Springs, Scandals and Spending: Events of 2011

1 Jan

“Lest we forget”

I was struck a few months ago by the brevity and transience of human memory: I realised that it was only October, but I’d already essentially forgotten about so many recent events, including the revolution in Egypt, the Rapture that never happened, absurd super injunctions, the phone hacking scandal and the terrifying riots in London.

So, I decided to compile a summary of the events of 2011 for future reference, and while I was doing so it occurred to me that it may prove useful to others in terms of refreshing one’s memory, learning new things, winning arguments and pub quizzes, indulging in nostalgic reminiscence and so on. I hope it serves its purpose or is at least vaguely interesting. This is obviously mainly from a UK perspective but I’ve also tried to include as many global events as possible.

To make it easier to read and prettier to look at, I’ve highlighted some of the major things that have happened this year in different colours, namely: the Arab springs, the Eurozone crisis, the phone hacking scandal, the London riots, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and more recent events in Iran and Russia. A more detailed outline of events surrounding the Arab Spring can be found here.

The United Nations designated 2011 the International Year of Forests and Chemistry.

January 2011

1st – it’s 2011, hooray!

1st – Estonia becomes the seventeenth country to join the Eurozone and adopt the Euro as its currency.

2nd – actor Pete Postlethwaite dies aged 64 from pancreatic cancer.

4th – VAT is increased to 20% in the UK.

7th – former Labour MP David Chaytor is jailed for 18 months for fraudulently claiming over £20,000 in expenses.

7th – the England cricket team win the Ashes 3-1 in Australia.

8th – US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is shot in the head at point-blank range in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona. Thirteen other people are injured in the mass shooting and six others – including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl – are killed. Giffords receives emergency brain surgery and is placed in a medically-induced coma.

9th – Southern Sudan holds a referendum on independence – the electorate votes in favour of the formation of an independent Southern Sudanese state.

11th – almost 1000 people are killed during mudslides and flooding in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

13th – the Australian city of Brisbane suffers widespread flooding, which causes huge amounts of damage and kills at least one citizen. Over 1000 families are taken to evacuation centres. Dozens more are confirmed dead in flash-flooding across the state of Queensland.

14th – ARAB SPRING, TUNISIA: the Tunisian goverment collapses after a month of increasingly violent protests triggered by frustration at denial of basic political freedoms, government corruption and economic failure, and coordinated via social networking sites. After 23 years in power, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia and a coalition government is established. Events in Tunisia provide a spark for protests in other Arab nations, including Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Protestors join the Tunisian revolution

21st – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: former News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigns his position as David Cameron’s communications director as allegations of corruption and phone hacking begin to intensify.

24th – a suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport kills 37 people and injures almost 200. 20-year-old Magomed Evloyev carried out the attack on behalf of the terrorist group Caucasus Emirate.

25th – ARAB SPRING, EGYPT: inspired by recent events in Tunisia, tens of thousands of people take to the streets across Egypt to protest against police brutality, political corruption and poor living conditions resulting from economic problems.

26th – ARAB SPRING, EGYPT: Egyptian authorities attempt to stop communication between protestors by ordering service providers to shut down all international internet access. This unprecedented “kill switch” activation ultimately failed to hinder the course of the revolution, but caused major economic and logistical complications.

27th – ARAB SPRING, YEMEN: 16,000 people demonstrate in the city of Sana’a, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The president concedes that he will not seek re-election in 2013. Human rights activist Tawakel Karman calls for a national “Day of Rage” on February 3rd.

February 2011

3rd – ARAB SPRING, YEMEN: 20,000 protestors demonstrate against the government in Sana’a.

9th – the UK’s coalition government finalises Project Merlin; an agreement with four major high street banks designed to encourage lending to small businesses, and limitations and transparency with regard to bankers’ bonuses and executive salaries.

10th – the House of Commons votes 234-22 against allowing prisoners the right to vote.

11th – ARAB SPRING, EGYPT: following 18 days of protests and violent clashes which killed over 800 people across the country, Hosni Mubarak resigns as President of Egypt and transfers political power to the Egyptian armed forces. Despite initial jubilation, mass protests would continue intermittently until July because of the new government’s sluggishness in instituting major reforms.

Celebrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo after Hosni Mubarak's resignation is announced

14th – ARAB SPRING, BAHRAIN: peaceful protests begin in favour of improving political freedom and respect for human rights.

15th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: following on from earlier protests about living conditions, anti-government protests start in Libya in response to the arrest of human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. The opposition rapidly takes control of the city of Benghazi, successfully repelling troops sent to recapture it. Important diplomats start to resign as the situation rapidly escalates into a state of civil war.

17th – ARAB SPRING, BAHRAIN: a police raid on a peaceful protest at Pearl Roundabout in Manama kills three people. This turns protest action against the Sunni monarchy, and demonstrations begin calling for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to step down.

18th – 43-year-old Maria Topp is arrested in Newcastle after biting off her boyfriend’s testicles during a row. She receives a 12-month suspended sentence for GBH. His testicles are mercifully reattached.

18th – ARAB SPRING, YEMEN: tens of thousands of protestors march on the Presidential Palace in Sana’a, despite attempts by riot police to stop them. Overnight, local government buildings are set alight. Three people are killed by security forces.

22nd – uncertainty over Libyan oil output during the Arab Spring results in a 20% increase in crude oil prices, precipitating the 2011 “energy crisis” and months of global whinging about the cost of petrol.

22nd – ARAB SPRING, BAHRAIN: 100,000 people (one fifth of the population) march to show their loyalty to the martyred protestors.

