A lot happened in the world in 2018 – a year of many firsts.
From the historic thawing of the Korean standoff, Donald Trump’s political ups and downs, killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, to the royal wedding, here is a recap of all that was 2018:
‘Feel Like a Free Bird’- Saudi Allows Women to Drive
Saudi women took the wheel with gusto this year, steering their way through the busy city streets minutes after the age-old ban on women drivers was lifted in the country on 24 June.
This came as a culmination of years of campaigning by activists and feminists against the driving ban. While the ban itself has been lifted, the Kingdom is, nevertheless, prosecuting those who campaigned for its end.
Samar Almogren, a talk show host and writer, had said: “I always knew this day would come. But it came fast. Sudden. I feel free like a bird.”
Justice, the ‘American Way’ - US Missile Attack in Syria
Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office, US President Donald Trump took the toughest direct US action yet in Syria's six-year civil war, with the military launching cruise missile strikes against a Syrian airbase controlled by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
The attack, which left nine people dead, including four children, saw 59 Tomahawk missiles launched from US Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea.
“America stands for justice. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have failed. It is in the vital national security interest of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said in a statement after the attack.
A Terrifying Double Disaster - Indonesia Quakes
Earlier this year, a series of powerful quakes hit Lombok, Indonesia, killing more than 550 people on the holiday island and neighbouring Sumbawa.
The death toll in Indonesia's quake-Tsunami disaster nearly doubled to the initial hit, leaving more than 800 dead. Ill-equipped rescuers struggled to reach scores of trapped victims, as health officials resorted to mass burials and desperate residents looted shops for food and water.
Indonesia is one of the world's most disaster-prone nations. It lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide and many of the world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
‘No Remorse’ - Bill Cosby Arrested
With his Hollywood career and good-guy image in ruins, an 81-year-old Bill Cosby was sentenced, on 25 September, to three to 10 years behind bars for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, becoming the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be sent to prison.
The punishment all but completed the dizzying, late-in-life fall for the comedian, former TV star and breaker of racial barriers.
Prosecutors had asked a US court to sentence Cosby to 5-10 years for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, saying he had shown "no remorse" for his actions.
‘Mine (Nuclear Button) is Much Bigger Than His’: Trump Meets Kim
After months of speculation and U-turns, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a ‘successful’ one-on-one talk at Singapore’s Sentosa island on 12 June.
Trump summed up the summit saying that the two countries have an “excellent relationship”, as Kim committed to ‘complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’ in a joint ‘comprehensive document’ signed between the two countries.
Earlier in the year, Trump had boasted that his nuclear button was "much bigger" and "more powerful" than the North Korean leader's.
Wedding Royale - Harry Marries Meghan
Britain's Prince Harry and American actor Meghan Markle were pronounced husband and wife on 19 May by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a glittering union that brought a measure of modern Hollywood glamour into the 1,000-year-old monarchy.
The newlyweds are now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, putting them in the senior ranks of British royalty.
The world's media was gripped by the occasion, and television channels beamed the ceremony across the world.
To some Britons, the wedding of a senior member of the royal family to a divorcee whose mother is African-American and father is white embodied a modern Britain where race or background are no bar to even the most elite and traditional of institutions.
A massive wildfire that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes wreaked havoc in Northern California this year. The fire was fully contained after burning for more than two weeks on 25 November.
The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century killed at least 85 people, and 249 are on a list of those unaccounted for.
The fire began on 8 November, in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles (620 square kilometers), destroying most of Paradise in a day.
‘Queen of Soul’ No More - Aretha Franklin Passes Away
Aretha Franklin, the former gospel singer who went on to reign over the music industry as the Queen of Soul with hit songs such as “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” died in August this year. She was 76.
Franklin died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Detroit. In March, Franklin had canceled a scheduled tour for medical reasons. Her last known performance was at Elton John’s annual AIDS Foundation gala.
‘Stand With Saudi’ - Khashoggi Killing
On 2 October, Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government, walked into the country's consulate in Istanbul and never came out alive.
Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor has since said that Khashoggi was murdered inside the building on the orders of a rogue intelligence officer.
