Conservative producers and audiences largely defected from scripted TV note except for relatively aging hour-long procedurals after the 2008 writers' strike, and switched to the new "actuality" format, which started with Pawn Stars in 2009-2010, while Fox News (still the conservative "odd man out", and favored laughingstock and even punching bag of the many cable 24/7 news network) holds on as the audience's main source of information — newspapers also count too, but are largely ignored. This particular audience is also largely fond of online video services (specially YouTube and Netflix) and "classic TV" sub-channel networks (such as Antenna TV).
The Internet grew as a major player in not only television distribution, but creation. Netflix in particular hit paydirt with House of Cards (US), Orange Is The New Black, and the revival of Arrested Development. House of Cards was the first series without a network to compete for the Emmy awards in 2013. Conversely, this has led to cable TV being the next medium due to fall to the Internet's overwhelming power with "cord cutting" becoming a steady new trend as people realize that their cable TV subscriptions are too expensive and limited a service compared to the sheer versatility of their internet connections. A related trend that is even more worrisome for cable TV is the rise of the "cord nevers," young adults striking out on their own and having no intention of subscribing in the first place in favor of their internet connections and maybe using over-the-air antennae. So far, only live TV content like sports, that internet feeds cannot reliably supply at present, is proving a good enough lure for subscribers. It certainly explains why the Canadian media company, Rogers Communications, bought the exclusive Canadian TV broadcast rights to the games of the National Hockey League for $4.9 Billion (2.45 times the amount NBC bought for the American rights).
Excessive use of Jitter Cam is on its way to becoming a Discredited Trope, due to being overused by A TON of movies and shows during the first half of this decade and the end of the previous one. Movies like Jack Reacher, The Raid, and John Wick are establishing clearly-shot, meticulously choreographed fight scenes as the new "cool" thing to do in action movies.
Following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in late 2012, plans were announced that the long anticipated Star Wars sequel trilogy will be made with J. J. Abrams as director. The first film, Episode VII is expected to be released by 2015.
After the steady supply of (primarily indie) Retraux videogames, a trend of tributing the general look and feel of media from the 70s and 80s also started in late 2012, spearheaded by games like Hotline Miami and later followed by larger profile games like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.
Animorphs enjoyed a short-lived revival from Scholastic. Rumor has it that Sony Pictures is currently working on a movie adaptation of the series.
Anime's offerings include the revival of the Dragon Ball franchise in the Re Cut series Dragon Ball Kai along with the renaissance of the Sailor Moon franchise, with the reprinting of the manga along with a new series released in Summer 2014 and the reboot of the Ghost in the Shell franchise with the announced Arise series. And speaking of Anime from this decade...
Newer anime series, with afewnotableexceptions, have received lukewarm receptions thanks to (at least what some see as) an over-saturation of generic adaptations of Harem, Moe, or Romantic Comedy titles; while many Mecha series were relegated to OVA status, and the television format is heavily laden with adaptations ofestablishedfranchises (albeit generally good ones) and little to no original properties, though when they do crop up, they proved tobewellreceivedatleast.
Perhaps as a response to the industry’s arguably abusive retention of "traditionaland at times controversial conventions", the Tokyo government went as far as passing Bill 156, which would essentially restrict titles with such questionable content from being sold to minors. Not surprisingly, the industry and anime fans have largely opposed it, citing concerns of free speech and that governments shouldn’t be trying to force such cultural shifts in such a matter. The broadness of the law also leave it open to abuse and some have said that the restrictions can also bring further detriment to the industry like The Comics Code did to western comics. While the law was passed in December 2010 and was supposed to take full effect in July 2011, due to the various lawsuits to try and stop it as well as concerns over enforcement, time will only tell how this will go.
The same trends that has befallen the anime industry can also apply to eastern video games (especially in regards to the JRPG), as the most recent offerings by Square Enix, such as Mindjack and Lord of Arcana, failed to impress a Western gaming community that has written them off as Deader Than Disco, and Final Fantasy suffered its greatest failure to date with its fourteenth installment. While Idea Factory and Nippon Ichi Software have tried to pick up the slack, they weren't well-received, with the growing differences between Japanese and Western tastes in gaming often cited as an explanation. This is in addition to sites like Polygon and Kotaku publishing articles with an anti Japan bias, though these have mellowed down over time as other games were well-received. Still, this inadvertently had a chilling effect on games being brought over from Japan, not helped by Nintendo's decision to region lock the 3DS.
Music is also having a difficult time crossing over the pond as the market is still physical media dominated rather than digital, unlike K Pop which used Youtube to become internationally popular, Japan still maintains a firewall over their media as few if any J Pop videos are often deleted quickly by Youtube. Along with vast cultural differences even between K Pop, it has created a negative impact on Japan's international reputation. Though that said, Visual Kei and folk/modern bands have seen a resurgence in recent years.
Manga, following its Western counterparts, is undergoing a transition of sorts into digital, online and doujinshi-style self-publishing to cope with the changes in technology. This continues a trend from theTurn of the Millennium with works like Axis Powers Hetalia, though more traditional and established manga giants like Shonen Jump continue earning profits despite print media publishing in general being on the decline. Then again, Shonen Jumpdid go digital in 2012. Also, Kodansha did lose several high-profile properties due to high-handedness of its editors — like the decades-long cult classic Gunnm(AKA Battle Angel Alita) and Attack on Titan, which was plainly refused by the editor because "it wasn't JUMP!"
That all being said, there are some silver linings: Recovery and reconstruction efforts, following the earthquake and tsunami, led to an upsurge in local sales, including manga. Japanese video games in general have seen a return to the limelight due in part to the resurgence of the Fighting Game with titles like BlazBlue, as well as the arrival of Nintendo's Wii U in 2012 and Sony's upcoming Playstation 4 later in 2013. Anime retains warm receptions and popularity in Asia and Australianote In Australia, channels such as ABC3 and Eleven are showing more anime than ever, from Astro Boy to Puella Magi Madoka Magica that's helped in part by the industry rebounding considerably by 2011. And the Female FIFA 2011 victory, as well as the commendable gold medals earned in the 2012 Olympics and their successful bid to host the 2020 Olympicsnote (which amusingly enough was predicted by AKIRA) have proved to be sorely-needed morale boosters.
The revival of Toonami deserves special mention. An anime and action cartoon block on Cartoon Network whose efforts lead to the last anime boom, it eventually saw its end when the CN Realera became prominentnote It could be said that the decline and fall of Toonami was a major cause for the end of the last anime boom, as there was no viable platform for anime of its scope that was able to replace it until it’s eventual revival. But on April Fools' Day 2012, viewers tuned into [adult swim] expecting to see The Room again - but instead saw the beloved anime block returning for one night - then after a huge Twittercampaign by anime fans, permanently on May 26. Out of the gate, it's done its part to help revive anime in the west, as it has cemented such hits as Bleach, and Naruto, and even turned Deadman Wonderland - a program that tanked badly in Japannote some saying as a result of the above mentioned moe/otaku pandering boom - into a hit with a bonafide fanbase. The block has even rescued shows that were screwed by the parent network such as the reboot of ThunderCats and Sym-Bionic Titan, though time will tell if either or both shows will eventually see continuation. And perhaps because of this success, they've even gotten the privilege of showing Space Dandy at the same time it is being broadcasted in Japan. Time will tell what the revived Toonami’s full potential will be, but considering what it did before and what it's doing now, it may well be the best hope for the Japanese Invasion to return to prominence.
In relation to the aforementioned digitization of the anime industry, some companies and animators have already started exploiting new media more directly. Examples include Production IG's anime Kick-Heart being Kickstarter-supported and Sunrise/Bandai streaming at least some of its Gundam shows (including the UnicornOV As episodes) for free on YouTube.
A more recent trend in anime has seen the reemergence of the Cool Big Sis to the limelight (or what some are calling the "Age of Onee-san") particularly in Gundam Reconguista In G and Gundam Build Fighters Try, in addition to the general trend of stronger female characters. Which has been lampshaded by Yoshiyuki Tomino himself, who's stated in interviews as being tired of little sister cliches.
While we're about halfway through the decade, 2010's fashion has been ludicrously similar to last decade's statements, however clothes have become more colorful and high-contrast.
Hipster-influenced clothing came in vogue in this decade. Ironic glasses, knit caps, scarves, plaid shirts, vintage prints, wacky dyed hair, obscure and incomprehensible tattoos, just to name a few, stepped to the catwalk.
Women's dress silhouettes turned a bit dressier with vintage-themed prints topped with a high waistline and hemlines slightly dropped ranging from mid-thigh to above-ankle complete with a flowing waterfall or handkerchief patterns.
Women's footwear in this decade had two extreme flavours: the ballerina-style flats, as well as high-heeled platform stilettos and boots continue to be popular, despite gaining a large Hatedom. However, the company started to make waves with other products during the decade, especially moccasins. Also making a fast rise is Toms Shoes, a slip-on shoe based on Argentine Espadrilles. It is notable for its "Buy One, Give One," campaign, in which impoverished children are given shoes for every pair bought.
The outfit streamlining from the last decade was cranked Up to Eleven beginning around 2012. Slim-fit became the choice buzzword for a sharp silhouette. From skinny jeans and shirts evoking the 1980's "new wave silhouette", to suits inspired from Mad Men or Miami Vice (the show, not the movie) and, to a lesser extent, late-Victorian/Edwardian clothing.
Men's hairstyles have been strongly modeled on the punk movement, with the "Ramone cut" and the "Fauxhawk" being increasingly popular. Women's hairdos have also gotten shorter or, if still long, more extravagant.
Also, facial hair (namely sideburns, staches and beards) have regained acceptance.
In Australian TV, the National Indigenous Television (NITV) was integrated with SBS so that the indigenous station could broadcast free-to-air for all Australians to see. Speaking of SBS, it's second channel SBS2 was rebranded as a youth channel, bringing with it shows like Community, Unbeatable Banzuke, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force after 6pm.
In April 2014, David Letterman announced that he would retire in 2015, after more than 30 years in television. A week later, CBS announced his Late Show successor would be Stephen Colbert, who ended his own show, The Colbert Report, on December 18th after 9 years. After 15+ years of being oddly one of the most trusted names in news with a humorous tone, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show will be stepping down later in 2015. Fortunately, the newer series, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, with the Daily Show alumnus providing his more focused wry eye on current events has become a big hit in its own right.
