2017 in the Rear View Mirror

The year 2017 was one marked by confusion, protest, and conflict. It was a busy year for reporters and news junkies who worked overtime to keep up on the latest developments.
International news, particularly the aspirations of North Korea, dominated headlines in 2017. Ballistic missile testing across the Sea of Japan in February drew condemnation from all quarters, which were answered with even more tests throughout the year. In September, North Korea tested a nuclear device — the largest detonation in that nation. International sanctions were put in place, and negotiations with the secretive country have been hampered. By the end of the year, there seemed to be conflict between the U.S. State Department and President Donald Trump over the best approach to handling the North Korea threat.
The Syrian civil war reached a head in 2017. In April, a reported chemical weapon attack prompted the U.S. to launch missiles at an air base, and days later, an enormous bomb in Afghanistan on an ISIS base. By the end of the year, Syria was, by and large, under the control of Assad’s government again. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Saudia Arabia cracked down on corruption among officials, and liberalized some laws. Yemen, in the midst of a civil war, faced famine and sanctions.
Venezuela also experienced a civil war as an anti-government uprising has contributed to economic calamity and a near-collapse of the country. Catalonia declared its independence from Spain, but the Spanish government refused to recognize the newly formed Catalan Republic. Zimbabwa’s president Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest and resigned a week later, while the military took control of the government.
Terrorist attacks in London, Istanbul, Egypt, Syria, and Somalia marked the year. A new, diabolical approach to mass killings gained popularity: driving vehicles into crowds. So-called “lone wolf” terrorists, not officially connected with terrorist organizations but sympathetic to their causes, made tracking and preventing these incidents more difficult.
The Trump administration officially started January 20 and within weeks was embroiled in its first scandal as National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigned. The revolving door of advisors, communication directors, and close associates gave the impression that Trump’s chaotic style in the campaign would set the tone for his presidency. True to form, FBI Director James Comey was fired, a special counsel looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election (and possible Trump connections to it) was formed, several high-level officials left the White House, controversial executive orders banning people from majority-Muslim countries were overturned and reintroduced, leaving the Paris Agreement was announced, overturning trade agreements in Asia, and several other kerfuffles have kept investigative reporters and political pundits in business. Two attempts to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act failed in the Senate, and other legislation was stalled. At the end of the year, the highly controversial tax reform bill was created and looked likely to pass (as of this writing, Dec. 18) despite it garnering only about 29 percent approval in nationwide polls.
Women were very much in the news in 2017. The Women’s March on January 21 was a global event with an estimated five million people participating at sites such as Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and even the Antarctic. The march was inspired by negative and vulgar comments made by Trump in the campaign about women and allegations he harassed several women before running for president. In February, on the Senate floor, Senator Elizabeth Warren was interrupted by a male senator, and silenced by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. He made the remark that “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”: his response went viral and created a backlash against the condescending tone of his remarks (and a great meme). The second half of 2017 was marked by women coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment by powerful media moguls, celebrities, comedians, businessmen, and congressmen that brought many careers to an abrupt end. Several women came forward with accusations that former Alabama judge Roy Moore had sexually molested them as teens; Moore lost his special election to a Democrat in the deep-red state.
Tragic mass shootings in the United States in 2017 included the largest incident ever on Oct. 1 when 58 people died and 546 were injured at a concert in Las Vegas. On Nov. 1, a lone gunman killed 27 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and left 20 more injured. A lone gunman shot several people at a congressional baseball practice, leaving Steve Scalise, seriously injured. Crystal Griner, a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to protect Scalise; Zack Barth, a congressional aide; and Matt Mika were also injured.
Mother Nature had it in for us in 2017. From Aug. 25-30 Hurricane Harvey, a Cat. 4, brought heavy rains that created record-breaking floods to Houston and killed at leas 90 people. From Sept. 6-10, the Carribean and U.S. were pounded by Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico, landing as a Cat. 5 that was responsible for at least 135 deaths, the complete devastation of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A scant two weeks later, Hurricane Maria struck the same area, causing at least 94 deaths. On Sept. 19, a 7.1 earthquake hit Central Mexico, killing about 370 people. Wildfires decimated parts of California throughout the year, including enormous fires in Napa and Sonoma counties in October, and near Los Angeles in December. About 44 civilians were killed in the blazes. There were significant floods in parts of California and Nevada as well in spring due to torrential downpours that hit the northern area after years of drought. On the bright side, millions got to see a total eclipse August 21.
Governor Eric Holcomb’s first year as Indiana’s leader was relatively quiet. The state faced a growing opioid addiction and overdose crisis, which the legislature has yet to address with more funding for programs. Leadership has taken up the issue of liquor sales on Sunday and cold beer sales at grocery and convenience stores, fighting well-funded lobbyists and the status quo. Controversy swirled around the Yellowwood logging, with the state seeking to sell timber rights in an old-growth forest, prompting a “Save the Yellowwood” backlash. At the end of the year, Dept. of Child Services when DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura resigned, citing inadequate funding and staffing problems caused by Holcomb’s budget slashing that would, in her words, “all but ensure children will die.”
Indianapolis saw another record year for murder, and Mayor Hogsett introduced initiatives to curb the violence. Nevertheless, 150 people died on the streets. Officials note that many of the murders were related to gangs and drugs.
Notable deaths in 2017 include authors William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist), poets John Ashbery, Derek Walcott, Richard Wilbur, Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse), Sam Shepard (also actor), feminist author Kate Millett, Jerry Pournelle, J.P. Donleavy, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Richard F. Gordon, actors Bill Paxton, Roy Dorice, Miguel Ferrer, Mary Tyler Moore, John Hurt, Mike Connors, Martin Landau, John Hillerman, Barbara Hale, Erin Moran (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi), Frank Vincent, Harry Dean Santon, Jeanne Moreau, Powers Boothe, Dina Merrill, Roger Moore, Peter Sallis (voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit cartoons), Jay Thomas, John Heard, Adam West, singer and actor Jim Nabors, Della Reese, Robert Guillaume,Stephen Furst (Animal House),   musicians Glen Campbell, Tom Petty, Fats Domino, Al Jarreau, Chuck Berry, James Cotton, Gregg Allman, Prodigy, Mell Tillis, teen heartthrob David Cassidy, Walter Becker, Don Williams,  banker David Rockefeller, comedians Don Rickles and Shelley Berman, director Jonathan Demme, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, comedian and activist Dick Gregory, actor and comedian Jerry Lewis, boxer Jake MaLotta, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, game show host Monty Hall. Charles Mason died and pretty much no one mourned him.