The March of Loyalty to Martyrs in Bahrain on 22nd February

March 2011

6th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: Syrian security forces arrest and brutally torture 15 children from the city of Daraa for writing anti-regime slogans. The city soon becomes a focal point for the uprising and subsequent government reprisals.

11th – eastern Japan is struck by a devastating 9.1 magnitude earthquake, which caused a large tsunami. Almost 16000 people are killed and a further 4000 are missing, presumed dead. Several nuclear power plants are damaged in the quake: the Fukushima station goes critical following a cooling system failure and radioactive chemicals are found in the soil and water supply. 300,000 people are displaced from their homes over the following days as a result of damage to their homes and dangerous radiation levels.

A woman sits amidst earthquake debris in Natori, Japan

14thLeslie Collier, the virologist responsible for developing the stable smallpox vaccine used in the WHO’s global eradication programme, dies in London aged 90.

14th – Rebecca Black becomes an object of international scorn after she releases her first single, Friday.

14th – ARAB SPRING, BAHRAIN: at the request of the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabian troops enter Bahrain and open fire on protestors, killing several people. The King later declares a three-month state of emergency which suppresses demonstrations until June 1st. The protest camp at Pearl Roundabout is razed to the ground. Medical staff are arrested and prosecuted for treating injured protestors – an act which apparently directly constitutes an attempt to overthrow the government.

15th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: thousands of protestors gather in cities across Syria to protest against the ruling Baathist regime. The government’s response is brutal, consisting of security clampdowns and military operations against unarmed civilians.

17th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: in response to allegations of government violence against civilians, the United Nations Security Council unanimously votes to create a “no-fly” zone over Libya and endorses “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

19th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: a military offensive consisting of bombing raids against pro-Gaddafi forces is coordinated by France, the UK and the USA. United Nations forces would continue to support the rebels through the next few months of civil war.

23rd – actress Elizabeth Taylor dies from heart failure aged 79.

24th – ARAB SPRING, EGYPT: former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is put under house arrest, awaiting charges of political corruption and complicity in the premeditated murder of hundreds of protestors.

26th – an estimated 400,000 protestors join a union-organised march against budget cuts in London. This initially peaceful protest is later marred by violence and vandalism as a small minority seize the opportunity to cause trouble.

A participant at the anti-cuts protest in March

April 2011

1st – tabloid newspapers the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport go into administration.

3rd – Anne, Britain’s last circus elephant, retires to a life of luxury at Longleat Safari Park after a career spanning over 50 years.

4th – as part of UK welfare reforms, the one and a half million people currently receiving incapacity benefit are asked to attend for a formal work capability assessment.

11th – former Ivorian president Laurent Gdagbo is arrested in his home by pro-Ouattara forces with support from French forces, ending the Ivorian civil war which had started when his party appeared to have rigged the results of the 2010 presidential election.

18th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: 100,000 protestors gather in the city of Homs to call for the resignation of President Bashar Al-Assad. 

27th – the Office for National Statistics confirms that the UK’s economy has grown by 0.5% so far this year.

29th – Prince William marries Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. 500,000 well-wishers gather outside Buckingham Palace to see the couple kiss on the balcony, and an estimated 2 billion people worldwide tune in to watch the television coverage. Kate’s younger sister Pippa also becomes a national treasure after showing off her perfect bottom in “that dress”.

The kiss on the balcony

May 2011

2ndOsama bin Laden, founder of al-Qaeda and orchestrator of multiple terrorist atrocities, is killed by a team of US Navy Seals in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He allegedly attempted to use one of his wives as a human shield before being shot in the head. His body was buried at sea following a Muslim funeral service. Vulgar Americans begin to clamour for photographs of his corpse, which President Obama admirably refuses to release. Suspicions arise about the involvement of Pakistani authorities in supporting the wanted terrorist, and US ties with Pakistan become strained.

Osama bin Laden was killed this year in Pakistan

5thClaude Choules, the world’s last surviving World War I combat veteran, dies aged 110. An Australian naval vessel is due to be commissioned HMAS Choules in his honour.

6th – a referendum of UK voters rejects the Alternative Voting system proposed by the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats  lose seats in the local elections, and the Scottish National Party win an overall majority in the Scottish parliament.

12th – the Queen becomes the second longest-serving British monarch, overtaking George III with her reign of 59 years and 97 days. She still has 4 years to go before she beats Queen Victoria though!

15th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: following a three-month siege by loyalists, Libyan rebels finally take the city of Misrata with the help of British, French and Canadian forces.

16th – EUROZONE CRISIS: the European Union agrees to provide a €78 billion bailout loan for Portugal. Portugal is the third EU nation to receive a financial bailout after Greece (which received €110 billion in May 2010) and the Republic of Ireland (which received €85 billion in November 2010).

17th – the Queen pays an official state visit to the Republic of Ireland. It is the first visit by a reigning British monarch since 1911.

21st – fundamentalist minister Harold Camping‘s predictions that the Rapture would sweep the Earth at 6pm rather embarassingly fail to materialise. After complaining that “it’s been a really tough weekend”, Camping quickly comes up with the excuse that he had only foreseen the beginning of a “preliminary phase”, and that the real Rapture would begin on 21st October (yet again, he was wrong). Despite Camping’s repeated errors, his equally idiotic followers remain adamant that he is onto something and that “God’s going to bring it” sometime soon.

Guaranteed Rapturing, or your money back...

22nd – Britain’s 8-year military presence in Iraq formally comes to an end as Royal Navy troops finish training their local Iraqi counterparts. A total of 179 British troops have been killed since Operation Telic – a joint operation with the Americans which aimed to remove Saddam Hussein – began in March 2003.