In terms of Asian music, the effects of the Japanese Invasion seemingly reeling back from foreign shores (as mentioned in the Anime section) has also affected Japanese Pop Music’s once-sterling reputation in the Asian music scene; with their relatively-closed borders and peculiar approach to exporting their culture, especially since it has given South Korea, widely considered as it's cultural rival, a golden chance to shine in the global stage, perhaps replacing almost every other nation as the cultural capital of Asia in the processnote (with some even saying that South Korea has taken that sole distinction from the Japanese). Korea's success with its popular dramas and cinema is debatable, not to mention its animation and comics still pales in comparison to Japan's, but Korean Pop Music blows those industries out of the water in terms of international success. Compared to Japan, which has retainedtraditional roots in their musical trends, South Korea is more than willing to blend in American and Western cultural aspects to its own music and has done so with extreme success, both in the broader Asian region and to a lesser extent, in the West.
Among some of K-Pop's highlights, US artist Akon paired up with Korean group Wonder Girls for the hit single Like Money, and PSY's Gangnam Style has broken the world record for being the most viewed song on YouTube, reaching #1 on the music charts in the UK and Australia, and #2 in the USA. PSY even paired up with MC Hammer of all people, performing a mash-up of Gangnam Style. K-Pop has made inroads on Australian radio, and dominates the nation-wide channel SBS PopAsia. When the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) decided to have its first ever TV Song Festival in 2012, featuring eleven performers across the Asia-Pacific,note Singapore, Australia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, China, Afghanistan, and of course South Korea it chose Korea as the host nation. It's a telltale sign that you've made success when even North Koreahas gotten in on the actnote Although judging from the actual video, North Korea's propaganda machine seems to be decades away from comprehending what the word "parody" means.
Of course, Japan has managed to have its own considerable international success with AKB48; which has gone from a humble girl-group to a powerful media giant in Japan, Vocaloid, and the similarly memetic PonPonPon music video on Youtube. The K-Pop vs J-Pop dichotomy has become Flame Bait and a source of Fan Dumb and Misplaced Nationalism on both sides, but K-Pop's global success is undeniable, and it remains clear that it has promising days ahead.
Japanese Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music, and in particular Visual Kei, is undergoing somewhat of a resurgence. Visual Kei and Japanese metal bands, among them X Japan, Buck Tick, Loudness, and Luna Sea, have reunited and/or are actively touring. The Oshare and Host-kei trend that defined much of Visual Kei for the Oughts is beginning to die out, with indies or newly signed Visual Kei acts returning to a harder rock sound - among them being Vagu*Project, DALATH, Diaura, Matenrou Opera, Trick, and similar new or newish bands. While Versailles has disbanded (as have many other Visual Kei bands, 2011 and 2012 were actually known as the "years of death and disbandment" for bands disbanding and the amount of famous Visual artists dying), Jupiter formed with a new vocalist. Seremedy was one of the first breakout non-Japanese Visual Kei bands (though it disbanded in 2013, with Yohio beginning a solo career and vocalist Seike forming Kerbera), and there are other non-Japanese based Visual Kei acts beginning to form once again. X Japan, Buck Tick, Loudness and others that began in The Eighties are actively recording and touring to popular reception (if not among the mass media), and Yoshiki Hayashi was tapped to write the score for the 2012 and 2013 Golden Globes award ceremony.
Electronic Music experienced an explosion into the 2010s. Enjoying fairly mild to moderate success last decade, it's a hot spot in the public eye. deadmau5, David Guetta, and Skrillex are commonplace to contemporary audiences. The latter frequently cited as the poster boy for Dubstep, his style an aggressive, melodic variant of it copied by other producers in what's now the most saturated form of electronic music in years. While deadmau5 doesn't consider himself to be and dislikes being called a DJ, he is known as an electro house producer wearing an iconic mouse-head mask. Guetta is a French house artist who released his obscure debut album in 2002 and hit worldwide fame with 2009's "When Love Takes Over". So not just these three guys but electronic artists in general have achieved celebrity status globally.
Boy bands have also started to make a comeback after being Deader Than Disco for almost a decade; this time, they were crafted in Bieber's mold. Due to Bieber's astronomical popularity, none of these boy bands were able to attain much success worldwide....except for One Direction, five British-Irish X Factor alumni who finished third on the show's 2010 series. After conquering the UK in 2011, One Direction started to rapidly grow an international fanbase, and when they released their "Up All Night" album in the US, it debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200, a feat unheard of for a British band's debut album. One Direction became so massive that not only did other boy bands that struggled in Bieber's presence get further hammered down, but Bieber's own popularity was dramatically hemorrhaged. The quintet was neck-a-neck with him the entirety of 2012, have completely surpassed him by the Summer of 2013, and by the end of that year Bieber Fever was all but extinct.
Disco and other 1970's music have received a Popularity Polynominal, especially starting in 2013. Daft Punk and Robin Thicke topped single charts worldwide with "Get Lucky" from Random Access Memories and "Blurred Lines" from Blurred Lines respectively, both featured Pharrell Williams, but they were the only hit songs from either album. Justin Timberlake came back from a musical hiatus lasting 5-7 years while ending his stint on acting and released The 20/20 Experience followed by a sequel (The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2), including "Suit & Tie," "Mirrors," "Tunnel Vision," and "Take Back the Night". All these works are disco-influenced.
In Japan, the Group Sounds type of hybrid rock music/folk music has experienced a revival in popularity after fading for much of the past few decades, with even Japanese teenagers taking notice of them again, with many groups such as The Tigers and The Wild Ones(Under the leadership of Kenji Sawada of The Tigers) reuniting and either touring again or writing/recording new material, and like Visual Kei, has also seen some notice taken of it in foreign markets, with Kenji Sawada's fandom in foreign countries reaching unprecedented heights with the rise of Youtube and social media.
If you were to sum up the National Football League this decade, the first word that came to mind would be "concussions". Head injuries have been at the forefront of the game for the past several years, particularly after several beloved veterans such as Dave Duerson and Junior Seau committed suicide. They were later revealed to have brain trauma, no doubt related to their years of playing. The horrors of the Chris Benoit murder-suicide in 2007 still being fresh in people's minds might have also had an effect. There was also a marked uptick in concussions at the high school level, suggesting that the NFL's bad behavior has a trickle-down effect. Things got markedly worse when the New Orleans Saints were revealed to have been running a bounty systemnote basically, a system where defensive players were paid a bonus if they seriously injured an opposing player that marked out specific targets. (The Bountygate scandal also revealed Commissioner Roger Goodell's penchant for overreaction after the Saints players allegedly involved in the scandal had their penalties vacated, with some legal analysts saying that the Commissioner had overstepped his authority by trying to make an example out of the Saints.)
The NFL also flirted with having a lockout in 2011, but they were able to resolve things just in time (the only game that was cancelled was the Hall of Fame game, a preseason game).
The National Basketball Association recently underwent a changing of the guard in both of the conferences, dramatically shifting the landscape of the entire league. In the summer of 2010, LeBron James, arguably the greatest player of the current generation, decided to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat, teaming up with Miami superstar Dwyane Wade and former Toronto Raptor Chris Bosh to become the contemporary "Super Team". In the West, the upstart (and not even a decade old) Oklahoma City Thunder established themselves as a legitimate powerhouse on the backs of young talent in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, challenging (and even dethroning) such names as the San Antonio Spurs in 2012 to make it to the Finals. The Chicago Bulls, led by Derrick Rose, and the Indiana Pacers, led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert, have returned to form as beasts of the east, while the Boston Celtics enjoyed a stint where they were the go-to rivals for the Miami Heat. Despite the improvements of other teams, however, much of the focus was squarely on the Love It or Hate It Miami Heat, whose constant media coverage, soap opera-like controversies, dynasty aspirations and undeniable talent turned them into the Big Bad of the NBA; every other team mentioned has faced the Heat at some form or other from 2011 through 2013, setting up a few rivalries (mostly Boston, Chicago and Indiana) as every team looks to dethrone the Heat. As for LeBron himself, his loss in 2011 to Dirk Nowitzki made many question whether or not he could ever get a championship... and then he followed it up by winning back to back in 2012 and 2013.
A nasty stretch of sports-related scandals over 2011-13 broke many fans' faith in stars once acclaimed as role models and even heroes — Multiple Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong turned out to be doping all along in what was just the most high-profile of the steroid-related scandals of the era, beloved college football coach Joe Paterno's career (and, as it turned out, life) ended in disgrace when it was revealed that his assistant Jerry Sandusky was a serial pedophile and Paterno had willfully covered it, and the touching story of up-and-coming football player Manti Te'o and his leukemia-stricken girlfriend was revealed to be a hoax gone awry (the girlfriend didn't exist). But things can get even worse than those —double-amputee Olympic-caliber runner Oscar Pistorius of South Africa murdered his girlfriend, leading to doubts about his sanity, and NFL player Aaron Hernandez has also been charged with first-degree murder.
And speaking of Paterno mentioned above, some of the biggest programs of college football had been hit with scandals. Not only did Penn State have to vacate many of their wins dating back to the time of Paterno's discovery, which nullified his status as the winningest coach in the sport's history, it led to the athletic program and the university itself overhauling their leadership and postseason bans for the school until further notice, not to mention a nationwide effort by universities to step up their anti-molestation policies. The University of Southern California had also been hit with scandals when it was discovered that in the mid-2000's many USC players had accepted money from agents, which led to a 2-year postseason ban from 2010-11, a vacation of several wins, including the 2005 National Championship rout over Oklahoma, and famed running back and alumnus Reggie Bush handing back his Heisman trophynote an end-of-the-year trophy bestowed to a high-impact player, usually either a quarterback or running back. The University of Miami also faced probes over financial scandals that led to self-enforced bans on the 2011-12 postseasons, and the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University football programs each faced a one-year postseason ban in 2012 for a violation of NCAA rules.
Backlash against the Bowl Championship Series had continued into this decade, with among the reasons including the 2010 Fiesta Bowl matchup between "BCS Busters" Boise State and TCUnote was Mountain West at the time, now in the Big Twelve, which denied both a chance to challenge a power conference. Effective 2014, the BCS was replaced with a playoff system involving the top four teams, and a set of four major New Year's Day bowls with a guaranteed slot for each of the five power conferencesnote Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Pacific-12, Southeastern and a guaranteed slot for a "Group of Five"note American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt team.
In video games, the New Tens became a source of cynicism and discontent, as delayed releases, cancellations, disappointing results, and base-fracturing content saw the gaming community fracture.