But what was even more bizarre was US President Donald Trump’s take on the killing.
“[I]t could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump wrote in a statement. “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Trump refused to see his killing, an event that brought international condemnation of Saudis, as a reason to sever or weaken ties with Riyadh.
“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region,” he said.
No Judge-ment - Kavanaugh Hearing
Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in on 6 October as the 114th justice of the US Supreme Court, after a wrenching debate over sexual misconduct and judicial temperament that shattered the Senate, captivated the nation and ushered in an acrimonious new level of polarization – now encroaching on the court that the 53-year-old judge may well swing rightward for decades to come.
The climactic 50-48 roll call capped a fight that seized the national conversation after claims emerged that he had sexually assaulted women three decades ago – allegations he emphatically denied.
Those accusations transformed the clash from a routine struggle over judicial ideology into an angry jumble of questions about victims' rights, the presumption of innocence and personal attacks on nominees.
‘Don’t Panic!’ - SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch
Elon Musk’s SpaceX pulled off a seemingly impossible feat in February this year when it launched the world’s most powerful rocket in 45 years, then flew two of its spent boosters back to the Florida coast for a spectacular, simultaneous recovery on land.
Musk then pulled off something perhaps even more surprising – he delivered a cherry red Tesla Roadster with a space-suit wearing mannequin at the wheel toward an Earth-Mars elliptical orbit around the sun.
On the car's center screen, Musk’s team had written, "DON'T PANIC!”, seemingly a message for the ‘spaceman’.
“It seems surreal to me,” Musk, 46, had said during a post-launch press conference. “Crazy things can come true.”
‘Mind Over Matter’ - Stephen Hawking Passes Away
Veteran physicist, cosmologist and professor Stephen Hawking breathed his last on Wednesday, 14 March, leaving behind a black hole in the mortal world.
Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 21, was told by his doctors that he would only live for two more years. Like every other standardised theory he had a problem with, Hawking decided to challenge and make a breakthrough in this one as well, and went on to create scientific history till the ripe old age of 76.
While Hawking has been the poster-man for and inspiration behind every science club formed in school, with his personal journey of struggling through his disability to making way towards greatness marking every inspirational textbook, Hawking’s identity goes far beyond that of a kind of ‘Science Lord’ awarded to him by his fans.
Zero Tolerance, Zero Humanity - US Cages Immigrant Children
Nearly 2,000 children were taken from their parents after former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a policy which directed homeland security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the US for prosecution.
Church groups and human rights advocates had sharply criticized Donald Trump’s policy, calling it inhumane.
Stories had also spread of children being torn from their parents’ arms, and parents not being able to find where their kids have gone.
Bowing to pressure from anxious allies, Trump had signed an executive order on 20 June, ending the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the US border illegally.
Canada’s Cannabis Experiment
Canada approved a revised bill to legalise recreational marijuana in June this year, setting the stage for the country to become the first Group of Seven nation to legalise cannabis.
The Senate voted 52-29 in favor of the revised bill, paving the way for a fully legal cannabis market within eight to 12 weeks.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals had made legalising recreational use of marijuana part of their successful 2015 election campaign, arguing the new law would keep pot out of the hands of underage users and reduce related crime.
"It's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalise & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate," Trudeau said in a tweet.
Sacre Bleu! - France Lift WC
Taking turns sliding across the rain-soaked turf holding the World Cup trophy tight, teenager Kylian Mbappe and the rest of France’s players acted like the youthful bunch they are.
The celebrations carried on long after a thrilling 4-2 win over Croatia in the final, which saw Mbappe score.
Paul Pogba and Griezmann, France’s two other key creative players, also scored.
‘This Has Got to End’ - Yemen Starves
At an apparent turning point in one of its hardest foreign policy challenges, the Trump administration is demanding a cease-fire and the launch of UN-led political talks to end the Saudi-Iran proxy war in Yemen. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called for a halt to hostilities within 30 days.
