrorism continued to rear its ugly head periodically throughout the year. 2011’s major attacks included the bombing at the Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow (January) that claimed 37 lives; the twin attacks in Norway (July) that resulted in 77 casualties; and the bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia (October) that killed a 100 people; as well as attacks in various regions of Pakistan. Also terrorising us was an army of mosquitoes that cruelly spread dengue fever in Pakistan, which remained a threat throughout the year.

- Cricket spot-fixing scandal: Upholding the tradition of always being in the news for all the wrong reasons, Pakistani cricket continued to suffer due to the previous year’s spot-fixing allegations. The ICC tribunal found Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir guilty of corruption, and banned them (for terms of between five and ten years) in February; the cricketers, as well as agent Mazhar Majeed, were given jail sentences (of 30, 12, 6, and 32 months respectively) in November. Speaking of the sport, the tenth ICC Cricket World Cup tournament took place from February to April, but we couldn’t co-host it and we didn’t win it, so it can’t have been all that important anyway. What do you mean “sour grapes”?!

- Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami: Mother Nature refused to give humanity a break for yet another year. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook Japan and triggered powerful tsunami waves, wrecking havoc and resulting in the loss of over 15,000 lives. The most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit the country, the catastrophe caused widespread destruction and also damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Later in the year (October), Turkey (Van) was also jolted by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake which took over 600 lives.

- Royal wedding: Prince William and Catherine Middleton tied the knot in a ceremony that became one of the most talked about and watched events of the year, because the Royal Family is not an outdated archaic institution with no relevance in an advanced modern society at all; besides, who wouldn’t want to encourage a parade of wealth at the expense of taxpayer funds? Now let’s all obsess over what Kate and Pippa Middleton wore today because that seems like a highly pertinent issue that requires our daily attention.

- Death of Osama Bin Laden: The US achieved a decade old milestone and solved all the problems of world terrorism by killing Osama Bin Laden in a Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad. In doing so, they also debunked the myth that the US needs to even pretend that international conventions and laws should at least appear to be adhered to. This did not do wonders for the already-strained relationship between America and Pakistan, made worse because of the drone strikes and several incidents (like US CIA contractor Raymond Davis committing double murder in Lahore in January, and then being released in March after the families accepted blood money; and the NATO attack that killed Pakistani soldiers (see November).) In not entirely related news, somebody may or may not have sent someone a memo about something or the other; meanwhile, in a parallel universe, politicians were honest, no one was evasive, and everything made sense.
- The end of The Oprah Winfrey Show: The highest-rated talk show in American television history came to an end, leaving us with the question: what will we not watch now? We are certainly going to miss not watching it.
- Dominic Strauss Kahn’s resignation: Dominic Strauss Kahn stepped down as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after he was accused of assaulting a hotel housekeeper in New York; the charge was later dropped in August.
- Apocalypse prediction: The world failed to end yet again when the much anticipated Rapture was a no show. People wandered around disappointed as the May 21st deadline (professed by Harold Camping) came and went; similarly, the complete destruction of the world did not follow on the assigned date in October. Or well the end of the world stuff did come true for a couple of things, like OBL’s life, Oprah’s show, and Kahn’s career! We also saw an end to the idea that America has to follow international guidelines when it comes to things like recognising the sovereign rights of countries and other such trivial matters.

- French Open: Chinese tennis player Li Na became the first Grand Slam singles champion born in an Asian country by winning the French Open. Spain’s Rafael Nadal was the victor in the men’s tournament, but the overall year belonged to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic who won the Australian Open, US Open, and Wimbledon.
- Duke Nukem Forever released: Against all the laws of existence Duke Nukem Forever was finally released after being in development for 15 years. It may have taken forever to see the light of day, but it was totally worth the wait because the game was so well made and sophisticated and…wait, no it wasn’t. Instead, it was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (released in November) that wowed critics and was named the ‘Game of the Year’ at the Spike VGAs (December), and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 which impressed gamers and made $1 billion a record 16 days after its release in November.

- NASA Space Shuttle program concluded: NASA retired its shuttle fleet after 30 years of service, with the final flight of Atlantis.
- British phone-hacking scandal: While the space program had been working to explore the stars, News of the World had been busy snooping on stars; the British tabloid, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation was at the centre of a phone-hacking scandal that purported that the paper had hacked not only the phones of celebrities, but also of deceased people and their families, thereby resulting in the closure of the publication and an inquiry into the scandal.
- South Sudan secession: After a referendum on independence in January, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, becoming an independent state and the world’s newest nation.
- Harry Potter finale: The Harry Potter film series came to an end with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, which became the highest grossing movie of the year, squeezing out the (hopefully) final drops of cash from the franchise and making over US$1.3 billion. Now can we all finally move on? Please?
- Somalia famine: Following a severe drought in East Africa, the worst in decades, a famine was declared in southern Somalia; the crisis has taken tens of thousands of lives and left millions of people in need of assistance, and also affected parts of various neighbouring countries. Humanitarian agencies requested US$2.48 billion to address the crisis, and $1.12 billion were subsequently committed in the coming weeks, leaving them about $1.3 billion short…which also happens to be the amount that people spent on Harry Potter tickets; the number later come down to less than a billion with over 70% of the target met.

