Friday, January 02, 2015


cover story

At least it was better than 1914 - that is probably the best thing that can be said about 2014, yet another year that did not paint a very pretty picture of our species. Our interest in birds may have gone from Angry to Flappy, but not much changed about our selfie-obsessed existence and terror-ridden world. As always, there was one thing that manifested itself again and again: humanity still has a long way to go.

- Terror attacks: The year began with the remarkable Aitizaz Hassan single-handedly thwarting a terrorist attack on his school in Hangu at the expense of his own life (January); it ended with the death of more than 150 people, most of them children, when Taliban gunmen stormed a school in Peshawar (December). In between were numerous tales of loss and heartache. Various incidents - like the bombings in Jos (May), the attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport (which prompted the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June), the hostage situation at the Sydney cafe (December), and even attacks on individuals, including journalists like Hamid Mir (April) - left us wondering why it’s so hard for some people to just live and let live.

- Ebola epidemic: As if the world didn’t have enough to worry about already, Ebola decided to make things worse. The deadly virus spread in Western Africa, infecting over 18,000 people and claiming nearly 7,000 lives. Also, the spread of polio in some Asian and African countries caused concern (May).
- Olympics: The Winter Olympics were here in Sochi, Russia, with athletes participating in 98 events in 15 sports. The biggest winners were host nation Russia (13 gold, 11 silver, 9 bronze), Norway (11 gold, 5 silver, 10 bronze), and Canada (10 gold, 10 silver, 5 bronze), while Pakistan continued to be little more than a footnote in world sports, finishing with a grand tally of 0 medals. Our sole athlete, Muhammad Karim, participated in the giant slalom event, finishing in the 71st position.
- Ukrainian crisis: Unrest in Ukraine, the impeachment of the President, Russian intervention, and skirmishes with separatists made 2014 a tumultuous year for the European nation. Other regions that saw unrest during the year included Burkina Faso and Hong Kong.
- WhatsApp acquisition: Social networking giant Facebook acquired the WhatsApp messaging service for $19 billion (yes, BILLION), in a very reasonable, sensible deal that totally wasn’t overinflated at all, and ... what do you mean “tech bubble”??

- Airplane crash: It wasn’t a very good year for air travel, and it was particularly not a good year for Malaysia Airlines. First, their Flight 370 disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard. Then a few months later (July), their Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine killing all 298 people on the plane. Just weeks before the latter, Air Algérie also suffered a loss, when Flight 5017 crashed in Mali, resulting in 116 fatalities.
- Frozen success: The most dominant pop culture fixture of the year, 2013’s Frozen became the highest grossing animated movie of all time, with the mere mention of ‘Let It Go’ sending parents of young kids into a sudden spiral of derangement, making them want to inflict pain on whoever wrote that damn song. (If it helps, the director is sorry.)

- Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapping: Our faith in mankind sunk to a new low when an estimated 276 female students were abducted by jihadist group Boko Haram. Despite attempted negotiations, more than 200 of the girls still remain missing.
- ICC World Twenty20: No, we didn’t even come close to winning. Moving on...

- Turkey mine accident: More than 300 workers lost their lives after an explosion in a coal mine in Soma, the worst mining accident in the country’s history.
- Kanye West and Kim Kardashian wedding: Two people - the two who were the very least deserving of our attention, yet somehow still the “world’s most talked about couple” due to some sort of karmic retribution for our sins - did something that almost everyone in the world does; it naturally became headline news. Later in the year, the world went crazy when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt finally exchanged vows (August). And then the planet went into celebrity-gossip-meltdown mode when George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin also tied the knot (September).

- The rise of ISIS: The Islamic State extremist organization proclaimed a worldwide caliphate, then tried (very successfully) to become the most reviled group in the world by beheading soldiers and foreigners and uploading the footage online, while making the unidentified Jihadi John one of the most wanted men in the world and leading to airstrikes in Syria.
- Transformers 4 released: Transformers: Age of Extinction opened to scathing reviews and was deemed one of the worst films of the year, so it obviously became the highest grossing movie of 2014 (making over $1,087 million) because that’s clearly logical. Marvel’s delightful superhero movie Guardians of the Galaxy finished second ($771 million), while the dire Maleficent, the Angelina Jolie starring retelling of Sleeping Beauty, ended up third ($757 million) in the global box office tally.
- FIFA World Cup: Brazil hosted the football World Cup, and Pakistan emerged victorious ... well, not in the sport, but in export. We might not have actually played the game, but we did supply the balls. Yes, we made the tournament possible. You’re welcome world.

