2014: The Year in Review

The first day of the New Year saw the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act go into effect. However on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that some companies can refuse insurance coverage for contraceptives due to religious objections.

Colorado legalized the purchase of marijuana for recreational purposes on January 1. It wasn’t until July 8, that Washington state began allowing the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.

The Senate voted on January 6, to confirm Janet Yellen as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve. And by the middle-of-the-month, President Barack Obama announced changes to the National Security Agency and its surveillance programs.

At least 500 veterans were found to have died since 2010 due to delays in simple medical screenings like colonoscopies or endoscopies, at various VA hospitals or clinics. This is according to an internal document from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that deals with patients diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and 2011.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30, following fallout from the deaths. The U.S. Senate would not confirm Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary until July 29.

Obama signed into law a $16 billion bill on August 7, providing money to build more VA medical facilities and hire more doctors and nurses.

General Motors recalled more than 30 million vehicles throughout the world since February 14, 2014. The recalls have drawn questions about when GM CEO Mary Barra knew about the problems and if the company was slow to take action.

By June 30, GM announced compensation of at least $1 million to families of at least 13 people who died as a result of a faulty ignition switch. GM is also offering money to those injured.

After months of protests in Ukraine, a battle broke out February 18 between protesters and security forces, leaving around 100 people dead by the 20th. Today’s later, Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office.

A March 16 election in Crimea showed that 96.7% voted in favor of being annexed by Russia. Within two days, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an annexation pact with the Prime Minister of Crimea and the mayor of the city of Sevastopol.

Then on April 1, NATO announced that it was suspending “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia. This was in direct response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Despite this voters in the eastern Ukrainian areas of Donetsk and Luhansk on May 11, vote in favor of independence from Ukraine. Then Petro Poroshenko declares victory in Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashes in eastern Ukraine after being shot down on July 17 by a surface-to-air missile. All 298 people aboard died.

It’s believed separatists, back by Russia, fired the missile that brought the plane down. The Dutch Safety Board’s investigation continues and isn’t expected to be completed until August 2015.

But that isn’t the only catastrophic incident Malaysian Airlines suffered in 2014. Flight 370, traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, disappeared from radar in airspace over the Gulf of Thailand.

No wreckage has so far been recovered. The lost of the plane remains under investigation.

Then with only a few day’s left in the year, Malaysia-based AirAsia Flight 8501, carrying at least 162 people disappeared en route from Surabaya to Singapore. The plane lost contact with air traffic control while over the Java Sea between Kalimantan and Java islands.

There were other deadly incidents over the year including the South Korean ferry that capsized, on April 16, killing about 294 people. Hundreds of high school students on a field trip were among the dead.

Then on July 23, least 48 people died and 10 injured when a twin-engine turboprop plane crashes in Taiwan. The next day, Air Algerie Flight 5017 which crashed in Mali, killing 116 people.

However is was a natural disaster in the form of Super Typhoon Rammasun that struck the Philippines, China and Vietnam in July, that left more than 100 people dead.

During the summer, the number of minors — largely from El Salvador, Nicaragua Guatemala, and Honduras — crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaked, reaching over 50,000 since October 2013. President Obama said on June 30, he is starting “a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” in response to a surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border.

Following their arrival, and ‘resettlement,’ the CDC reported that from mid-August to December 18, 2014, they’ve confirmed a total of 1,152 people in 49 states and the District of Columbia with respiratory illness caused by EV-D68. The disease is common to El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Speaking of diseases, a specially equipped medical plane carrying Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly on August 2, landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, where he was then taken by ambulance to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. On the fifth, missionary worker Nancy Writebol was medically evacuated to Emory as well.

Both recovered from the disease.

Over two months later Ebola became major news story again after Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person in the U.S. to die of the disease. He arrived in the U.S. under false pretenses.

By October 12, Nina Pham, a Dallas nurse who treated Duncan, is diagnosed with the disease. She is the first person to contract the disease in the U.S.

Pham’s treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and released October 24.

Less than two days later, Amber Vinson, a nurse who also treated Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, is diagnosed with Ebola. After being treated successfully in Atlanta, she’s released October 28.

In the meantime, Dr. Craig Spencer, who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, was diagnosed with the disease on October 23, in New York. He recovers from the disease and leaves the hospital on November 11.

Finally, Dr. Martin Salia, who became infected with Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone, arrives on November 15, at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Salia, a native of Sierra Leone, is a legal permanent resident of the U.S., died November 17.

Donald Sterling’s tenure as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers came to a sudden end, after a recorded conversation of Sterling making racist remarks became public. Within weeks, the league banned Sterling from the NBA for life, who ended up selling the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

Months after former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée and now wife Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator, he received a two-game suspension until a new video emerged showing the April 27 assault. At that point, Rice’s suspension extended to indefinitely, and the Ravens cut Rice from the team.

The issue became embarrassing for the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, who pundits said should have seen the video long before it became publicly available. Goodell also tried to say that Rice mislead him about what happened in the elevator, but Former U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones threw out the indefinite suspension ruling that Rice did not mislead the commissioner.

The incident brought domestic violence to the forefront of the sports landscape.

However violence wasn’t limited to the world of sports as a several school shootings made the spotlight again. University of California Santa Barbara, Seattle Pacific University and Florida State University all had deadly shooting incidents with multiple people injured and where the shooter randomly fired at people.

In the Florida State case, only the shooter died, but three were injured. In the UC Santa Barbara incident, seven people, including the shooter, died while 13 were injured.

Some of the other deadly shootings included Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington also had a deadly shooting where five teenagers, including the shooter. Reynolds High School in Oregon also had a deadly shooting.

In addition, three people died following multiple shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom in Overland Park, Kansas.

