2016: A Year To Remember
Evaluating an entire year leads to difficult choices; what to include, what to omit. Looking back on 2016, a year in which so much happened makes it even harder. Some of the notable things are obvious choices. The 2016 Presidential election, including the brutal Republican Party Primary, was unlike anything we've ever experienced as a nation. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series, yes, that's not a misprint, the curse has been broken. The world held our collective breath as the Zika virus emerged right before the Olympics were scheduled to start. Great Britain stunned the world with a historic vote to leave the European Union; the move now known as Brexit. North Korea continued to test the world's patience with a series of demonstrations of their armament capabilities. Terrorist attacks are on the rise across the planet and the war with ISIS rages on in the Middle East. The world lost many prominent people and celebrities including music legend David Bowie, former Attorney General Janet Reno, and golfing legend Arnold Palmer. The Juno spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter and music icon Bob Dylan won a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; not everything will be included in this piece, but nothing will be forgotten by the citizens of the world.
The 2016 United States Presidential Election
The largest and most important event in America was our Presidential Election. The 2016 is already being heralded as one of the most controversial and surprising elections in history. Donald Trump, a New York City businessman and billionaire soundly defeated Hillary Clinton, a long-time Washington political insider and spouse of former President Bill Clinton. In what many people are calling a referendum on the divisionary politics President Obama played over the last eight years, many American put their hopes in a man with no political experience, but one with a proven business acumen and a very high level of patriotism. Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan resonated with voters who were disgusted with the level of corruption in Washington DC, the high unemployment levels, watching companies and jobs pack up and head overseas, and racial tensions at a level not seen in decades.
But, even after the votes were counted and not much chance at any change, controversy reared it's head. The challenge to the election came in an unexpected form, with Green Party candidate Jill Stein petitioning and being granted a recount in three critical swing states. Although Stein only received about 1% of the vote, she led the recount efforts and with almost no time remaining managed to squeeze in a request at the last minute. Her efforts were labeled as a front for the Clinton campaign, which since the loss, had been fairly quiet. Stein stood by a very thin story that she was championing a recount to validate the integrity of the U.S. process; something which really doesn't seem to be her job or even her right. A second front opened up soon after with unhappy Democrats demanding "electors" change their votes and not put Trump in the White House. Yet, the recount failed to do anything other than add more votes to Trump's margin in Wisconsin and presumable pad the coffers of Jill Stein. The faithless elector scenario, well it didn't play out either, with only 2 Republican electors changing their vote, What was surprising is that 4 Clinton electors changed their vote in the process. Trump will be inaugurated in January, and most people are certain it will be mired with protests and possibly violence. The American election process changed in 2016; Democrats are fighting a smooth transition of power, to a degree which we've never experience in modern times.
The World of Sports
The American political landscape wasn't the only part of popular culture that experienced notable changes in 2016. The top sports-related topic of 2016 won't be the Olympics, or the Superbowl, but instead was unanimously chosen by sports lovers nationwide; the Chicago Cubs ended their historic drought by winning the World Series. With 108 years between championships, the Cubs were overdue for a championship and it came with all the fanfare and nail-biting of a game 7, winner take all, finish. The Cubs capped off the victory with a dramatic 8-7 win, in game 7, in extra innings, after a rain delay, after being down in the series 3-1, after blowing a big lead in the 8th inning, in what sportscasters are now calling the most amazing finish to a championship in history. There isn't much more anyone can say other than, congratulations to the Cubs for a well-earned and well-deserved victory.
Blowing a 3-1 lead in a playoff is rare, but in 2016 it happened twice. In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, then owners of the best regular season record in NBA history went through the playoff field with ease, that is until the finals. Their 73-9 regular season mark bested that of the Chicago Bulls 1996 team by a single victroy. Yet when the day of reckoning came to pass, the Warriors were soundly defeated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to take the crown. This was the first time in NBA finals history that a team has come back from such a defecit to win the title. It was also the first title for Cleveland in the team's history, making it even sweeter of a win.
The NFL, usually the top watched sport in America has seen a huge ratings drop this year; something which is making advertisers and sponsors nervous. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been identified as one of the reasons for the viewership drop. Kaepernick decided to kneel on the sidelines during the playing of the National Anthem this season, protesting police brutality toward black Americans. His actions were mimicked by other athletes on all levels; resonating with a few people, but mostly making the majority of the nation angry at his disrespect for the nation.
