2017 has been the year of the unrelenting news cycle. If it had a soundtrack, it would be the staccato dings of news alerts popping up on cellphones. If it had a color, it would be that hazy blue-ish white hue you see when your eyes start to unfocus after staring at a screen for too long. If it had a smell, it would be burned rubber.
Not all the news in 2017 was bad news, though. Some of it was inspiring, gratifying, touching, amusing or mystifying. That being said, a lot of it was bad.
From deadly protests against a foreign policy change to the resignation of a nonagenarian president to milestones in the fight against the Islamic State, here are the global news videos that stuck with us this year.
Residents of China’s capital city started the year buried in smog.
The pollution levels were so bad, a monitoring device in the home of The Washington Post’s Beijing bureau chief warned a mask should be kept on indoors. On Jan. 3, the Air Quality Index was more than 700. Anything above 300 is considered hazardous, whereas a reading under 50 is considered to pose no significant health risks.
On Jan. 4, parents in Beijing fed up with the thick lingering smog sickening their children launched a petition demanding the government put air purifiers in schools. It gathered 2,700 comments in one day.
Chinese authorities tried to reduce the smog by prohibiting the use of coal, but the Associated Press reported that effort backfired, leading to a natural gas shortage.
In mid-January, reporters caught a glimpse of the world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip, N.Y., handcuffed and flanked by DEA agents in dark parkas.
The elusive drug runner was extradited to the United States after escaping from Mexican federal prison twice and losing his last appeal to stay in Mexico.
Post reporters Joshua Partlow and Matt Zapotosky described the political implications of El Chapo’s departure for the United States:
“‘Officially, Mexican authorities said the timing of the extradition was related to judicial processes and not the U.S. political calendar. But one Mexican official described the transfer of the prisoner as a “farewell gift” to President Obama rather than an overture to President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to make Mexico pay for a border wall and threatened to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.'”
Death came for Kim Jong Nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Feb. 13.
He was found with lethal nerve agent VX on his face, “slumped in a chair in a Malaysian airport clinic, his belly protruding from his navy-blue polo shirt, then dying in an ambulance en route to the hospital,” Post Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield wrote.
CCTV footage appeared to show two women – Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29 – smearing the VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
We later learned Kim was carrying atropine, a potential antidote to the chemical that killed him. Post reporter Adam Taylor reported experts doubted it would have saved him.
In March in the United States then-FBI Director James Comey was testifying before Congress and Judge Neil M. Gorsuch was starting his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, but what really captured the attention of news-watchers around the world was a dad being interrupted on live television by his two children.
Robert Kelly, nicknamed “BBC dad,” was Skyping into a news program to give his opinion on the ousting of South Korea’s first female president. Without his noticing, a dancing toddler and an infant in a walker burst into the room behind him, pursued by their panicked-looking mother.
The comedic moment skyrocketed to Internet fame.
Nine months later, Kelly told the New York Times 4-year-old Marion is still trying to interrupt his interviews.
April saw Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s opposition mounting the most intense protests their country had seen since 2014.
The country’s highest court had stripped its parliament of power, only to return it on Maduro’s orders just two days later. The reversal was supposed to quell criticism. Instead, on April 1, opponents called him and his administration a “circus,” and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to condemn Maduro’s “Dictatorship.”
Videos from Caracas showed police in riot gear using tear gas against young protesters. That day kicked off months of demonstrations, which continued amid worsening food and medicine shortages.
As 2017 wraps up, Maduro continues to clash with opposition parties, several of whom boycotted Dec. 10 mayoral elections, according to the AP. He will be up for reelection in 2018 and has already attempted to ban those parties from that vote.
Half a world away, another dictator attacked his people on April 4. Syrian President Bashar Assad launched airstrikes on the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun. Post reporters Louisa Loveluck and Karen DeYoung wrote it was one of the deadliest chemical attacks of the country’s six-year war.