As mentioned before, Duke Nukem Forever had undergone Vaporware status for fourteen years prior to release, having been scrapped and redone time and again, something evident in the final product and the very mixed reviews it garnered as a result.
Although they have a success in the form of Battlefield 3, a furor was caused among PC gamers when when EA took titles like Dragon Age II and Crysis 2 from Steam (although the latter was later reinstated) in favor of their own Origin service, much of this owing to the handling of DLC sales.
Mass Effect 3 is also a critical and commercial success but has seen a notorious backlash over how the ending was handled, that BioWare had to overhaul it into something more satisfying.
The combined events have notoriously led to the company being voted as "Worst Company in America" over Bank of America twice in a row in 2012 and 2013, which led to arguments about whether it's deserved or not given the reputation of bankers.
Capcom has not had much luck during this decade either, with their increasingly harsh treatment of the Mega Man franchise coinciding with Mega Man Legends3's sudden cancellation and the verymixed critical reception of Resident Evil 6 that were some of what made their former reputation as one of the most ludicrous Japanese video game companies ever fall down.
Ubisoft also had their share of criticism. The two biggest issues were finding files on the PC version of Watch_Dogs that not only improved the graphics, but made the game run smoother. Bigger than that was its "U-Play" system, widely viewed as unnecessary DRM that only served to keep legit customers from playing their games, as U-Play required a constant Internet connection to work most of the time. These issues greatly soiled Ubisoft's reputation amongst gamers.
Extravagant budgets of video games have also become an issue. High budgets have meant that major AAA releases would now often have to meet millions of sales within the first couple weeks in order to break even. This has led to Big Huge Games and 38 Studios, the creators of Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning, to file bankruptcy through the dire financial situation with the state of Rhode Island. Major publisher THQ has also been hit hard through budgetary issues, with the sales of Homefront failing to meet the ambitious marketing campaign's funds although selling at least a million copies in the first couple weeks, and Red Faction Armageddon also falling short of expectations, leading to the death of the franchise. The company had filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in December 2012, and its fate got sealed when it auctioned off most of its properties on 23 January 2013.
DRM has become quite an issue with many gamers as newer methods implemented to prevent piracy have only caused trouble with legitimate owners. Always-on DRM for example, requires the user to once in a while or always connect to the internet servers, even when playing offline modes. While many gamers hook up their systems to the internet nowadays to at the very least get the latest updates, it does become problematic when a user has connection issues, or worse, when the game servers have technical issues (as evidenced by games such as Assassins Creed II, Diablo III, and SimCity, which rendered many users unable to log in to the overbooked servers upon release) or even when the game's support is pulled entirely, which can make said games useless.
Microsoft caused further controversy on the affair when they attempted to implement a console-wide DRM system on the Xbox One, which would require users to have the console connect to the internet every 24 hours to work, as well as a used game fee on disc titles. Naturally, games and non-gamers alike were strongly divided by the proposed scheme due to the said above issues, especially when Sony went the opposite route, promising not to use DRM or restricting sales of used games for the PS4, which won them a lot of fans and even convinced some Microsoft fans to switch sides. Fortunately, due to the backlash Microsoft would eventually back down from this DRM scheme shortly after the year’s E3 ended.
That said, the success of a number of titles and developers suggest that the industry overall is not as dire as more cynical commentators make it out to be. The release of Bioshock Infinite has at least momentarily served to provide a source of pride for the gaming community.
An additional bright spot of The New Tens was Telltale Games' adaptation of The Walking Dead, which won several hundred "Game of the Year" honors in 2012, beating out such juggernauts of the industry as Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Mass Effect 3. The game was widely praised for the strength of its writing, memorable characters, and heart-wrenching story. Not only did it revive the struggling Adventure Game genre, it started something of a golden age for Telltale, who also created adventure games for The Wolf Among Us and Borderlands, as well as a second and third season of The Walking Dead games.
While 2014 is seen as a generally disappointing year for video games due to severalreleasesnot living up to their hype, another bright spot is the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition. After three polarizing game releases(Dragon Age II, The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3), many has wondered if Bioware is on its knees or has lost its talent in making games. Come DA:I and, while there are complaints about problems with different versions, the game has been far better received for its much more epic story, highly varied wide-open world and the choices having a far greater effect on the story and characters. Time will tell however if Bioware manages to build up on this sucess.
The subscription MMORPGs had fallen out of favor by this time; World of Warcraft, while still being popular, has seen a decline in subscriber count, Final Fantasy XIV got severely botched on launch, All Points Bulletin quickly tanked and Star Wars: The Old Republic adopted a free-to-play scheme mere months after release due to extravagant budget issues. Rift has seen some success after being launched in March 2011, although it too adopted a limited free-to-play model the next year, as did World of Warcraft earlier on. Free-To-Play games using a microtransaction model have been flourishing at the start of the decade, especially with the great popularity of games like League of Legends and Team Fortress 2.
The Role-Playing Game genre has suffered, due in thanks to Square Enix and several other prolific JRPG developers in the previous decades undergoing what some perceive to be a Dork Age, with the latest projects from Bioware and Bethesda being the genre's only real big-name draws. While the JRPG still has hits, many of such titles have been relegated to the handheld due to lower budgets, leaving its western counterparts to pull the weight in the console and PC biz.
The decade has also showcased a growing divide between "casual" and "hardcore" gamers, with many citing the advent of motion-control gaming as part of the debate: The Wii, the Kinect, and the Move have given gamers new ways to play, but only a handful of titles have taken full advantage of these motion-control devices, and most of them are "casual" games like Just Dance, Dance Central, and the ever-popular Wii Sports series, causing many diehard gamers to deride motion-control as a gimmick. At the same time, cellular phones and handheld computers have seen tremendous growth, with many of its games, like the famous Angry Birds, proving to be a prime attraction for the casual gamer. As phone-based games become increasingly popular among casual gamers, they've drifted away from traditional retail video games. On the other side of the extreme, let’s not even get started on the "exclusivity" PC gamers want their format to go, with the increasingly intense hardware requirements and the perceived “Stop Having Fun” Guys attitude regarding the format. All this leaves fans and analysts to wonder if there can ever be a middle ground again. Nintendo however, often credited/Mis-blamed for starting this trend, have shown efforts to re-bridge the gap by catering to both casuals and diehards this time around with the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U. Time will tell how their efforts will go.
The decade has seen two major breakthroughs in video games as free speech. In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011's Brown (formerly Schwarzenegger) v. Entertainment Merchants Association that video games are guaranteed the same free speech protections that other mediums have, rendering bills to restrict sales unconstitutional. It did(n't) help that many shops do in fact already have such regulations in place without the need of government intervention anyway. Meanwhile in Australia, after some long, controversial years of South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson denying the unanimity to introduce the R18+ rating to games the same way that films are rated, the Australian Attorneys-General had finally decided upon it in the summer of 2012. The implementation took effect at the end of the year.
The Visual Novel genre continues on in the background in comparison to other game genres, but received an unexpected boost in popularity in 2012 with Katawa Shoujo, created by members of 4Chan. The game was well received by almost everyone who reviewed it, and it's effects on the VN genre are still being felt as more VNs are released to growing popularity.
Crowdfunding, particularly through Kickstarter, has become a popular option for indies and even some established developers to get funding without having to go through publishers. The trend was started by Double Fine, who achieved massive support for "Double Fine Adventure" (later titled Broken Age) when traditional publishers were wary of backing an old-school adventure game.
Despite the economic downturn, technology marches on. Facebook, Twitter, and the cellphone have revolutionized the social experience, spurring some commentators to predict the end of privacy. The Internet is also proving to be even less hospitable to the preservation of media than the newspapers and filmreels of past decades, with once-well-known virtual media of the 2000s, like Homestar Runner, Kid Radd, Bob and George and several MMOs either lost or on their way to oblivion.
Internet piracy has quickly drawn the ire of the United States Congress, and Congress' attempts to curtail it have even more quickly drawn the Internet's ire:
It began with the proposition of the SOPA and PIPA bills, which many said would grant government the power to shut down copyright infringing websites. The Internet exploded in massive protests, with The Other Wiki blacking out in solidarity, and Anonymous banded together with big website creators to protect the free Internet, all to ensure the bills did not pass. They didn't, but the US Senate shows no signs of completely giving up.
The situation worsened when, a day after The Other Wiki blacked out, the FBI had taken measures to shut down popular filesharing site MegaUpload, which caused a chain reaction of filesharing sites like Fileserve, Filejungle and many others making their sites for private-uses only.
Following behind SOPA is ACTA, rumored to be much worse, though many said the rumors are usually exaggerated. With the backlash in Poland and elsewhere, it seems unlikely that it would be ratified, let alone implemented, in the foreseeable future.
Now the fight is against PCIPA, the US equivalent of existing European data retention laws. However, given the Internet's previous rallying to defeat the more imminent threats of SOPA and PIPA, and already delaying and weakening the more slow-burning ACTA, we have more than a few months to prepare for PCIPA. On top of that, PCIPA is a remake of legislation that already failed to make it to a full vote. These factors, and the fact that the media actually denounced PCIPA/HR 1981 in 2011, makes for a bill that, like previous US data retention bills, is doomed to an ignoble failure.
More pressing, however, is the CISPA, a bill that attempts to fix cybersecurity problems but creates privacy problems as it does so. This went so far that the House passed it on, and it now falls to the Senate to decide whether it goes any further, though Democratic sources are saying that the bill is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled senate thanks to its formally bipartisan support splintering among party lines. The crumb of comfort is that Barack Obama has promised to veto it, though of course, time will tell: He's still far more likely to veto it than the NDAA, which was an annually-passed bill that just happened to have a nasty set of riders attached. In addition, the bill has been improved: Some of the privacy issues have been resolved through numerous amendments that make it so the government cannot mine data gleaned, and that they cannot condition ISPs to give up information, and other amendments have clarified that intellectual property is not something it can be used to protect. Now, according to the CDT, the big flaws that haven't been addressed, and which are likely to be addressed by Senate Democrats, assuming they don't scrub it outright, are the flow of information directly to the NSA, and the use of information for "national security." Also, the much-maligned Quayle amendment, which amended CISPA to be able to affect cases involving "the exploitation of children" and "threat of bodily harm or death to an individual," is, in fact dictated by existing laws, in which ISPs and other entities can, and already do, voluntarily give information related to these to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the US government, and law enforcement agencies. ISPs and the government may not search for such things under CISPA or current law, but if information related to the exploitation of a minor or a threat of bodily harm is also found in cyberattack data, the Quayle amendment allows it to be used.