The Space Race
Professional sports are as much a part of America as Old Glory and the colors red, white, and blue. We cheer our favorite teams when they win and lament them when they lose, but regardless of the outcomes, we do not relinquish our support. This spirit is built into Americans; the will to win, to be the best, and to go places no man has gone before. The space race has been an area where America led the world and in 2016 we once again showed our capabilities. Once again the world's collective vision is looking skyward.
Several exciting things happened in 2016. The NASA spacecraft Juno was on the downside of the craft's 6 1/2 year mission. It started approaching Jupiter in January, slowing over the next 178 days and entering into an orbit around the planet where the craft will remain for several months, sending critical data back to earth. The exploration of each planet and their resources will be important for future generations and will certainly shape the future of mankind. Also in 2016, an independent company owned and managed by Elon Musk, called SpaceX, both test fired an engine powerful enough to reach Mars and successfully landed part of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship. The elation surrounding the Falcon 9 was short-lived when the rocket exploded in mid-air while transporting the $200 million dollar Facebook satellite. The setback was heartbreaking, but hasn't seemed to dampen the spirit of adventure and exploration of the up and coming companies with an eye on colonization of outer space.
Those We've Lost in 2016
Great changes, great achievements, and new leadership are exciting to be part of, however we are also reminded of the frailty of the human race. The number of notable deaths in 2016, has shocked the world and no part of popular culture has been spared. The music industry took a heavy toll, with the loss of Leon Russell, David Bowie, country-music legend Merle Haggard, Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Bernie Worrell, keyboard player and founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic and the man simply known as Prince. Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind, & Fire, Paul Kantner, founding member of Jefferson Airplane, and Glen Frey, one of the founding members of the Eagles, also passed on, taking decades of musical experience with them.
Both the big screen and the small screen lost many iconic actors and actresses. Television stars Alan Thicke, Bernard Fox, Florence Henderson, Ron Glass & Abe Vigoda, both former cast members of Barney Miller, Robert Vaughn, and Dan Haggerty of Grizzly Adams fame, left us in 2016. Movie star and comedian Gene Wilder, Kenny Baker, the man inside R2-D2, Anton Yelchin, Patty Duke, George Kennedy, and Alan Rickman the man who brought Professor Severus Snape to life in the Harry Potter movies also passed away this year. Additionally, movie producer Garry Marshall and comedian/actor Garry Shandling died.
The sporting world said goodbye to several legends in 2016. Golfing great Arnold Palmer, former Heavyweight Champion of the World and American icon Muhammad Ali, Pat Summit, University of Tennessee Women's basketball coach and winner of 8 NCAA championships, and Gordie Howe, a 26 season NHL veteran known as "Mr. Hockey" are no longer with us, leaving a huge hole in the sporting world.
Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth and the oldest man to go into space, passed away after a long and amazing life; one that will be emulated but not duplicated. Also Joseph Medicine Crow, the last surviving war chief of Montana's Crow tribe passed away. Crow was known best for his writings and lectures on the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The political world lost former first lady Nancy Reagan, Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia, Janet Reno, the first female Attorney General, and Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.
World Politics & Events
People die, positions change, and new things emerge from the ashes to take their places. It seems as if the one thing we can count on is change. The World continued to change and in 2016 many things happened that made headlines. Some of the top stories were the continued war in Syria, the surprise vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, a movement now known as Brexit, and the continued brutal and inhuman actions of ISIS. North Korea continued to provoke the rest of the world by testing nuclear weapons and missiles. El Chapo, the worlds most notorious drug kingpin was recaptured after an inside-job prison escape. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached on corruption charges in August.
Video Recorders, most commonly known as VCR's are officially out of production. On July 22nd, the Japanese company Funai produced the very last machine. Two famous Van Gough paintings, which were stolen in 2002, were recovered. The two are worth over $100 million dollars combined. The Gotthard Base tunnel was opened after 20 years of construction. This tunnel is nearly 60 miles long and is the deepest and longest traffic tunnel in the world. It's located in Switzerland and will funnel traffic under portions of the Alps.
