World: The best and worst of 2013

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 31, 2013 10:03 hrs

Shock of the year: The Pope’s resignation.

Benedict XVI became the first Pope in almost 600 years to quit, surprising one and all. While advancing age was one of the reasons cited, it may be noted that Benedict and LK Advani were born in the same year.

His successor became the first Francis to be Pope and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first non-European Pope since Pope Gregory III, who died way back in 741. Pope Francis became the Time Person of the Year.

Whistle blower of the year: Edward Snowden.

One is sure that a Hollywood movie on Snowden’s life will be made soon. A former CIA employee cum NSA contractor fleeing the country with a whopping 2 lakh classified files and finally finding refuge in old cold war enemy Russia is the stuff of legends.

His surveillance exposes have left US President Barack Obama fuming. He was named the Guardian Person of the Year for 2013.

Funeral of the year: Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was one of the most widely respected world leaders. He spent 27 years in jail fighting against Apartheid and came out and talked of forgetting the past. He served just one term as President of South Africa and stepped down after that. He was an inspiration to all and his loss will be felt by the whole world.

Selfie of the year: World leaders.

A pretty girl at a stadium calls two dudes to take a selfie and they lean towards her and happily pose for the photo. That’s nothing new, right? Of course unless the pretty girl happens to be Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the two posing dudes happen to be UK PM David Cameron and US President Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the world and the occasion is Mandela’s funeral.

No wonder Oxford dictionaries have named selfie as Word of the Year!

Deja vu of the year: The ancient Egyptians were busy kicking out the Greeks and the Romans. Then they were kicking out the Arabs. In the twentieth century they kicked out the British, their monarch and the military dictatorship. In the new millennium they kicked out Hosni Mubarak and this year they kicked out the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Deja vu anyone?

Deal of the year: Iran has been on the verge of becoming a nuclear power for quite some time and Israel has been breathing fire in the international stage against it. However a flashpoint was averted when Iran reached a deal with six countries including the US at Geneva over its nuclear programme.

No strike of the year: Every few years the US ends up attacking some country or the other and this year is appeared to by Syria’s turn. A civil war is raging in Syria and when the Bashar al-Assad regime used chemical weapons on the rebels, they faced US strikes.

However, Bashar took an undertaking to scale back his chemical weapons programme and a crisis was averted.

Sale of the year: Three Studies of Lucian Freud

The average person probably would never have heard the name of Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon, but the late painter entered the record books when his 1969 work Three Studies of Lucian Freud went for a whopping US$ 142.2 million, the highest ever at an auction.

Stalemate of the year: Pakistan

Pakistan at any given time may be on the verge of dictatorship or democracy depending on the situation. This year it saw a new Army chief and an old leader in the form of Nawaz Sharif back at the helm.

It may be noted that last time Sharif’s rule saw the Kargil War and a military coup.

Since 9/11, nothing much has changed for Pakistan. Armed conflicts. Active terror groups. Multiple blasts. It was just another usual year in the life of the average Pakistani.

Breakthroughs of the year…

Elsewhere researches at Oregon Science and Health University cloned human embryonic stem cells. One the positive side this will help in generating replacement tissues of every kind, especially useful in certain diseases and disorders. But it also clears the decks to created cloned babies! Scary…

Cornell University engineers used cells from sheep, grown in rats and built by a 3D printer to create an artificial working ear! What next? What other body parts will they attempt to create artificially?

Cambridge scientists managed to print new eye cells with a piezoelectric inkjet printer! This could be a step forward for treating blindness.

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. 

He blogs here.