- Asia floods: Parts of Thailand suffered from some of the worst flooding to hit the country following heavy rains. Monsoon rains also caused floods in Pakistan’s Sindh, affecting the lives of millions of people.
- Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO: Apple Inc.’s game-changing visionary Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of the company that he co-founded in 1976, ending the reign of one of the world’s most influential businessmen; he passed away less than two months later.

- The Occupy movement: Starting from Wall Street before spreading to “over 1,500 cities globally”, the Occupy movement saw “the 99 percent” stand up to “[fight] back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.” Well done for standing up for sanity, and good luck with trying to change the way the entire world works; should be easy.
- India-Bangladesh border pact: India and Bangladesh signed a pact to resolve the enclave situation in the countries.

- Seventh Rugby World Cup: The World Cup of that sport we don’t play was held in that country that we’re not. Somebody won. (Ok fine, it was held in New Zealand and won by New Zealand. There. Happy?)
- Seven billion population: The number of people in the world reached seven billion this year; according to reports, the most significant population increases since the last billion have been in China, India, and the house of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

- NATO cross-border attack: An attack by NATO forces on a Pakistani border check post killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an incident that was universally condemned and further deteriorated the relationship between Pakistan and USA; the incident also resulted in the evacuation of Shamsi Airfield, closure of NATO supply routes, and Pakistan boycotting the Bonn Conference.
- European debt crisis: European countries continued to face financial woes, with the EU scrambling to get things under control through measures like a €78 billion rescue deal for Portugal (May), and a write-down of 50% of Greek bonds (October). The handling of the financial crisis also contributed towards the shuffling of some governments, with leaders stepping down following opposition; this included the resignation of the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou (November), and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi (November), who was forced out of office following private scandals and after losing political support.
- 11-11-11: That was kinda cool. Just sayin’.

- Most Earth-like planet discovered: The discovery of Kepler 22-b, an extrasolar planet orbiting around a distant Sun-like star’s habitable zone, was officially announced, giving humanity the hope that maybe someday we can move there and ruin that planet too.
- New Year’s Eve: No, not the horrific Garry Marshall film that came out a few weeks ago; the real thing. As the year reaches its end, it leaves us with many cliff-hangers: Will Barack Obama win re-election? Will Silvio Berlusconi stop embarrassing himself? And will the world finally end? Stay tuned – the next 366 days will reveal all the answers.

Have a great year, y’all!

  • Abdul Hameed (83) – Pakistani writer.
  • Amy Winehouse (27) – British singer.
  • Andy Rooney (92) – American television personality, appeared on 60 Minutes (1978 – 2011).
  • Andy Whitfield (39) – Welsh actor, best known for his leading role in the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010).
  • Anne McCaffrey (85) – Irish-American science fiction writer.
  • Dan Wheldon (33) – British racing driver and champion.
  • Dennis Ritchie (70) – American computer scientist, created the C programming language.
  • Elizabeth Taylor (79) – British-American actress, star of films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), BUtterfield 8 (1960), Cleopatra (1963), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
  • Hakim Ali Zardari (81) – Pakistani politician, father of Asif Ali Zardari.
  • Harry Morgan (96) – American actor, star of series including Dragnet (1967–1970), and M*A*S*H (1975–1983).
  • Jamil Fakhri (65) – Pakistani actor, most remembered for his performance in the TV series Andhera Ujala.
  • Joe Frazier (67) – American boxer, heavyweight boxing champion.
  • Kim Jong-il (70) - Supreme leader of North Korea (1994–2011).
  • Moin Akhter (60) – Pakistani actor and comedian.
  • Munir Dar (76) – Pakistani field hockey player, member of Olympic gold and silver medal winning squads.
  • Nusrat Bhutto (82) – Iranian-born Pakistani First Lady, widow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
  • Pete Postlethwaite (64) – British actor, appeared in movies including In the Name of the Father (1993), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and Inception (2010).
  • Peter Falk (83) – American actor, best known for playing the lead role in the television series Columbo.
  • Randy Savage (58) – American professional wrestler.
  • Salmaan Taseer (66) – Pakistani politician, 26th Governor of Punjab.
  • Shahbaz Bhatti (42) – Pakistani politician, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs.
  • Steve Jobs (56) – American businessman, co-founder of Apple.
- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 30th December, 2011

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