Friday, December 29, 2017

Annus Horribilis: A Look Back at 2017 Explains Why It Was Such a Rotten Year

  by Nomad

The Latin term, annus horribilis, translates to "horrible year" and it is hard to describe 2017 as anything but horrible. From political catastrophes to acts of violence to natural disasters, there wasn't too much cause for celebrate.
With a few hard-to-find exceptions the events of the year were, for the most part, just 365 days of awfulness. By the end of 2017, most of us seem shell-shocked and looking over this list, that's a natural reaction.
A year ago, we all thought it couldn't get much worse.

Things started going downhill less than a week into the new year.
On 6 January, Senate pages marched into the Capitol Rotunda carrying the ballot boxes of the Electoral College. Despite the fact that candidate Hillary Clinton had received the majority of the popular vote, the College had declared business tycoon Donald J. Trump the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
On this date, it became official as Congress certified the results.

On 20 January, Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The event was notable for its low turnout, something that Trump (quite rightly) perceived as a personal insult.

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Only a day later, 21 January, in contrast to the inauguration, the Women's March broke all attendance records. There were 420 marches held in the U.S. and 168 in other countries, making it the largest single-day protest in American history and the largest worldwide protest in recent history.

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On Friday, 27 January, the Trump administration issued an executive order banning visitors from seven Mideast nations. It also barred entry to all refugees from anywhere in the world for 120 days and placed an indefinite ban on refugees from war-torn Syria. The immediate effect of the order was mass confusion at the nation's airports that weekend. There were mass demonstrations and protests at international airports such as New York, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, Newark, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

On 13 February, President Trump reluctantly accepted the resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn over his dealings with Russia. Flynn's departure would open questions about Trump's alleged attempt to obstruct FBI investigations into Russian collusion with Trump campaign officials.

On 6 April, the US military launched a missile attack on Syria in response to a reported chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town. In all 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired at an air base near Homs. Seven or nine Syrian soldiers were killed. Syrian state news claimed there were civilian casualties.

On 22 May, a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England killed 22 people and injured over 100. Terrorist Salman Abedi was named as the suicide bomber who carried out the attack.

On 1 June, the Trump administration officials announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. As part of his pledge to put America first, Trump stated that "The Paris accord will undermine (the U.S.) economy," and "puts (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantage." 
Experts warned that US non-participation would be a major setback to global effect to combat climate change.

After 17 months in a North Korean prison, American student Otto Warmbier returned home on 12 June. He had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor after being convicted for attempted theft of a propaganda poster from his hotel. Upon his release, the Cincinnati-resident was found in a comatose state of unknown origin. He died a week later.

On 10 July, in a major breakthrough in the battle against ISIL forces, the Iraqi city of Mosul was declared fully liberated.

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On on the morning of 26 July, Trump issued the following three-part tweet
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.
Despite the president's casual demeanor and assurances that the the decision was properly vetted, the policy shift, analysts estimated, would affect at least 2,450 transgender active-military personnel. However, military LGBT activist groups say as many as 15,000 soldiers fall into that category.

The announcement apparently caught most officials in the Defense Department by surprise. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had certainly not been consulted beforehand.  Even Trump's supporter in Congress, the House Republicans were astonished. Many were asking whether Trump's tweets represented official policy. 

Opponents of Trump's plan immediately filed legal claims in court. (In October, a federal judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, blocked Trump's administration from proceeding with the ban.And in a further setback, a ruling in December declared that openly trans people may be allowed to enlist in the military starting on January 1.)

In a stunning upset for President Trump, Congressional attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act- otherwise known as Obamacare- collapsed on 27 July when Arizona Senator John McCain voted no. The final count was 49 to 51. Although the GOP representatives were understanding shy about admitting it, this defeat effectively ended all hope of repealing ACA.

On 21 August, a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States of America, passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.

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In the last week of August, Category 4 Hurricane Harvey lashed the Texas coast, causing catastrophic damage to the Houston metropolitan area, mostly due to record-breaking floods.
At least 90 deaths were recorded, and total damage reaches $198.6 billion, making Harvey the costliest natural disaster in United States history.