- Eric Garner’s death: “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. ... Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. ... I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please, please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. ... I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” - Eric Garner left us with the year’s most powerful rallying cry: we can’t breathe. The police officers responsible for his death were acquitted of all wrongdoing, mirroring other similar incidents in the U.S., including the fatal shooting of a teenager by a police officer in August which resulted in a series of protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

- Pakistan unrest: “Dharna” became the most ubiquitous word in Pakistan after PAT and PTI decided to hold sit-ins in the capital till their demands of justice, accountability, and resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were met. After we lost count of the number of times the countdown to the beginning of the end started and then withered, Tahir-ul-Qadri ended the dharna in October before the start of Muharram, while Imran Khan pulled the plug on the sit-in in December in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre.

- India-Pakistan floods: Floods caused by the monsoon rains claimed hundreds of lives in India and Pakistan. (Later in the year (October), Cyclone Nilofar threatened to cause havoc, but, thankfully, weakened and dissipated over the Arabian Sea.) While too much water was causing destruction in some parts, others suffered because of its lack. Paucity of water and food in the ongoing Tharparkar famine led to dozens of deaths.
- iPhone 6: A new iPhone, with a brand spanking new feature: it bends! Whether you want it to or not! Especially if you don’t!
- Songs of Innocence: Overestimating the popularity of U2 and underestimating the importance of consent, Apple added the band’s new album Songs of Innocence automatically to everyone’s iTunes music libraries for free. The “music as spam” tactic was condemned by users, and earned U2 the dubious honour of releasing the most deleted album of all time.

- Spaceship Two crash: The quest for space tourism suffered a setback when Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane Spaceship Two exploded and crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and badly injuring the other. Virgin has been planning to launch the first commercial flight in 2015.
- Nobel Peace Prize: Indian children’s rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s female education activist Malala Yousafzai were announced as the joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, making the latter the youngest-ever laureate of this often-controversial award.

- Philae comet landing: The European Space Agency succeeded in landing the Philae probe on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, proving that it is easier to land a small robot on a distant piece of moving rock millions of miles away from Earth than it is to convincing the inhabitants of Earth to just get along with each other.
- Sony hacks and threats: North Korea tried to appoint itself as the authority that decides which films the world can and can’t watch. The impending release of the satirical comedy The Interview (wherein two journalists (played by Seth Rogen and James Franco) are instructed to assassinate Kim Jong-un) led to Sony Picture Entertainment’s computer system being hacked by a group with suspected ties to the nation that does not have a sense of humour when it comes to their beloved Supreme Leader. The group that calls itself the Guardians of Peace then threatened terror attacks invoking 9/11 if The Interview was released; the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on anyone. The film was shelved days before its scheduled premiere, a decision that drew criticism from many (including U.S. President Barack Obama), before eventually being unveiled via online rental stores on Christmas Eve.

- I’ll ride with you: Soon after the Sydney cafe attack by an ISIS supporter, the “I’ll ride with you” campaign emerged, with Australians offering to travel with those wearing religious attire to counter fear of backlash, proving with one simple hashtag that the world is intelligent enough to not let one person’s actions reflect on a whole race or religion.
Come to think of it, maybe humanity has come a long way after all.

As we bid 2014 farewell, here’s hoping the year that replaces it brings better tidings for the world.
Happy New Year, everyone!

- Ahmed Aqeel Rubi - Pakistani poet (75)
- Anatoly Berezovoy - Soviet cosmonaut (72)
- Ariel Sharon - 11th Prime Minister of Israel (85)
- Casey Kasem - American radio host and voice actor (82)
- Queen Fabiola of Belgium (Fabiola de Mora y Aragón) - wife of Baudouin, King of the Belgians (86)
- Gabriel García Márquez - Colombian writer (87)
- Ghayyur Akhtar - Pakistani actor (67)
- Habib Wali Mohammad - Pakistani singer (90)
- James Garner - American actor (86)
- Joan Rivers - American comedian (81)
- Laiq Ahmad - Pakistani educationist (80)
- Maqsood Hassan - Pakistani actor (67)
- Masood Hasan - Pakistani writer (72)
- Maya Angelou - American poet (86)
- Malcolm Glazer - American businessman, owner of Manchester United (85)
- Mickey Rooney - American actor (93)
- Oscar de la Renta - Dominican American fashion designer (82)
- Philip Seymour Hoffman - American actor (46)
- Phillip Hughes - Australian cricketer (25)
- Robin Williams - American actor (63)
- Tommy Ramone - Hungarian-American drummer (65)
- Zil-e-Huma - Pakistani singer (70)

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 2nd January, 2015 *

1 comment:

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