World 2018 is a review of the most important political, economic and social events as well as sport and science achievements. We have also explored topics related to migration, environment and technology. Our summary presents meaningful facts during the last 12 months which have had a significant impact on the world around us.
High-resolution images of Mars show vast amounts of ice between steep slopes. Scientists believe that some of them are over 100 metres thick and they are placed as close as one meter below the planet’s surface. The images were taken by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera installed on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) – reconnaissance probe that has been collecting data on the surface of Mars since 2005. Easy access to ice can facilitate the colonisation of Mars as well as studying the planet itself.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed a law on the reintegration of temporarily occupied territories in Donbas and Luhansk Oblasts. The law describes Russia as an aggressor, and the territories occupied by the separatists as occupied by the Russians. The document states that the temporary occupation of Ukraine’s territory by the Russian Federation is illegal and does not grant Russia any territorial rights regardless of how long it lasts. The conflict in eastern Ukraine started in spring 2014.
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore have developed a new test that screens for multiple types of cancer using only a blood sample. CancerSEEK can detect 16 genes and eight proteins that are regularly present in tumours. It means scientists would be able to identify the disease at its early stages. So far the method has been tested on 1,005 patients with one of the eight different cancer types, finding that CancerSEEK was able to identify the tumours in 70% of cases reliably. Researchers stress that the research trials will have to be conducted on a larger scale before the method will be widely available.
Scientists ticked the ‘Doomsday Clock’ forward 30 seconds to 2 minutes to midnight. They noticed a connection between a growing threat to the world and climate change, bioterrorism, potential nuclear conflict, cyberwar and the development of artificial intelligence.
The idea of the ‘Doomsday Clock’ was initiated in 1947 by a team of scientists involved in the Manhattan Project (the developing of the atomic bomb). It is a symbol of global threat and is supposed to inform about the dangers associated with the survival and development of the humankind. The explanations of the scientists’ decisions on the Doomsday Clock’ are regularly published on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Roger Federer became the first tennis player in history to win 20 Grand Slam tournaments. The Swiss defended the Australian Open title beating Croatian Marin Čilic in five sets 6:2, 6:7 (5-7), 6:3, 3:6, 6:1. Soon after, Federer became the oldest men’s player to top the ATP world rankings in history at the age of 36 and 195 days.
The discovery of scientists at the University of Edinburgh may become a new solution for women at risk of premature fertility loss such as those undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment or girls who have already been diagnosed with cancer in their childhood. The method that has been developed over the past 30 years may allow to retrieve, develop and use the oocytes in laboratory conditions. However, many tests have to be conducted to check if eggs growing outside the ovaries are healthy and function properly before the new method becomes available.
Ski jumper Kamil Stoch retained his large hill individual title in Pyeongchang and won the third Olympic gold medal in his career. He became the first jumper since Matti Nykänen (in 1988) who managed to defend the Olympic gold. At the age of 30, eight months and 23 days he also became the oldest individual Olympic champion in the history of ski jumping.
The Olympic Games were of conciliatory character between North Korea and South Korea. Athletes from both countries marched at the opening ceremony of the Games as one representation under the Korean Unification Flag, carried by two flag bearers, one from each country. Moreover, the joint North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team competed together in Pyeongchang. Twenty-three players from South Korea and 12 players plus one official from North Korea were the part of the team.
Washington grand jury charged 13 Russians and three Russian organisations with interference in the US presidential election in 2016.
Since 2014, the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) has used the stolen identities of Americans and has checked what influences people talking about politics in social media. An alleged budget of over a million dollars was used for advertising campaigns on Twitter and Facebook during the last presidential election in the USA. The IRA goal was to create an atmosphere of division and rage on the Internet, influencing people’s voices and discouraging national minorities to participate in elections. The accusing pointed out that actions using the Internet for political benefits can be ruthless and sophisticated.
Eastern Ghouta is a territory located 15 km west of the capital Damascus, occupied by anti-government forces in November 2012. The Syrian army continued the siege of eastern Ghouta since April 2013. It led to one of the most significant humanitarian crises of war in Syria. In February 2018, the regime’s forces began an offensive supported by Russian Air Force.
