Over the past six months, we have included a popular monthly series listing the top ten most important world news stories of each month of 2013. As the year has reached its half-way mark, it is perhaps worthwhile to consider what among the sixty most significant news stories covered in this series still merit consideration among the top events thus far of 2013.
10. Wrestling, one of the oldest sports in the world, has been announced as no longer being part of the Olympics starting in 2020, while the video game with the longest continuous running DLC release also announces a stop to future production by April 2013.
As someone who wrestled in junior high and high school, this news is especially disappointing. As my brother and I competed, I looked forward to watching wrestling at the Olympics and remember well watching Alexander Karelin’s storied matches against Matt Ghaffari and Rulon Gardner. Names like Dan Gable and Kurt Angle, not to mention such women as Sara McMann, are well known for their accomplishments as Olympians. Wrestling is a major world sport that remains relevant to everyone from professional wrestlers to mixed-martial artists. Not surprising such competitors around the world have expressed their shock at this news. For such a tradition going back over a hundred years in the modern Olympics and as the name Greco-Roman wrestling suggests, its origins goes back even further to ancient times, to potentially come to an end is just mind-blowing.
February also marked the end of a different kind of era: the downfall of the band simulator video game. A short while back the Guitar Hero franchise that became notable enough to have a whole episode spoof it on South Park had its line of video games stop production. Now, in February 2013, the makers of Rock Band also announced that not only are they not working on any further games in the series, they are also halting production of new downloadable songs starting in April 2013. What makes this announcement historic is that they have released downloadable songs for 275 straight weeks over the past five years. No other console video game has enjoyed such a steady stream of downloadable content ever. After so many years of enjoyment playing these music games, it is a bit sad to see their production coming to an end, not to mention how their discontinuation affects the jobs of the game makers.
I encourage readers to write to the heads of the Olympics demanding that wrestling not be eliminated and for music video game enthusiasts to keep buying what is left of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band DLC to convince their studios that producing more is indeed still profitable. We can make a difference here so that two great eras in sports and video game history do not have to come to a conclusion!
9. Three newly found planets are the best candidates so far for habitable worlds
NASA’s Kepler satellite, which is keeping an eye on more than 150,000 stars in hopes of identifying Earth-like planets, found the trio. “Earth is looking less and less like a special place and more like there’s Earth-like things everywhere,” said Kepler scientist Tom Barclay. Two of the planets, described in the journal Science, are 1,200 light-years away; the other is 2,700 light-years away. A light-year, the distance that light travels in a vacuum in one year, is nearly 6 trillion miles.
8. Iran’s state news agency announced that the Iranian Space Agency successfully sent a monkey into space aboard the Pishgam rocket.
Yes, the monkey reportedly came back okay. What makes this development worth knowing is simply that someone capable of launching a rocket into space can arguably send rockets against other countries. Iran of course is not exactly a friend of the nearby country Israel nor of American forces in Afghanistan. As such, as they continue to develop rocket technology, both Israelis and Americans alike are become increasingly concerned with what they might do with their rockets. 2012 was a year filled with talks of possible Israeli or even American strikes on suspected nuclear sites in Iran. Advances in Iranian technology could further encourage such preemptive strikes or conversely could mean that in an Iranian attack against Israeli or American forces the Iranians may have the means to do an unfortunate amount of damage. If we are lucky, it could just represent another advancement in humanity’s efforts to explore space, but we should not be so optimistic as to be naïve. For more information on this important story, please see source.
Another major news story out of Iran came when Iranian centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani won the Islamic republic’s presidential election, state media announced Saturday, 15 June 2013. Rouhani will succeed two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as one of the country’s most visible figures, at a time when it is dealing with painful economic sanctions tied to international concern about its nuclear program, but he will not be Iran’s most powerful man. That distinction belongs to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been Iran’s supreme leader since 1989.
7. South Korean media reports claimed that North Korea had been placed under martial law with another nuclear test considered imminent.
Obviously, any time Koreans rattle their sabers, the world gasps. Both halves of the Korean Peninsula have been rivals for decades now and fears on another Korean War seem to always loom over that particular peninsula. Only this time, the North now possesses at least a few nuclear weapons. The danger here is of course yet another case of potential escalation and a possible foreshadowing of the horrors to come. If nothing else, a nuclear test by the North would be another reminder of just how dangerous that largely isolated country is and what a second Korean War might entail, namely it potentially being a nuclear war. Few manmade things could have more consequences for humanity than a nuclear war. For more information on this important story, please see source.
On 12 February 2013, The South Korean Yonhap news agency reported that an “artificial earthquake” occurred in North Korea suggesting that a nuclear test has occurred. North Korea subsequently confirmed that it successfully tested a miniaturized nuclear device. Not surprisingly, this test has increased tensions between the two nations and resulted in condemnation from U.S. president Obama on the same day as his State of the Union Address. The test represents a step forward in North Korean nuclear technology and means that the country will be that much more dangerous of an opponent in the event that tensions escalate into all out war. This incident follows up on further concerning developments out of Asia. On 7 February 2013, the Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei accused the United States of “holding a gun” to Tehran’s head to pressure it to hold direct talks and stated that it is unlikely that these talks may take place, while South Korean soldiers on the world’s most heavily armed border received orders to shoot back immediately if they come under attack.
