The Year in Review: 2014

Polar vortexes and ISIS. Ebola and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Protests in the streets. The year 2014 certainly had memorable moments. The Ebola epidemic began in February in West Africa, eventually infecting 18,000 people and killing 6,000 by the end of the year — one of the worst epidemics in modern times.
The conflict between Russia and the Ukraine also started in February, as pro-Russia unrest in Ukraine lead to the annexation of Crimea by Russia and insurgency. Matters escalated throughout the year, leading to economic sanctions against Russia and increasingly tense relations. A Malaysia Airline commercial flight was shot down over the Ukraine in July, possibly caught in the crossfire between Ukraine and Russia.
Also overseas was the rise of extremist groups, particularly Boko Haram in Nigeria and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Boko Haram abducted 276 girls and women from a school in Nigeria, and was responsible for killing 300 people in a night attack in that country. ISIS began marching through northern Iraq, aiming to capture the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, taking prisoners. ISIS beheaded British humanitarian worker Alan Henning, and Indianapolis native humanitarian worker Peter Kassig, among many.
In March, the world wondered where Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went to when it vanished over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people aboard. It is presumed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean. In April, a Korean ferry capsized and sank, killing 290 people on board — mostly high school students.
On a more positive note, the Rosetta spacecraft Philae probe successfully landed on a comet, transmitting information back to earth. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, who, at age 17, is the youngest Nobel Prize recipient.
Closer to home, the U.S. saw mid-term elections and Republicans took an even bigger chunk of power in Congress. The national stage was dominated by protests that erupted after the killing of an African-American teen, Michael Brown, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Parts of the St. Louis suburb saw looting and rioting when a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer on criminal charges. Just a few weeks later, the death of African-American Eric Garner in New York City as a result of being put in a chokehold by a police officer, and the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland after being shot by a police officer spurred protests against police brutality and racism in policing.
A brutal cold wave — a polar vortex — affected the U.S. and Canada from December to mid-January, with record low temperatures and snow. Power outages, airline cancellations, school closings, and business disruption created havoc over two-thirds of the country. Over a dozen deaths were linked to the combination of deadly cold and dangerous road conditions. In the west, exceptional drought conditions in California and Nevada created problems for farmers and residents alike, driving up food prices and requiring drastic water conservation measures. Drought conditions in northern Texas improved from 2013, but continue to be a concern. The National Climatic Data Center noted that from January to October 2014, first ten months of 2014 were the warmest such period on record on a global scale (while there was record cold in North America, extreme heat in the Southern Hemisphere and warmer-than-average temperatures in Europe pushed global numbers upwards).
Even closer to home, Indianapolis saw a wave of murders — and the death of IMPD Officer Perry Renn as he was responding to a call. Officials were alarmed at the number of multiple murders, including the slaying of four on South Parker in February. Despite the number of murders, there was a decrease in overall crimes in 2014, according to the police department.
Indiana joined the ranks of states legalizing same-sex marriage on June 25, when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana gave a favorable ruling in Baskin v. Borgan. Hundreds of gay couple lined up for marriage licenses and clerk’s offices performed a record number of marriages until the Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay to be heard on appeal to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the ruling. As of October 7, same-sex couples may wed in Indiana, and their marriages in other states recognized in the state.
Notables that left us for the Great Beyond this year included Indianapolis businessman Bill Mays. Comics Joan Rivers and Robin Williams passed this year under tragic circumstances. Actors Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Elaine Stritch, Paul Mazursky, Meshach Taylor (an Indiana native), Eli Wallach, Ruby Dee, Ann B. Davis, Bob Hoskins, Mickey Rooney, Harold Ramis, Ralph Waite, Sid Caesar, Shirley Temple, Philip Seymore Hoffman, Maximillian Schell, Russell Johnson, Charles Keating, Mary Ann Mobley, and Jan Hooks passed away. Directors Richard Attenborough and Mike Nichols died. Writers Maya Angelou, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Amiri Baraka wrote their final chapters. Musicians Johnny Winter and Pete Seeger played their last.
What will 2015 bring? Hard to say — hopefully it will be a year with no pesky vortexes and more peace and understanding.