According to Doctors without Borders, an international humanitarian group, 1005 people were killed there between 18 February and 3 March. As a result, the Syrian army took full control of Ghouta. It was the longest siege in modern history.
The Washington Post reported that the Russian military intelligence agency GRU hacked 300 computers used by authorities at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. The Russians hacked routers and deployed malware to download data and cause total disruption of the network. As a result, many participants of the event could not print the tickets, go online, visit the official website or watch the Winter Olympics opening ceremony. The spies of Russian military intelligence used an Internet service provider from North Korea to avoid suspicions. Such actions are called the ‘false flag’ operations.
The new sanctions package aims to cut off smuggling routes through which North Korea sends oil, coal and other products the United Nations imposed an embargo on. The US believes that smuggling allows the regime to continue financing the nuclear weapons program and missile programs. President Donald Trump warned that if sanctions did not have the desired effect, the next step could be ‘very unfortunate for the world’. The sanctions were targeted against 28 vessels and 27 other entities located or registered in Asia or Africa.
Over 50 scientists studying artificial intelligence from nearly 30 countries signed a letter in which they pledged not to cooperate with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). They underlined that the Institute’s cooperation with Hanwha Systems, a giant in the area of weapon production in South Korea, could lead to the creation of killer robots controlled by artificial intelligence. Researchers are afraid that Korea wants to speed up the arms race by developing autonomous robotic weapons. Hanwha Systems company produces cluster bombs prohibited in 120 countries by an international agreement which had not been signed by South Korea, the United States, Russia and China.
Australia and East Timor reached an agreement that determines the maritime border between these countries. The treaty was the result of the first-ever conciliation under the UN convention on the law of the sea. The agreement ended negotiations that had been going on for years and determines each nation’s entitlement and ownership of the abundant oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea, including the untapped Greater Sunrise basin, where there are gas reserves worth around $53bn. Both countries agreed to share gas revenues, for the benefit of Timor, which is in line with the maritime law, although Australia was previously reluctant to such a solution.
Eleven countries signed a new free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The treaty, from which the United States withdrew in January 2017, was previously known as the Transparent Partnership (TTP). The new international agreement assumes, among others the abolition of barriers, both tariff and non-tariff, in trade between the countries that have signed the agreement. It also includes a controversial mechanism for settling disputes between investors and the state, which allows companies to sue governments if they believe that the change in the law has had an impact on their profits. The agreement was signed by Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Nearly three thousand delegates of the National People’s Congress voted almost unanimously to approve an amendment to the Constitution to abolish the term limit on the presidency and open the way for President Xi to rule indefinitely. In total, the Chinese congress adopted 21 constitutional changes that strengthen the position of the party and the president. Lately, Chinese authorities have been gradually changing regulations which opened China to the world in the 80s and 90s, thanks to the socio-economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping.
Parliamentary elections were held in Cuba to elect members of the National Assembly of People’s Power. It was the first step in the process of changing the president. Before the elections, President Raúl Castro declared that he would not apply for re-election and that the National Assembly would elect the new head of state. His deputy, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was then elected as the new president. However, Raúl Castro remained the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.
British theoretical physicist and cosmologist died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge. His scientific theories shaped modern cosmology. He was an author of books that popularised science, including the Brief History of Time, which made the scientist well-known all over the world. The book was sold in 10 million copies and was translated into 40 languages.
Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out after the publications of the New York Times and the Guardian. The consultancy company Cambridge Analytica, connected with Donald Trump’s campaign, harvested personal data of about 87 million Facebook users and used it for political purposes during the presidential campaign in 2016. On 10 April, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was asked to provide testimony in the US Congress due to the scandal. Within days of disclosing information about Cambridge Analytica activities, Facebook’s stock dropped by more than 100 million dollars.