23rd – an MP uses his parliamentary privilege to reveal that the married footballer using a super injunction to cover up an affair with a reality TV star was in fact Ryan Giggs. Twitter goes wild with civil disobedience, as everyone competes to be the first to break the injunction and indict Giggs as the arsehole he really is. The deeper question of whether the rich and famous should have the right to buy someone’s silence to cover up their wrongdoings remains a troubling and unanswered one.

26th – former Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladić is arrested in Serbia and will stand trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

June 2011

3rd – ARAB SPRING, YEMEN: President Ali Abdullah Saleh is injured in an assassination attempt and evacuated to Saudi Arabia, leaving his Vice President in charge. Protests have been ongoing in his absence.

4th – the Puyehue volcano in Chile erupts, forcing 3000 people to evacuate their homes and sending up an ashcloud that callously ruins holiday plans across the southern hemisphere.

7th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: the owners of the News of the World are forced to pay actress Sienna Miller a settlement of £100,000 for hacking into her mobile phones. This is followed by several other celebrities, including John Prescott and Ryan Giggs, making their own allegations of phone hacking by the newspaper.

10th – Prince Philip celebrates his 90th birthday. His present from the Queen is the office and title of Lord High Admiral of the Navy. Here are some of his most famous gaffes from his many years as consort.

12th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: thousands of Syrians flee to Turkey when Syrian troops lay siege to the city of Jisr ash-Shugur.

13th – EUROZONE CRISIS: Standard & Poor’s downgrades Greece’s sovereign debt rating to CCC, the lowest in the world.

15th – EUROZONE CRISIS: a general strike against government austerity measures in Greece turns nasty, as protestors clash violently with police in Athens. Ministers begin to defect, reducing Prime Minister George Papandreou’s parliamentary majority to just five.

20th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: 300 emails handed to Scotland Yard allegedly show that ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson (whom David Cameron subsequently hired as his chief media adviser) had authorised payments to several police officers in exchange for information.

21st – EUROZONE CRISIS: the IMF warns European leaders that they must act decisively to resolve the situation in Greece or face disaster.

22nd – EUROZONE CRISIS: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou narrowly wins a vote of confidence and continues as leader of a reshuffled government. He quickly moves to approve a five-year austerity plan, which pacifies key European powers but triggers further general strike action and violent protests on the streets of Athens.

23rd – Levi Bellfield is convicted of the murder of 13-year-old schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002.

23rdJenyne Butterfly earns a standing ovation for her outstanding show of athleticism at the 2011 Pole Dancing Convention in Miami.


25th – New York becomes the sixth American state to allow same-sex marriages. The state’s Catholic bishops are “deeply disappointed and troubled” by the passing of the bill, but everyone else is very happy about what can only be a positive step forward for a country largely being held back by prejudice and primitive religious ideologies.

30th – hundreds of thousands of UK public sector workers strike over proposed pension reforms.

July 2011

4th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: lawyers representing the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler reveal they have been told by police that Milly’s voicemail had been hacked, possibly by a News of the World investigator. Some of her messages were deleted by the hacker, giving Milly’s family and the police false hope that she was still alive.

5th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: the list of those possibly targeted by phone hackers expands to include the parents of the two girls killed in the Soham murders in 2002, victims of the July 7th bombings in 2005, the family of Madeleine McCann, and the relatives of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

7th – surgeons in Sweden announce the world’s first successful artificial organ transplant. A patient with laryngeal cancer received an artificial windpipe grown in a lab and coated with his own stem cells. The structure took only a few days to create, and as it contains the patient’s own cells there is no need for him to take antirejection drugs.

7th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: News Corp announces that it is shutting down the News of the World, with the July 10th issue being the last.

8th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: Andy Coulson is arrested on suspicion of corruption and conspiring to intercept communications. The News of the World’s ex-royal editor Clive Goodman is also arrested.

9th – South Sudan secedes from Sudan following the independence referendum in January.

10th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: Rupert Murdoch flies to London to handle the crisis personally.

12th –  Colin and Chris Weir scoop the Euro Millions lottery’s biggest ever jackpot of over £161 million. The couple plan to use the money to travel the world and set up their own charity.

Colin and Chris Weir with their record-breaking lottery win

13th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: News Corp withdraws its bid for BSkyB’s Sky News channel. David Cameron appoints Lord Leveson as the head of a public inquiry into the scandal.

14thmoronic Greenpeace activists don Hazmat suits and destroy an entire crop of experimental GM wheat worth $300,000 in Canberra, Australia; claiming the crop posed “serious health, economic and environmental risks”. The wheat had in fact been modified to lower its glycaemic index and increase its fibre content, in order to make it healthier to eat. Research efforts have been set back at least a year.

15th – trials find that HIV treatments can also be used as a preventative measure to reduce transmission rates to uninfected individuals. The effectiveness of this technique in preventing infections may be as high as 96%.

15thHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the last film in the Harry Potter series, is released in cinemas across the world. It breaks several box-office records, including highest grossing opening weekend worldwide ($483,189,427) and highest grossing film of 2011 ($1,328,111,219). It is now the third-highest grossing film of all time. Fans everywhere – this author included – mourn the end of an era and realise it might finally be time to grow up… (or maybe not…)

Blatantly the two best characters in the Harry Potter series

17th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the News of the World, is the next high-profile individual to be arrested on suspicion of corruption and phone-hacking. She had resigned as chief executive of News International 2 days previously. News Corp share prices begin to plummet. 

18th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare, who made allegations of phone hacking contributing to the paper’s closure, is found dead in his home. Police say they are treating his death as “unexplained but not suspicious”, yet media hype is catapulted into the stratosphere. An autopsy later rules that he died from natural causes.

