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Top 10 News Stories of 2015 - WMNews Ep. 57

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Sean Harris. 2015 has delighted, devastated, scandalized, celebrated, appalled and enthralled us. Welcome to and today we're counting down the top 10 news stories of 2015.

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Top 10 News Stories of 2015 - WMNews Ep. 57

#10: FIFA Corruption Case

Ever since December 2010, when Russia and Qatar were controversially awarded hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively, this scandal has been stewing. In 2015, it boiled over. On May 27th, a series of dawn raids ended with the arrest of seven FIFA officials, hours before the 65th FIFA Congress. Former FIFA Vice President, Jack Warner, was at the center of the storm early on, following allegations of bribe acceptance lodged by whistle-blower, Chuck Blazer. Gradually, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, became more and more involved however, despite his ‘resignation’ in June. In September, he was placed under criminal investigation in Switzerland, and in October he was suspended from FIFA for 90 days. It was a real red card year for football politics.

#9: Obergefell v. Hodges

2015 will be marked as an historic year for LGBT rights, especially in the US, following the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country. On June 26th, a 5-4 verdict enabled same-sex couples to legally obtain marriage licenses in any state, and to have their union recognized on an equal level with heterosexual partnerships. Overturning the 1970s’ ruling on Baker v. Nelson, those who voted for same-sex marriage all argued that to deny the legislation would be a betrayal of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and the Amendment’s ‘equal protection' clause’ in particular. Following the announcement, lead plaintiff, Jim Obergefell, summarized the ruling quite simply by saying ‘our love is equal.’

#8: Greek Government-Debt Crisis

It was an especially turbulent twelve months for Greece, amid an ongoing economic crisis. After national elections in January, the Eurogroup financiers granted a four-month extension to Greece’s bailout program, allowing the new government time to adapt. However, four months passed without the agreed payment, with the crisis coming to a point on June 26th, when negotiations broke down, and finally on June 27th, when the Greek stock market closed. A referendum followed in which a 61% majority of Greek citizens voted to reject the current bailout terms, leaving Greece on the verge of leaving the European Union. On July 13th, however, a provisional agreement on a third bailout program was reached, although as of mid-December 2015, further negotiations were still ongoing. Money is currently the root of all misery for this Mediterranean nation.

#7: Nepal Earthquakes

On April 25th, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal. With an epicenter in Lamjung district close to Kathmandu, it triggered a massive avalanche on Mount Everest, and some estimates say that it could cost the Nepalese economy more than $5 billion. An estimated 9,000 people were killed, and close to 22,000 were injured. It has since been described as the deadliest day on Everest in history, and as the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since 1934. Seventeen days later, on May 12th, another major quake struck along the same fault line, measuring at 7.3 on the Richter scale. Killing over 200 people and injuring a further 3,500, its impact was felt over 600 miles away, in the Indian capital, New Delhi. Massive international aid efforts were triggered after both events, but Nepal is still struggling to rebuild itself after an indescribably destructive year.

#6: Water on Mars

In more positive news, humankind’s various voyages into space were a huge success in 2015. The discovery of Kepler-452b, otherwise known as Earth 2.0, got everybody daydreaming of far-flung corners of the universe; and the New Horizons fly-by of Pluto significantly furthered understanding of our own solar system. But, the most impressive development relates to Mars, and NASA’s confirmation that liquid water exists on the Red Planet. Based on evidence provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and centered around the Recurring Slope Lineae phenomenon, scientists can now confidently claim that a briny, salty, potentially life-supporting residue is flowing on present day Mars. We didn’t make literal contact with aliens in 2015, but we got a whole lot closer toward doing so in the future.