Vladimir Putin won the presidential election in Russia, taking more than 76% of the vote. According to the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, the second place was taken by the communist candidate, Pavel Grudinin, taking 11.8% of the votes, and the third was a fierce nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.6% of votes. Michael Georg Link, a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, described the elections in Russia as ‘overly controlled’ and ‘without real competition.’
In over 700 cities in the US and approximately 100 other places around the world, a March for our life was organised to call for tighter gun laws in the United States. The protests took place a month after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida when 17 people – students and teachers – were killed. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were over 56 thousand gun-related incidents in the USA in 2018 (including 337 mass shootings). Almost 14 500 people were killed, and 28 thousand were injured
On March 30, a peaceful protest began in the Gaza Strip, called the Great March of Return. Thousands of Palestinians sang and marched along an electric fence on the edge of the Strip, built more than a decade ago. Israeli military forces, however, used tear gas and live ammunition to force to leave those demonstrators, who decided to approach the fence.
According to the Al Mezan Center For Human Rights, from March 30 to December 28, 2018, 256 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 180 people during the protests.
The star most distant from the Earth (9.34 billion light-years, distance comoving: 14.4 billion light-years) was observed thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope and the gravitational lensing. It has been named MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1 (LS1) or ‘carus’ and belongs to a group of giant B type stars. They are extremely luminous and blue in colour stars and twice as hot as our sun. According to astronomers, this star is at least 100 times farther away than the next single star that we can spot.
The LS1 light includes much valuable information. It can reveal some secrets of dark matter, the evolution of stars and the composition of galaxy clusters. It can also help astronomers in research of neutron stars ( invisible by other means) and black holes.
The opposition and Western countries accused the president of Syria Bashar al-Assad on Douma chemical attack. Douma is a city 10 km from Damascus, the largest in the Ghouta region. At least 49 people were killed, and 650 people were injured. On April 14, as part of the retaliatory measures, the United States, the United Kingdom and France carried out a series of military strikes, mainly air raids, against multiple government sites in Syria and against sites that were to protect chemical weapons. Russian Federation, which has supported the Assad regime and his army operations against the rebels since 2015, claimed that there was no evidence of the use of chemical weapons.
Forty-seven female riders took part in a ten-kilometre race in the city of Jeddah. It was organised by the Be Active group. In Saudi Arabia, women can cycle on beaches and parks since 2013 provided they are modestly dressed and are under the supervision of a male guard.
Protests and demonstrations began when members of the Republican Party did not exclude the option of nominating Serzh Sargsyan, the Armenian president, for the post of the prime minister. It led to the outbreak of the ‘Velvet Revolution’. Another reason of social dissatisfaction was the constitutional changes that replaced the presidential system with the semi-consolidated authoritarian state (a compromise between a chancellor and parliament). In April 2018, opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan called on his compatriots to peaceful protests. Despite that, Sargsyan had been elected by the parliament for the prime minister post, but after ten days he resigned. On 8 May 2018, Pashinyan, with the support of some deputies from the ruling party, was elected by the parliament as the prime minister ( on May 1, in earlier voting, he failed to achieve the required majority). In the early elections held on December 9, 2018, the My Step Alliance created by Pashinyan received 70.4% of the votes and won 88 out of 132 seats in the parliament.
Scientists accidentally created a mutated enzyme that breaks down PET used in bottles. The reason for the research was the discovery of bacteria in the landfill in Japan, which in the process of evolution mutated and began to nourish with plastic. John E. McGeehan’s team of the University of Portsmouth examined the structure of the enzyme thoroughly. He used an intense X-rays beam, which was 10 billion times brighter than the Sun, and it could discover individual atoms. When the team tried to study a newly discovered enzyme, it accidentally improved the enzyme’s ability to degrade PET.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Kim Jong-un and the Republic of Korea’s Moon Jae-in signed a declaration on full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also pledged to start the process of reconciliation in relations between the two countries to end the war that began in 1950 formally. The Korean summit was the third in history and the first meeting of leaders of both Korean countries in 11 years. The states have also pledged to take an active part in talks with the US and China to announce the end of the Korean War and establish peace on the Peninsula.