19th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks are questioned by parliament’s Culture, Media and Sports committee. All three are grovellingly apologetic. During the proceedings a protestor attempts to attack Rupert Murdoch with a custard pie, but is fought off by his wife Wendi.

Rupert Murdoch is attacked by a protestor with a custard pie

20th – the United Nations declares a state of famine in Somalia.

20th – Goran Hadžić is arrested in Serbia. He is the last of 161 people indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to be brought to trial. His arrest closes a “difficult chapter” of Serbia’s history.

21st – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: James Murdoch is accused of deliberately misleading the parliamentary committee by denying knowledge of widespread hacking activities by reporters.

21st – the space shuttle Atlantis touches down at the Kennedy Space Center, its last flight bringing NASA’s 30-year shuttle programme to an end. NASA’s next big project is a deep space exploration vehicle called Orion, which will be designed to maintain astronauts during longer periods of space travel. Several private companies have also expressed interest in providing space transportation services in the future.

21st – EUROZONE CRISIS: Greece defaults on its debts, and heads of EU states agree that a “controlled failure” is the best way to prevent the collapse of the single currency. Greece receives a second bailout package worth €159 billion which cuts its debts by a quarter. Interest rates on existing loans to Ireland and Portugal are lowered to reduce the risk of other countries defaulting. Concerns arise about the viability of the Eurozone.

22nd – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: the US Justice Department announces plans to subpoena News Corp executives as part of an investigation of claims that News International newspapers hacked the phones of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

22nd – Norway suffers two major terrorist attacks: a bombing  in Oslo’s government district which killed 8 people, and a mass shooting at a political youth camp which killed 69 people, 55 of whom were teenagers. The attacks were orchestrated by Anders Breivik, a militant right-wing extremist who was later diagnosed with florid paranoid schizophrenia by court psychiatrists.

23rd – singer Amy Winehouse dies aged 27 following a 3-day alcohol binge. Russell Brand, who has himself struggled with addiction in the past, posts a moving tribute to the troubled star on his blog.

Amy Winehouse died this year aged 27

31st – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: Syrian army tanks storm several cities, killing at least 136 civilian demonstrators in the bloodiest day of the uprising so far. Clampdowns on the free press make it difficult to guage the extent of the violence over the following months.

August 2011

1st – US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returns to the floor of the House of Representatives – having survived being shot in the head in January – to cast her vote in favour of increasing the US debt ceiling. Arriving with just minutes to spare and appearing thin and frail, she received an emotional standing ovation from the House.

4th – LONDON RIOTS: 29-year-old drug dealer Mark Duggan is shot dead in Tottenham by police attempting to arrest him, having allegedly fired upon one of the officers.

5th – On the same day as they launch the Juno mission to Jupiter, NASA announces that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found potential evidence of seasonal liquid water on the surface of Mars.

6th – the USA suffers global humiliation as it is stripped of its AAA credit rating by leading credit agency Standard & Poor’s. Their negative outlook on America’s economic future results primarily from concerns about budget deficits and the country’s persistence in increasing its own debt ceiling.

6th – LONDON RIOTS: an initially peaceful protest outside Tottenham police station turns nasty, with rioters attacking police, looting shops and setting cars and buildings alight. 55 people are arrested. Firefighters are threatened by the crowds and 26 police officers are injured.

Classy looters at a Poundland store in Peckham

A Carpet Right store was one of the buildings set alight by rioters

A vandalised police van is towed away after a night of violence

7th – LONDON RIOTS: further disturbances in Brixton, Enfield and Hackney, with reports of violence and arson attacks. 100 more arrests are made.

8th – LONDON RIOTS: rioting spreads across the city and fires are started in Lewisham, Clapham and Croydon. Widespread looting continues and police struggle to cope. Ashraf Haziq, a Malaysian student living in London, is filmed being robbed by a group of youths pretending to help him as he lay bleeding after being violently assaulted. David Cameron graciously decides to cut short his holiday in order to deal with the situation. The unrest also spreads north overnight to affect Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.

9th – LONDON RIOTS: The number of arrests exceeds 500. Volunteers start using social networking sites to coordinate clean-up efforts using the hashtag #riotcleanup. Boris Johnson laps up the chance to be photographed pretending to help in Clapham and is heckled by angry residents. A boarded-up Poundland shop in Peckham becomes an impromptu mural covered with inspirational messages from members of the community. David Cameron orders a massive increase in the police presence in London, which prevents further disturbances. Overnight there is further violence in Manchester, Merseyside, Bristol and Birmingham. Three men protecting a local business in Birmingham are killed when a car deliberately drives straight into them.

Volunteers at a riot cleanup operation in Battersea, south London

Locals read messages on the "wall of love" at the Poundland shop in Peckham

10th – LONDON RIOTS: David Cameron approves contingency plans for the use of water cannons against rioters. The police presence is increased in affected areas nationwide. A candelit vigil is held overnight for the three men killed in Birmingham. The night passes in relative calm.

11th – LONDON RIOTS: Parliament is recalled and MPs hold an emergency debate on the disturbances. David Cameron condemns the “criminality” of the rioters. Opposition leader Ed Miliband calls for the government to rethink its cuts in police spending. Over 1000 arrests have now been made following police use of CCTV images to identify rioters. Another quiet night heralds the end of a week of violence and destruction which left 5 people dead.

20th – Red Arrows pilot Jon Egging is tragically killed when his plane crashes during a display at the Bournemouth Air Festival. He delayed ejecting from the plane whilst he fought to steer it away from a nearby village. His widow Emma sets up the Jon Egging Trust to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

20thKim Kardashian marries NBA player Kris Humphries following a three-month engagement. 5 million people tuned in to watch the “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding” TV special. The couple made almost $18 million from interviews and the sale of exclusive rights to the wedding.

