- Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Every year brings with it worldwide headlines that have readers electrified and on the edge of their seats. From the cave rescue in Thailand to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to Cuba ending its decades-long Castro rule, 2018 was no exception.
Here are the top 10 news stories that captivated us this year.
Twelve boys and their soccer coach got stranded in a cave in Thailand, and the world rallied to their rescue.
- Linh Pham/Getty
In summer 2018, a 12-boy soccer team (the Wild Boars) and their coach were celebrating a teammate’s birthday when they made a routine trip into the Tham Luang cave in the Chiang Rai province of Thailand. Shortly after they entered, however, heavy rains that showered the region for the past few days flooded the cave and trapped them all inside.
After a week without contact, British divers found the group in early July. An international crew of rescuers resolved to rescue the boys before the next monsoon just days away. During those few days, the world watched as all 13 were pulled to safety from the cave and immediately rushed to the hospital.
The collective rescue effort included more than 100 divers from all over the world. There was one fatality: Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died while supplying oxygen to the boys in the cave.
Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that more than 50 million people’s personal information was compromised for “research.”
- The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Data firm Cambridge Analytica accessed data from 50 million Facebook users during the 2016 US presidential campaign without the users’ permission, but this didn’t come to light until March 2018.
Using a personality quiz app for Facebook, the company accessed data not only from users who downloaded it, but also the data of their friends. The data breach gathered information about Facebook users’ identities, networks, and “likes” in order to better identify their voting behavior. Then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign later hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 to help target ads using voter data gathered from millions of adults in the US.
Though Facebook said Cambridge Analytica activities were removed from its site in 2015, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in April 2018 and said, “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry.”
Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea will denuclearize.
During a June 2018 summit in Singapore, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un announced that he wanted to end the nuclear tension between his country and the United States by signing an agreement with President Trump including the denuclearization of his country.
The two drew worldwide criticism, however, for not offering any specific plan, outline, or proof of said denuclearization. Professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, Andrei Lankov said the agreement had “zero practical value.” Others are also doubtful as to whether or not Kim Jong Un intends to keep his promise.
The Supreme Leader later told South Korean officials that he’d like to denuclearize before President Trump’s first term ends in 2021.
The net neutrality debate came to a head, and the FCC’s rules were repealed, putting the control back in the internet’s hands.
- Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
Net neutrality is the idea that “internet providers shouldn’t interfere with your ability to reach the websites, apps, or services of your choice.” In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set rules in place regulating the blocking and showing of certain web content by internet providers.
This year, those rules were repealed, giving the power back to internet providers and taking it away from users. All over the country and world, social media exploded with reactions and an ongoing debate.
The world was engrossed by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
- Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images
When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding her sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, women with similar stories worldwide united.
Hundreds of people contacted British newspaper the Guardian, offering their responses to the hearings and sharing their personal experiences with sexual assault. Readers from South Africa to Dubai to Scotland reached out to The New York Times to offer their responses, siding with Dr. Ford and following the Senate’s deliberation (and ultimate decision) closely.
Puerto Rico was left without electricity for 11 months, and the world came together to help.
- Jose Jimenez/Getty Images
In the wake of Hurricane Maria, much of Puerto Rico was left without electricity – for almost an entire year.
The lack of power was an ongoing issue as state-owned utility companies struggled to provide supplies and restore power to more than 1.4 million residents after the hurricane. According to CNN, the slow reparation time has led to dozens of deaths this year, and charities around the globe set up funds asking for donations to assist the territory by providing water filters, solar lights, etc.
As of August, power had been restored to everyone save 25 customers.
The Castro family’s more than 50-year reign over Cuba came to an end with the election of Miguel Díaz-Canel.
- Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images
It’s hard to imagine Cuba without a Castro, but in 2018, Cuba’s National Assembly elected Miguel Díaz-Canel to be the nation’s next leader.
Having fought against the dictatorship of Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, the Castro regime began in 1959. Raúl Castro resigned in 2018 at the age of 86. His successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was a power player in the Cuban communist party and previously served as vice president.
Geoff Thale, vice president for programs at the Washington Office of Latin America, spoke to ABC News about the election of Díaz-Canel, saying, “To have someone without the family name or the same aura of revolutionary is a historic shift … I wouldn’t expect in his first six months we’d see a series of dramatic shifts. But he is going to face serious economic problems and questions of his legitimacy.”
This year, Iraqi voters held their first election since driving out the Islamic State.
- Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Iraqi voters flocked to the polls this year for the first time since driving out the Islamic State (aka ISIS) in 2017 after the Iraq Civil War. It was a milestone election for the country, and Iraqis were given the power to decide their future with the potential to shift the balance of power and mend divisions between ethnic groups.
After much confusion and a recount, Iraq finally elected a new prime minister and president in October: Adil Abd al-Mahdi as prime minister and Barham Salih as president. According to CNN, the prime minister holds most of the power. With both men at the beginning of their terms, the world will watch as Iraq begins to rebuild.
Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) experienced a fall from grace.
The cryptocurrency industry hit a peak in January 2018, having since lost more than $670 billion in capital. For years, predictions about the role of cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin, specifically, have been made, the latter’s value changing regularly.
The industry has been on a steady decline throughout 2018, Bloomberg recently reporting Bitcoin’s worth falling below $5,000. Experts attribute some of the decline to Bitcoin having more sellers than buyers, though it could be the result of a multitude of reasons.
A royal wedding took place, and the entire world was transfixed as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said “I do.”
In a world rife with tragedy and turmoil, this year’s royal wedding was a brief respite – and an escape into a real-life fairytale.
England’s Prince Harry wed American actress Meghan Markle (now known as the Duchess of Sussex) on May 19. Television viewership of the wedding was higher than that of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s, with more than 29 million people in the United States tuning in to watch Harry and Meghan get hitched, compared to William and Kate’s 23 million. The combined number of British and US viewers surpassed 50 million.
The world is still watching, too, as Markle settles into her secondary role: global fashion icon.
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