Nine out of ten people live in places where the air is polluted – according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). Around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air that penetrates deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system. Over 90% of deaths related to air pollution occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa. Places with the highest level of air pollution also happen in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The WHO report is based on air quality measurements from over 4,300 cities in 108 countries.
Due to the decision of Donald Trump, the United States decided to relocate its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The experts warned that such a move could trigger protests because both Palestinians and Jews consider Jerusalem their capital. The demonstrations took place in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army killed fifty-eight people, and there were 2,700 people wounded — the Israeli military estimates that 40,000 Palestinians were involved in the protests. These were the bloodiest clashes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2014.
The international community does not recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – almost 90 embassies are located in Tel Aviv. The US decision was criticised, among others, by the UN Security Council.
Almost half of the Lebanese (49.2%) took part in the elections. It was the first time the chance to vote had the citizens living outside the country. The voting system was also changed into the proportional one taking under consideration the size of each religious group. In the previous vote in 2009, the Lebanese had to choose the parliament for a four-year term. However, due to the unstable situation in the neighbouring Syria, the parliament extended its term twice.
In Lebanon, there has been a model of the division of power between different religions for years. One hundred twenty-eight seats in the parliament are divided between Christians and Muslims, and the president, prime minister and chairman of the parliament have to represent of a particular faith. Currently, the largest Christian party is the Free Patriotic Movement, the Sunni Muslims form the Future Movement, and the Shia factions are the Amal Movement and Hezbollah (considered as the terrorist organisation by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia).
Jeff Sessions, the then attorney general, announced a new policy of ‘zero tolerance’ for illegal immigrants, involving the separation of families crossing the border illegally – parents were sent to federal prison and children to camps under the supervision of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
According to government statistics, the decision of Trump’s administration led to the separation of about three thousand children from their families. On June 20, after the protests, President Trump retreated from the idea of the family separation on the border. Under the order of the US federal judge, the families were to be merged within 30 days.
Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from a nuclear agreement with Iran and proclaimed an intention to restore sanctions imposed on Iran, including oil, and also to introduce new ones – concerning the Central Bank of Iran. The nuclear agreement was signed between Iran, the USA, China, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom in 2015. Its purpose was to abolish economic sanctions imposed on Iran in exchange for the limitation of Iran nuclear activities.
Oil sanctions mean the import reduction by European and Asian countries. The European Union postulates mechanisms leading to the protection of European enterprises and enabling further trade with Iran.
32 Chilean bishops handed Pope Francis their resignations and put their fate in his hands over sex abuse and cover-up scandal in the local church. The bishops declared: ‘We want the face of the Lord to shine again in the Church and we commit ourselves to this with humility and hope, and we ask everyone to help along this path.’
Pope Francis met with the victims of clergy sex abuse from Chile and asked them for forgiveness. He also underlined that the Episcopate joins these apologies, expressing ‘a firm intention to correct the wrongs done’.
The Champions League final was held at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. It went down in history as the third straight Real Madrid triumph in the tournament (2016, 2017, 2018). Spanish side defeated Liverpool 3:1 (0:0). No other club since the change of the formula and creating the Champions League (1992) managed even to defend the trophy. However, the two most decisive people left the club after the final. Zinedine Zidane resigned as Real Madrid coach, and the biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo, decided to join Juventus in 100 million euros deal.
Yemen forces, supported by a coalition with Saudi Arabia at the forefront, launched an attack on the central city port of Yemen – Al-Hudaydah, which was in the hands of the Shia rebels from the Houthi group. The seaport of Al-Hudaydah is the only place through which humanitarian aid reaches some parts of Yemen.
The fights ended on December 13, when the parties agreed on the ceasefire during talks conducted under the patronage of the United Nations and obliged to withdraw their troops from the port within 21 days and hand it over to the UN control. On December 29, the Houthi withdrew their troops from the city.
It is the fourth year of the war in Yemen. The UN called it the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. Until March 26, 2018, at least 10,000 Yemeni people died in battles, and the total number of victims reached over 40,000. As a result of the war, over 22 million Yemenis need international aid, and more than a third of them is on the verge of starvation, including 400,000 children.