28th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: after a week-long battle, rebel forces in Libya take control of the capital city Tripoli and symbolically overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Fierce fighting continues in other areas, including Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte.

September 2011

5th – India and Bangladesh sign a pact which ends their 40-year border demarcation dispute.

10th – a ferry carrying 800 people sinks off the coast of Zanzibar. 240 people are confirmed dead.

11th – the USA marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which killed almost 3000 civilians. A five-hour reading of all the victims’ names takes place at Ground Zero, where a memorial has just been opened. Records show that over 6200 US military personnel have been killed in the ensuing conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.

9/11 memorial at Milton High School in Georgia

9/11 memorial at Milton High School in Georgia

12th – over 100 people are killed by a petrol pipeline explosion in Nairobi, Kenya.

14th – UK unemployment reaches 2.51 million.

15th – the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act requires general elections to take place at fixed five-year intervals, removing the Prime Minister’s prerogative to select a convenient date.

16th – four miners are killed by a large flood at Gleision Colliery in Wales.

17th – OCCUPY WALL STREET: the first protest by the Occupy Wall Street group begins in downtown Manhattan. About 1000 people marched up and down Wall Street before setting up camp in Zuccotti Park a couple of blocks away. The movement aims to stand opposed to corporate greed and the unfair accumulation of wealth by the “super-rich” 1% of the population.

19th – extreme flooding in the Sindh region of Pakistan kills hundreds of people. The United Nations launches a $357 million appeal to help victims of a disaster believed by aid agencies to have been more devastating than the 2004 tsunami.

20th – well-wishers raise a total of over £23,000 to “do something nice” for Ashraf Haziq, the Malaysian student filmed being callously robbed after being injured during the London riots. He has set aside some of the money to help other riot victims.

20th – the UK’s first filling station for hydrogen cars opens in Swindon.

21st – an energy company announces that they have found large quantities of controversial “shale” gas beneath Lancashire.

23rd – Dario Auterio, a physicist leading the Opera research group in France, reports findings of neutrino particles travelling faster than the speed of light. These findings are met with a great deal of excitement and skepticism, as they go directly against Einstein’s theory of relativity.

24th – a new cancer treatment called radium-223 chloride is so successful that medical trials are stopped early to allow all patients to receive it. The therapy uses targeted doses of alpha-radiation to treat prostate cancer which has spread to bones.

24th – OCCUPY WALL STREET: 80 people are arrested by police during a protest march in New York. The use of pepper spray by the police gets the movement some much-needed media coverage. Similar protests begin in Chicago, and the group starts to gain the support of celebrities and trade unions.

29th – the Department of Transport announces it is considering raising the speed limits on Britain’s motorways to 8omph.

October 2011

1st – a new record is set for the hottest day in October, at 29.9°C.

1st – OCCUPY WALL STREET: 700 protestors are arrested in New York during a march across Brooklyn Bridge. This catapults the movement onto the front pages: further OWS marches in New York are attended by tens of thousands of people, and copycat protests spring up across America in the following weeks.

4th – 100 people are killed by a car bomb attack in the Somalian capital Mogadishu.

5th – Apple founder and visionary Steve Jobs dies from complications of pancreatic cancer aged 56.

Apple founder Steve Jobs died this year aged 56

5th – work begins on the world’s largest solar bridge at Blackfriars Station in London. The project consists of 6000 square metres of solar panels on the station’s roof, which will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 511 tonnes every year.

6th – over 500 people are confirmed dead across Thailand and Cambodia after the worst flash flooding for decades.

7th – this year’s Nobel Laureates are announced. Chemistry: Israeli researcher Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystal structures. Physics: Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess for proving that the universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate and therefore confirming its inevitable doom. Medicine: Bruce Beutler, Jules Hoffmann and Ralph Steinman (sadly posthumous) for discoveries which revolutionised scientific understanding of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Literature: Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. Economics: Thomas Sargent and Christopher Sims for their work on cause and effect. Peace: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman (involved in the Arab Spring in Yemen) for efforts to promote women’s rights and safety.

8th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: 50,000 people gather in al-Qamishli to mourn the death of Kurdish rights activist Mishaal al-Tammo, who had been assassinated by the Syrian government the day before. Security forces fire on the crowds, killing at least 14 people.

10th – 90s pop group Steps officially announce their reunion, along with plans for a greatest hits “Ultimate Collection” and an eighteen-date arena tour in 2012.

14th – UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox resigns following a week of controversy about whether he broke the ministerial code during his professional dealings with friend and “adviser” Adam Werritty.

16th – ridiculously cool science that might as well be magic is shared with the world in the form of quantum levitation:


20th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: Libyan rebels, supported by NATO forces, finally take control of Muammar Gaddafi’s last stronghold in the city of Sirte. Gaddafi is found hiding in a drainpipe and taken prisoner, but is killed in the crossfire during a skirmish with his own supporters. After eight months of fighting, the civil war is over and the victorious National Transitional Council can start to build a democratic Libya.

21st – clinical trials of a malaria vaccine show promising results, cutting infection rates in half when given to children in several African countries.

21st – after 70 years in showbusiness, 83-year-old TV presenter and all-round legend Bruce Forsyth receives a knighthood for a lifetime of service to entertainment. The Queen is gobsmacked to hear that he’s been in his job longer than she’s been in hers.

Sir Bruce Forsyth with his CBE outside Buckingham Palace

21stOccupy London protestors, inspired by protest action in America and angered by “corporate greed”, set up camp outside St Paul’s, forcing the cathedral to close its doors to the public.