Obama announced the release of prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl, on May 31, after being held for five years by a militant group linked to the Taliban. In exchange for Bergdahl’s release, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay are released to Qatar. Jus’ three days prior, Obama announced that 9,800 troops will stay in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of most troops at the end of 2014.

The Army concluded its investigation into the disappearance of Bergdahl on December 19, and must now decide whether Bergdahl should face criminal charges. Based on the investigation, the Army must now decide whether Bergdahl should be charged with desertion or a lesser charge of being “absent without leave,” AWOL.

The U.S. and Afghanistan also sign a joint security agreement on September 30, that will allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the previous December deadline to withdraw. Great Britain ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on October 26, handing over its last remaining base to Afghan forces.

On September 29, Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as the new president of Afghanistan.

Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, died July 17, after white New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a ‘chokehold.’ Garner’s death was later ruled a homicide by the New York medical examiner.

Then on August 9, Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson told Michael Brown to get out of the middle of the road. What ensued led to racial tension, protests, looting and arson.

A grand jury chose not to indict Wilson, leading to more violence, looting and arson in Ferguson and elsewhere across the country. Shortly after Wilson was cleared, Pantaleo also was cleared in the death of Garner.

Since then two New York police officers were murdered, execution-style, in retaliation for the Brown-Garner incidents.

During a secret raid between June 15 and 16, U.S. commandos apprehend Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of leading the attack on the Benghazi consulate in 2012. At least a dozen others are known to have been charged in sealed criminal complaints about the Benghazi attacks, although none of the others have been apprehended.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department could bring more charges against Abu Khattala. Then on September 25, Obama announced the resignation of Holder, who will stay in office until his replacement is confirmed.

Following the midterm elections, where the Republican party won a majority of seats in both the House and the Senate to take control of Congress and after five years of review, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the post-9/11 era. The highly-partisan report, presented by California Senator Diane Feinstein, revealed that “CIA detainees were tortured.”

It was April 24 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel is suspending peace talks with the Palestinians after rival factions Fatah and Hamas announce a unity deal. On June 2, Hamas and Fatah swear in a unity government with Rami Hamdallah as prime minister.

Ten days following the three Israeli teens on their way home from school in the West Bank are abducted by Hamas militants. Their bodies are discovered June 30 in the West Bank.

Shortly after the trio was found, on July 2, a Palestinian boy wass kidnapped and murdered, allegedly by Israeli Jews, possibly in retaliation for the murders of three Jewish teens. Then Israel declares Operation Protective Edge against Hamas on the fifth.

Israel and Hamas agree to a ceasefire on August 26, but not before more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the violence in Gaza. On the Israeli side, there are 68 casualties, 65 of them soldiers and three civilians.

As tensions grew between Irael and Hamas, Iraqis went to the polls on April 30, to elect members of the Council of Representatives. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s party won only 92 seats in parliamentary elections, short of the 165 seats needed for a majority.

He would resign by August 14. Haider al-Abadi would sworn in as the new prime minister of Iraq on September 8.

Before that would happen, on June 10, ISIS took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. By the eleventh, it would also control Tikrit.
Obama authorized “targeted airstrikes” if needed to protect U.S. personnel from ISIS militants, sending two U.S. F/A-18 jet fighters to bomb extremists on August 8. The U.S. military claim they’ll use airstrikes to prevent what officials warn could be a genocide of minority groups by the ISIS fighters.

In retaliation, American journalist James Foley, missing in Syria since 2012, was beheaded by ISIS militants on the 19th. The militants then threaten the life of another captured U.S. journalist, believed to be Steven Sotloff, who was beheaded September 2.

ISIS releases a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines on September 13. Then a couple of days later, two Palestinian cousins, wielding a gun and butcher knives, kill four rabbis and a policeman at a Jerusalem synagogue.

Finally, a coalition of military forces from the United States, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan launch air strikes on September 23 against ISIS targets in Syria. The U.S., on its own, also launches airstrikes against a terrorist organization known as the Khorasan Group, saying that the al Qaeda affiliated group was planning attacks on Americans.

It was on Septemeber 14, that North Korea sentenced U.S. citizen Matthew Miller to six years of hard labor after being convicted of “hostile acts.” Miller was later released on November 8 along with fellow-American Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April 2013.

On October 12, the hermit state then released Jeffrey Fowle after detaining him in June. North Korea accused Fowle of leaving a Bible at a club for foreign sailors and interpreted the act as a violation of law.

However on November 24, hackers infiltrated the computer network of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The attackers stole a huge number of confidential documents from file-sharing networks.

Then by December 17, after receiving several cryptic messages from a group calling itself, the ‘Guardians of Peace,’ to blow up theaters that show the film ‘The Interview,’ Sony scraped the planned Christmas Day release.

The movie is about two tabloid journalist, who land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and then are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

Gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau opened fire at Canada’s National War Memorial and Parliament Hill in Ottawa, killing army reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on October 22. Zehaf-Bibeau was shot and killed by the House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

Then on December 15, in Sydney, Australia an Iranian immigrant named Man Haron Monis took a some hostages at a café. After a 16-hour standoff with police, commandos storm the cafe and ended the siege.

Two hostages died along with Monis.

The following day, Taliban gunmen attack the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan. 145 people are killed, most of them children.

Then on December 17, Cuba released American contractor Alan Gross after five years in prison. As part of a deal the U.S. released three Cuban intelligence agents convicted of espionage in 2001; in return, Cuba freed an unidentified U.S. intelligence source who had been jailed in Cuba for more than 20 years.

The same day, President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation. Obama said the U.S. will move towards re-opening its embassy in the communist nation and allow some travel and trade that had been banned during the Kennedy administration.

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About Tom Darby

French-born, American-raised, U.S. citizen, husband, father, friend, veteran, and writer.
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