The Serious and Silly News of 2009
Once again, another year has moseyed off into the sunset, tipping its hat goodbye like a trail-weary cowboy, only to have a brand new one take its place. It seems like the past year had more than its share of drama, as well as intermezzos of nonsense.
With high hopes for a prosperous and healthy 2010, let's look back at the serious and silly of 2009.
It didn't take long for high-drama to happen in 2009. On January 15, US Airways Flight 1549 was flying from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina. It never reached its intended destination. Six minutes after departing from LaGuardia Airport, the aircraft had to undergo an emergency landing in the Hudson River next to Manhattan. Canadian geese struck the aircraft's engines causing the water landing, as the aircraft was unable to reach an airport. No loss of life occurred in this incident, due to the heroic, and calm and cool experienced actions of the pilot and the entire US Airways crew.
Drama was also flying high in another way this past year. A global TV and Internet audience watched as a giant balloon flew through the air amid reports that a six-year-old boy might be inside. The boy's tearful and supposedly terrified family was at their wits end on how to conclude this drama in a happy way. The happy conclusion didn't come for the family, as they were the initiators of an elaborate hoax. The six-year old was never inside the highflying contraption that resembled something out of a 1950s B picture. Investigators believe evidence indicates that the entire affair was a publicity stunt. Apparently, the accusation is that the family was looking to promote themselves to secure a reality TV show in the future. The father has been charged with one count of attempting to influence a public servant. His wife charged with one count of false reporting to authorities.
Sadly, war was a recurring theme this past year. The conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan took center stage on the war front, and they continue to do so. U.S. President Barack Obama announced troop increases to Afghanistan to bring greater stability to the region. In addition, regional conflicts elsewhere continue to fester in the world. In 2009, reports abounded concerning the Somali Civil War, the conflicts in North-West Pakistan, the Sa'dah insurgency in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, and the Mexican Drug War.
Along with war, citizens of the world contended with the H1N1 virus in 2009. Mass vaccination programs took place around the globe in an effort to halt the spread of this virus. What worried World Health Organization officials concerning this virus was its unpredictable behaviour and rapid spread. They continue to fine-tune their efforts to fight this pandemic. The last officially designated pandemic, prior to the H1N1 pandemic, was the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1968.
2009 was also the year of continuing efforts to lessen the impact of the global financial crisis, which started its ferocious march in 2008. Government bailouts of corporations continued in many countries. Along with the bailouts came cries for more regulation of the financial markets and more government oversight of what companies are doing in the way of management bonuses. The year saw horrendous job losses worldwide, with analysts wary of any recovery that doesn't include significant job growth.
Of course, another big story of the year was the death of Michael Jackson. Known as the King of Pop, he died on June 25, 2009. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles, California. There was a global outpouring of grief over his death and major tributes to a man who was a major influence in the entertainment industry for years. Michael Jackson's memorial took place on July 7, 2009, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Prior to that a private family service took place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Hall of Liberty.
However, the entertainment world was not the only provider of serious news in 2009. The sports world had its own turmoil with golfer Tiger Woods and his problems. On November 27, 2009, Tiger Woods was involved in a car crash outside his Florida home. The story didn't end there, but rather unfolded even more dramatically. With one report leading to another after the accident, news surfaced that Tiger Woods engaged in extra-marital affairs, since admitted to by the golfer. He has taken an indefinite break from golf to concentrate on his marriage and his family.
Closing out the year was the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. It took place from December 7 to 18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was the largest environmental meeting in history. The focus of the summit was to come up with an agreement to head off dangerous global warming. Protests were plenty in Copenhagen as world leaders sought solutions to one of the biggest problems facing the world's citizens. The 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) was the largest international political conference ever held in Denmark. There were participants from 192 countries. They represented governments, the business community, and civil society. Only time will tell if it was all worth it.
Some people just don't seem to get it. During the 2009 baseball World Series, a New York City police officer reported that a ticket scalper arrested for selling fake World Series tickets outside Yankee Stadium tried to win his freedom in an unusual and illegal way. The culprit tried to bribe a police officer with seats. Nothing like trying to employ two wrongs to make a right.
For silly, but no doubt tasty in 2009, Matthew Mitnitsky set out to create the world's biggest meatball. He wanted this title back on the East Coast of the U.S. He came up with a 222.5-pound meatball and a new record. He is the owner of Nonni’s Italian Eatery in Concord, New Hampshire. Let's hope he learned 'sharing' at school.
How about this for not being an expert in your field? a German fortune-tellers society has admitted that all of their members' predictions for 2009 were wrong. The Society for Research of Paranormal Science reported that they checked out 140 forecasts for 2009. They all turned out wrong... every one. I hope that none of these people moonlights as stock market advisors.
Honesty is the best policy and can even earn you a brew. This past year, Stephen Foster was mistakenly paid £1.4 million in wages. He is a supermarket worker from Gateshead, England. He works at a distribution centre in Birtley, Tyne and Wear. He discovered the payment error when his girlfriend saw his monthly pay slip. Upon checking his bank account, he found that approximately £800,000 went into his bank account. Talk about taxes deducted. Anyway, he reported the error to his employer. His reward - a crate of Budweiser beer...maybe what was left over from the payroll department's stash.
That's a wrap on 2009; the year will go down in history as one where world governments continued their unprecedented actions to stave of economic disaster. It was a year where international disputes, climate change, and influenza made us realize how fragile stability and order is in many areas of life. It was also a year, like so many others, where a good laugh was a welcome respite to the anxiety that's often a part of everyday living.