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Time magazine's top ten 2013 news stories

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | 10:42 AM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica-- Time Magazine has put together a list of itsTop Ten International news stories this year.

One significant story which did not make the list was the death of Anti-Apartheid leader and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who passed away at his home in Johannesburg on December 5. 

Time’s top ten:

10) Supertyphoon Haiyan -- The deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since at least Typhoon Tehlma in 1991, Haiyan smashed into the archipelago with wind speeds as high as 170 mph (more than 20 mph faster than Hurricane Katrina’s worst gusts) and surging sea levels up to 20 feet. Despite preparations, including the evacuation of nearly 800,000 people, more than 5,000 people were killed and nearly two million left homeless.

9) India’s Rape Epidemic -- The fury over a shocking Delhi gang rape in at the end of 2012 overflowed into 2013. Mass protests at the time demanded greater protection for women and swift justice. The trial and sentencing of the culprits—four were given the death penalty—of the six suspects lasted through September. Other incidents, including the rape of another 23-year-old girl in Mumbai, also drew widespread attention nationally and abroad.

8) China’s Naval Tensions -- One of the most vexing challenges presented by China’s emergence as a budding superpower has to do with the Asian giant’s ability to get along with its neighbours. The most glaring test lies in the waters surrounding the Chinese mainland. In both the South China Sea and to China’s east, enduring disputes over maritime territory — often uninhabited spits of reef and rock — have threatened to blow up into a regional crisis this year.

7) Bangladesh’s Factory Disaster -- The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in the outskirts of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on April 24 was reported as the worst industrial disaster in recent memory, killing over 1,100 workers. It served as a horrific reminder of the poor conditions that define an essential industry, which employs about four million people in Bangladesh. The disaster forced discussions, domestically and internationally, of reform in factories that supply major retailers across Europe and America.

6) Africa’s Ring of Terror -- France’s January intervention in Mali to push back advancing Islamist forces was supposed to be a quick blow against a separatist insurgency. Instead, French involvement, though largely successful, has lasted through the year—and 2013 has seen a rise of Islamist extremist-fuelled terrorism across Africa, including a hostage crisis at an Algerian oil field that left 39 foreigners dead; repeated ruthless attacks by the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria; and the assault on an upscale Nairobi mall by al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, that killed at least 68 people.

5) Francis, the Progressive Pope -- White smoke rose to announce the new pope on March 13—habemus papam!—ending one saga and setting off a new era for the Vatican. A month earlier Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the office due to his old age, becoming the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to cede his post.

In his place the papal conclave voted for the Argentine cleric Jorge Bergoglio, who from the outset has fashioned himself a reformer of the Church and an advocate for the poor. 

4) Snowden -- The cache of documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shed light on the extent of US espionage operations in various parts of the world and threatened to damage US relations with some key international players, who claimed in public to be furious with the US’s snooping in their own countries. There was White House ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel, demanding answers on allegations that the NSA had tapped her cell phone, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who cancelled a trip to the US and then, later, complained before a global audience at the UN about the “affront” to her country’s sovereignty.

3) Egypt’s Revolution -- In a televised speech July 3, Egyptian army chief Abdul Fatah el-Sisi told millions of Egyptians that the military had removed democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi. The move was welcomed by millions of Egyptians who had taken to the streets to protest the divisive, one-year rule of the Islamist president, who, critics said, exploited his position to simply consolidate the power of his Muslim Brotherhood.

But the ouster was followed by mass protests from Morsi’s backers that led to ongoing clashes between supporters of the two camps, polarizing Egyptian society. The military-backed interim government ultimately cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders and their supporters in the streets, culminating in a raid on two camps of demonstrators August 14 that left hundreds of people dead. 

2) Iran’s New Chapter -- It was clear the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, elected in June, was trying a new strategy when he wished Jews, in atweet, a “blessed Rosh Hashanah” on the Jewish new year.

In the space of a few months, Rouhani and his new cabinet transformed the atmosphere surrounding Iran, a nation made into something of a pariah by the bellicose rhetoric of previous President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In September, after charming the international press corps at the UN General Assembly, Rouhani held a historic phone call with President Obama—the first direct dialogue between an American and Iranian head of state for three decades.

1) Syria’s Civil War — and The War That Didn’t Happen -- On the morning of August 21, reports emerged from a Damascus suburb of a sarin gas attack, a grim event in a civil war that had already cost the lives of 100,000 people and spurred the largest refugee crisis in a generation. Ten days later, after releasing to the public an intelligence report determining that Syrian President Bashar Assad fired the weapons and killed at least 1,429 people, President Barack Obama announced that he was going to ask Congress for authorisation to strike Syrian chemical weapons installations.

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