The Prime Ministers of Greece and Macedonia signed an agreement on the change of the name Macedonia to the Republic of Northern Macedonia.
On September 30, a referendum took place on Macedonia’s membership of NATO and the European Union and recognition of the agreement with Greece. 94.18% of Macedonians supported the agreement. On October 19, the parliament voted to start the process of renaming, and on December 3 it approved the amendment to the constitution. Voting on the change will take place in January 2019.
The dispute over the name Macedonia began after the country gained independence in 1991.
The World Health Organization (WHO) included a disorder caused by online and offline computer games to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The addiction to computer games falls into the same category as gambling addiction. In May 2019, the WHO proposal will be presented to the WHO members at the World Health Assembly, and it will formally be introduced on January 1, 2022.
Nikki Haley, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the US decided to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council – ‘hypocritical and self-serving organisation.’ She also accused the UNHRC of ‘chronic anti-Israel bias and the lack of reforms’. It was for the first time in history that a member of the UN Human Rights Council voluntarily left the Council. The United States joined Iran, North Korea and Eritrea – states that refuse to attend meetings and council sessions. It is another multilateral engagement, after withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and Iran nuclear deal, which the United States decided to reject.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit and opposition leader Riek Machar held a meeting in Khartoum to end the five-year civil war. The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir and Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni also took part in the peace talks. This was a continuation of the dialogue started on June 20 in Ethiopia during the first meeting of both countries’ leaders since 2016.
On September 12, after months of talks, the peace agreement in Addis Ababa was signed which formally ended the civil war in Ethiopia. At the end of October 30, Riek Machar returned to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and again took office as vice-president.
In 2013, two years after South Sudan gained independence, Mayardit accused his deputy Riek Machar of plotting and attempting to prepare a coup. It led to the outbreak of civil war in December 2013 and caused the largest refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
During the European Union summit in Brussels, the leaders of European countries reached an agreement on reducing illegal migration. It was decided to organise new control centres for incoming migrants in the countries that would be willing to do it, strengthen the control of the EU external borders and support the socio-economic development of Africa. Member States have also committed to ‘take all necessary legislative and administrative measures’ to stop refugees and migrants crossing Europe’s internal borders.
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed decided to respect the peace agreement rejected 18 years ago by Ethiopia. In 2000, the agreement was to end the two-year war between the countries, which killed 80,000 people.
During the meeting in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, both leaders announced to re-open embassies in their respective capitals, resume flights between countries, as well as direct phone connections. People were promised to be able to move between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
192 countries approved a non-binding agreement on the management of the international flow of migrants, the protection of human rights, the reasons for migration and the security of migrants. According to UN data, migrants are about 250 million people worldwide (3.4% of the global population).
The pact was officially signed on December 10, in the capital of Morocco, Marrakech, by leaders of 164 countries. The USA, Australia, Austria, Chile, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary refused to participate in the meeting and sign the agreement. Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel, Slovenia, Switzerland and Italy have not yet decided to accept the pact.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup took place in Russia. The tournament was won by the French team led by the coach Didier Deschamps, after defeating Croatia 4:2 in the final match of the competition. The Belgians won the bronze medals winning against England 2:0. English striker Harry Kane became the top scorer of the FIFA World Cup, and the best player was Croatian midfielder Luka Modrić. Young French forward Kylian Mbappé became the revelation of the World Cup. The Polish national team failed to live up to expectations. After the defeat against Senegal and Colombia, Polish players lost the chance to enter the knock-out stage of the tournament and took the last place in their group.
An economic partnership agreement was signed in Tokyo between the European Union and Japan. It is one of the world’s largest free trade agreements – it creates an open trade zone covering almost one-third of world GDP and 600 million people. The EU intends to export primarily dairy products and to import cars. Every year, EU companies export to Japan, which is the third largest economy in the world, goods and services worth over USD 100 billion.
