With the clock striking midnight and the book on 2014 closing, I figured what better way to bring in 2015 than by looking back on some of the biggest news stories of 2014. I know most sites posted this last week but we like doing things different here. So here we go…the top 10 news stories of 2014, in order of importance as ranked by…me.
We had to start off with an honorable mention first. The United States fell in love with soccer…for about a week. For those who don’t remember, the FIFA World Cup was in June and the United States actually did quite well. Literally overnight, social media was blowing up with people tweeting about soccer and cheering on America; half of them did not know the first thing about soccer and it was obvious. There were watch parties all over the country…it was kind of crazy. Then as soon as the U.S. lost, it went back to “that’s why I only watch American football” posts.
Other honorable mentions include an insanely large number of celebrities having nudes leaked from hackers, Ebola wiping out half of the United States (oh wait, that never happened?), and people learning that they should never fly on Malaysian Airlines.
10) Sony Canceled the release of The Interview because of North Korea
In what was probably one of the strangest stories of 2014, Sony decided to pull its Christmas Day release of The Interview, which stars Seth Rogan and James Franco. The plot is about Franco going to North Korea to interview Kim Jung-Un and attempting to assassinate him at the behest of the United States government. After hackers threatened a “9/11 style attack” on America if theaters showed the movie, several theater chains decided against showing the movie. After a strong push by celebrities, politicians, and movie buffs, Sony agreed to go forward with the release in independent theaters that agreed to show it, as well as releasing it on YouTube and Google Play. The premiere—and subsequent showings—went off without any problems, as most everyone expected. While I’m certainly no conspiracy theorist…let me throw this scenario out for you: what if Sony staged all of this to push people into wanting to see the movie even more? Could it all have been one huge P.R. stunt?
9) The Rise of ISIS…or ISIL…or Islamic State…whatever they want to call it
In what was probably the biggest international story of the year, a new terrorist threat popped up in the Middle East. After the United States left Iraq, the city plunged into a civil war, that helped give rise to the new terrorist group ISIS, which was once the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda. While promising death to Americans, and to spill American blood, ISIS took over parts of Iraq and Syria, trying to once again reestablish the Caliphate. With Republicans screaming for us to declare war on ISIS, President Obama knew that would be a mistake. Instead, he formed a coalition of Arab countries to unite and combat the terrorist threat with United States’ support. A move that has thus far helped stall ISIS advancements.
8) The Michael Brown and Eric Garner Murders
What seems like two isolated incidents has managed to spark a movement in America about police brutality and violence towards the black community. Two unarmed black men were killed by police officers and neither of the officers faced conviction charges. The lack of justice sparked outrage within the black community and led to protests and riots all over the country. While the overwhelming majority of these protests have been peaceful—including all of the ones here in Alabama—there were a few incidents that gave the movement a black eye. In Ferguson, protestors began destroying businesses, looting stores, and destroying police cars. In New York, one man killed two officers in retaliation of their deaths. While these incidents are certainly not condoned, the idea of police force and unfair bias against the black community is certainly something that deserves to be investigated.
7) The Mars Rover Finds Possible Signs of Life on Mars
The event that took place the furthest from the United States was on the red planet of Mars. Two years ago the Curiosity rover landed on the surface of Mars and has been looking for signs of life. In December, NASA announced that the rover had found organic chemicals inside the Martian surface. Organic molecules which contain carbon and hydrogen show that the building blocks for life are present on the planet, although it is not a definitive proof of previous life one way or another. Their continued exploration of the Martian surface is the building blocks for America’s next great space exploration: a manned mission to the red planet, projected to happen by the year 2030.
6) Colorado Legalizes Marijuana
New Year’s Day 2014 in Colorado certainly went up in a blaze. Colorado became the first state in the United States to legalize recreational marijuana usage. While many on the right were screaming in outrage, Colorado was blazing up legally. The results have been quite successful too. The state has not only seen an influx in tax dollars ($10.8 million dollars) from legalizing marijuana, but it also has seen millions (around $60 million) in law enforcement savings from no longer having to enforce marijuana prohibition. There has also been a 6% drop in incarceration from drug related offenses. If Colorado is viewed as a guinea pig for future legalization in the U.S., it has certainly been quite a successful one.
5) The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Begins
This is the year that Republicans were pointing to that the United States as we know it collapses. President Obama and his socialist supporters forced Obamacare down our throats and once it went into effect, the country was a goner. That happened this year (as hard as that is to believe) and guess what…we are still fine. As a matter of fact, millions of people are better off. Over 15 million people who previously did not have insurance, now do thanks to the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA still does have some flaws, it is certainly a huge win not just for the president and Democrats, but for all of us as Americans.
4) U.S.-Cuban Begin Normalizing Relations
Another move that many Republicans adamantly opposed (notice a theme here?) was President Obama taking the initial steps to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to remove Fidel Castro from power just a few years ago…in 1961 (no, really), and Cuba’s growing relationship with the U.S.S.R., the United States placed an embargo on the island nation. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the U.S. maintained the sanctions and embargo on Cuba. After failing to undermine the Castro regime, President Obama decided that it was time to end the failed policy and normalize relations once again. The United States will once again have an embassy in Cuba and high level government officials will visit the country next year.
3) President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration
A move that millions of people in this country have been waiting on for six years now, finally came to fruition in 2014. President Obama signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants, who had been in the country for more than five years and had children who were legal U.S. citizens, to register, pay a fine, submit to a background check, and begin paying taxes. The move is viewed as one that was put into place to not only help protect families, but save the country money in extradition costs (because let’s face it, we weren’t extraditing 15 million illegal immigrants). The order also calls for more protection on the border and a crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants who fail to register or enter the country illegally in the future.
2) Same Sex Marriage Rapidly Expanding
Do I really need to say that Republicans are upset about this? Going into 2014, same sex marriage was legal in 18 states. By the end of the year that number is up to 35…nearly doubled. In what many have called a huge gay year, it is clear that the United States population as a whole is finally turning a corner on acceptance of same sex couples. The sad part is that the last ones to ever catch on are lawmakers in Washington. With 35 states on board with same sex marriage, many are hoping that 2015 brings Washington on board with passing a constitutional amendment to legalize it across the country. However, with the Congressional make up in place, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that happening.
1) US Economic Boom
Without a doubt, the largest news story of 2014 was the surging economy. No matter who you ask, they have to agree that the economy is on an upswing, and every major indicator points to the fact. The stock market is at record highs, with the Dow going over 18,000 for the first time ever. The unemployment rate is down to 5.8%, the lowest it has been since before the economic collapse in 2008. In the third quarter of 2014, the GDP advanced at 5% which was an 11 year high. No matter what indicator you look at, the United States economy is booming. This growth is thanks in large part to the confirmation of Janet Yellen as the new Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve earlier this year. The Federal Reserve has also ended its program of Quantitative Easing, which has led to investor confidence rising and the Wall Street skyrocketing.
So there you have it: the top 10 events of 2014 according to yours truly. Since it is the new year, I will go ahead and do a short list of the 5 things I will be most looking forward to in 2015 as well so enjoy!
1) How the Fed and the government will respond to the growing income inequality gap.
2) Whether President Obama will act on climate change.
3) How the Republican led Congress will work with President Obama.
4) Hillary Clinton’s announcement of her presidential campaign for 2016.
5) How the protests between the black community and police will play out.