And there's also the big elephant in the room, The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement,a trade agreement being written in secret with only a few being allowed to look at it, which promises to make several parts of SOPA and PIPA into international law, amongst many other awful things.
A (relatively) new form of entertainment appeared this decade: The Abridged Series - edited videos of anime, video games, or cartoons that are significantly pared down, but have a brand new - often humorous - script. While at first the only decent creator was LittleKuriboh with his popular Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, throughout the years several other quality abridged series have popped up - culminating in the massively popular Dragon Ball Abridged. As a result of the popularity of these works, some of the creators of these works have found their way into legitimate voice-acting gigs.
Although not yet as big as Facebook, Tumblr has started gaining speed since its formation in 2007, and houses countless communities, the most popular being referred to as "social justice bloggers", "hipster bloggers" and "fandom bloggers". Yahoo! bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion in May 2013.
Generally, one social network would blow up every year. In 2011, the photo-sharing application Instagram took off. Having been launched only a couple of months before the beginning of the new year, Instagram would have over 100 million users by April 2012 and was bought by Facebook the same month. Around the beginning of 2012, Pinterest, another photo-sharing website with a pinboard-style gimmick, underwent a quick rise in popularity. 2013 brought rise to Vine, a Twitter-owned mobile app that allows users to create six-second video clips.
In less optimistic news; September 27, 2014 marked the last remaining Saturday cartoon block Vortexx's final airing. Competition with cable and a loss of some of their key licenses are believed to have delivered the killing blow, ending nearly 50 years of Saturday morning cartoons on broadcast television.
Commercial space travel thrives in fiction, as in the movies Avatar and Prometheus, but official scientific exploration of space has almost completely vanished; not surprising, given that manned exploration has never ventured past Earth's orbit following the Apollo program, the Columbia shuttle disintegrated after two decades of service, and the shuttle program itself was recently retired without a replacement program, leaving only the venerable Soyuz capsules, active since the late 60s, to manage an increasingly budget-shrinking International Space Station. The impression held in The Seventies, that by the turn of the century mankind would be roaming the sands of Mars, now seems a bit further away.
Despite setbacks in human space endeavors, commercial exploration of space has turned out to be a good investment for NASA, with no less than five separate manned capsulesnote NASA's Orion, SpaceX Dragon, Boeing CTS-100, Sierra Nevada Dream Catcher, and an unspecified capsule by Blue Origin, four human-rated launch vehiclesnote human-rated versions of the existing Delta IV and Atlas V; Falcon 9; and the Space Launch System, and two unmanned resupply vesselsnote the aforementioned Dragon, in its cargo, configuration, plus the Orbital Sciences Cygnus under development, for deployment some time between now and the early 2020s. Of these, Orion and Dragon are capable of going beyond Low Earth Orbit and potentially to Mars, while the rest are to be LEO ferries. The era of commercial space transport can be fairly said to have begun some time in 2012, when the Dragon completed testing, including the all-important retrieval note As The Daily Show's Jon Stewart said to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, (paraphrased): "There are four entities which have sent something into orbit and then retrieved it intact. These four are the Soviet Union/Russia, the United States, the People's Republic of China...and Elon Musk.", and began operationsnote first flight to the ISS: 22-31 May 2012, in cargo configuration. Every-day citizens are closer than ever to affordable space trips, and space travel itself could be a big boom for science and the economy. Last but not least, a consortium of super-rich entrepreneurs, among them, James Cameron, have started a company aimed at mining asteroids.
Unmanned exploration seems even more promising, provided that the Dawn and New Horizons probes reach their targets, Ceres and Pluto, in 2015, to say nothing of the successful landing of Curiosity on Mars in August 2012. On the other hand...we'll let's not mention the Russian Phobos-Grunt disaster.
Alternative fuel sources continue to grow in availability, albeit slowly, and energy-efficient appliances are on the cusp of becoming the norm. They may have to hurry, as nuclear power, the only workable alternative to fossil fuels at present, is under scrutiny due to the earthquake/tsunami combo critically damaging atomic energy plants in Japan, most notably the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. While not nearly as severe as Chernobylnote both are category 7, but only because category 7 is a catch-all 'off the scale' rating - Chernobyl was at least ten times worse than Fukushima, it's had a similarly chilling effect, and the outcome could shape nuclear power policies for the rest of the decade as countries rethink their nuclear programs. Germany led the way on this one, with the government of Angela Merkel doing a 180 on nuclear policy, announcing plans to eliminate all nuclear power in Germany by 2020note after having previously considered expanding the system, shortly after the accident, in a desperate attempt to keep voters on their side; while her CDU/CSU has taken a drubbing, her coalition partners, the libertarian FDP, has been wiped out, or nearly so, from at least two state legislatures, and the Greens have officially become a prospective party of government. On the other hand, France and, more significantly, India and Britainnote "More significantly," because France already relies on nuclear power for 75% of its electrical generation, and public opinion isn't about to be swayed by one accident in a faraway land continue to press ahead in their plans to preserve and expand their nuclear power base, so the future remains extremely muddy on this one.
More so than ever before, a lot of public attention has been given to bullying - the crux of the attention began after several gay teens committed suicide. While there is particular emphasis on LGBT-related bullying (including the It Gets Better project), bullying in general is recognized as a serious problem for the youth. A particular scourge is "cyberbullying", which takes the cruel harrassment and abuse of children and teens out of the schools — where, for so long, it was minimized by society — and into an increasingly connected online world. A bullying victim can have no place for relief from harassment if they have so much as a cell phone.
Adding to the issue is Newgrounds, once the poster boy of mocking anyone and everyone had deleted a controversial flash game of Anita Sarkeesian, a vocal feminist whose personal web series Tropes vs Women has drawn ire from the internet ranging from threats made on her channel to outright slander outside the internet. This has caused a natural divide within the internet who is split between keeping Feminism from stifling their opinions on the internet and creating a generation of "Herbivore males" and those who would support women's rights on the internet front.
Oh, and this seems minor, but the hilarity cannot be contained: in 2010, New York State adopted non-consensual, no-fault divorce—the last state to do so. Welcome to the 1970s, New York divorce law!
A string of incidents involving police officers murdering unarmed black men in cold blood, as well as punishments for said officers that many consider far too lenient, has led to public outcry and protests. The heated racial climate has drawn comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement,sparked a great deal of debate all over the country, and has made many people realize that they aren't yet living in a post-racial society.
The War on Terror continues with the death of 9/11 orchestrator Osama bin Laden, the withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq in 2011, and the planned removal of soldiers from Afghanistan by 2014. On the other hand, so-called "homegrown terrorism" appears to be on the rise, reaching its ugliest manifestation so far in the 2011 murders of over 70 teenagers by a right-wing anti-Muslim extremist in Norway, as well as the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings by two Caucasian Muslim brothers, Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev. War comes a-clanging to the Middle East with continuing tensions around Iran growing and escalating and Iraq falling into civil war in Spring 2014, and one might argue that it is the newest near-miss for World War III... if we're lucky.
In the United States, healthcare reform has turned into a debate about how to handle Americans' first concern: the lackluster economy. This has led to a series of divisions between moderates and radicals from both corners, who have been increasingly confrontational such as the left-wing Occupy movement note known mostly for their fiery opposition to Wall Street and the increasing power of big corporations over government and their use of corporate products while protesting. Although, to be fair, Occupy never explicitly called for the dissolution of all corporations, merely that they shouldn't have unfettered access to political influence , which surged in 2011note as protests began near the aforementioned Wall Street area and spread to cities across the nation. Protests have died down and their methods remain disputed by some, but the movement has had considerable impact on political discourse casting quite some pressure over the conservative Senate Democrats (with a majority of them sitting since the Clinton administration) who have been seen as unsupportive of the President.
This came to a head at the end of September of 2013 as the Republican-controlled House, trying to do everything to everything in their power, threatened to shut down the US government even though the healthcare bill would go into effect anyway. This happened on 1 October and lasted until the 17th. After the shutdown started, the public's approval of Congress fell to an unfathomable five percent.
Drone warfare is steadily forming the backbone of US military policy; remote-controlled Attack Drones of varying names and designs are sent overseas to conduct surveillance and aerial assault on people suspected/designated to be terrorists. Started by George W. Bush and escalated by Barack Obama, this has caused a lot of controversy, as people debate the judicial authority of the American government to kill someone, anyone, including American citizens (such as Anwar al-Awlaqi and his son Abdulrahman) without trial or due process. Other issues include double taps (when the drones hit first responders), signature strikes (when the drones attack based on how people appear to behave), attacks on funerals due to the mourners carrying weapons for protection, and the Disposition Matrix (a kill list designed to catalog and assassinate suspected enemies of the US). Reportedly thousands of civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen (among others), prompting another debate over whether or not such deaths were collateral damage or intentional assassinations. There's a growing chorus of objections from host countries, most notably emanating from Pakistan, over the US inevitably violating sovereign nations and the host countries' allowing of the US to do so with drone strikes. Furthermore, there's a growing sentiment that the drone strikes will only create more enemies for the US (as it did with the aforementioned Tsarnaev brothers - who based their bombings as retaliation for the drone strikes).
Obama was re-elected in 2012 in an electoral landslide, owing much to the youth, minorities and women, while he only gained 39% of the white vote and 42% of all males. note Reduced influence of the white male vote in the election coupled with the effect the minority vote had in Obama's re-election led some to argue society has polarized greatly since 2008. Furthermore, Obama was reelected with the popular majority vote, a feat for a Democratic Party president that has not happened since Franklin D. Roosevelt - back in 1944.note To be a bit fair, not counting Obama, there have only been two Democrats since who actually went up for reelection - Jimmy Carter (who lost by a huge margin) and Bill Clinton (who won a second term in an election with a big third-party candidate, and he definitely would have had over 50% otherwise). Harry Truman served most of FDR's last term and was reelected to serve a term of his own, but declined to run again, so he doesn't count. John F. Kennedy died before he could run again. Lyndon Johnson, like Truman, served out the remainder of his predecessor's term and won a term for himself, but didn't run again. Meanwhile, except Gerald Ford (who succeeded to the presidency and didn't win his own term), every Republican went up for election twice - Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush each won twice, while George H.W. Bush only won once. As a historical curiosity, this marks the first time that three presidents in a row have served two terms since Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe served consecutively in 1801-1825.
Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for limited recreational use by vote while Washington, Maryland and Maine legalized gay marriage by vote, when previous legalizations have been through judiciary or legislation. Note, however, that marijuana is still illegal in Washington and Colorado due to federal statute, which takes precedence over state law.... and yet, Attorney General Eric Holder will back away from cracking down on either state (with a few caveats, like not smuggling it to states where it's illegal), showing that the much-reviled War on Drugs could be on its way to reaching its end.
There is a significant conservative population in the U.S, headlined by the Tea Party arriving around the time of the 2010 midterm elections as the ultra-conservative faction of the Republican Party. After capturing the House of Representatives in '10 with a record number of seats changing parties due largely to rejection of the ACA, being notable for putting seemingly-endless deadlocks on every issue under the sun (most infamously the debt ceiling), and deeply unpopular copyright bills which some fear could bring the 1984Dystopia to life. Tea Party activists, meanwhile, have used the movement's populist rhetoric to decry attempts to curtail such things as gun ownership and religious expression (such as local nativity displays). The net result is even more general hatred and distrust aimed at Congressmen, considered to be too conservative for today's society. The dire image most people have of the GOP is far from improving, getting even worse after being blamed for the failure to reach an agreement regarding the "fiscal cliff" before March 1, 2013; with automatic budget cuts nationwide casting a shadow on economic recovery.
While the GOP has gotten much of the blame for the country's current fiascoes, the Democrats have also had their fair share of controversies. Since May 2013, Obama has been accuse of abuse of power, coming first from Bob Woodward (one of the journalists that revealed the inner depths of the Watergate scandal) and later the Associated Press about the wiretapping of conversations, at the same time the Tea Party accused the IRS of using its role to target them (a revelation later admitted to be generally true of BOTH leftist and rightist groups), mainly via denying them proper tax status. Ex-CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed that the once-secret National Security Agency has tapped almost every phone call in the U.S. and Canada, as well it has retrieved the entirety of the information from the servers of Google, Facebook and Skype, among others; storing search and download histories, file transfers, e-mails and Skype video chats, etc. from all over the world, as detailed by The Washington Post and The Guardian (London). The trial of Manning didn't gain prominence until Obama defended the NSA, causing a big uproar since the President became nationally known for his opposition to Bush-era surveillance programs. This has caused divisions in both the Republican and Democratic parties, with both parties' conservatives claiming that the NSA has prevented terrorist attacks, while the progressive and libertarian sectors of the Democrat and Republican parties openly criticizing it.note As a side note, sales of Orwell's 1984 rose exponentially just because of the scandal.
In regards to the IRS scandal, while some liberal groups were subjected to additional scrunity, most of their groups were processed by line editors, while all conservative groups were flagged and delayed. Lois Lerner, the head of the division responsible for tax-emept status, was ordered to provide all documentation regarding this issue. She refused to testify (not before protesting her innocence), and refused to turn over any documentation on the claim that her computer crashed and the hard drive was destroyed per protocol. She also failed to back up any of her data per agency standards, and was caught asking questions before the crash about whether or not the agency's instant-messaging software was automatically backed up, where she expressed delight that it wasn't. In Late August 2014, it was revealed under the FOIA that in fact, backups of Lerner's hard drives did exist, as all government data is backed up, but government lawyers stated it would be "too onerous" to search for the data. Many mainstream media sources were criticized for not reporting on this revelation of scandal. In December, it was revealed that Lerner tried to stop inspectors from looking into this controversy as far back as 2012.
In this regard, another point of controversy in the government's alleged abuses of power is the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 and 2013, which gives the government power to detain terrorists indefinitely in sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA. However, these sections were so vaguely worded that it could potentially give the government power to arrest any Americans that they suspect of being terrorists even if they are innocent. This has led to many campaigns, lawsuits (the most famous one having prominent figures on the left such as Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellesburg as plaintiffs) and petitions against the Obama Administration to get NDAA 2012 or at least sections 1021 and 1022 repealed, and led to dissatisfaction and criticism of both parties from progressives and libertarians, many who refused to vote either of the mainstream parties in the 2012 elections due to support of NDAA across both parties, instead either supporting Ron Paul, a third party candidate (almost all of the third party candidates have stated to oppose the NDAA) or sitting out the election altogether.
More recently, in light of growing outrage over NSA surveillance and, groups as diverse as activists, tech companies, members of Congress and a presidential task force are calling on the government to rein bulk surveillance and restructure the NSA itself. If successful, these could both validate Snowden's efforts and reshape how America does intelligence work.
The NSA scandal quickly took its toll on Obama's approval, marking the President's first serious crisis, being far from the last: While not affected by the fiscal cliff fiasco, the extremely shaky economy (a majority of Americans believe the country is still in recession... three years after it ended), the IS debacle (with controversy erupting after he was pictured playing golf while hostages were being beheaded) and the ebola outbreak have caused Obama's approval rating to dip under 40% by November 2014, when the GOP swept Congress in the mid-term elections.
Gun control in the U.S. is a hot topic again, spurred on by several mass shootings each year from 2011 onwards. During the summer of 2012 alone there were fatal shootings at an Aurora, CO movie theater (12 deaths at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises), a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and outside the Empire State Building. Worst of the lot so far was the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, CT in December 2012: 26 deaths at the school — 20 of those being children as young as six years old — plus the deaths of the shooter's mother and the shooter himself. To make matters worse, these shootings came along on top of ongoing problems with gun violence in cities like Detroit and Chicago. Gun sales boomed (so to speak) after Sandy Hook, owing to fears of tighter restrictions on assault weapons and the like. The public push for such laws wasn't able to convince the Senate to vote in favor of them in 2013, thanks in part to the pro-gun rhetoric of the National Rifle Association, and also to a Connecticut Democrat who admitted nothing in the bill would stop another Sandy Hook, leading many to believe the government was just using the tragedy as an excuse to push an agenda. The murders also called the issues of mental illness, media violence, and (to a lesser extent) the increasingly polarized American society into question. Since then further mass murders (such as a drive-by shooting that killed six in Sacramento, CA in May 2014) have come and gone through the news cycle relatively quickly, suggesting that Americans are simply used to them and/or do not believe change is possible.
Debate immediately arose after a college student announced he had successfully tested a gun rendered by a 3-D printer, with many Congressmen claiming for a ban, not only on them, but also on three-dimensional printers.
The U.S. suffered the worst act of terrorism on its soil since 9/11 with the April 15, 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, resulting in three deaths and hundreds of injuries, with two Chechen-born brothers held responsible for the attacks after days of many theories (including some that blamed North Korea for the tragedy). Tamerlan Tsarnaev was captured and killed on the night of April 18, while his younger brother Dzhokhar was caught the following day, after a long search of Boston.
Before the Boston Bombing, Chris Dorner, a disgrunted police officer fed up with the corruption within LA's police force went to a rampage and killed four victims across California, the police manhunt was callous and brutal, harming civilians to take down the rogue cop. He was eventually cornered and killed by immolation when he was corned into a cabin in the mountains after a long manhunt.
The George Zimmerman trial was a national news topic in the summer of 2013. A Florida neighborhood watchman with white and Latino heritage, Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager whom Zimmerman followed through the street claiming he believed was up to no good. This resulted in a violent altercation between the two; Zimmerman claimed he shot in self-defense. The lengthy trial was marred with promises of rioting if Zimmerman was acquitted (ala the Rodney King police brutality trial's violent aftermath in 1992) and discontent from conservatives who feared Zimmerman being found guilty would lead to harsher gun control laws. While the acquittal did not result in citywide riots anywhere, California again felt discontent as Oakland faced small riots on the streets.
Same-sex marriage is gaining more and more acceptance in the United States now. For the first time ever, polls indicate that the majority of American voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, a huge gain after barely over a third favored it circa 2000. Young people are especially accepting, with polls showing that around 70% favor legalizing it. Additionally, a sitting President announced that he is now openly supportive of the cause, and this is also a first. The Democratic Party has now become almost completely united in making it happen, while the Republicans, once almost completely united against it, are starting to show cracks and several prominent right-wingers now openly say it should be legalized. In two major cases, the Supreme Court both struck down the law limiting federal marriage benefits to only opposite-sex marriages and defeated the controversial Proposition 8, a popular vote measure which banned same-sex marriages in the California just months after it was legalized. Including California, twenty-nine states have legalized same-sex marriage since the beginning of the decade (including six states where the state supreme court ruled a same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but the ruling was stayed), and a few of them even did it by popular vote. Expect this number to keep rising.
While Hurricanes Irene and Isaac were both extremely destructive storms, the defining hurricane of the decade was Hurricane Sandy. While it was not as severe devastation-wise as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy caused significant mayhem in the Eastern United States at the cost of over $63 billion. New York City and New Jersey were hit the worst, with power outages and the flooding in streets and tunnels causing flight cancellations and the two-day closure of NASDAQ. Even the subway station lines were flooded. Since Sandy, scientists and politicians alike discuss how climate change amplifies storms and sea level rise has had made the coasts (specially the East) less attractive. Meanwhile, citizens relocated from New York and other effected states to the Midwest and the West Coast (from where quite a few of them came to the zone because of the mortgage crisis) because the storm was too severe, to the point you could read articles calling it "Superstorm Sandy" and "Frankenstorm". note "Frankenstorm" was named because it was a hurricane-nor'easter hybrid and Halloween was days away, but later media coverage used "Superstorm Sandy" due to being considered an extratropical cyclone when it made landfall in Atlantic City.
The Supreme Court has made three controversial rulings that will undoubtedly change the foundation of the American political landscape.
The first came in Citizens United in January 2010, which allowed corporations and wealthy donors to spend money on elections without disclosing how much or by whom they are donating. Supporters claim that spending money on political elections is a freedom of speech right. Opponents feel that having the rich and wealthy spend so much money on their candidates destroys the very idea of a democracy.
The second came in their gutting of section three of the Voting Rights Act in June 2013. They claim the VRA in general is based on "obsolete" data, while critics have said that this will allow voting institutions to keep the sorta people they don't like without a vote.
Their third ruling is McCutcheon in April 2014, which allows for unlimited donations given to political candidates in elections.
Yet another government agency faces scrutiny over violations of international law and extreme abuses of human rights - the CIA. According to several Senate-led committees and investigations, the CIA "systematically misled" government officials about its interrogation program. The report found that the CIA's legal justification for the use of harsh interrogation techniques were based on faulty intelligence, concluded that the CIA used interrogation methods that were not approved by its own headquarters or the U.S. Justice Department, found that the CIA provided false information that their interrogation techniques (meaning the interrogations did not get any intel that wasn't false), felt that the CIA's interrogation techniques amounted to needless physical, emotional, and psychological abuse/torture, impeded White House oversight, and actively evaded oversight both by Congress and its own Inspector General. It's gotten to a point where the CIA actually chose to spy on members of the Senate in order to obstruct their investigations.
