As the first decade of the new millennium ends, The Real Truth reflects on world events, lessons learned—and what lies ahead.
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It was the year of revolutions, religious change, natural disasters and economic instability. The year in which terrorism began chipping away the security of continents, one package bomb at a time—riots due to austerity measures took the news hostage daily—food prices skyrocketed, forcing the United Nations to cut aid to countries in need—nuclear nations such as North Korea and Iran were emboldened—and old diseases, including dengue fever, whooping cough and cholera, re-emerged with a vengeance.
While some scientists classified it as “the year the Earth fought back,” because the world experienced some of the most deadly earthquakes and storms in recent history, others maintained it was “the year the people fought back.” Political party candidates and their supporters repeatedly attempted to destabilize opponents, in some cases, forcing entire governments to shut down. Street demonstrations, widespread protests, and violent rallies became routine in Western nations, as citizens struggled to grasp onto old forms of governance, or uproot it altogether.
Even though many were accustomed to ignoring world conditions, the events of 2010 forced them to take interest. Search engine company Yahoo Inc. reported that for the first time, a news story—the Gulf of Mexico oil spill—topped the list of searches, beating out the first-ever World Cup to be hosted by an African nation, a popular smart phone, six pop stars, and a reality television show.
It was clear a new form of uncertainty gripped nations. People who once yawned with disinterest at world events had no choice but to rub the sleep from their eyes and wake up to the reality that something had changed.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that leveled Haiti at the turn of the year, killing more than 250,000 people, reminded the world of its own fragility, yet it was a harbinger of the disasters 2010 would ultimately bring.
As images of wailing residents kneeling by debris-covered corpses in the poorest country in the Americas reached news stations, government agencies and ordinary citizens flocked to offer humanitarian aid, with relief groups encouraging cellphone users to donate money via text messages. But with food and water supplies dwindling, authorities warned unsanitary conditions would lead to malaria and other diseases.
They were right.
Despite prevention efforts, cholera soon broke out within crowded refugee camps in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 2,500 people. The hopeless situation of the country even drove some to seek out scapegoats, with news agencies reporting that mobs of Haitians burned alive or hacked to death 45 voodoo priests accused of spreading cholera.
Just one month after the Haitian disaster, Chile was struck by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake—one of the strongest ever recorded. During the following days, several tsunamis and at least 100 powerful aftershocks rocked the region, sweeping away entire coastal villages.
Two months later, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the Western Chinese province of Qinghai, near Tibet, killing 2,600 and injuring more than 12,000.
One disaster after another seemed to tumble together to make 2010 one of the world’s deadliest years in a decade, with seismologists confirming that the number of quakes to hit densely populated areas rose in 2010.
“More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined,” The Associated Press reported.
Throughout the year, journalists detailed disasters such as building-guzzling sinkholes in Guatemala and Germany, the largest typhoon in decades in the Philippines, record droughts across the Amazon Basin, wildfires in Russia and Israel, destructive mudslides in California, a toxic mud wave that covered Hungarian villages, traffic-halting snowstorms in Britain, and some of the worst flooding in more than 100 years in the southeastern United States.
The U.S. also experienced an unprecedented event: the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, which left 11 people dead, marred 50 miles of Louisiana coastline, destroyed 300-plus acres of wetlands, caused at least $50 billion in damage claims, and dumped an estimated 40,000 barrels of oil each day into the Gulf for at least three months.
Even countries normally disaffected by the elements were not spared. Australia experienced record locust plagues and a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand. A rare 5.0-magnitude earthquake shook parts of eastern Canada, and a Russian summer heat wave—the hottest in the nation’s 1,000-year history—contributed to the death of at least 15,000 people.
Then there was Indonesia, which was first pounded by a tsunami, and then a week later by volcanic blasts from Mount Merapi, which combined killed more than 500 residents, and left at least 300,000 homeless.
The year 2010 also saw one of the largest disasters in history. Torrential rains in drought-stricken Pakistan submerged one-fifth of the country, killing more than 2,000 and affecting more than 20 million people nationwide, 2 million of which were left homeless. The UN estimates it will take at least $2 billion to fix the country—the largest amount of money ever needed to combat such a crisis.