According to the adopted law, the Arabic language ceased to be considered official in Israel. The only official language is Hebrew. Jerusalem becomes the capital of the state and Jewish communities would be promoted as ‘national values.’ The Act, giving the Jews an individual right to self-determination, aroused much controversy regarding, in particular, possible racial segregation. The Arab minority in the Israeli state is 1.8 million people (20% of the country’s population).
Andrzej Bargiel made the historic first ski descent of K2 (8 611 metres above sea level). The second highest peak in the world is considered the most difficult to climb among the eight-thousanders. K2 is also the only peak that no one has reached in winter so far. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘Killer Mountain’ due to a high rate of fatal accidents. Despite that, Bargiel managed to reach the peak without any problems, and about 6.5 hours later he returned safely to the base camp. Bargiel had skied off Shishapangma Central summit and Broad Peak before.
An outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) was detected in the North Kivu Province and Ituri Province. Until December 26 current year, 585 cases of infections were identified, of which 48 have not been confirmed. According to the Ministry of Health of the DRC, 356 people died as a result of the infection (48 deaths were not verified).
The number of cases of virus infection in the DRC has more than doubled since September 2018, when the activity of a rebel group in the north-eastern region of the country forced medical operations to stop. The ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is eleventh since 1976.
Scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, US successfully transplanted a bioengineered lung into pigs. They took ‘scaffold’ from a donor pig (a kind of lung’s ‘skeleton’), what provided structural support. Then the lung was regenerated for over 30 days in a piece of equipment called a bioreactor. About two months after the transplantation, the blood in the organs transplanted to pigs reached full oxygen saturation.
The experiment is a significant step towards transplanting bioengineered lungs to human patients. Researchers estimate that under the condition of proper funding, the lungs grown in the laboratory can be used in transplantology in 5 to 10 years.
The United States decided to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015 (President Trump withdrew from that nuclear deal in May 2018). The sanctions prohibit Iran from using the American currency and cars, metals and minerals trade. On November 5, the US introduced a number of sanctions targeting transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran and a ban on the import of Iran energy.
The White House decision was met with opposition from the European Union and its largest states.
One million China Uyghurs and one million representatives of other Muslim minorities are held in secret ‘counter-extremism centres’ in the Xinjiang province. The detainees are said to be held indefinitely without charge, they are poorly fed and tortured. They are forced to declare loyalty to the Chinese leader – Xi Jinping, according to the data of The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The World Uyghur Congress, a Muslim minority living mainly in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China, where ethnic riots erupted in 2009, confirmed experts’ information.
From January to August 2018, the Turkish currency lost more than 34% of its value against the dollar. The value of the stock market decreased by 17%, and inflation reached 15%. The reasons for the crisis are to be found in the deteriorating relations between Turkey and the US, the dependence of the Central Bank from President Erdoğan, abandoning the increase of interest rates and a possible loss of liquidity by Turkish companies. However, due to the drastic weakening of the lira, the Turkish tourist industry is dynamically growing.
During the summit in Aktau, Kazakhstan, the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan agreed on the special legal status of the Caspian Sea. As decided, the largest inland body of water in the world is no longer treated nor as a sea either as a lake and was divided into 15 miles of sovereign waters, ten nautical miles of fishing area, and common waters. The seabed will be divided up. The convention enables the signatories of the agreement to continue discussions regarding the exploitation of massive gas fields, crude oil and the huge sturgeon population.
The space probe task is to explore the corona of the Sun that gives rise to the solar winds. The probe will approach the star at a distance of 6.1 million km (seven times closer than any other spacecraft). It will also become the fastest human-made object ever, travelling at a speed of up to 690,000 km/h. A heat shield protects the probe instruments against extremely high temperatures, which can reach 1370 ° C at the point closest to the Sun.
NASA assumes that the observations made by the probe will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.
Peer-to-peer platforms in China used a legally unregulated way to collect funds from retail investors. Then they granted loans to small companies or individual clients. When the government decided to regulate such activities, many companies preferred to withdraw from the market, leading to a crisis during which customers lost their funds.
In August unpaid loans reached USD 195 billion. The Chinese authorities tried to control the situation by introducing further restrictions. They also started to detain people who lost their money during the crisis and demanded justice during the protests.
