Curtain Raiser

10 Year-Stopping News, Colltalers

News headlines can’t describe what happened in the past 12 months. The more media organizations have become all but branches of a myriad of economic interests, the more what mattered most to people’s lives has been passed over for some celebrity salacious bit.
Nevertheless, most of those who spent 2014 a few hours awaken everyday, or night, know exactly what pieces of information really moved and impacted their lives. Humbly, we’ll attempt to line up those that affected us too, so later we can all compare notes.
We’re not innocent bystanders in this, and unwittingly, we play a part by choosing to tune in to the fake news report, instead of what truly depresses us. After all, we’re humans, and who could stand 24-hours of relevant information, right? It turns out, many.
More on that later, but first, let’s lay down some of the groundwork that helped us devise the Top 10 news stories of 2014, without sound too pedantic, or bias towards that pesky liberalism that seems to be always swiftly drowned in the spilled blood of reality.
Colltales is a U.S.-based site (weren’t you warned about pedantry?), so it’s unavoidable that the start point of this retrospective reflects it as much. But in the final mix of stories, those based here are but in the minority of the themes that dominated the past year.
Many of the headlines that mattered had enough of a balance of local and international flavors, exposing and changing for better or worse, the lives of many. Obviously events, not news, come first in shaping lives and perceptions about the world. But news worth reporting should carry enough of a punch to knock us out of our complacency, and that, dear readers, is what this list does.
Speaking of themes, they hardly change year after year, to be sure. War, crime, disease, poverty, prejudice, agony and hunger are constant features, along with tales of jubilation and the nobility of the human spirit. Somehow, the first part comes out easily and can hardly be contained within a 10-item list; the second, however, the ‘good news report,’ so to speak, is still a work in progress.
Finally, this list may comprise more than 10 stories, as it makes more sense to combine two or more of them under a common theme, even if they took place in different places and time, rather than strictly adhere to some uni-dimensional concept. Here it goes:
1.) U.S.-Cuba Relations – It may seem odd to pick the normalization of diplomatic relations between two nations to top our list, but this was in the making for half a century, and has huge implications both to U.S. internal politics and foreign policy, and to Cuba’s political and economic prospects. With Fidel Castro still alive, it’s an overdue but still surprising masterstroke by President Obama.
2.) Government Torture Reports – Yet another Latin American country, this time Brazil, joined the U.S. to make huge news around the world. Almost simultaneously released, both the Senate’s report on CIA interrogation methods, and the Comissão da Verdade’s dossier on the military dictatorship’s brutality, suddenly exposed in black and white the ugly realities of power left unchecked.
3.) Latest Bombing of Gaza – Incurring the risk that between now and the end of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignites again (as some fire was again exchanged between them recently), the July campaign all but obliterated the strip, with hundreds of casualties as vicious and indiscriminate as ever. Although both sides bear responsibility, the burden of restrain continues to elude Israel.
4.) Terrorism, Class of 2014 – Boko Haram, the Pakistani Taliban, and the ISIL helped soaked the year with innocent blood. Besides brutality and taste for broadcasting their massacres, the three share other despicable traits: an avowed hatred of education, and women. Fueled by the ‘war on terror’ industry’s own gullibility, and the West’s heavy-handed revenge-driven responses, these groups thrive in the outskirts of civilization and have as much chance of being eradicated as we do of setting a compassionate example.
5.) Mexico’s Mass Graves – Another year of staggering tragedy for the Mexican people. As the corrupt ‘war on drugs’ rages on, they’re hopeless as Mexico has become both the prized portal to the coveted American market, for other Central American drug lords, and the place where citizens and students are daily fair game for the crossfire and may wind up buried in some dusty campground.
6.) The Great Ebola Flareup – Suddenly, America has become aware of an over-20-million-old virus, which appears on a regular basis in Africa. It only caught the headlines here because Americans were briefly (and erroneously) enlisted as potential victims. As soon as it was clear it had no chance to wreak havoc in the U.S., interest was lost, never mind the 7,000 lives it already took abroad.
7.) Racism, American Style – Suddenly too, we were all back to the 1950s, and a nationwide spate of lethal shootings of unarmed black citizens by a mostly white police force, or gun-totting vigilantes, have exposed what many had already realized: Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, ever so prematurely, for a very clear reason: to interrupt the movement for race equality and justice in this country. His job unfinished, we’re still reeling from a stunning lack of progress in the issue, exacerbated by increased social disparity.
8.) Russia, the Deflated Bear – Vladimir Putin started the year on a strong note, with domestic support for the annexation of Crimea, gaining the upper hand over Ukraine in the process, and the boost provided by the Sochi Games’ built-in global P.R. But momentum melted like winter ice in the Black Sea. Ukrainians were not about to play dead to his ambitions as the conflict marches on, and a plunge in international oil prices pulled the rug under the Russian economy and currency. Watch out for more bad news for old Vlad.
9.) The Plane That Vanished – The least relevant, and more predictable, news of the year received, nonetheless, the longest, and most inane, coverage by 24h-cable stations. The wall-to-wall news about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 neither helped our understanding of what happened, nor our awareness of what matters in the world. But it was transfixing just the same.
10.) A Cup Full of Shock – Finally, a sporting event that routinely mobilizes about a billion people every four years, had a surprising component this time around: grief. Soccer powerhouse Germany won for its fourth time the World Cup, but the host nation, and its record breaking winner, Brazil, suffered such a humiliating defeat that it transcended the limited scope of the game itself. Images of Brazilians crying when their beloved Seleção lost 7-1 to the Germans flooded the Internet and won’t be soon forgotten.
As mentioned, a full report on the exciting, optimistic news of the year will have to wait for another time. Clearly, neither that nor the list you’ve just read are complete or comprehensive, and many may object its content, ordering, format, even why does it have to exist in the fist place. After all, lists are such a common place at this time of the year, and we’re all sick and tired, and so on and so forth.
Left out were more U.S.-based news, such as the temporary reprieve undocumented immigrants received from the administration, or the fight for a minimum-wage, valiantly waged by those at the bottom step of the economic ladder (lately, riddled with several gaps), fast-food workers. Or healthcare (doing better), economic recovery (still lacking), justice for Wall Street banksters (nonexistent).
We may also be comfortably snuggled or precariously tethering on the tip of opposing solstices, both in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, but rising global temperatures continue to burst records, and we still don’t seem to be doing a damn thing about it.
Just because there wasn’t much space given to Syria, as well as other not so isolated conflicts throughout the world, it doesn’t mean that they’ve somehow ceased, or are taking a holiday break. And in any case, aren’t you happy we haven’t mentioned Afghanistan?
But there’s an upside to today’s post: hoping to have wiped the slate clean, moving all the bad stuff out of the way, you may now have, yes, a nice holiday break, and why not? You’ve worked hard, that’s for sure, and if you’ve been lucky enough to still have people rooting for you, then you also must’ve done something right. So, go ahead, have a jolly time and happy winter to all. WC

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