In what many see as the end of Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission announced new rules governing Internet service. Now, internet providers can give "preferential treatment," meaning faster internet, in exchange for more money. Critics argue that this stifles innovation - anyone that wants to start a new business that tries to compete with, say, Netflix, all Comcast has to do is slow down your internet and you won't be able to get anything done. However, the internet activist community fought back and when the FCC requested public comments about these rules, there was a massive flood of 4 million submissions, so many that the FCC's servers temporarily malfunctioned from the load. The vast majority of them demanded stronger rules, mostly by redefining the internet as a "common carrier," which is how the regular telephone system is regulated in Title II of The Communications Act of 1934. With the public support of President Obama for such a move, the FCC board voted 3 to 2 on February 26th, 2015 to do precisely that. While this has become a partisan issue with the Republican controlled US congress threatening to cripple this reform and telecom companies vowing to challenge it in court, the facts that it is unlikely that there will be enough political support to override the President's inevitable veto and the common carrer rules have stood firm against any court challenge for over 80 years might mean the dispute might become a dead issue by the time next presidential election is decided.
In Canada, the Conservative Party, led by Stephen Harper, won a majority government in the 2011 election, after years of minority governments. While leading to a continuation of Harper's centre-right policies, the election also saw the dramatic rise of the once-perpetual third-string New Democratic Party led by the late Jack Layton. It also saw the collapse of the Bloc Québécois, a party that promotes Quebec sovereignty, which was reduced to a record-low four seats, not even enough for official party status. The centrist Liberal Party was demoted to third party rump for the first time in their history, prompting the election of center-left Justin Trudeau (son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau) as party leader. Finally, a Green Party candidate (Elizabeth May) was elected for the first time ever. After Layton's death, the similarly center-left Thomas Mulcair was picked to head the NDP and the Leader of the Opposition as a result. The next election is set at 2015, with all three men performing a Mêlée à Trois. We'll see what happens on this front.
Let's elaborate on the issue of Quebec separatism. In control of Quebec via a minority government in 2014, the Parti decided to throw a Hail Mary by introducing a "Charter of Quebec Values," which would (among other things) force public employees to remove religiously significant clothing and symbols to encourage a "secular" society (even though Quebec is already secular to begin with). This ignores the large crucifix that hangs in the provincial parliament, mind you. Now, the idea was apparently meant to rally Quebeckers around a French Canadian identity, since the removal of religious symbolism would be portrayed as passive aggressive pseudo-civil disobedience towards the federal government. The Parti Quebecois hoped to manipulate this sentiment into nationalist anger when the federal government inevitably challenged the charter's constitutionality in court. Although religious minorities and human rights sympathizers condemned the move, there was enough public support for the idea that the minority government called an election in the hopes of winning a majority. However, the Parti Quebecois' campaign went off the rails within a week of the campaign's start; their star candidate declared that he wanted to fully separate Quebec from the rest of Canada should he get elected, and the Bloc fully embraced that position. Predictably, most of the electorate, especially the youth, balked at the idea of revisiting the inevitable turmoil of a third independence referendum, and the party's support fell apart overnight. As a result, the federalist Liberal Party won a solid majority, dealing what could well be a fatal blow to the Parti Quebecois. Separatism of any kind will more than likely be treated as political poison from here on out.
On a lesser note, in the province of Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne managed to not only win an general election for her party beset with scandal and unpopular policies, but she became the first openly gay leader of a major government in an English speaking country. More importantly, although her Ontario Liberal party was beset with controversies and scandal while facing a troubled economy, Wynne's sexual orientation was a complete non-issue in the election campaign. That in itself became a retrospective point of pride for Ontarians to do what would have been unthinkable twenty years before. Ironically, it did become an issue when this new majority government reintroduced it's new sex-ed curriculum for the public schools that previously got shot down by screeching religious groups who spooked the previous premier. When these bluenoses tried to kill it again, the current premier asked one of the loudest opponents in the parliament chamber why she, a mother, a former school board trustee and the former Education Minister, was not qualified to update this material, he could not answer considered he would be forced to explain that it's because she's a lesbian, a statement that would have been political suicide.
In the summer of 2014, unarmed black men Eric Garner of New York City, NY, and Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO, were killed by policemen by chokehold (which is prohibited by the NYPD) and being shot, respectively. When both officers where cleared of indictment by grand juries in November and December, it led to nationwide protests, with Garner's last words "I can't breathe" becoming a major catchphrase. It also sparked debates over issues like systemic racism, as well as police militarization (with the police in Ferguson responding to peaceful protests with tear gas and rubber bullets and multiple journalist arrests on spurious charges, including a local Fox reporter being arrested on-air for filming the police in what they had declared was a restricted area). There was also a (mostly local) wave of protests that followed the initial outrage over Brown's death, although it got sizable media coverage as well; Garner's death went mostly unnoticed until after the non-indictment. Several other unarmed black men were shot and killed by police in the same time period, but have not added as much fuel to the fire as Garner and Brown. The lack of an indictment for Brown's death has been widely criticized due to the unusual method by which the grand jury sessions were conducted and the behavior of the prosecutor involved, and the National Bar Association has even filed a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson in response.
Following the December murder of two NYPD officers at the hands of a wanted felon and NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio's public condemning of the NYPD's infamous racism (including stop-and-frisk policies and statements by black NYPD officers as to the abuse they suffered when out of uniform), the NYPD and police unions have entered a "virtual work stoppage" in protest; only immediately arrestable offenses are responded to. The drop in low-level crime enforcement (like public drinking, traffic tickets, loitering, and noise violations) has been met with acclaim from residents of low-income neighborhoods, where said low-level offenses were often used to bully black and Latino residents.
In Europe, protests opposed to budget reform in favor of debt reduction sprouted up almost everywhere, signaling an intensification of distrust in civil government that had been growing throughout the previous decade, with the mass opposition to the war.
Spain's grassroots protest movement, called Los Indignadosnote "The Outraged Ones" began on May 15th, 2011, when thousands of mostly-young Spaniards camped out in Puerta del Sol, Madrid's central square. A movement that was repeated all over the country in protest to the budget cuts and the insanely high levels of unemploymentnote 25% of the working population and over 50% for young people. At the time. By November 2013, it has risen to 27% and 58% respectively, and it doesn't show signs of going down any time soon.. This inspired sit-in protests all over Europe and even the Occupy Wall Street movement itself. Partly thanks to many Spaniard expatriates living in the US that repeated the protest from Spain, thus catching the eye of many unsatisfied young Americans.
Spain was hit particularly hard by the crisis, but Portugal, Italy, Iceland, Ireland and Greece were hit even harder. In Greece, disillusionment with the major parties has led to a huge boost in votes for fringe parties, including the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn and SYRIZA, a coalition of Communists and other far-left groups. In the cases of Iceland and Ireland, conditions had since improved enough that they've avoided a Greek scenario. Meanwhile Italy saw both the rise of Grillo's Five-Star Movement and even the return of Berlusconi to the spotlight with Forza Italia. Berlusconi was then expelled from the Italian Senate following his conviction for tax fraud.
France had seen an increasingly divided and unsatisfied populace over the past few years as people shift to populists on both the far-left and far-right, especially made evident by the strong presence of the right-wing Front Nationale under Marine le Pen in election polls and becoming the country's third largest political party.
In the United Kingdom, the growing uncertainties in the Euro-zone, have once more revived, at least for among some segments of society, the question of Britain's role in Europe as well as plans for a 2014 referendum for Scottish independence from the UK. The upsurge in popularity for populist parties, most notably the ultra-conservative UKIPnote the United Kingdom Independence Party among others has the ruling coalition concerned.
In Switzerland, contingency measures for whatever may result from the aforementioned turmoil are already being plannednote These precautions cover a variety of methods ranging from financial controls to military drills to combat potential unrest from Eurozone states. should the aforementioned turmoil on the Continent worsen; this has consequently led to a general increase of Euro-skepticism. Needless to say, huge social upheavals have taken place.
In February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his decision to step down from the Holy See, the first time this has been done since the 15th Century. Benedict's replacement, Jorge Mario Bergoglio or Pope Francis, is the first non-European Pope in over one thousand years.note And also the first Pope of Italian descent in decades, owing to being a child of Italian-Argentinians. Liberal in some respects and conservative in others, in the course of just over a year he has gained success in positioning the Catholic Church as a major social force on the world stage, even restoring some of its prestige in the West.
France legalised gay marriage in April 2013.
England and Wales followed suit and legalised gay marriage in July 2013.
Russia, however, stays vehemently conservative and reactionary under the still-ruling Vladimir Putin. The Orthodox Church enjoys greater and greater state support and becomes more influential, the protests of 2011-12 calm down, and the ruling United Russia party is no longer under popular criticism, though only from a political standpoint (and that only in the international politics). They still get a lot of flack on the domestic front for being corrupt Obstructive Bureaucrats bend on banning this and regulating that. It doesn't help that at least a good deal of criticism coming from the West has little traction among the Russian populace at large, and most Russian opposition parties being so unabashedly Western-oriented that even their political advertisements are often produced in English first (and sometimes only) and are clearly aimed at getting the support abroad, not in their own land.
There is, however, a sort of grassroots movement for greater popular control on the authority, which managed to produce some result and a notable leader in the person of Alexey Navalny, a corruption-fighting lawyer and activist who in 2013 was nominated to the Moscow mayor election and came second. On the other hand he is a pretty controversial figure mired in scandals about his business (he was even indicted in the case of some tax shenanigans, but was sorta-acquitted later), his political views (due to his reported socializing with some reported Neo-Nazis), and favorite Russian political slander, accusations of being a Government's pawn.