21st – despite monumental efforts by protest groups to stop Andrew Lansley’s controversial and ill-informed NHS reforms from being passed, the House of Lords approves the Health and Social Care Bill and votes against carrying out any special scrutiny of its financial implications. Many important organisations, including the British Medical Assocation, express their concerns about the reforms, which aim to increase the role of GPs in commissioning healthcare and open up NHS service provision to the private sector.

23rd – a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes eastern Turkey, killing 582 people and injuring thousands. Rescue efforts continue for several days as emergency services attempt to save people trapped in the rubble of hundreds of collapsed buildings.

25th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: after being viewed by hundreds of onlookers in an old meat store, Muammar Gaddafi’s body is buried in a secret location deep in the Sahara desert.

27th – EUROZONE CRISIS: following an emergency meeting, the European Union announces plans to tackle the debt crisis including a 50% write-off of Greek bonds, recapitalisation of European banks and quadrupling the available bailout fund to €1 trillion.

27th – police prepare to forcibly remove demonstrators from outside St Paul’s. Canon Giles Fraser resigns, stating that he cannot condone the use of violence against peaceful protestors. The camp was closed down by police that night, but soon re-established itself.

28th – Vincent Tabak receives a life sentence for the murder of Joanna Yeates, whose strangled body was found in Somerset on Christmas day last year.

29thSir Jimmy Savile dies from pneumonia aged 84.

31st – global population reaches 7 billion. See where you fit in here.

31st – Kim Kardashian initiates divorce proceedings against Kris Humphries after just 72 days of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences and later accusing Humphries of being gay. Interestingly, her $18 million profits from the wedding meant she earned $10,358 per hour of her marriage. #ThingsLongerThanKimsMarriage was the top-trending hashtag on Twitter within hours.

31st – EUROZONE CRISIS: George Papandreou announces his intention to put the Eurozone’s decisions about managing the Greek economic crisis to a public referendum, causing widespread dismay across Europe.

November 2011

2nd – rumours abound that Kate Middleton could be pregnant after she declines to try a sample of UNICEF peanut butter during a state visit, and is seen “touching her stomach a lot”.

3rd – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: the Syrian government accepts a peace plan from the League of Arab Nations to halt its violent crackdowns. The ceasefire rapidly breaks down, and the government continues its violent suppression of protests and abduction and torture of civilians.

3rd – EUROZONE CRISIS: George Papandreou abandons plans for a referendum regarding recent EU decisions. Other member states admit for the first time that the only way to save the single currency might be for Greece to leave the Eurozone and reinstitute the drachma as currency – an idea which promotes panic within the Greek parliament.

4th – a horrific motorway pile-up involving 34 vehicles on the M5 in Somerset kills 7 people and injures 51 others. It is described as the worst UK traffic accident in 20 years. Wet conditions and smoke from a nearby bonfire were believed to have precipitated the crash.

6th – EUROZONE CRISIS: Greek Prime Minister Papandreou resigns. He is succeeded by economist Lucas Papademos, who soon gets to work with radical budget changes in order to satisfy EU targets for 2012.

8th – a second Red Arrows pilot, Sean Cunningham, is killed in a freak accident at RAF Scampton. His plane was still on the runway when his ejector seat went off, catapulting him almost 200 feet into the air before he plunged back to earth.

11th – Remembrance Sunday. The Royal British Legion reports record poppy sales of 42 million this year – 4 million more than the average number, and 2 million more than in 2010.

The Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday

13th – EUROZONE CRISIS: in the midst of a national debt crisis, Silvio Berlusconi finally loses his parliamentary majority after spending 17 years allegedly running the country, and resigns as Italy’s prime minister. The Italian government approve an austerity package designed to produce €60bn in savings by 2014.

14th – trials report that alemtuzumab, a new antibody-based treatment for multiple sclerosis, cuts relapse rates in half when compared with conventional beta-interferon treatment. It should be available to patients in the UK next year.

14th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: a public inquiry led by Lord Leveson begins investigating newspaper practices. Over the coming weeks prominent public figures – including JK Rowling, Hugh Grant, Alastair Campbell and the parents of Milly Dowler and Madeleine McCann – will give evidence to the inquiry, alongside representatives of News International and the News of the World.

15th – OCCUPY WALL STREET: police begin to evict protestors from the camp in Zuccotti Park, arresting those who refuse to leave. Retaliatory protests and occupations over the following week result in hundreds more arrests (with the liberal use of pepper spray and brute force by police). Activists remain optimistic, stating that “you can’t evict an idea whose time has come”.

16th – UK unemployment tops 2.6 million, with 1 million young adults currently jobless.

16th – scientists report that they have found strong evidence of the presence of water beneath the surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s icy moons.

18th – a repeat experiment by the Opera research group again finds that neutrinos appear to be travelling faster than the speed of light. While scientists are still skeptical of the findings, the research is now accepted for publication in the Journal of High Energy Physics. The world must now wait to see if this turns out to be a groundbreaking discovery or a mathematical mistake.

19th – ARAB SPRING, LIBYA: Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam is captured trying to flee to Niger, having paid a group of nomads €1 million to lead him through the desert. He is now awaiting trial.

22nd – cancer charity Macmillan announces that overall median cancer survival has risen from 12 months in 1970 to 6 years in 2010. Despite overall improvements, the data analysis also revealed a “woeful lack of progress” for some tumours, including lung, stomach and brain cancers.

25th – an ostracised ginger seal is found huddling under a pile of logs in far-eastern Russia. Nafanya, who is almost blind, was rehomed in a state-of-the-art aquarium facility, where she is making friends and has become a popular attraction.

