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Year End Specials: A look at major happenings around the globe in 2017

  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump

    Trump's firsts and near-firsts

    From being the surprise winner of last year’s US presidential election to having the lowest approval ratings of any president in the past quarter of a century, Donald John Trump has had an eventful year, to say the least. From his walking out of the Paris climate deal to suggesting in a recent tweet how a bit of “good old global warming” might help with the December cold; from banning travellers from some countries in West Asia to recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; and from giving a hefty tax cut to the super rich while trying to cut welfare measures such as health insurance for the working class to bumbling along international affairs and letting the global trust in US leadership erode to turning a blind eye to racial tensions within the US — 2017 is evidence of the fact that as far as political disruptions go, few could match up to Trump’s taking over the role as the leader of the free world.

  • Bitcoins
    Bitcoins

    Bitcoins: Bubble or a bargain

    Whether you were a trader, lay investor or a fence-sitter, the frenzy over Bitcoins was hard to miss in 2017. Back in 2011, the crypto-currency was worth less than a dollar; at the start of 2017, it was worth less than $1,000; then, it just shot up, soaring above $17,000 and creating many Bitcoin millionaires in its wake.

    As its price went higher and higher, so did conspiracy theories. From terming it a threat to sovereignty to a bubble and fraud, regulators across the world scrambled to wrap their head around the concept. India’s finance ministry cautioned people against investing in Bitcoins, comparing it with Ponzi schemes. There are questions about Bitcoins’ intrinsic value and the backing for the currency, but regulators in many parts of the world are coming to terms with it and looking to streamline its trading rather than ignore it. Industry insiders think it’s only going to get bigger as it gains more acceptance.

  • Vladimir Putin
    Vladimir Putin

    Making the right moves

    Although Russian President Vladimir Putin lamented the lack of “personal relationship” with US President Donald Trump, the ties between the two countries appear closer than ever. Putin found a place for himself on the table with the US in resolving the Syrian crisis, despite Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad , Next, he is likely to be the mediator between the US and North Korea in easing nuclear tensions between the two countries. There is no doubt Russians seem to trust his policy calls at home and abroad. With his approval ratings topping 80 per cent, the 65-year-old is set to win another term as president in next year’s elections in March. He has been in power since 2000, and if he wins what would be a fourth presidential term for him, he will be in power until 2024, when he turns 72.

  • powell, yellen
    Jerome Powell(L), Janet Yellen(R)

    Signing off in style

    By the time she ends her term as the chair of the Federal Board of Governors, Janet Yellen would have completed the enormous task of putting the world’s biggest economy back on track. Be it steadying growth or reducing unemployment, Yellen can look back at a stellar record — in fact, one of the best runs the US has ever had. Headline unemployment rate, in particular, has fallen to its lowest level since the early 2000s; some even claim that, in stark contrast to the above 10 per cent unemployment rate immediately after the global financial crisis, the US may now be working at beyond full employment level. She has also achieved monetary tightening without causing a tsunami in the emerging markets. Even so, her successor, Jerome Powell, will have the key task of dealing with the excess liquidity sloshing around in the global financial system.

  • Angela Merkel
    Angela Merkel

    Can Germans do anything anymore?

    First, Germany failed to build a simple airport in Berlin; then, it could not get the high-speed train between the capital and Munich going properly; now, people in Europe and around the world are wondering if the country — once regarded as a paragon of western democracy — can cobble together a functioning government. In the September election, Angela Merkel — the chancellor since 2005 — failed to sail to a majority in Parliament, and has also not been able to form a coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) or business-friendly Free Democrats. If and when a grand coalition is formed, there could be a second round of voting on it, as SPD has indicated. Experts have rushed to write Merkel’s political obituary, but the 63-year-old Mutti (mom), as she is called by fellow citizen, might still have another term in her.