One of the biggest stories, albeit not the most deadly, was the mayhem caused by an Icelandic volcano that shut down air transportation across Europe for more than a week. As food rotted in grounded planes and thousands of stranded passengers bathed in airport sinks, scientists speculated that it could be months—even years—before the volcano stopped spewing ash. Yet six surreal days later, planes once again were able to take to the skies.
As with almost all other disasters throughout 2010, it was just another example of humanity’s inability to fight the tremendous power of nature.
The year 2010 was also a time of economic firsts: the creation of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a 43.5 percent surge in trade between Africa and China, and bailouts for Greece and Ireland. It was a year in which the global economic system continued to near collapse, and it became startling clear to America—and the world—that the once-mighty superpower could no longer support itself and others.
“It has been more than three years now since the first economic fractures began showing up in the U.S. economy,” PBS reported. “Since then, more than seven million jobs have been lost, median home prices have fallen more than 20 percent and government debt has exploded more than 50 percent, now closing in at $14 trillion.”
With the passage of the healthcare overhaul and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the U.S. experienced a level of government control and intervention not seen for decades. As the economy continued spiraling downward, fed-up Americans rallied behind Tea Party groups to protest governmental grievances.
“People across the United States, and in some cases beyond its borders, simply said enough—enough of the old ways of doing things in banking, medical insurance, corporations, and government, too,” a Yahoo Finance editorial stated.
Following the elections, in which polls revealed the economy was most voters’ top priority, the U.S. Congress underwent a complete turnover, with Republicans gaining a majority of the House for the first time in more than 60 years, and control of the most state legislatures since 1938.
Yet such governmental change did not only take place in the United States, but also in New Zealand and Britain. In the United Kingdom, following the resignation of English Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the center-right Conservative Party allied with the left-wing Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government, choosing David Cameron as their leader. In Australia, the nation’s ruling Labor Party ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, giving the position instead to the nation’s first female leader, Julia Gillard.
Although the number of foreclosed homes in the U.S. reached the highest level since the crisis began, and home values continued to depreciate in Britain, both economies evidenced some signs of progress. According to statistics, the U.S. economy grew by 1 million jobs and Britain’s budget deficit shrank significantly.
Any article detailing economic progress across the Atlantic, however, was accompanied by news of bailouts to Ireland and Greece, massive deficits, sluggish growth and looming bankruptcy among European Union member-states.
A June 2010 Real Truth article stated: “European officials are nervously aware that the problem could spread to Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, which could destabilize the euro and world markets while tainting the European Union’s prestige.”
In the midst of the crisis, European Union President Herman Van Rompuy called for a new, stronger EU economic regime empowered to legislate, supervise and impose budgets, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU rules should be amended to expel countries that exceed the debt limit established for member-states.
The year 2010 was also the first time in which the phrase “economic world order” became common. Many international leaders openly advocated for one, while encouraging America to take a backseat role—especially after the release of 250,000 diplomatic cables exposed U.S. leaders unfavorably describing foreign dignitaries.
As people responded with protests and a media backlash ensued, it became clear governments across the globe were failing.
While 2010 was filled with economic difficulties, the most fear-inducing stories involved the widespread threat of terrorism. Certainly, it was the year in which some of the West’s worst nightmares began to come true. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the number and pace of attacks on American soil this year surpassed the number of attempts previously made during any one-year period.
Stories such as troop surges and pullbacks in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars became lost in the mix of reports about the latest foiled terror plot. In contrast to the September 11 attacks, which killed more than 3,000, each new attempt worked to further destabilize society. It was not just symbolic buildings that were targets, but rather everyday people, shopping malls and grocery stores—what Time magazine referred to as “microterrorism.”
It was not uncommon to hear that 12 suspects accused of planning terror acts were arrested in London, that an Islamic extremist was detained for planning to bomb subway trains in Washington, D.C., or even that a suicide attack set up in a busy shopping center failed, such as happened in New York City’s Times Square and in Stockholm, Sweden. Nor was it uncommon to hear that a suitcase containing batteries, a detonator and clock, discovered in Windhoek, Namibia, and bound for Munich, could be a precursor of other attacks on Germany, or that terrorists were now capable of using breast implants filled with explosives—undetectable to airport scanners—to cause maximum damage.