#5: Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

Back down to Earth with an uncomfortable bump, especially if you drive a VW. Before September, Volkswagen was one of the most popular and respected car manufacturers on the planet, but that all changed after revelations that they were illegally dodging auto emissions laws, and deceiving their customers as well. A scandal initially involving around 11 million vehicles worldwide – although that number has been steadily rising since – it centers on VW’s installation of ‘defeat device software’ into some of its more recent models. Technology that allows a car to provide falsely favorable emissions results under test conditions, it was revealed that for everyday road use, the VW output was actually 10 to 40 times the legal amount. Mass recalls followed after Volkswagen admitted their duplicity. Company CEO, Martin Winterkorn, also resigned, as we all realized that VW wasn’t as ‘reliable’ as previously thought.

#4: Iran Nuclear Deal Framework

Ever since World War II, the international community has been focused on achieving some form of stability with regard to nuclear weapons development, and nuclear energy use. In April, a significant step toward that stability was made, as Iran agreed to adapt its nuclear program to internationally approved boundaries. After months of negotiation between Iran, the European Union, and the P5+1 countries of China, Russia, UK, US, France plus Germany, a framework for the deal was reached on April 2nd, and a ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ was signed on July 14th. The plan essentially limits Iranian weapons development, and allows the International Atomic Energy Agency regular access to facilities to monitor progress, theoretically leaving everyone a little more knowledgeable on Iran’s nuclear status.

#3: Russian Sukhoi Su-24 Shootdown

From a Russian perspective, the latter months of 2015 can be labeled as an especially hostile period. In September, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, allowed the country’s military to enter into the Syrian Civil War, ordering airstrikes to target the Islamic State. On October 31st, Metrojet Flight 9268 – a Russian passenger plane – violently disintegrated mid-air. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the disaster, and Russian investigators have described it as a terror attack. This is in direct contrast to the Egyptian investigation, where the committee involved was continuing to search for any evidence of a criminal attack as of mid-December 2015. Political tension escalated further on November 24th though, when Turkey shot down a Russian bomber aircraft over its border with Syria. One of the jet’s two pilots died, and another Russian soldier was killed by rebel fire during a rescue operation to retrieve any survivors. As the first destruction of a Russian warplane by a NATO member since the 1950s, Putin warned that it would have ‘serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations’.

#2: European Migrant / Refugee Crisis

An ongoing problem, the European refugee situation became widely reported as a ‘crisis’ in April, following a string of shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea. With displaced communities fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa in particular, their increasingly desperate attempts to get to European soil led to an estimated death toll of around 1500 – and more by other accounts. However, as some EU members began granting short-term asylum for migrants, the routes became a little less dangerous, more affordable, and a little more encouraging. Greece surpassed Italy as the most popular point of entry in the first half of 2015, while Germany and France also became prominent destinations. Between January and July, EU member states reportedly received just under 400,000 new asylum applications, as part of an upheaval that has severely divided political opinion.

Before we reveal our top story, here are some of the other important headlines of 2015:

Homo Naledi
Mina Stampede During the Hajj Pilgrimage
China Relaxes Its One Child Policy
United States-Cuban Thaw
Russian Doping Scandal and the 2016 Olympics
Ashley Madison Data Breach

#1: Paris Attacks

The year opened and closed with bloodshed for France, as the nation was subject to two brutal terror attacks. The first, in January, saw two assailants representing Al Qaeda target the offices of satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo. In the building, eleven people were killed and a further eleven injured, while one French cop was shot outside of it, as international onlookers united under the slogan, ‘Je suis Charlie’. Calls for solidarity were again necessary in November, however, after ISIS mounted a large-scale, coordinated attack across Paris. A series of suicide bombings and mass shootings in the French capital resulted in 130 deaths, and over 350 injuries. The majority of victims were gunned down at the Bataclan music venue, while others were targeted at the Stade de France athletics venue and at restaurants and bars in the city center. The deadliest attack on France since World War II, it was described by French President Francois Hollande as an ‘act of war’, and the resulting international response has underlined the need for a united front.

Did these stories get you thinking? To vote for which news story is covered next head over to WatchMojo.comsuggest, and be sure to hit that subscribe button for more newsworthy top tens published every week!

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