Trump at centre of a year of turbulence and turmoil

There’s an earthquake in Mexico, a monsoon in India, a volcanic eruption in Bali, hurricane after hurricane after hurricane. Keep up as your phone vibrates with word of your favourite actor accused of misconduct. Make that anchorman. Or politician. Or radio star.

The volatile year 2017 shook us so much and so often it felt like whiplash or worse, and that’s without even considering Donald Trump, at the centre of so much of the turmoil.

“It’s almost like one of those horror rides at the amusement park where every time it heads into the next segment it gets worse,” said noted trendspotter Marian Salzman. “Every time I turn off a device, I feel like I have anxiety because I’m not tracking the news.”

The year, she said, boiled down to “disruption, despair and dumpster fires.”

In retrospect, 2017's destiny seemed sealed in its opening moments.

Just after the new year dawned in Istanbul, a gunman killed 39 people at a nightclub and wounded scores more. The joy of the holiday dissolved into a scene of heartbreak outside the city morgue, where some cried and fell to the ground as they learned of a loved one’s fate.

Around the world this year, vehicles were made into weapons, with trucks, cars and vans running down people on the Westminster and London bridges in Britain; in Times Square and on a Manhattan bike path; on a major shopping street in the Swedish capital of Stockholm; on the historic La Rambla in Barcelona.

A policeman hugs a boy and his family that he helped during the terrorist attack, at a memorial to the victims on Las Ramblas, Barcelona. Pic: AP Photo/Santi Palacios

Terrorism and other violence struck so regularly that many accepted it as a fact of life.

“It can happen anywhere as long as there is one man willing to die,” said Luis Antonio Bone, 66, of Barcelona, who is retired from a cement factory job. Bone is at once realistic and defiant, saying crowded places may make him think about his safety but won’t deter him from outings.

“We have to live with it,” he said, “but keep living as we always have.”

That kind of resilience was mustered again and again, even by some of those marked by some of the year’s biggest tragedies.

In Texas, Pastor Frank Pomeroy vowed that good would persevere over evil. Pomeroy leads the rural church where a gunman killed 25 parishioners, his own 14-year-old daughter among them. “Rather than choose darkness as that young man did that day, we choose life,” he said in an emotional service only a week after the rampage.

Jamie Lambert visits a makeshift memorial for victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Pic: AP Photo/John Locher

In Las Vegas, too, where 58 people were fatally shot at a music festival, some searched for optimism in the face of savagery. Jay Pleggenkuhle, a 52-year-old landscaper, helped create a memorial garden with a tree for each of the victims. Some 1,000 people volunteered to help with his project, putting aside personal or political differences to work hand in hand.

“People have really been bound together following this tragedy,” he said.

A deadly chemical attack in Syria stirred people around the globe. Missile launches by North Korea brought angst that nuclear war was nearing. Rallies by white supremacists, wearing white hoods and clasping torches, roused uncomfortable memories of the United States’ past. All of it broke with such ferocity, it seemed impossible to focus on any one incident too long.

“Even something like a mass shooting that killed 50 people, the story moves on in just a couple weeks,” said Lauren Wright, a lecturer on politics and public affairs at Princeton University.

Crowds look at the floral tributes after a minute's silence in St Ann's Square, Manchester, to remember the victims of the terror attack at the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande gig. Pic: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

In Egypt, twin Palm Sunday attacks ambushed Coptic Christians and a November assault on a crowded mosque killed more than 300. In Manchester, 22 people died when a suicide bomber detonated a backpack full of explosives after an Ariana Grande show.

Three major storms — Harvey, Irma and Maria — battered Puerto Rico and much of the Caribbean, as well as Texas and Florida, as 2017 went down as one of the most active hurricane seasons in recorded history.

Fires tore through California and Portugal; earthquakes rocked Mexico, Iran and Iraq; flooding and an avalanche covered parts of Italy; mudslides levelled homes in Sierra Leone; and a deadly monsoon pummelled India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

A man walks by a beachfront home destroyed by Hurricane Irma in Florida. Pic: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

In hotspots around the world, people sought escape. Amnesty International estimated 73,000 refugees took to the Mediterranean in the first half of the year alone, with about 2,000 dying along the way. In Myanmar, the military has been conducting a brutal ethnic cleansing of Rohingya people, killing untold numbers and forcing more than 626,000 to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Amid the barrage, other big stories struggled for a spotlight. A grinding civil war in Yemen pushed millions in the impoverished country to famine. A political crisis in Venezuela brought intensifying clashes. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was ousted from control after a 37-year reign. In Spain, a push for Catalonian independence degenerated at times into ugly scenes of mayhem.