Images of frantic or lifeless women and children surfaced. In one heart-wrenching video capturing the suffering that day, a father clutched the corpses of his 9-month-old twins and stroked their hair. They were killed, along with his wife, two brothers, two nephews and a niece, in the attack.
Days later, the United States retaliated with airstrikes, drawing criticism from Russia and Syria. Russia later vetoed a U.S.-devised United Nations Security Council resolution to investigate the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and the AP reported with less than two weeks left in 2017 that for the first time in years, Assad’s troops were edging their way into rebel-held Idlib province.
Protests in Washington are common, and they rarely result in much hubbub, let alone an international incident. A demonstration outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in May was the exception to that rule.
On a visit to Washington on May 17, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stopped at the ambassador’s home in Northwest Washington. When about two dozen opponents gathered outside to protest Erdogan’s harsh treatment of dissent in his country, the president’s bodyguards got involved. As Erdogan looked on, security guards in suits kicked and stomped protesters. Video posted to Twitter showed D.C. police attempting to separate the two groups. When asked who had attacked him, an older man with blood smeared all down his face and white shirt turned to the camera and said, “The Turks.”
D.C. officials brought charges against 15 security guards in light of the incident. It was one of a number of dust-ups between Erdogan and Trump in 2017, despite early hopes the two countries could have a better relationship than under the Obama administration.
Later in May, President Trump spoke at a NATO summit in Brussels. The world watched, wondering how the president’s tough talk on the campaign trail would translate to an international stage. Post reporters Philip Rucker, Karen DeYoung and Michael Birnbaum wrote that the speech was “confrontational” and “scolding.”
The image that stuck with us from the event was Trump, physically pushing aside another country’s leader. Video showed the U.S. president shoving Montenegro’s prime minister, Dusko Markovic, on the way to a photo op.
A pair of Islamic State attacks in June marked a new geographic milestone for the militant group. Militants launched deadly assaults on Iran’s parliament building and at a shrine at the tomb of the leader of the nation’s Islamic revolution – the first time that group had struck inside Iran.
The Post’s Amanda Erickson wrote, “an assault on the shrine – akin to a bombing at America’s Tomb of the Unknowns – is an attack on the country’s political identity and on one of Iran’s most important monuments to Shiite Islam.”
A London high-rise apartment building erupted in flames, June 14, leaving at least 71 people dead and hundreds homeless. The building was located in one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, but it was public housing.
Video posted to social media from those down below showed residents trapped inside, desperate to escape the burning building. One video showed the view of the building through the window of a plane, spewing smoke over the city.
A month later, British police released footage that takes the viewer on a macabre tour of Grenfell Tower’s barren lobby, charred stairwells and blown out windows. Residents displaced by the blaze struggled to find new housing options of the same quality as they had had before.
The fire prompted the British government to test other high-rise buildings to see if they contained the same flammable exterior cladding involved in the Grenfell Tower fire. As of Dec. 14, Post reporter Karla Adam wrote, “Thousands of people are still living in structures confirmed to be at risk.”
July saw a victory in the war against the Islamic State as Iraqi joint forces recaptured the key city of Mosul.
As soldiers and journalists reentered the city, it was clear rebuilding would be no small task.
Five months later, the U.S. military is still figuring out what its role is in Iraq now that the fighting is over.
In the beginning of August, Myanmar, also called Burma, began sending troops into the Rakhine state, home to much of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority population. That month, the Rohingya left their country, telling stories of rape and abuse by the Burmese army. Aid group Doctors Without Borders estimates at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the violence between Aug. 25 and Sept. 24. As time wore on, the images of people lined up to leave their homes were staggering.
In the months since the clashes began, the United States has declared the violence against the Rohingya community to be “ethnic cleansing” and almost 650,000 Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh.
September brought hurricanes to landfall, and with them, destruction of historic proportions to the Caribbean.
The Post’s Anthony Faiola, Samantha Schmidt and Marc Fisher wrote, “The storms pushed the islands back to the primitive, basic state that made the sandbars of the Caribbean so alluring to European empires, pirates and tourists for half a millennium.”
