Features

2008-2009

With the academic year coming to a close, Impact gives you a roundup of some of the biggest stories throughout the year, at home and abroad.

September
The beginning of the new term sees a new, futuristic expansion to Jubilee campus. Highlights include a building that looks almost exactly like the round house from Thunderbirds’ Tracy Island.

October
As the global financial crisis sets in, the entire nation of Iceland goes bankrupt. As the Icelandic banking system collapses, the krona becomes near valueless in the rest of the world leaving the Nordic island unable to pay its external debts; Gordon Brown announces his intention to sue for the millions of pounds deposited by British savers in Icelandic banks.

Closer to home, the Students’ Union is rocked by the ‘Coxgate’ scandal, as education officer Craig Cox is accused of wielding a sign bearing a racist slogan at an NUS conference. After an Extraordinary Meeting, the SU Council ultimately votes to allow Cox to keep his job.

November
After a build-up spanning the bitterly contested fight for the Democratic nomination and a hard-fought campaign against John McCain, Barack Obama is elected president of America, the 44th person to hold the office and the first black man. A mood of near-hysterical optimism sweeps away memories of the painful closing chapters of the Bush administration.

Elsewhere, Somali pirates seize a Saudi oil tanker carrying oil worth $100 million dollars and hold it to ransom. Later in the month, one hundred people are killed as gunmen armed with grenades and automatic rifles attack Mumbai. Synchronised strike teams hit the wealthiest part of the city, holding hostages captive in luxury hotels and engaging in firefights with police; hundreds more people are injured before the terrorists are neutralised by military commandos.

December
In the closing days of 2008, Israel initiates Operation Cast Lead, carrying out an intense bombing campaign against targets in the Gaza strip. The death toll climbs into the hundreds before the coming of the new year.

January
After the bombing campaign, Israeli ground troops move into Gaza to fight a full ground war. Weeks of fighting leave around 1300 Palestinians dead, many of which are children.

On campus, student protesters occupy lecture theatre B62, demanding that the University provide aid to the people of Gaza and cut ties with companies supplying the Israeli military. After five days the protesters are evicted by security staff. None of the demands are met.

February
Australia is ravaged by the worst wildfires in its history. Entire towns are destroyed as the fires, driven by extreme temperature conditions and wind, sweep across Victoria state. In the aftermath it emerges that at least some of the fires were the result of arson.

March
Media personality and former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody dies of cancer. The nation is treated to a media spectacle reminiscent of the death of Princess Diana, with coverage of Jade’s final days swamping all mainstream news outlets.

In what now marks the beginning of the MPs’ expenses scandal, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is forced to make a public apology after claiming for two pay-per-view porn films watched by her husband.

April
As the G20 leaders meet to discuss solutions to the financial crisis, thousands of people converge on London to protest. In the wake of the events, numerous police officers are suspended after images of unprovoked attacks on protesters emerge, including one video showing an officer attacking Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor, prior to his death; police had previously denied any involvement in the incident.

Towards the end of April the first reports of swine flu in Mexico begin to appear. Apocalyptic reports suggest that the new strain of the H1N1 virus will become a pandemic that will kill millions worldwide. After a few weeks of panic, everyone promptly forgets about it.

May
In Sri Lanka, the long-running war between government troops and Tamil Tiger separatists is brought to an end with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. In the final stages of the conflict, thousands of Sri Lankans are killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the escalating violence.

Coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka is quickly eclipsed by the blossoming of the expenses scandal, as the entire nation begins to take an unhealthy interest in David Cameron’s plumbing bills. Living rooms across the nation resonate to the sound of the penny dropping, as the British public realise that if you let government officials regulate their own spending, they tend to take the piss just a bit.

Corin Faife

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