Nafanya, the lonely ginger seal who has now found a home

Interestingly, a two-headed siamese tortoise (called Magda-Lenka) with two heads and five legs was also born in Slovakia this month:

Madgalenka, the siamese tortoise

27th – 42-year-old Welsh footballer and manager Gary Speed is found dead at his home, having apparently committed suicide.

27th – IRAN: Iranian officials vote to downgrade diplomatic relations with the UK, following the implementation of UK-imposed sanctions on Iranian banks. The situation stems from increasing international tension over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

28th – film director Ken Russell dies aged 84 following a stroke.

29th – Emma West is arrested for a public order offence after a video posted on YouTube shows her shouting racist abuse at other passengers on a busy train with her young son sitting in her lap. She is later remanded in custody “for her own safety”.

29ththis happens. *sigh*

30th – UK public sector workers stage a nationwide strike in protest against pension reforms. David Cameron describes the walkout as a “damp squib”. Jeremy Clarkson gets in trouble for joking that strikers should be “shot”.

30th – Dr Conrad Murray is sentenced to 4 years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of his patient Michael Jackson.

30th – IRAN: Britain expels all Iranian diplomats after an attack by officially sanctioned protestors on the British embassy in Tehran. The Iranian authorities are quick to follow suit and expel British ambassadors from their country. Relations are now at their worst since Iran issued a fatwa for the death of Salman Rushdie in 1989.

December 2011

1st – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: the United Nations believe the death toll to be in excess of 4000 people, and declare the conflict to be  slipping towards “full-fledged civil war”.

1st – IRAN: the EU increases financial sanctions against Iran. The prospect of an oil embargo is discussed.

5th– the Kepler team confirms the discovery of an Earth-like planet about 600 light-years away, which they have imaginatively named Kepler-22b. It orbits the star Kepler-22 in the constellation Cygnus. It has an estimated surface temparature of 22°C and takes 290 days to orbit its sun. This is one of over 1000 potential candidate planets for extraterrestrial life identified by the team since 2009.

5th – IRAN: the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are ordered to be ready for war. A series of mysterious explosions at testing facilities over recent months has put the country on high alert for military actions against their nuclear infrastructure, particularly from Israel and the USA. Diplomats stress the need to seek a non-violent resolution.

9th – having failed to secure concessions to protect British interests, David Cameron uses his veto to block an EU treaty designed by France and Germany to stabilise the Eurozone and the single currency. The negotiations carry on regardless, without Cameron’s influence, and the backlash to Cameron’s actions threatens to wreck foreign policy and leave Britain diplomatically isolated. A lot of people in parliament are rather cross, but opinion polls show that the public approves of Cameron’s actions.

10th – RUSSIA: tens of thousands of people protest against legislative and electoral processes in the Russian capital of Moscow, following allegations of electoral fraud. Thousands more become involved in smaller protests in other cities across the country. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin later expresses his contempt for protestors, claiming they had been paid to attend.

Protestor in Moscow on 10th December. His sign says: "I did not vote for these bastards, I voted for the other bastards! I want votes recounted".

11th – girl group Little Mix win the X Factor. The song they’ve chosen to butcher this year in an attempt to get the Christmas Number 1 is Cannonball by Damien Rice.

13th – PHONE HACKING SCANDAL: James Murdoch denies reading crucial emails sent to him in 2008 which described how phone hacking was “rife” at the News of the World and throughout News International. He did, interestingly, manage to reply to the emails in question even though he apparently hadn’t read them.

13th – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: UN human rights officials believe the death toll from the Syrian uprising to have exceeded 5000 people, and suggest that the country’s government be referred to the International Criminal Court, as its actions amount to crimes against humanity.

15th – author, orator, journalist and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens dies from complications of oesophageal cancer aged 62, after a “long argument… with the spectre of death”. The hashtag #GodIsNotGreat (the title of one of Hitchens’ books about religion) is all over Twitter within hours as fans post tributes to his memory, but the website remove it from the list of top “trending” topics following threats of violence from Christian users. Below is a video of the man himself dealing out one of his notorious “Hitch-slaps” in a debate about the Catholic Church:


17th – North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il dies of a heart attack in Pyongyang aged 69, after 26 years as leader of the most totalitarian state on the planet. His son Kim Jong-un, who is in his late 20s, is expected to take his place as leader. There are concerns about the stability of the country during the transition of power, and South Korea remains on high alert.

17thHarry Judd (the drummer in the boy band McFly) beats actress Chelsee Healey to win Strictly Come Dancing.

18th – the last convoy of American troops withdraws from Iraq, ending almost 9 years of conflict which toppled the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and established a fragile democracy in its place. Almost 4,500 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003.

22nd – following weeks of speculation about whether they had found the Higgs boson, CERN announces the discovery of the Large Hadron Collider’s first new particle. It is called Chi_b (3P), a “quarkonium” consisting of a beauty quark and a beauty anti-quark bound together by the strong nuclear force. Hopes are high that CERN will track down the elusive Higgs boson in the next few years, and finally complete the Standard Model of physics by explaining why things have mass.

23rd – Prince Philip, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this year, is admitted to hospital for a coronary artery stenting procedure after suffering chest pains at Sandringham.

23rdtwo strong earthquakes measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale strike the New Zealand city of Christchurch, thankfully causing only minor injuries and damage this time.

23rd – ARAB SPRING, SYRIA: following weeks of escalating protests and violence, two suicide bomb attacks are carried out in the capital city Damascus. The Syrian government are quick to blame al-Qaeda, but the opposition believe the government orchestrated the attacks in order to turn the opinions of visiting Arab League members against the cause of the protestors.