“This has got to end. We’ve got to replace combat with compromise,” Mattis said.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, and the toppling of the government by the Houthis, a Shiite Muslim minority in the country. The Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
An estimated 10,000 people have been killed. The war has also left around two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relying on aid, and more than 8 million at risk of starvation.
Brexit, May I? - Theresa May Struggles to Execute Deal
Facing almost certain defeat, British Prime Minister Theresa May recently postponed a vote in Parliament on her Brexit deal, saying she would go back to European Union leaders to seek changes to the divorce agreement.
May's move threw Britain's Brexit plans into disarray, intensified a domestic political crisis and battered the pound. With EU officials adamant the withdrawal deal was not up for renegotiation, the country does not know on what terms it will leave — and whether May will still be Britain's leader when it does.
In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, May accepted that the divorce deal she struck last month with EU leaders was likely to be rejected "by a significant margin" if the vote were held as planned.
Historic Korea Summit
South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in North Korea in September for his third and possibly most challenging summit yet with leader Kim Jong-un in which he hopes to break an impasse in talks with the United States over the North's denuclearisation and breathe energy into his own efforts to expand and improve relations between the Koreas.
In what are by now familiar images of the two Korean leaders hugging and exchanging warm smiles, Kim greeted Moon at Pyongyang's airport. They have met twice this year at the border village of Panmunjom, but Moon's visit is the first by a South Korean leader to the North Korean capital in 11 years.
George Bush Senior Passes Away
George HW Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.
The World War II hero, who also presided during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died late Friday night, 30 November, at his Houston home, said family spokesperson Jim McGrath.
‘Won’t Happen in a Men’s Match’ - Serena Williams’ Press Conference
Serena Williams accused an umpire of sexism and treating her more harshly than men as she used a press conference to double down on her earlier on-court tirade at the official during her US Open final defeat to Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
Williams was cited by official Carlos Ramos for three code violations during her 6-2, 6-4 loss to the 20-year-old Osaka.
But despite the match penalties, she renewed her attack at a media conference later.
“For me, it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.”
Setback for Trump - US Mid-term Elections
Democrats won the US House by riding a surge of voter anger and discontent with Donald Trump in suburban enclaves, even as the president’s loyal supporters reaffirmed Republican control of the Senate.
The outcome of the US midterm election highlighted the urban-rural divide that has come to define US politics. It will dramatically alter Trump’s next two years in office and make a deeply divided nation even more difficult to govern as he seeks re-election in 2020.
‘I Want it All’ - Anthony Bourdain No More
Many people thought Anthony Bourdain had the most enviable career in existence. He didn’t deny it.
“I have the best job in the world,” the globe-trotting food-taster and culinary storyteller once told the New Yorker magazine, stating the rather obvious. “If I’m unhappy, it’s a failure of imagination.”
Bourdain’s stunned fans were left mourning the loss of that singular imagination in June this year following his death from an apparent suicide, recalling everything from his fearless consumption of a beating cobra’s heart or a sheep testicle – “like any other testicle,” he had remarked – to his outspoken support of the #MeToo movement, to his blissful paean to syrup-soaked pecan waffles at Waffle House.
‘Everyone is Safe’ - Thai Cave Rescue
“Everyone is safe.” With those three words posted on Facebook the daring rescue mission to extricate 12 boys and their soccer coach from the treacherous confines of a flooded cave in Thailand was complete – a grueling 18-day ordeal that claimed the life of an experienced diver and riveted people worldwide.
Thailand’s Navy SEALs, who were central to the rescue effort, celebrated the feat with a post that read: “All the thirteen Wild Boars are now out of the cave,” – a reference to the boys’ soccer team. “We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science, or what.”
When Facebook ‘Zucked’ US Congress
Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg navigated through US congressional hearings in April without making any further promises to support new legislation or change how the social network makes money.
During nearly five hours of questioning by 44 US senators, Zuckerberg repeated apologies he previously made for a range of problems that have beset Facebook, from a lack of data protection to Russian agents using Facebook to influence US elections.
But the 33-year-old internet mogul managed to deflect any specific promises to support any congressional regulation of the world's largest social media network and other US internet companies.
(With inputs from AP, PTI and IANS)