Kofi Annan died in Switzerland at the age of 80 after a short illness. A Ghanaian diplomat joined the United Nations in 1962. He was Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the former Yugoslavia. Kofi Annan served as Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. Then he became the UN special envoy for Syria. Mr Annan was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace, jointly with the Organization.
For more than 60 years members 89 families remained separated after the war on the Korean Peninsula (1950-53). Living in North and South Korea, they were not able to see one another. The event was emotional as it was probably the only meeting of siblings and parents with children during their whole lives. Three hundred thirty people spent eleven hours in the North Korean resort of Mount Kumgang. It was the 20th meeting of separated families since 2000. The South Korean authorities estimate that in their country 130,000 people are living who are not in touch with their relatives as a result of forced family separation.
In a historical and unanimous judgment, the Supreme Court of India ruled the decriminalisation of gay sex. The local LGBT+ community fought for this judgement for the last 20 years. Up to now, gay sex had been punishable by up to 10 years in prison under one of the Indian constitution laws, which was a relic of Victorian-era laws, imposed by the British Empire.
Reading the judgement, Chief Justice of India Dipak Miśra said that the criminalisation of gay sex was ‘irrational, arbitrary and indefensible’.
President Putin and President Erdoğan jointly announced the establishment of a demilitarised zone in the Syrian province of Idlib, patrolled by the troops of both countries, as part of the agreement between Turkey and Russia in Sochi.
Idlib Province, located near the border with Turkey, is the last enclave of rebels conducting armed struggle with the army of Bashar al-Assad, supported by Russian forces. The ‘radical’ rebels were given a month to withdraw. The agreement was preceded by a series of heavy bombardments of the provinces by Assad’s army and Russian air force.
The third summit of two Korea in 2018 took place in September in Pyongyang. The purpose of the meeting of President of South Korea Moon Jae-in and the leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un was consolidating peace on the Korean Peninsula, among others through denuclearisation of North Korea and tightening of economic cooperation.
The hosts of the summit agreed to make concessions as part of their nuclear program, to greater bilateral army control and lowering military tension between the two countries. The leaders also visited Mount Paektu together – a mythical mountain in North Korea.
Poland won the final of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) Men’s Volleyball World Championships, proving triumphant over Olympic champions Brazil in a repeat of 2014 final. It was a strange but successful tournament for the team led by Belgian coach Vital Heynen. Bartosz Kurek was the most influential player for the Poles and he was named the MVP of the tournament. The 30-year-old player was supposed to be the World Championships star four years earlier, but he was not included in the Polish national team’s 14-player roster.
The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo ‘for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.’ The Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 was awarded ‘for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics’ to Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Strickland. In Chemistry, The Nobel Prize was awarded to Frances H. Arnold ‘for the directed evolution of enzymes’ and George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter ‘for the phage display of peptides and antibodies.’
The Swedish Academy announced the postponement of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, as the Turkish investigators revealed. According to the CIA, the murder was ordered by the crown prince and heir presumptive to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman of the Saud dynasty.
The tragic affair met with the reaction of other states. The United States, Canada, France and the United Kingdom applied sanctions against eighteen Saudi agents suspected of murdering Khashoggi. Germany, Finland and Denmark withdrew from arms trade agreements with Saudi Arabia.
In 2018, 63 journalists were murdered. Ján Kuciak, a Slovak investigative journalist, was among them.
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Nadia Murad, an Iraqi social activist, and Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for efforts to ‘end sexual violence in war and armed conflicts.’
The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics was awarded to economist Paul Romer (University of New York) for introducing the problem of technological innovation in long-term macroeconomic analysis and to William Nordhaus (Yale University) for introducing the problem of climate change to the long-term macroeconomic analysis.
Migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador escape violence, poverty and an unstable political situation. They seek asylum in the United States. Initially, the caravan consisted of 160 people. However, others joined the group. The number of migrants increased to approximately seven thousand people.