24th – RUSSIA: another large rally for “fair elections” takes place in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin is very dismissive of the protest and its aims, and blames US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for prompting the protests by criticising the way elections were carried out.

24th – ARAB SPRING, YEMEN: following months of demonstrations and civil unrest, a group of loyalists and elite troops fires on a demonstration march in Sana’a, killing at least 9 people. This is only one example of the regime’s heavy-handed response to protests since the uprising began in January.

25th – it’s Christmas, hooray! Electronic items like Kindles, iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, laptops and games consoles appear to have been the most popular gifts given this year (this author, however, received a stack of these lovely papery things called “books” and couldn’t be happier). The Military Wives take the Christmas Number 1 spot with their song “Wherever You Are”, selling over half a million copies in the week before Christmas; more than the rest of the top 12 combined! Proceeds from the single are being donated to the Royal British Legion and the SSAFA. Here’s some AKB48 to celebrate:

Paul Toole's £20,000 Christmas lights display at his home in Somerset

26th – Cuba announces that it is extending free market reforms to boost private enterprise. President Raul Castro stresses that the measures are designed to “update rather than replace” the socialist model.

26th – Gillingham FC player Chris Whelpdale manages to “split his scrotum open” during a match against Crawley Town. The injury  apparently required 5 stitches.

27th – a train carrying a cargo of copper concentrate is derailed in Australia’s Northern Territory, after Cyclone Grant causes flash floods which damage the railway line. Concerns are raised about whether the toxic chemical cargo has spilled into the river.

27th – ultra-orthodox Haredim Jews clash with police in the Israeli town of Beit-Shemesh, following months of tension over their demands for the total segregation of the sexes in the town. The  extremely brave and mature tactics of the extremist group have so far included shouting at young girls on their way to school (spitting at them and calling them “whores”), putting up street signs, setting rubbish bins on fire and forcing women to sit at the backs of buses under threats of violence. Everyone is slightly mystified at how extremist members of a cultural group which has been so crippled by prejudice and oppression throughout most of its history can behave so appallingly towards others, especially their fellow Jews.

27th – Prince Philip is allowed home after spending 4 days in hospital recovering from a heart procedure. He had apparently been “itching to get home” as he didn’t want to miss the festivities at Sandringham.

28th – the meticulously choreographed funeral of Kim Jong-il begins in North Korea with a three-hour funeral procession carrying his body through the icy streets of Pyongyang. Tens of thousands of citizens brave the freezing temperatures to pay their respects. Kim Jong-il’s youngest son Kim Jong-un is confirmed as “the Great Successor” to his father’s position as leader.

Kim Jong-il's funeral procession in North Korea, complete with possibly the world's most enormous framed photograph

29th – RUSSIA: further peaceful protest action takes place in Moscow, this time focussing on the imprisonment of opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov with no hope of appeal. Udaltsov is currently on a hunger strike to protest against his sentence, and has to be taken to hospital periodically to receive fluids through a drip. 

29th – the lovely Dawn Porter announces her engagement to the equally lovely Irish actor Chris O’Dowd. He proposed at Havelet Bay in Guernsey on Boxing Day. The couple made the engagement public on Twitter; Dawn stated “I guess he liked it, coz he put a ring on it.”

30th – the Met office discloses that 2011 has been the second warmest year on record, with an average temperature of 9.62°C. 2006 remains the warmest year on record, with average temperatures of 9.73°C.

30th – comedian Russell Brand files divorce papers to end his 14-month marriage to singer Katy Perry. The couple cited irreconcilable differences – rumours have it that Brand, who has overcome problems with drugs and alcohol in the past, disapproved of Perry’s all-night partying.

31st – massive parties across the globe gather to celebrate the incessant and inevitable passage of time as 2011 becomes 2012. Here are some pretty fireworks (there are more here if you’re interested):

Fireworks celebrate the start of 2012 in Sydney, Australia

Fireworks light up Taiwan's Taipei 101 skyscraper

In case you’re in need of some comic relief after all the doom and gloom that’s happened this year, here is a compilation of mankind’s more spectacular and hilarious failures from the year 2011:


Things to look forward to in 2012

  • Unrest in Syria and several other Arab nations is likely to escalate further.
  • Films: The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, World War Z and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter are some highly anticipated releases.
  • The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – marking the 60th year of her reign – occurs officially on February 6th and will be celebrated during a long weekend from 2nd-5th June.
  • The London 2012 Olympics last from July 27th to August 12th.
  • The Curiosity rover will land on Mars at some time in August.
  • University students starting their courses in September will be the first to have to pay new, higher tuition fees (up to £9000 per year).
  • The USA will hold a presidential election on November 6th: Barack Obama has announced his intention to seek re-election.
  • According to misinterpreters of the Mayan Calendar, the world will end on December 21st.

To close

On finishing this epic task of cataloguing the events of an entire year, I’ve realised that whilst on the surface 2011 may have appeared to be a totally shit year with half the world falling to pieces and the loss of so many brilliant minds, if you look a little closer you realise that within the stories of horror and disaster, there are stories of hope, courage and humanity. The clean-up efforts after the London Riots, the huge surge of charitable giving to support others following terrible natural disasters, the efforts of the peoples of entire Arab nations to peacefully claim their own rights to freedom, liberty and democracy in the face of overwhelming oppression, the fact that the X Factor winners didn’t get to be Christmas Number 1 – all of these stir within me a feeling that all is not lost for the human race just yet…

Happy New Year everyone, may your years ahead be full of happiness and success 🙂

Remember: be nice to people. It helps.


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