Ukraine suffers great political turmoil, with pro-European and neutral/pro-Russian factions coming to very physical blows on the streets of Ukrainian cities. The former government was overthrown, the ex-president escaped to Russia, but the new revolutionary nationalist government still has very weak control over the country and especially Crimea, where a Russian-backed rebellion took control, declared independence from Ukraine quickly joined Russia — an event largely quietly recognized as fait accompli by the world at large, signified by the laughably symbolic "sanctions" by the US and EU.note While US would've like to make those sanctions meaningful, it has little to lose, as the Russia-US trade is light. EU, however, is much more divided on the issue, as it has much more irons in the fire and has invested in Russia heavily, so any meaningful sanctions will hit the European countries (especially France and Germany) basically just as hard as they will hit Russia, which is the latest thing the Europeans would want, in this volatile economic situation. While Germany is at least outwardly somewhat willing to bend to the US pressure on this matter, France is openly defying the notion, owing in part to the huge arms deals with Russia, including the sale of the two Mistral-class helicopter carriers for 1.2 bn euros, a deal that basically kept the Saint-Nazaire shipbuilders from bankruptcy and huge layoffs.
Once the movement to overthrow Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych took off in February, the story became international news. Attempts at compromise and negotiation have floundered violently with neither side willing to back down. Soon after the Crimea debacle the two Russian-speaking and most Russian-aligned Eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk followed suit, with the new Kiev government answering with the armed response. While initially sluggish, the civil war is picking up steam, with the Ukrainian government, unable to dislodge the increasingly proficient rebels with their inadequately funded and trained ground forces, resorted to the shelling and bombing of the rebel cities, leading to numerous civilian casualties. Refugees are already numbering in the thousands, and paramilitaries clashed in the cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the neighboring South-Eastern provinces, which has led to the civilian massacres under the unclear circumstances.
Ukrainian media (and some Western ones following them) are widely accusing Russia on supporting the rebels, while in the Russia proper a government is clearly leery of providing this support, while a growing popular discontent is brewing against not providing it. Consequently, the Russian-Western relations have considerably soured, and even a threat of a new Cold War between Russia and the West have already surfaced.
In the Middle East, the "Arab Spring" of 2011 saw long-standing dictatorships in Tunisia (Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) and Egypt (Hosni Mubarak) overturned by massive protests, sparking a wave of protests for democracy and/or Sharianote The two are quite compatible, especially considering that the latter is so damned slippery it might as well be meaningless across the region. Democracy is... unstable at best, however. While other countries have had government changes (like presidents not running for another term or ministers/cabinet members resigning), the main focus is in Egypt, Libya and Syria, the latter two of whom went into civil war. Gadaffi was overthrown in a civil war, Bahrain and Yemen crushed the revolutionaries. Syria's crackdown on rebels quickly reached brutal and horrifying levels, and other countries have been highly reluctant to intervene. Only time will tell how this all plays out, especially where these countries' attitudes towards the West, and the United States of America in particular, are concerned.
While there were clashes between the protesters and police, Hosni Mubarak's defeat seemed inevitable. When he tried to impose a curfew, neither the military nor the police enforced it. When he dissolved government and appointed a new vice president, people demanded that he should be dismissed as well. When he tried to get further crackdowns on the protesters, the military did not comply. When he said he wouldn't seek another term, but would live out his current tenure, he was forced to resign by the rest of his government, and he complied. The military took over for a period of six months until elections could be held. Mohammed Morsi, Mubarak's successor, was overthrown by a military coup on July 3, 2013, just a year after he was sworn in as the first democratically-elected president in Egyptian history. His tenure was affected by the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in politics, which caused a fierce opposition. As Morsi was a junior member of the Brotherhood high leadership, there was a sense he was taking his marching orders from the other Brothers and was ramming Islamist reforms down the throats of a country that wasn't entirely sure it wanted that (at the very least, many were quite ill at ease with his attempt to exempt his decisions from judicial review, the hurried procedures of the committee charged with drafting the constitution, and the confused process for the referendum to approve the new constitution). Indeed, it's possible that a plurality or even a majority of Egyptians supported the coup, as it more or less came at the demand of the Tamarrod (Rebellion) movement, calling for Morsi to make substantial concessions or leave by the anniversary of his presidency; when he refused to do either (in a speech that struck many as arrogant and overly partisan), the protest that was supposed to show up the morning of the 30th developed late on the 29th instead. That said, the military's subsequent crackdown on peaceful Brotherhood protestors drew international condemnation, leading may to refer to the ruling armed forces as a military junta.
Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, began a violent crackdown on the protesters, unwittingly prompting the creation of the National Transitional Council, a centralized authority within the opposition so they could consolidate efforts for change in the rule of Libya. Much of the United Nations recognized the NTC as opposed to Gaddafi as the rightful government of Libya; even China and Russian switched their support to the NTC upon the fall of Tripoli. Facing military defections and government resignations, Gaddafi quickly lost Benghazi and Misrata, as well as several other cities, to the rebels, before his forces pushed back and retook much of the lost territory, even reaching Benghazi and Misrata. The United Nations Security Council issued a no-fly zone over Libya, allowing NATO to conduct military operations against Gaddafi's forces, including air strikes on Gaddafi's artillery, cruise missiles from submarines, an arms embargo and naval blockades. Tripoli, Libya's capital city, went under rebel control by late August, along with several of Gaddafi's sons killed or arrested, signaling the endgame of the civil war. The rebels began cleaning up the rest of Gaddafi's holdouts, including Bani Walid and Sirte, while Gaddafi's location remained unknown. At the climax of the Battle of Sirte, Gaddafi was found, captured and killed, ending the civil war. The NTC took over as an interim legislation for ten months (mostly by prosecuting Gaddafi officials while absolving opposition officials for their acts), before dissolving upon holding a general election for the newly-formed General National Congress (and new Prime Minister Ali Zeidan). In the wake of a post-Gaddafi era, the GNC's current job is to reconcile the factional infighting, sectarian tensions, economic issues and general lawlessness as Libya's first democratic government for over 50 years.
The international focus has now shifted to Syria, where President for Life Bashar al-Assad is facing his own civil war. Similar to Gaddafi, Assad ordered a violent crackdown on the protesters, who formed an anti-government opposition in an effort to consolidate all efforts against Assad. However, the opposition is mired in inter-factional infighting during the civil war, leading to Assad largely dominating the conflict from the outset. Lately, poison gas was released, killing thousands of civilians, but nobody can decide if it was Assad or the rebels who released the poison gas. Several nations, including Germany and the UK, have voted not to participate in military action against Assad, with concerns that US officials might wage a unilateral assault on Syria without UN approval. Syria is an ally of Iran, China and Russia, however, and Iran has said numerous times that they will retaliate if the US attacks Syria. After the "nay" vote in the UK Parliament, President Barack Obama called for Congress to vote on whether or not to attack Syria, although Secretary of Defense John Kerry went on record to say that the White House should attack Syria even in the event of a nay vote in Congress. When a reporter asked Kerry if there were other ways to handle the issue without use of military action, Kerry (accidentally) said "Sure, he could give up his chemical weapons, but I don't think he will." Cue Vladimir Putin announcing Assad's immediate agreement to dismantle and turn over his chemical weapons over to the United Nations. The chemical weapons and the facilities that produce them have since been rendered inoperable, and Russia returned to world politics as an "alternative power" to the west... but the civil war continues.
Recently, there have been protests in Turkey gathered around Taskim square against the tearing down of the last park in Istanbul; it has since erupted into a larger protest against government corruption and authoritarian vibes that seem to be emerging from the AKP ruling party.
After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was term-limited from running again, an election was held in June 2013 over a new Iranian president. The four hardliners unexpecedtly split the vote, giving the election to moderate Hassan Rouhani. His main goal being to remove the economic sanctions from Iran, Rouhani is looking to temper relations with America, by acknowledging the Holocaust (his predecessor was a denier), releasing several political prisoners, calling President Obama himself by phone for a meeting and engaging in the first serious talks over the nuclear program. A pragmatist, Rouhani even expressed a desire for global nuclear disarmament and called on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which bans the signatories from having nukes; Iran signed it already and Israel is the lone Mideast country not to sign it). While skepticism abounds, especially from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Iranian hardliners, there is a sense of optimism that decades-long tensions will finally lessen between American and Iran.
In one of the most unpleasant sequences of events ever recorded in the 21st century, Iraq has returned to the forefront as a volatile flashpoint. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is a Shia in a majority-Shia state; he made his bones upon marginalizing the Sunni minority (which is the same sect as Saddam Hussein) while empowering his Shia constituents. Partly as a result, ISIS (no, not that ISIS), an extremist Sunni paramilitary group, has branched off from the Syrian Civil War and flat-out conquered most of western Iraq. The Kurds at the north have branched off into an independent fighting force, having taken control of the oil-rich north-east. The Shias remain in charge of their southern and central regions, while ISIS is taking control of all Sunni sectors. Note that ISIS already has huge swaths of Syria already under their control; the border between Iraq and Syria has since been demolished, and many people fear a regional conflict is brewing due to spillover from the Syrian Civil War.
In Africa, the most dramatic early change was the creation of a new nation in 2011 when South Sudan split from Sudan.
The Islamic insurgency known as al-Shabab, which had turned Somalia into one of the most violent and anarchic places on Earth, lost control of Somalia's towns and cities. Crucially, it was forced out of the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011. It left the vital port of Kismayo in September 2012. The early 2010s marked a period in which surrounding African nations started to take the threat of Islamic terrorism in their neighbour seriously. Kenya, worried that al-Shabab was kidnapping truckloads of its tourists, took a lead in the African Union's fight to push the enemy back South, while Ethiopia attacked from the west and seized towns in Somalia's centre.
In West Africa, there has been concern of Salafistnote a strict fundamentalist brand of Sunni Islam insurgency , particularly with groups like Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and Ansar Dine in Mali. The latter organisation effectively seized control of the vast northern part of the country until early 2013, when armies from Mali, France, and other African nations drove the Islamists out of the major cities of northern Mali.
Around the Asia Pacific region, things are generally looking up. Japan was hit hard by the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and continues to recover; but while the rest of the world groans under the weight of social or economic unrest, most Asian economies are booming. Talks of an "Asian Century" or an "Age of the Pacific" have been floated. In the region, China, Australia, and some other countries managed to avoid recession. On one hand, China is beginning to feel the pressure from the largest real-estate bubble in world history; on the other, speculation that China will become the next superpower, or, somewhat hysterically, something even more menacing, has intensified. China's massive growth has led it to replace Japan as the second-largest economy in the world, and has fueled speculation that it will become the world's top economy by the next decade. note Concerns of growing economic gulfs and unrest among Chinese workers over rights and distribution of wealth, as well as issues regarding an inflexible and Party-dependent system increasingly vulnerable to political dissidents have highlighted doubts regarding the potential for China's future success. While a China superpower is seriously discussed, China actually taking over the world is essentially a frivolous fantasy. To be fair, China has surpassed America as the largest economy by October 2014, largely by adjusting its money so it costs less on average than the Almighty Dollar. However, the U.S. economy still dwarfs China's, at $17.4 trillion to $10.4 trillion. GDP breaks down to nearly $55,000 per capita per year in the U.S., compared with less than $8,000 per person in China. And in spite of the controversial Putin, Russia returned to the strategy game with the Syrian and Ukranian crisis. India holds the potential of becoming a democratic counterweight to Beijing and Moscow, and has been steadily increasing its global influence and power. The USA's so-called 'pivot' or 're-balance' towards this region is a response to the emerging power in Asia.
