On January 25, 2016, the Dakota Access Pipeline project was approved to begin construction. The pipeline would span across four states, transferring oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Since then, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native American groups have been fighting against construction by demonstrating and pursuing legal action. Energy Transfer Partners, the energy company proposing the pipeline, reasons that the project will promote domestic economy and provide new jobs. Protesters argue that the pipeline poses a major environmental risk and runs through historic Native American lands. On December 4, 2016, after almost a year of conflict, the Army Corps of Engineers delayed the project by refusing to authorize a major portion of the pipeline. According to the New York Times, it is unclear whether or not the Army Corps will ultimately authorize the project.
Brussels, Belgium was attacked by a series of suicide bombers on March 22. At around 8 am, two bombs detonated in the Brussels Airport in Zaventem within seconds of each other. An hour later, a third suicide bomber attacked a Brussels subway train in the Maelbeek station. According to BBC, 32 people were killed and over 300 were injured as a result. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the extremist terrorist group most commonly referred to as ISIS, later claimed responsibility for all three bombings.
In April, over eleven million documents and files were leaked from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm. Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German newspaper, received the leak from an unknown source. The newspaper then shared the information with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has since published and spread the leak to other media outlets. The documents, known as the “Panama Papers”, expose the corrupt financial practices of the firm and its high profile clients. The New York Times states that numerous international celebrities and politicians have been linked to offshore bank accounts. While using one is not illegal in itself, said accounts are often used to “hide criminality from prying eyes…by facilitating tax evasion or money laundering.” Mossack Fonseca is currently denying implications of illegal practices. Officials closely affiliated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, Prime Minister of Iceland, are among the many names mentioned in the Panama Papers. The Panama Papers are being compared to other large-scale leaks in recent years, including the National Security Agency breach by Edward Snowden in 2013.
On June 12, a gunman attacked the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The attacker entered the LGBT+ club at around 2 am and opened fire, trapping patrons inside for almost four hours before being apprehended. The killer pledged allegiance to the Islamic State shortly into the attack. According to CNN, The mass shooting resulted in 49 deaths and 53 injuries, becoming “the deadliest mass shooting in the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11”.
On June 23, Britain held a referendum to determine whether or not to leave the European Union, an alliance consisting of 28 European countries. The topic has been subject to debate for years, and growing tensions across Europe have only solidified the result: The decision to leave, commonly referred to as “Brexit” (a portmanteau of “Britain” and “exit”), won the majority vote. Concerns about trade, immigration, and overall economic success under the EU’s laws led many areas across the United Kingdom to vote leave, even with the great risk and uncertainty that would follow. After the referendum, former British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned from office. Theresa May has since then taken his place.
On August 31, the World Health Organization officially declared the Zika virus as an international health emergency. Zika was also identified as a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, congenital brain abnormalities found in newborn infants. The two pose great risks for pregnant women, as the virus can be transmitted from a mother to the fetus. Outbreaks of the virus, which is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites, were reported in Brazil and Columbia in 2015. Since then, over 28,000 cases of Zika have been reported in Puerto Rico, the U.S Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Over 4,000 cases have been reported in the United
States since July, 2016. As of now, there is no vaccine available for Zika.
On November 8, the 2016 Presidential Election results were calculated. After a tense and eventful campaign from both major parties, Republican nominee Donald Trump won the majority vote against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In the final count, Trump received 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232. Clinton won 48% of the popular vote while Trump received 46%. Days after the election, Green Party nominee Jill Stein raised concerns of hackers interfering with the ballots, pushing for a recount of the votes. According to the New York Times, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both went through with the recount, but the results remained the same. Michigan also filed, but was denied shortly after submitting a request. Trump will be sworn into office on January 20, 2017.
December 13, saw an end to the Battle of Aleppo. Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, had been facing the brunt of a violent civil war since 2012, torn between military and rebel forces. After revolting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, rebel opposition joined together in Aleppo to fight off Assad’s police power, which includes Russian, Iranian, and Shi’ite armies. An entire city of uninvolved citizens suffers between them. Constant bomb drops, indiscriminate firing, and public executions contributed to the mass of civilian casualties. Violence and bloodshed only increased as the Syrian government took over more and more of east Aleppo, cornering rebels and civilians alike. On the 13, the opposition surrendered and Assad reclaimed the city. The Syrian governments has been evacuating citizens and rebel fighters since then.
Many of the headlines listed above fall under the highly discussed topics of this year: immigration, xenophobia, racism, social class, and more. These areas have always been subject to debate, but gained immense traction in 2016.