It is that time of year again where the winter holidays mark the end of yet another year. Before toasting to 2014, it is time for reflection on the year that has already come to pass. 2013 was a year of highs and lows, deaths and births, just like any other year yet unique in its own way. When the ball drops and the bell tolls on midnight, the events of this year will just be another page in a long and colored book that stories the history of the world. The world lost great leaders and gained new ones, disaster struck many nations, and yet the populace was enthralled in Candy Crush or Harlem Shake videos. As another year passes, let us hope that the world has learned something from what transpired in the previous 365 days.
A New Pope
On February 28th Pope Benedict XVI resigned as Pope due to his old age. This event marked the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII in 1415 and the first Pope to do so of his own accord since Celestine V in 1294. Even for those not of the Catholic faith, it is always a thrill to witness an event in history whether it happens for the first time or the first time in over 600 years.
On March 13th, the Vatican called out Habenus Papam ("We Have a Pope") and made the announcement of the 266th leader of the Vatican and the Catholic faith. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was chose to be the new Pope and he was a Pope of firsts. Taking the name of Francis, first of his name in the history of Popes, he was also the first Jesuit Pope, as well as the first Pope from the Americas and the Southern Hemisphere. Pope Francis has proven himself a great guiding light for the future of Catholicism with his laid back and no frills style.
The Royal Baby
In December 2012 the Duchess of Cambridge, just a year after the world was enthralled in her storybook marriage to Prince William, announced that she was pregnant with the next Prince of England. Throughout 2013, the world was on baby watch for the royal couple, especially after the Duchess was hospitalized for acute morning sickness. On July 22nd, the Duchess was admitted to St. Mary's Hospital with early signs of labor. It was there that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy weighing 8 pounds 6 ounces. The announcement was made as per tradition with a simple piece of paper on an easel outside of Buckingham Palace. Gun salutes were sounded in London and many Commonwealth realms hung blue colors from iconic landmarks to signal the birth of a boy. The next day, happy parents William and Catherine emerged from the hospital to show off their son who was still without a name.
The following day, a name had been decided and his titles announced. The royal baby was named George Alexander Louis though his official title is His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. However, as the eldest son of the current title holder, Prince George is not only Duke of Cambridge, but also Earl of Strathearn and Baron of Carrickfergus.
Edward Snowden Outs America
On June 9th, former contractor for the National Security Agency Edward Snowden revealed that he was the source of the leaks that exposed the NSA's top secret surveillance programs. These leaks detailed the United States government under the helm of the National Security Agency monitored millions of e-mails, searches, internet browsing history, and even gaming conversations of United States citizens. Snowden then became a wanted man in the United States prompting him to flee to Shanghai. As he searched for asylum, Snowden fled Shanghai for an undisclosed location; however the United States revoked his passport and thus his ability to fly. Snowden found himself stranded at an airport in Russia for six weeks unable to even leave without threat of arrest. Eventually, Russia gave asylum to Snowden where he now resides.
During his flight from United States officials the slow drip of information continued. Information came out that the United States was not just monitoring the activities of its own citizens but the communications of foreign officials, which also included allied nations. This whole event sent foreign relations down a notch and prompted Americans to revaluate just how much they trust their country.
The Egyptian Revolution began in 2011 when widespread protests caused the resignation of President Mubarak. In 2012, Mohamed Morsi was elected during the first parliamentary election since the previous regime. However, in 2013 it seemed that revolution was doomed to repeat itself as President Morsi issued a declaration that deemed his decrees immune from challenge.
Once again, Egyptians took to the streets in mass protest and violent action. On July 3rd the military defeated Morsi supporters and ousted the president from power in a massive coup d'état. Afterwards an interim government was implemented and judge Adly Mansour was sworn in as acting president following the removal of Morsi.
United States Government Shut Down
The United States government had been locked in fierce debate over the nation's budget since 2012; however compromises had been made in order to struggle forward, that is, until October 1st, 2013. In September when it came time to approve the 2014 budget, Congress became deadlocked. Republicans were willing to keep the government funded on the exception that the president agreed to defund the 2010 Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare). However, democrats and President Obama would not yield. As the government deadlocked on the issue, the nation could not continue on without a budget so it had no choice but to shut down. This would make the first government shutdown in the United States since 1996.
Americans held their breath on September 31st as shutdown loomed and the nation learned on October 1st that the country indeed would not burst into flames without a government. The shutdown left national parks closed and 800,000 government workers furloughed. Legislation was signed by President Obama to end the shutdown on October 16th, but this only extends the debt limit until February 7th, 2014 when the debate can renew again.
Typhoon Haiyan Pummels the Philippines
Haiyan, described as a "supertyphoon", was the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Tehlma in 1991. The storm slammed into the island nation with wind speeds up to 170 miles per hour which is 20 mph faster than the worst gusts of Hurricane Katrina. The storm sent sea levels surging up to 20 feet high, devastating the coastline. Despite the evacuation of 800,000 people, Haiyan claimed the lives of 5,000 people and left 2 million people homeless.