As the U.S. government ratcheted up its efforts to protect citizens, invasive body searches became the norm, forcing travelers to confront the issue of national security versus personal rights. Both Americans and Europeans were compelled to accept the presence of machine-gun-toting security personnel in subway and train stations.
South of the United States, violent Mexican drug warlords continued terrorizing the country, with the death toll topping 30,197 people since President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago. It was the first year, though, in which violence began to noticeably spill into the quiet city of El Paso, Texas, where two bodies hung from a bridge stopped traffic on the U.S. side and reports of bullet holes from shots fired from across the Rio Grande put citizens on alert.
In addition, a 2010 U.S. Justice Department report showed Mexican drug trafficking organizations now operate in every corner of the United States and pose a significant threat to law officials trying to counteract them.
Terror also came in other forms, with Iran officially declaring itself a nuclear state and North Korea shelling a marine base and a civilian village, setting several houses in South Korea on fire in an act that is threatening to spell full-scale war in the coming months.
It was indeed a frightful year.
Behind the scenes, another force was also at play in 2010: religion. This year caught a glimpse of the increasing involvement of the Vatican in the world political arena and Islam’s growing influence on society.
A Catholic News Service article about the Vatican revealed just how much the papacy is involved in international affairs: “If there’s one clear conclusion that can be drawn from the Vatican-related WikiLeaks disclosures, it’s that the United States takes the Vatican and its diplomatic activity very seriously.
“In memo after memo in recent years, officials of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See have reported back to Washington on the impact of papal trips, statements and documents; on the Vatican’s behind-the-scenes efforts to head off conflicts; on church-state tensions in Latin America; on the evolution of Catholic teaching on bioethics; and even on the international repercussions of ecumenical affairs.
“When a Vatican agency organized a conference on genetically modified foods, the U.S. embassy paid attention. When the Vatican condemned human trafficking, embassy officials met with Vatican counterparts to broaden areas of cooperation on that issue.
“And when Pope Benedict XVI said in 2007 that ‘nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees,’ the embassy quickly objected, telling a high-level Vatican official that Iraq was experiencing positive developments and that the papal comments were not constructive.”
The pope also made inroads in bringing the Anglican and Orthodox churches into its fold. In an effort to build further religious ties, he visited the leader of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus and an evangelical Lutheran Church in a largely German-speaking community during Lent.
In 2011, the pope plans to visit his homeland of Germany for an official state visit, and according to Zenit, hopes to have Anglican bishops continue to come “into full communion with the Catholic Church.”
Yet the year 2010 was not only one of religious unification, but also of division. Muslim influence continued to grow in places such as Europe and the United States—and with it—anger.
In the U.S., a planned mosque near the site of the twin towers sparked controversy and protests, with one Florida pastor even threatening to burn Korans if the project continued.
Meanwhile, native Europeans continued to clash with the estimated 53 million Muslims that now live on the continent, becoming increasingly infuriated by clerics preaching the implementation of Shariah law and violent Jihad. In Germany, police raided homes, offices and schools accused of promoting extremist Muslim teachings, which included establishing an Islamic theocracy in the country. Officials estimate there could be as many as 20,000 Muslims across Europe willing to die for the same cause.
“I think we are on the brink of many more operations in the West,” a prominent Muslim cleric in London told MSNBC. “This is going to be very, very nasty...The Muslims engaged in jihad are not going to stop. People will declare jihad in Britain and America. I don’t think you can stomach something like that.”
Such actions will only lead to greater cultural clashes in the future.
All of these news stories seemingly amount to one thing: an uncertain future. Despite rosy predictions, and idealistic speculations from scientists, politicians and international leaders, this year proved things are not improving for mankind. Disasters are worsening, poverty and disease remain, and religious division and confusion abound.
One can only speculate about what kind of Earth-related events, economic hardships, terror attacks and religious division the next year will bring.
Yet there are reasons the world is in such a condition. There are reasons mankind as a whole has not solved its biggest problems.
As world conditions spiral out of control, be careful you are not lulled into believing those who claim nothing has changed—those who say “peace and safety” when there is none. Guard yourself against being overcome by sleepiness, which can cause you to assume that the world will continue “as it always has.” Stay awake to the truth of what is going on and investigate the true causes behind today’s problems.
Keep reading this magazine in the coming year for more in-depth analysis of world events that will affect you!
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