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A week later, the hurricane season produced another even more lethal storm called Irma. This Category 5 hurricane battered the Caribbean and US coast and was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. At least 134 people died and resulted in over $63 billion in damages.

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On September 19 Central Mexico was struck by a 7.1 earthquake strikes central Mexico, killing more than 350 and leaving up to 6,000 injured. and leaving thousands more homeless.

Yet, as incredible as it seemed, Nature was cooking up still more mischief.
Immediately after Irma, Hurricane Maria became the third consecutive major hurricane to threaten the region. On 20 September, Maria made landfall just south of Yabucoa Harbor in Puerto Rico at 6:15 a.m. The monster storm then proceeded to dump 30 inches of rain in one day on parts of the island.

With maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Turks and Caicos islands.
It was unofficially the third-costliest tropical cyclone on record and costliest in Puerto Rican history. The Trump administration came under fire for its slow relief efforts.

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Having barely recovered from all these shocks, on 1 October, Las Vegas became the setting for the worst mass shooting perpetrated by a lone gunman in US history. 
In all 58 people were slaughtered and nearly 550 were injured when Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd at an outdoor concert. 

On October 11, wildfires burning ravaged Santa Rosa, California. At least 23 people died as a result.

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On 14 October, a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia killed at least 512 people and injured 316. The suicide bomber detonated the explosives after being stopped by security. The actual target of the attack is believed to have been a secure compound housing international agencies and troops.

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Sex harassment scandals of celebrities and politicians dominated the headlines in November 2017. The first allegations actually appeared on 5 October when The New York Times published a story detailing decades of allegations of sexual harassment against mogul Harvey Weinstein. 
In following months, other women (and a few men) would come forward to make accusations against names like Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Charlie Rose and many more.

On 1 December, the former NSA Michael Flynn was charged with making false statements to federal investigators. At a plea hearing, Flynn pled guilty which, experts said, probably indicated that Flynn was cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 US election. 

Along with Flynn, Trump's former foreign policy George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, were charged with money laundering and other crimes related to political consulting they did in Ukraine prior to joining Trump's effort.
They pleaded not guilty.

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In December 2017, a new round of wildfires forced over 212,000 people to evacuate, with the 6 largest fires burning over 298,000 acres (1,206 km2) and more than 1,300 structures. Exacerbated by unusually strong and long-lasting Santa Ana winds, a series of 28 wildfires ignited across Southern California.

On the surface, filling the Alabama Senate vacated by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions should have been as easy as sliding off a greasy log backward. After all, Alabama was supposed to be as cherry red.
Yet, because of nasty infighting between former White House aide Steve Bannon and the president, the Republicans thoroughly bungled the election.

Amid revelations of decades-old sexual misconduct of half his age (and illegal), Alabama's Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore traveled on  13 December to cast his vote riding a clearly-spooked horse. To the smirks of reporters, well-jostled Moore galloped off into the morning mist. 
It turned out to be an omen of election humiliation. Doug Jones handily beat Moore, making him the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in that state in over 25 years.

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In the president's only legislative victory, Republicans in both Houses of Congress passed a sweeping tax reform package that would, critics called a "scam" and a "heist".
By a vote of 51-48, the Senate- with not one Democrat voting in favor- approved of the bill and was immediately signed into law by the president. According to opponents of the legislation, the bill that would among other things add more than $1trillion to the deficit, end key elements of Obamacare, favor corporations over the American middle class and open Alaska wildlife reserve to drilling. 

With the 2018 mid-terms on the horizon, Republicans have begun worrying amongst themselves about a looming political disaster and the possibility of losing control of both Houses of Congress.

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That brings us up to date.
Good Lord, what a wretched mess of a year! Have I left anything important out? I am sure I probably have. That list is sufficient to remind us that there were plenty of reasons to be happy to see the end of the year finally arrive.
Well, the best thing we can say at this point is that it is over and we survived it, a little worse for wear, but standing.

So what are your predictions for 2018?