Even though the world has made many positive changes that will better all mankind, there are some areas which continue to lag behind. Terror attacks are sadly becoming more and more mainstream and are no longer confined to the Middle East. Some cultures are resisting the future and wish to remain living in medieval conditions with limited rights and subjugation to a religion which drives hate and violence. Muslim terrorists, martyring themselves for their religion are committing violence that is increasing yearly. In 2016 several high profile attacks took place across the world.
March 22nd was a terrible day as 33 people were killed and over 300 injured in a terrorist attack with two major explosions occurring in Brussels; one at an airport and the other at a metro station. ISIS claimed the attacks and Najim Laachraoui, a key suspect in the attack was arrested days later. Two other attackers, who were killed, were identified as brothers – Khalid and Brahim el-Bakraoui. Later in July in Nice, France, a Muslim migrant mowed down and killed 84 Bastille Day revellers (including ten children) with a truck while shouting praises to Allah. Another 202 people were injured. Also in July in Iraq, a Fedayeen suicide bomber detonates in a shopping mall packed with Shiites, slaughtering 308 and wounding another 246. A terror attack at the Istanbul airport where three suicide bombers took 44 lives and wounded another 239 was another sad day in world history. ISIS is being blamed for a terror attack in a German market in December, where a truck was used to mow down and kill 12 people and wounding many more.
To date, in 2016 there were 1274 Islamic terror attacks in 50 different countries. In these attacks, nearly 12,000 people were killed and over 14,000 injured. 2016 pales in comparison to 2015, when there were almost 3,000 attacks costing over 27,000 people their lives.
Disasters and Heartbreak
With terrorism being such a high-profile subject, any plane crash almost immediately gets scrutinized to determine if terrorism played a role. There were 27 aviation incidents in 2016. Daallo Airlines Flight 159, Somali-owned, was able to safely return to the airport in February after a suicide bomber exploded himself 20 minutes after takeoff. The bomber was the only casualty. EgyptAir Flight 181 was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus, which ended with an arrest. The hijacker claimed to be wearing an explosive vest, which turned out to be fake. Egypt Air 804 went down with 66 people on board, over the Mediterranean Sea in May, and it's still mostly a mystery as to what happened. Some debris was identified to have explosive residue but we'll most likely never know. Flydubai Flight 981 crashed in Russia killing everyone on board during an aborted landing. Also in December, Pakistan International Airlines Flight 661 crashed in Pakistan, killing everyone on board.
From a health perspective, the world was subjected to another round of fear, this time with the deadly Zika virus and the ensuing birth defects being blamed on it. This health scare comes on the heels of the Ebola virus which caused many unnecessary fatalities. No vaccine for Zika exists nor is there any medicinal treatment. It's still considered in the "outbreak" status in North America, Central America, and South America. It's estimated that 1.5 million people have the virus in Brazil alone, the country which was hit the hardest.
Weather related disasters across the globe were fewer in 2016 than previous years. Heavy flooding in China led to almost 200 deaths in August. The Chinese economy suffered an almost $6 billion loss from the events. Earthquakes in Italy and Ecuador as well as other places around the globe led to 1,336 fatalities with the Ecuador event accounting for half of them. Hurricane's, normally a high-visibility story in North America, have been few and far between over the last decade. There was one significant hurricane, Matthew, which was a category 4, was blamed on over a thousand deaths in the Caribbean and 48 in America in October.
What's in Store for 2017
We've seen ups and downs in 2016. Lives were lost, history was written, and people sadly left this world to journey to the great beyond. Property was destroyed, landscapes changed, and technology introduced to keep pushing the world into the future. Changes are expected in 2017; some a continuance of this year's event, while others are only budding ideas at the moment and will be realized next year.
America is bracing for a new President; one from outside the political class. If President-elect Trump follows through on his campaign promises, it will certainly change the nation for the better. President Obama will be leaving the White House with his family in late January, presumable to a new career on the lecture circuit or as part of a global think-tank. His eight years in office led to Obamacare, troubled race-relations, and an economy which sputtered. His legacy is still yet to be determined. We'll soon have a Supreme Court with a different face, enforcement of immigration laws, and most certainly more protesting.