Hurricane Irma in particular wrecked the island of Barbuda. Homes flattened, trees torn down, debris everywhere. The Post’s Andrew deGrandpre wrote that Irma forced Barbuda’s 1,800 residents to flee, leaving the island – for the first time in 300 years – empty.
Now the island is in the midst of a legal land fight, as some lawmakers want to change a key law to make it easier for investors to claim a stake in the rebuilding process.
The first day in October was a big one historically for the Spanish region of Catalonia.
Despite opposition from the Spanish government, Catalonia held a referendum on whether to form its own independent nation. More than 2 million people voted in favor of independence.
More than three weeks later, secessionists filled the streets, hugging and cheering as Catalonia officially declared itself an independent republic.
Their joy was short lived. The October referendum was intended to give the region more autonomy. In the weeks that followed, however, Spain stripped Catalan officials of their power and threw leaders of the separatist movement in jail.
With its Parliament dissolved, Catalan voters went back to the polls Dec. 21 to elect new leaders and to vote once again on whether to split from Spain. The Post’s William Booth and Pamela Rolfe wrote that with record-breaking turnout, pro-independence parties won most of the vote, “setting the stage for another showdown with the central government in Madrid.”
It is unclear how that new fight will unfold, but regardless, 2017’s upheaval will have a lasting effect on the region. Since the first vote, more than 2,700 businesses have already moved out of Catalonia.
Robert Mugabe reigned over Zimbabwe for 37 years, but in November, he stepped aside.
His rule began unraveling when the military placed him and his wife, Grace, under house arrest Nov. 14. This seemed to signal a coup, but military leaders denied that, and Mugabe did not immediately step down. Instead he gave a rambling speech Nov. 19 with no hint at plans to leave.
Facing opposition even from within his own party, the 93-year-old president finally resigned, clearing the way for his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa to take the lead.
Images out of Zimbabwe that day showed pure jubilation: a man falling to his knees and shouting with joy, people hugging and dancing in the streets of Harare, and tanks rolling alongside demonstrators waving the country’s flag.
The country is still struggling economically, but the AP reported that in his first State of the Nation speech, Mnangagwa promised to combat corruption and court foreign investors.
For more than two months, North Korea had abstained from launching any missile tests. On Nov. 29, that calm period shattered when the country shot up a new kind of intercontinental ballistic missile, one that appeared to be more advanced than any of its predecessors. Kim Jong Un’s regime claimed his weapons could now reach the United States, and Post reporter Rick Noack wrote the test “almost certainly put all major European targets within Pyongyang’s reach.”
The images North Korea released showed a long, dark cylinder blasting up with a flash of light.
The launch prompted President Trump to threaten “additional major sanctions” on North Korea and to call on China to check their neighbor’s nuclear ambitions.
The Post’s Adam Taylor and Tim Meko looked back at how North Korea’s weapons programs evolved in 2017; they found the country’s capabilities “stopped being funny” this year and started being scary.
When President Trump took office, one of the lofty goals he touted was bringing peace to the Middle East. In a move that critics said made that goal less achievable, Trump upended decades of U.S. foreign policy precedent Dec. 6 when he announced his administration would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The move ignited protests around the world: Pakistan, Morocco, Lebanon, Indonesia, New York, Turkey, Syria and of course, in Jerusalem itself. Demonstrators lit Israeli and U.S. flags on fire, marched in the streets and shouted chants. In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, they faced off with security forces spraying tear gas. During the bloodiest protests more than a week after the announcement, The Post’s Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha wrote that four Palestinians were killed, including a demonstrator identified as “a disabled 29-year-old who had previously lost his legs.”
Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza, saying they were in response to Hamas rocket fire linked to Trump’s decision.
The change also led to a showdown at the United Nations. President Trump threatened to cut off funds to nations who voted in favor of a resolution rejecting his Jerusalem decision. His tactics did not work. The measure still passed with an overwhelming margin of victory. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, condemned the resolution, saying the United States would “remember this day.”
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