After many months of escalating political tensions, North Korea and South Korea got the year off to a hopeful start by agreeing they would both send teams to compete in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Indeed, the North’s attendance proved a historic moment in inter-Korean sporting relations. Not only did the North refuse to participate in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but they also attempted to disrupt them after co-hosting talks broke down, by sponsoring terrorist attacks.
Following intense pressure, South Africa’s President Zuma finally agreed to resign. Even as he made the televised announcement, the president repeated that he did not agree with the action taken by his own ANC party. The 75-year-old politician had previously rejected calls to step down in favour of his Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the newly appointed ANC leader. Having been in office since 2009, Mr Zuma was facing several allegations of corruption.
When the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Facebook scandal broke, it was reported that the personal information of more than 50 million people had been compromised to facilitate what the company called “research.” This data breach harvested Facebook users’ identities, networks, and “likes” for the purposes of assessing their voting behaviour. Later on, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign hired Cambridge Analytica to help target political advertising on the strength of this data gathered from millions of US adults.
April brought the sad news that DJ Avicii had committed suicide in a hotel room in Oman. His family released a simple statement which read: “Our beloved Tim was a seeker, a fragile artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. An over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress. He wanted to find peace. Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in; he was a sensitive guy who loved his fans but shunned the spotlight.”
A royal wedding took place, and the entire world became transfixed as they watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange their wedding vows. The sparkling occasion gave everyone a brief respite from bad news — and the chance to witness a real-life fairytale. The global TV audience was bigger than that for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, with more than 29 million US viewers tuning in to watch Harry and Meghan tie the knot, compared to William and Kate’s 23 million.
Saudi Arabian women, at last, got to drive cars in a landmark decision. In future, it’s likely that the authorities will be swamped with applications from Saudi females who want to take advantage of this opportunity. Previously, Saudi Arabia’s strict laws had required all women to seek permission from men before they could engage in activities such as driving cars on public roads. That, in turn, meant all females had to be driven around by private chauffeurs.
Twelve boys and their soccer coach stranded in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand were eventually saved. This was a potential disaster which eventually had a much happier outcome thanks to an international rescue effort involving caving experts from the UK and elsewhere. The boys have since become international celebrities. However, we should also remember there was one fatality: Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL, who died while supplying oxygen to the boys.
Apple Inc reached 1 trillion USD (£767bn) in its market capitalization and became the first public company to break through the $1-trillion barrier. In reaching this milestone, Apple has of course also beaten rival tech-based conglomerates such as Amazon and Microsoft. From the time the first iPhone went on sale in 2007, Apple’s share values have soared by 1,100%, jumping by nearly a third in the previous 12 months alone.
In a historic decision, India decided to decriminalise homosexuality. Previously, LGBT people were prosecuted under a law dating from the country’s colonial days (section 377). This described gay sex as an “unnatural offence”. The Supreme Court ruling made it clear that all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is now regarded as a fundamental violation of rights. Despite this, there is still strong opposition among religious groups and in the more conservative rural areas.
Jamal Khashoggi disappeared during a visit in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Later it turned out that the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist was actually killed and his body dismembered inside the Saudi consulate building. All Khashoggi did was visit the embassy to sort out documents for his forthcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée, who was waiting outside. Will this turn out to be a watershed moment for the Saudis and their global prestige? Or will their Western alliances enable them to dodge yet another bullet?
New forest fires in California forced 250,000 to flee from the biblical spectacle of monster flames destroying the state. Covering both north and south California, these fires merged to form three gigantic blazes.
As caring as ever, President Trump reacted to these dire emergencies by speaking about the gross mismanagement of forest tracts and threatened to impose funding cuts. What a hero!
London’s Gatwick Airport is closed due to drones at the height of the Christmas getaway. First, police arrest, and then release, two innocent suspects. The incident shows how vulnerable international airports can be to such incidents. Real food for thought for governments around the world. Let’s hope it doesn’t spark further copycat events.
That was the year 2018. So what’s new for 2019? Sweden’s new laws regulating casino games was implemented and its going to be interesting to see which other countries will follow.