Burma has introduced democratic reforms that have led to the reduction of Western sanctions against it, despite the continued persecution of minorities such as the Rohingya. Democratic campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi now has a seat in government.
The first female prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, was elected to office in 2010, although only just, and only after acrimonious and politically damaging internal fighting in her party. She lost power in 2013 when her predecessor Kevin Rudd regained the leadership position. Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to support gay marriage.
On the election of September 7, 2013, the Liberal-National Coalition won government in Australia in a landslide majority, granting conservative Tony Abbott both the position of Prime Minister and a majority government, and ending six years of government by the Australian Labor Party.
The first female president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, was elected to office in 2012. Some are apprehensive of the fact that she is the daughter of South Korea's former dictator Park Chung-hee.
The most dramatic regional conflict is over territory in the South China Sea, disputed by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Disagreement over territorial boundaries between China and Japan in the East China Sea have also flared. Needless to say, China is flexing its muscles in the region.
In particular the Senkaku Islands Dispute. It was found there were oil deposits near the islands. Japan argues because of a treaty signed after the first Sino-Japanese War in 1892, the islands were theirs. China disputes that the treaty had any mention of it. This sparked massive anti-Japanese movements in China, to the point where people were vandalizing anything and everything Japanese.
Another troublesome development is North Korea's increasing, even unbridled, enthusiasm at antagonizing South Korea, Japan and America. Kim Jong-un (the son and successor to the late Kim Jong-il) is becoming rather notorious for his temper tantrums, including conducting nuclear operations, launching military satellites into space, threatening to attack the aforementioned three nations and ending the armistice that has kept both countries out of war since 1953, immediately taking tensions Up to Eleven. It's gotten to a point where even China, North Korea's ally, joined America in imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea. Kim Jong-un has since called for a restart of nuclear talks with no preconditions, although the United States and Japan are both suspicious. We'll see what happens.
Osama bin Laden was located in a fortified compound in Pakistan, and killed there on the first day of May 2011 during a U.S. Special Forces operation overseen by Barack Obama. However, Pakistan remains a hotbed of Islamic extremism. The dangers of resisting the ideology of local terrorists have been highlighted by events such as a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Malala Yousufzai, being shot in the head for campaigning in support of girls' education. She got the last laugh, though: Yousufzai survived, continued her fight, has become a symbol of the campaign to educate girls around the world, was very nearly voted Time Magazine's Person Of The Year in 2012, and in 2014 became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
New Zealand legalised same-sex marriage in August 2013.
The emergence of "Abenomics" in Japan has brought up a mixed response from the international community. While some are convinced that current Prime Minister Abe's policies—which include aggressive (for Japan) stimulus, reducing or even eliminating expensive and inefficient agricultural subsidiesnote Which would be something of a "Nixon-in-China" moment, since Abe's LDP has historically been in the pocket of the agriculturalists and joining American President Obama's proposed "Trans-Pacific Partnership" free trade area—would put any lingering traces of the "Lost Decade" to restnote which, along with the aforementioned successful 2020 Olympics bid is within reasonable possibility, others are concerned about his more controversial (and rather divisive) ideas about the country's constitution (i.e. the anti-war Article 9).
Tropical cyclones very rarely become international news stories unless they are hurricanes affecting the United States, and even then, only Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have reached that status recently. 2013's Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded and the second-deadliest storm in Philippine history, averted this big time. It has gained major international response from all over the world, and even the American Red Cross have taken action. The saddest part: Cyclone Nargis of 2008 killed over 100,000 people in Myanmar compared to a few thousand deaths from Haiyan, yet Nargis received next to no international attention compared to Haiyan.
Philippines's foreign relations with China hit a stride back in 2010 due to the mishandling of the Manila Bus Hostage Crisis. This nearly strained the country's relations with Hong Kong, since all of the hostages and victims are from Hong Kong, and it took 4 years for the relationship to be mended. Asides from the aforementioned territorial disputes in the South China Sea (renamed "West Philippine Sea" by the Filipino government in order spite the Chinese), other territorial disputes followed, such as the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012 where Chinese sea vessels bombarded the Filipino fishermen with water cannons. Obviously, Filipinos are very pissed at this which further increased the growing anti-Chinese sentimentnote This only hold towards mainland China not those living in the Philippines for a long time, including the Filipino-Chinese community. Then in 2013, Taiwan gave a jab on the Philippines for the death of a Taiwanese fisherman who was gunned down by the Philippine Coast Guard at the exclusive economic zones of the two countries. The incident was handled way better than aforementioned 2010 Bus Hostage Crisis but it doesn't stop China (who are ironically not in good terms with Taiwan) to take advantage of the incident just to give out their anti-Filipino sentiments.
South and Central America
South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean have been living in stark contrast. South American Pacific nations note Chile, Peru and Colombia have had experienced a strong economic growth between 2010 and 2013 (owing mostly to the Asian boom) in spite of their maintaining of their socioeconomically unequal plutocratic structures, which has led to social tensions. note leading to three straight years of education-, labor/economy- and nativity-related protests and the election of center-left presidents in Chile and Peru and arising talks between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla Such countries have indicated desire to emulate Brazil's successful mixed economy system to eliminate extreme poverty as well as most inequalities by 2020. The ever-popular Lula was replaced by collaborator Dilma Rousseff, with administration having the highest approval rating of any Latin American country (her lowest approval was of 59%, just after taking office).
Brazil, however, saw a wave of street protests across the country in June 2013, initially over a fare hike for buses that became a backlash against the country's spending of billions on upcoming sporting events (specifically the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro) while social programs are under-funded and most people are facing the hardships of an financial crisis (The country fell into recession in mid-2014). The timing of the protests reaching international news agencies, notably, coincided with the start of the FIFA Confederations Cup (basically a warm-up tournament for the World Cup's host). Despite these shortcomings, Brazil hosted the World Cup without major trouble and Dilma was re-elected in a close election.
Problems have plagued other parts of South America also. Uruguay has been noted by social reform under José "Pepe" Mujica (especially for legalizing marijuana and gay marriage) but the country is still recovering from economic upheaval in 2002, brought on by recessions in Brazil and Argentina, meanwhile Cristina Fernández-Kirchner, the latter country's president being re-elected in a landslide in 2011, and shortly after began to face protests and strikes which quickly turned into riots, caused by the rising inflation and cost of life, an effect of higher state control on the dollar as well with the stalemate the President has in media concentration means with the Clarín group, the country's largest and most popular media conglomerate. In Paraguay, President Fernando Lugo was ousted after being accused of encouraging peasants to revolt. He was succeeded by his Vice President, liberal Federico Franco. Elections were held on April 21, with conservative Horacio Cortés being elected, thus meaning the return of the Partido Colorado to the government after five years which broke said party's 60-year dominance of Paraguayan politics.
In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez faced for the first time a charismatic opposition candidate, Henrique Caprilés. In spite of being re-elected for a fourth term, Chávez's health noticeabily worsened, having to leave for Cuba before taking office and staying beyond the January 10 inauguration, returning just in February 18. Even then he was just briefly seen before undergoing further medical treatment, this leading to doubts about not only about Chávez's health, but also about the survival of his regime. He passed away on March 5, with new elections held on April 14, with Vice President Nicolás Maduro narrowly defeating Capriles, who has not yet recognized Maduro as President (he has legitimatereasons, though), calling for a total recount. This has caused many battles between sympathizers of Maduro and those of Capriles, with quite a few deaths. In spite of all, Maduro was sworn in on April 19. Things have gotten worse since then: Shortly after the election, pro-Maduro and pro-Capriles congressmen battling in the middle of a session, while scarcity of vital goods reached a critical point (leading to the import of toilet paper to satisfy demand). Early in 2014, protests erupted after the jailing of an opposition leader, causing the death of denizens of people.
Much like in the previous decade, Mexico and Central America have suffered from the war against drugs, now coupled with political polarization, endangering the region's stability even more. In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón became infamous for his "War on Drugs", which has been regarded as pointless. This led Enrique Peña Nieto from the (ambiguously) center-left Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) to reach office in 2012 (the party, which has ruled Mexican politics since 1929 was out of the presidency for 12 years). His election was deeply questioned by the left, which organized numerous sit-ins in protestnote . The first of them gathered 131 students, which led to the "#YoSoy132" movement. While not pledging to end the drug war, he did promise to change the image the world had of the PRI into a more democratic organization. This sort of worked until 34 college students were kidnapped and vanished in the town of Iguala, Guerrero. The allegations that the government was somehow involved, as well as the fact that bureaucracy has gotten more obstructive and the economy is still stagnant after twenty years have brought Mexicans to the streets in protest. In the meantime the Guatemalan government has been pushing for legalization of marijuana, justified as Guatemala (as well as El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) has practically the highest murder rates in the world because of the drug lords.
In the Caribbean, Cuba and the U.S. have made various advances in their relationship, leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations in December 2014 (after being broke in 1960), but it is unsure if this will give way to democracy in the island (Raúl Castro announced that he will step down in 2018). On the other hand, Puerto Rico could become in the 51st State after a referendum in November 2012. Haiti still suffers from the effects of a deadly earthquake in January 2010.
By the start of the New Tens, food companies and restaurants commenced a trend of labeling their food ingredients as 100% fresh and/or organic, in an attempt to cash in the trend society has taken. Industry critics and health organizations blamed the rise of sales to some fast food restaurants and snack food producers for marketing their food as fresh, since it led to mistaken beliefs that the products' ingredients and nutrients were revised to be healthier, when fresher only means less preservatives and quicker delivery, not better nutrition.
With the widespread economic disparity and greater free will of big businesses, some have dubbed the decade "The New Gilded Age".
After all this, we have to remember, we're just halfway through the decade. The potential revival of the Space Program, economic recovery, and various other conflicts and developments may arise before the end of the decade. Stay tuned for more.