In the US, Trump opened his presidency with a dark inaugural address beseeching an end to “American carnage” but saw much of his agenda rejected, with members of his own party providing votes against him.

Divides deepened, with agreement elusive even on core national values. Americans were sadder, a “happiness” report found. Sales of the dystopic novel “1984” surged and a chilling stage adaptation came to Broadway.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of victim, Heather Heyer, sits in Charlottesville, USA. Pic: AP Photo/SteveHelber

Mass protests formed around the country, including droves of women who proudly deemed themselves “nasty,” a label placed on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. When US Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced through arcane legislative rules, the words of her colleague, Mitch McConnell, became an unlikely rallying cry of feminists: “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

That phrase echoed as a dizzying number of sexual harassment or assault allegations emerged against high-profile men and as thousands of victims of lesser-known men chimed in with two words that made clear the scope of the problem: “Me too.”

There were, in this arguably awful year, moments to hail, too, stories of heroism and bravery that restore faith and give the heart a little hope. More than 80 schoolgirls, abducted by Boko Haram extremists more than three years ago in Nigeria, were released. In South Sudan, a boy abducted and forced into the army — mourned in a funeral two years ago after word of his gunshot death reached his mother — was alive after all, and returned home.

The Islamic State lost power as it was driven from Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

A new calendar page brings with it the chance to start fresh.

Jordi Casares, a 71-year-old retired bank employee in Barcelona, lamented the terrorism and radicalism that marred 2017 but said he, for one, is optimistic for a better 2018.

“It can’t be any worse than this year,” he said.

 

Trump dominates TV world, from SNL to the Apprentice

 

It’s been a wild and wearying year in the world of US TV — and viral YouTube clips. Here are some key and memorable moments (though a few of them are perhaps best forgotten):

 

HE’S FIRED?

Before ascending to the US presidency early last January, Donald Trump played TV critic by berating his successor as host of The New Celebrity Apprentice.

Mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger for his small ratings, Trump tweeted, “So much for being a movie star,” which sparked a Twitter sparring session as Schwarzenegger fired back, expressing hope that Trump would work as aggressively as president as he had as a ratings-hungry TV celebrity.

In February, Trump tweeted that Schwarzenegger was an even worse TV host than California governor. By March, Schwarzenegger said he had had enough, declaring Trump’s “baggage” was what killed his ratings and that, even if invited, he wouldn’t be available for a new season.

 

FAKE MEDIA BRIEFING

Melissa McCarthy lampooned then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a January edition of a Saturday Night Live sketch where the actress taunted reporters as “losers”, fired a water gun at the press corps, and used the lectern to attack a (fake) Wall Street Journal reporter.

“I want to begin tonight by apologising on behalf of YOU to ME for how you have treated me these last two weeks,” McCarthy said in opening the mock press briefing. “And that apology is NOT accepted.”

 

OSCARS UPSET

Host Jimmy Kimmel voiced the question of the night at the 2017 Academy Awards — “Warren, what did you DO?” — when, in February, a confused Warren Beatty and co-presenter Faye Dunaway shared the night’s booby prize by announcing La La Land as best picture.

The acceptance speech was interrupted midway when audience members and viewers learned the winner was actually Moonlight. This was the sort of envelope mix-up even the post office could never equal.

 

A DRIVE FOR ACCEPTANCE

Characters on Sesame Street have a way of making everyone feel accepted. That certainly goes for Julia, a Muppet youngster with blazing red hair, bright green eyes — and autism.

Rather than being treated like an outsider, Julia was welcomed as one of the gang on a Sesame Street episode in April.

“She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way,” her new Muppet chum Abby explained to the show’s young viewers.

 

ILLNESS ISN’T PARTISAN

The video of a 13-minute monologue by Jimmy Kimmel was viewed by tens of millions after its May airing on Jimmy Kimmel Live as this father of a newborn son emotionally told how the infant had successfully had surgery for a life-threatening birth defect.

He did so to illustrate that this was the sort of medical treatment that could become unavailable to many parents as politicians battle over health care.

“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel declared. “Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”

Earlier this month, he brought his son onstage to discuss funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Programme.

 

HEAD OF STATE

A video by comedian Kathy Griffin created a storm within hours of its posting on social media in June, sparking outcry from the White House, energising Republican fundraisers, fuelling harsh coverage over several news cycles, and losing her TV and standup gigs and even an endorsement deal for the Squatty Potty.

Griffin’s video, which depicted her holding a likeness of the president’s severed, bloody head, was meant as a joke, she insisted. But few observers were laughing.