  • Rohingya
    Hanida Begum who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wails as she holds her infant son Abdul Masood

    Rohingya crisis: A ticking bomb

    Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar’s Rakhine province fled, risking death at sea or on foot, to neighbouring Bangladesh since the offensive by the Myanmar army began in August this year. The United Nations has described the crisis as “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. The Rohingya numbered a million at the beginning of the year. The Muslim community, which claims to be descendents of Arab traders, is denied citizenship by Myanmar, and about 7,000 of them have been reportedly killed by the Myanmar’s security forces and Buddhist mobs this year. According to intelligence reports, the thousands living in refugee camps in Bangladesh are vulnerable to influences of extremist Islamic groups.

  • Islamic State
    A woman thanks Allah after being saved from the clutches of Islamic State by Iraqi government forces

    Exit of Islamic State?

    In October this year, US army-backed Syrian Democratic Forces stormed the Islamic State headquarters in the civil war-torn country, Raqqa, after a four-month-long intense battle. With the fall of the city, the political capital of the caliphate, the Islamic terror that had grabbed global headlines with a stunning conquests in West Asia and unleashed unimaginable horrors on those who were unable to escape its military advances was defeated. In November, Kurdish forces ousted the IS from Damascus and Homs as well. Experts, however, are of the opinion that the IS might be down but it is far from being out, and with its network of sleeper cells all over the world, it can still strike. The need of the hour is caution and not jubilation.

  • Xi Jinping
    Xi Jinping

    China’s power play

    China continued its ascendance on the global stage with the launch of the Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure development campaign aimed at kick-starting flagging economic growth across Asia and beyond. The initiative seemed to fit well with President Xi Jinping’s pledge to lead the world’s second largest economy into a new era of “international power, influence and prosperity”. In tandem with this new ambition, Xi strengthened his grip over the country’s leadership, raising the possibility that he may continue in power beyond 2022. In October, China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership team but did not anoint a potential successor to Xi, cementing his position as one of the country’s most powerful leaders after Mao Zedong.

  • Emmanuel Macron
    Emmanuel Macron

    Sharif and Sans-serif

    In July this year, the Pakistan supreme court asked the country’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to quit office after his children — Mariam, Hassan and Hussain — were accused of buying property in London through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in the 1990s. When the properties were purchased, the children were minors, making the PM directly responsible for the deals. This is arguably the most serious political ramification of the Panama Papers released last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The National Accountability Bureau is now investigating the case, while Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has succeeded Sharif. Incidentally, the court became suspicious about Sharif’s involvement when his legal team submitted papers with text in Microsoft Calibri. The date on the documents was 2006, while the font had been made available only in 2007.

  • Theresa May
    Theresa May

    May’s roller-coaster year

    At the start of the year, Theresa May was a picture of supreme confidence. She was in charge of a country that had only a few months ago voted to come out of the European Union (EU). However, the faith that the Conservative Party had put in May in the initial months started dwindling as the year wore on. Her gamble to call snap polls in April backfired, with the elections delivering a loss of 13 seats for her party. Her refusal to take part in political debates, changing stand on the election manifesto just a day before the poll, and inept attitude in handling the tragic Grenfell fire that left 71 dead, were among the bloopers that didn’t go down well with the common British voters. The Tories were up 17 points on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in January. At the start of December, she trailed Labour by 8 points. Yet, May has survived the year. She has a herculean task ahead of her in 2018 — to steer Britain out of the EU.

  • Nawaz Sharif
    Nawaz Sharif

    Sharif and Sans-serif

    In July this year, the Pakistan supreme court asked the country’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to quit office after his children — Mariam, Hassan and Hussain — were accused of buying property in London through offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands in the 1990s. When the properties were purchased, the children were minors, making the PM directly responsible for the deals. This is arguably the most serious political ramification of the Panama Papers released last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The National Accountability Bureau is now investigating the case, while Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has succeeded Sharif. Incidentally, the court became suspicious about Sharif’s involvement when his legal team submitted papers with text in Microsoft Calibri. The date on the documents was 2006, while the font had been made available only in 2007.

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