In efforts of goodwill and diplomacy from the international community, money and supplies streamed in though the nation is still reeling from the devastation.
Console Wars Begin Anew
As with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox before them, the console war between Microsoft and Sony began anew this year. The war officially restarted in February when Sony announced their next generation console--the PlayStation 4. Microsoft countered in May with their Xbox One. After the E3 2013, both consoles had a release dates. With the PlayStation 4 releasing November 15th and the Xbox One releasing on November 22nd, the stage was set to make the holidays a mad grab for these new consoles. Over the months leading up to release, the gaming community was locked in heated debates over which console was better. Even today, the Sony fanbase and Microsoft fanbase are still locked in an embittered battle while loyal Nintendo fans sit by and enjoy their Wii U.
Candy Crush Conquered the World
At certain points throughout 2013 it seemed like everyone was playing Candy Crush. Whether it was on Facebook or their mobile phones, Candy Crush had quickly conquered the world without them even knowing it.
This match three puzzle video game was release by the developer King in April 2012 and challenges players to match three candies in which may spawn more powerful candies or destroy level obstacles. As of March 2013 it had surpassed Farmville 2 as the most popular game of Facebook to the point that it was making $633 million a day. Now the addicting colorful game hosts over 46 million users daily.
China Goes to the Moon
The Chinese Space Program took a massive leap this year with the launch of their lunar rover mission. The lunar spacecraft was named Chang'e 3 after the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology, and is the follow up to the Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 lunar orbiters. This lunar lander landed on the moon on December 14th and became the first soft-landing probe on the moon since the Luna 24 in 1976.
After the lunar landing, the craft let loose the moon rover Yutu that will spend three months analyzing lunar topography and surveying resources that could potentially be mined in the future. While China is kind of tardy to the party on the moon, it is refreshing to see that at least one nation in the world has a continuing interest in funding exploration of the moon still.
Meteor Explodes over Chelyabinsk, Russia
Early February 15th, a near-Earth asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere over Russia at around 41,000 mph, over 60 times the speed of sound. The asteroid quickly became a superbolide meteor and became brighter than the sun, causing it to become visible to most of Russia as well as neighboring republics. Due to the objects velocity and shallow entry angle, it exploded into an airburst over Chelyabinsk and created widespread panic in the region.
The blast injured 1,500 due to the shockwave causing broken glass from windows to blow into houses. Many in the region and throughout the world thought that at first this blast was caused from a nuclear weapon. However, the international community of scientists all agreed that it was indeed a meteor. This caused increased interest in Earth's vulnerability to meteors.
Child Stars Grew Up and Went Insane
Beloved child stars from the 90's and early 00's are all growing up in a big way. It seems the trend for young people who are falling from fame is to commit a series of insane and outrageous stunts whether it is from drug or alcohol abuse or in effort to revive a waning career. 2013 has marked not just one but at least four child stars that have gotten into nothing but trouble in their adult years. Lindsey Lohan was admitted to rehab after years of spiralling behavior and alcohol and drug abuse, Miley Cyrus has taken to sexually provocative performances that have parents covering the eyes of her younger fans, Amanda Bynes was court ordered to a mental facility after starting a fire in a residential driveway (almost burning her gasoline drenched dog in the process), and Justin Bieber has taking to acting like a total diva on and off the stage by vandalizing public buildings, peeing in mop buckets, and making disparaging remarks about Bill Clinton.
2013 has been a big year for shocking celebrity news. it just goes to show that the best way to revive a celebrities popularity, at least in Miley Cyrus's case, is to let them just be completely inappropriate in public. The record sales of Wrecking Ball are proof enough and now that agents have caught on, 2014 looks to be an even bigger year for shocking celebrity stunts.
Harlem Shake Shook Things Up
There were many great memes created in 2013, but none took more of a strong international hold than the Harlem Shake. The Harlem Shake consisted of a masked individual dancing alone in a group to a heavy bass track called Harlem Shake by Baauer. The video would then suddenly cut to a wild dance party involving every member of the group doing different things.
This meme took off with Youtube users all following the same formula by uploading their own unique versions. Some of the variations including soldiers, office workers, or people in their bedrooms all doing the Harlem Shake.
The World Lost Some Great People
As with any passing year, many important and talented people passed away in 2013. All will be remembered for the mark they left on this world and serve as a sobering reminder of how all too brief this life is. Great leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela passed away this year. Talented stars like Paul Walker and Cory Montieth died too young in tragic accidents. Writers like Elmore Leonard and Tom Clancy passed away with crimes left unsolved. Gifted musicians like Lou Reed and Bobby Bland passed on leaving yet another era of music fading.