At a televised press conference, Griffin tearfully predicted her career was over and said the Trumps were “trying to ruin my life forever”.

 

CNN TAKES A HIT

Trump tweeted his own provocative video in July, depicting himself beating up a humanoid CNN figure. The video showed Trump running toward a wrestling ring and tackling a man with a CNN logo for a head, punching him repeatedly in the face. Predictably, reaction to the video varied according to each viewer’s attitude towards Trump.

 

Total eclipse draws eyes of millions as prince finds his princess

It wasn’t all doom and gloom in 2017. The year was also filled with awe-inspiring moments that united us and warmed the heart.

The total solar eclipse in April brought millions together in what some could only describe as a primal experience. Thousands of immigrants in the US took the oath of citizenship, realising their dreams of becoming Americans. And one adorable baby, Fiona the hippopotamus, became a story of survival as she overcame the odds and tumbled into the world’s heart.

The stories provided some lighthearted moments amid a series of deadly mass shootings, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, wildfires, sexual harassment scandals, and other tragic news in 2017.

Here’s a look at a few of the moving, unifying and just plain fun moments of 2017:

SCIENCE

It seems nothing brought people together more than the first total solar eclipse to move across the US in a century.

For one moment in the middle of an August day, millions of people stopped what they were doing and gazed upward in wonder as the moon slipped over the sun — leaving a path of total darkness that stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. Some eclipse watchers sang, some danced, and some were moved to tears. Children thought it was pure magic, and people travelled to remote sections of the country to get the best glimpse.

A study by the University of Michigan, requested by Nasa, estimated that 215m American adults — 88% of the country’s adult population — viewed the eclipse either directly or electronically. That’s 104m more than watched the Super Bowl.

“People were really just about nature, about this phenomenon that was happening,” said Mamta Patel Nagaraja of Nasa.

“It didn’t matter what colour, creed, race, economic ladder you were on, people just went out and enjoyed it.

“It transcended all the other things.”

#TEAMFIONA

This little one wasn’t expected to make it. Fiona, a Nile hippopotamus, was just 13kg when she was born prematurely in January. After early health scares, she’s now thriving at more than 272kg. This sassy girl has become a symbol of survival — and the star attraction at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Fiona has captivated the masses and the Team Fiona craze isn’t slowing down. She stars in her own internet video series. Tens of millions have gone online to watch her take a bottle, splash in the pool or learn to run.

T-shirts bear her image. She’s the subject of children’s books. An ice cream flavour and local brew are named in her honour. She gets so many cards and letters that she has her own mail bin. Grown men will lean over the pool in their suits and ties to get close to her, said zoo director Thane Maynard.

“It’s Fiona’s world, and we’re just living in it. We are working with Fiona and her story to spread a number of messages — one is a message of not giving up,” said Maynard.

INSPIRING GENEROSITY

Out of cash and out of petrol on an interstate exit ramp in Philadelphia, Kate McClure found help from an unlikely source: A homeless man who told her to stay put, then used his last $20 to buy her petrol.

Johnny Bobbitt Jr’s selflessness was not lost on McClure. She set up a GoFundMe page for the military veteran and former paramedic, and raised over $400,000 (€340,000).

Now Bobbitt has enough money to buy a home and his dream truck — a 1999 Ford Ranger.

An attorney and financial adviser helped create a plan that will allow him to collect a small monthly salary and have some money for retirement.

Bobbitt has said he’s overwhelmed.

He told Good Morning America he plans to pay the generosity forward by donating some of the money to organisations that will help others.

“Everybody out there is facing some kind of struggle, so if I can touch their life, the way mine was touched, (it’d be) an amazing feeling,” he said.

“YES” OVER ROAST CHICKEN

From a simple proposal over roast chicken to plans for a royal wedding, news that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle has many cheering.

The story drew people in for many reasons. For one, it’s fun.

The happiness exuded by the couple as they announced their engagement was contagious, while details of their courtship read like a fairy tale.

Harry, an army veteran who had a one-time bad-boy image but is now devoted to wounded veterans and charitable causes, met Markle on a blind date. The prince later said that’s when he realised he needed to up his game to win her heart.

They grew closer while camping in Botswana, and now there is talk of starting a family.

But for some black women the engagement offered more than entertainment. It gave them a Cinderella story they could picture themselves in.

Markle, who is divorced, is bi-racial and will be the first woman of colour in modern history to join the British royal family.

“We all have this fantasy of being swept off our feet by the prince. It’s validation that, of course, we can be princesses,” said Essence Magazine editor-in-chief Vanessa DeLuca.


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