President Donald Trump, fearing of an ‘invasion’, sent 5 800 soldiers to the Mexico border. On November 26, tear gas was used against the migrants in Tijuana. Refugees were sent to temporary shelters, among others in Tijuana and Mexicali, cities near the US-Mexico border. Smaller groups of migrants also try to enter the United States.
Sahle-Work Zewde was elected as the president of Ethiopia by the parliament and replaced Mulatto Teshome, who had resigned earlier. She underlined she would focus on women’s role in maintaining peace, as well as the eradication of poverty.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Cabinet is gender-balanced. In October 2018, Aisha Mohammed became the first woman in history to become Minister of Defense. Another female Minister is Muferiat Kamil (Ministry of Peace).
The voters could choose between remaining a part of France or becoming an independent country. 56.4% of residents voted against the independence of New Caledonia. The turnout was 80.63% voters eligible to vote in this referendum. The voting was planned by an agreement with France in 1998. According to the agreement, at a written request of one-third of the representatives of the Congress of New Caledonia, the voting may be repeated in 2020 and 2022. France formally annexed new Caledonia in 1853.
In Versailles, France, scientists from 60 countries voted over a new definition of the kilogram that will be defined by setting exact numerical values for the Planck constant. It binds voltage and electricity, it is unchangeable in time and space, and its measurement can be done using the Kibble balance.
New definitions were also gained by the ampere (the base unit of electric current), the mole (the unit of measurement for the amount of substance) and the Kelvin (the base unit of thermodynamic temperature measurement). The changes introduced will come into force in May 2019.
The kilogram was the last basic unit defined by a specific object. According to the resolution of the 1st General Conference of Measures in 1889, it was defined by a platinum alloy cylinder (base diameter 39 mm), the International Prototype Kilogram (informally Le Grand K or IPK).
Salome Zurabishvili had 59% of the vote with rival Grigol Vashadze on 40%. Zurabishvili was supported by the ruling Georgian Dream party and its leader, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Mr Vashadze (former Minister for Foreign Affairs) was a candidate of the united opposition.
These were the last direct elections of the Georgian President. The country is heading towards a parliamentary system, established after constitutional reforms in 2017. The candidates will be elected by members of the parliament.
George H.W. Bush was the 41st US President (1989-1993) and the Director of Central Intelligence. His son, George W. Bush, was the 43. US President. Bush senior was also the vice-president during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan and as well as a US Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1989 during the Malta summit (George H.W. Bush – Mikhail Gorbachev), he announced the end of the Cold War.
During the Presidency of George H.W. Bush, the United States led a military intervention in Panama and military operations within an international coalition during the First Gulf War, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991.
George H.W. Bush suffered from a form of Parkinson’s disease. He was the longest living US president.
The main topic of the G20 summit was talks between the United States and China regarding the solution to the problem of a trade war between those countries. However, after the meeting of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, no agreement was reached. During the summit, the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Kerch Strait Incident were also addressed. In the final statement, all of the leaders of 19 countries and representatives of the European Union who took part in the summit, expressed their support for the World Trade Organization reform
US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto signed a new version of the tripartite trade agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new contract concerns, among other changes in the automotive industry and agricultural products, commercial dispute resolution mechanisms and the introduction of an automatic termination clause.
If the US, Mexico and Canada agree to ratify the new NAFTA, its provisions will enter into force in 2020.
The conference in Katowice, Poland, agreed on rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, i.e. to hold global average temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The recommendations adopted include the ways countries report, measure and verify their efforts leading to the reduction of carbon emissions.
Issues such as increasing existing emissions reduction commitments, providing financial support for poorer countries, and whether the states are taking sufficient measures to reduce emissions (as part of the IPCC report) were postponed to the next conference due to difficulties in reaching an agreement.
During the unification council, the autocephaly (independence) of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from the Russian Orthodox Church was officially announced. The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko proclaimed the decision.
Metropolitan Epiphanius became the primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, holding the title of Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.
The procedure of autocephaly began on October 11, when the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul decided to give Tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev was subordinated to the Patriarchate of Constantinople since 1686.