The U.S. military announced it would send a land-based missile defense system to Guam to defend against possible North Korean ballistic missile launches, according to a news release from the Department of Defense on Wednesday, 3 April 2013. The statement said the missiles, a truck-mounted launcher, and radar and target acquisition systems will be deployed in the “coming weeks.” The move followed weeks of bombastic threats against the United States and South Korea from the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, and his government.
Intercepted communications in early April indicated that North Korea could be planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile in the imminent future, a U.S. official told CNN on Thursday, 4 April 2013. The news came as South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee in Seoul that the North moved a medium-range missile to its east coast for an imminent test firing or military drill. The missile did not appear to be aimed at the U.S. mainland, Kim said, according to the semi-official South Korean news agency Yonhap. North Korea accused the United States of “pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war” by sending “the latest nuclear war hardware” to South Korea. Earlier that week, U.S. defense officials said two warships and a sea-based radar platform were being moved closer to the Korean Peninsula to monitor possible missile activity.
Two medium-range missiles were loaded onto mobile launchers on the East coast of North Korea, a U.S. official told CNN on Friday, 5 April 2013. South Korea’s semiofficial Yonhap news agency, citing military sources in Seoul, said the missiles are hidden in an unidentified facility and are ready to be launched. They believed a missile launch would be a “test” rather than a targeted strike.
In more encouraging news, North Korea proposed high-level talks with the United States to “ease tensions in the Korean peninsula,” its state news agency reported early Sunday, 15 June 2013. The topics that “can be sincerely discussed” include easing military tensions, changing a truce treaty to a peace treaty and nuclear matters, according to the report in the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
6. Major Deaths
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died on Monday, 8 April 2013 following a stroke, her spokeswoman confirmed. Britain’s only female prime minister, Thatcher served from 1979 to 1990 as leader of the Conservative Party. She was called the “Iron Lady” for her personal and political toughness. Thatcher retired from public life after a stroke in 2002 and suffered several strokes after that.
Senator Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who had served five terms in the United States Senate since 1982 and was the chamber’s last surviving World War II veteran, died Monday, 3 June 2013 of viral pneumonia, his office announced. Lautenberg, 89, missed key Senate votes late last year during a weeks-long absence due to a cold that turned into what he called a “severe case of bronchitis with fluid in the chest.” He announced in a statement in February 2013 he would not seek re-election in 2014. New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie set a special election for 16 October 2013 to replace Lautenberg. A primary will be held on 13 August 2013. At a news conference, Christie said he will name an interim senator to serve until the special election. He told reporters he did not think it was right for someone to serve on an interim basis until November 2014. Christie named his state’s attorney general to hold the seat of the late Lautenberg until the special election. New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa is a Republican. Chiesa graduated from the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America’s law school. He will serve temporarily until a new senator is elected. Chiesa will not run in the special election. “To have this chance to continue to serve in public life is a wonderful opportunity for everybody,” Chiesa said at a news conference with Christie.
Actress Jean Stapleton, who won three Emmys for her role as Archie Bunker’s wife in the groundbreaking 1970s TV sitcom All in the Family, died, her son said Saturday, 1 June 2013. She was 90. Stapleton was also an accomplished stage actress who had many television roles during her career, but her breakout role was as Edith Bunker, the kind-hearted foil to husband Archie, played by Carroll O’Connor. He died in 2001.
Esther Williams, whose success as a competitive swimmer propelled her to Hollywood stardom in the 1940s and ’50s, died at age 91. Williams’s spokesman announced her passing. According to her official website, Williams made her film debut opposite Mickey Rooney in Andy Hardy’s Double Life in 1942. Soon afterward, she starred in Bathing Beauty, Hollywood’s first swimming movie, her website says, which created a new genre perfectly suited to Williams’s beauty and athletic skills. According to the website, Williams — as a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club swim team — by age 16 had earned three national championships in both the breaststroke and freestyle.
In other notable June 2013 deaths, Richard Ramirez, a mass murderer and serial rapist known as the “Night Stalker” for his 1984-1985 crime spree in California, died of natural causes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said. The death row inmate, 53, died at Marin General Hospital north of San Francisco, the department said. Ramirez was convicted in 1985 of 13 murders — 11 in Southern California and two others in the San Francisco area — along with five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries. Ramirez, a professed “satanist,” was dubbed the “Night Stalker” for his preference of breaking into houses in the wee hours of the morning.
On Wednesday, 19 June 2013 two tragic deaths occurred. First, Vince Flynn, author of political thriller novels, dies at age 47 after a two-year battle with prostate cancer, his publisher said in a statement. Second, James Gandolfini, 51, who won three Emmys for his portrayal of Tony Soprano on The Sopranos died, according to HBO. He died of a possible heart attack while on vacation in Rome. HBO issued this statement: “We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family. He was special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us.” Gandolfini was to have appeared at the Taormina Film Fest in Sicily this week, the festival said.