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Iraq vet death, Pirate Bay, WikiLeaks: 14 most underreported news of 2014

Published: December 29, 2014
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Reuters / David W Cerny

The death of Thomas Young

Thomas Young, an Iraq war veteran and outspoken critic of the conflict sacrificed everything for his country. Shot in the neck just days into his tour, he was paralyzed from the neck down. Then, on November 10 – a day before Veteran’s Day – he died at the age of 34. The prominent journalist and activist Christopher Hedges said Young had died knowing “what the masters of war had done to him, how he had been used and turned into human refuse."

The Odessa massacre

May 2nd was the bloodiest day of civil conflict in Odessa, Ukraine in nearly a century, but nearly 8 months on, little progress has been made in catching the culprits of who set the city’s landmark Trade Unions House ablaze, killing 43 pro-Russian activists inside. In September, a parliament inquiry member retracted her signature from an allegedly "redacted" government probe, leaving serious doubts that justice for the victims would ever be realized.

Obama bombs 7 countries in 6 years

Five years after President Barack Obama nabbed a Nobel Peace Prize, he was also party to a far less prestigious accomplishment; the US Commander in Chief had bombed seven countries in six years. The not so lucky number came in September, when the US launched air strikes against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. Apart from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan were among states to find themselves facing down US airpower during the Noble laureate’s tenure.

Hammond, Anonymous and the FBI

Jailed hacker Jeremy Hammond is one year into a 10-year sentence for hacking into the Stratford intelligence company’s website. Like any idealist, he did it to “expose the truth.” But the truth behind his imprisonment is anything but a simple matter. According to leaked documents, Hammond was one of many hacktivists who had been provided targets by an FBI informer. Not only were hackers like Hammond reportedly instructed to hack sites like Stratford to check for vulnerabilities, but Anonymous and others had been directed to target no fewer than 30 foreign government websites by the FBI collaborator. Hammond's stiff sentence was a reaction to the “national security threat” he allegedly posed. But what about those who were pulling the strings in the first place?

What is TTIP again?

Privatization, exploitation, and environmental degradation, critics claim the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a Trojan horse headed for Europe, and few even know what it is. Whether it brings about great economic growth as promised by its proponents or leaves Europe under the thumb of multi-nationals, if you want to know what TTIP is all about, it’s time to READ MORE.

Third time’s a charm for Million Mask

By this point who could forget the 5th of November, what with the 3rd annual ‘Million Mask March’ protest being the largest to date. The Anonymous-organized protest movement claims to be the world’s largest, with austerity, corruption, mass surveillance and war crimes all being among the participants’ grievances. This year saw events organized in 481 cities across the globe. Sporadic scuffles marked this year’s London event, and an appearance by recent revolution peddler Russell Brand might have raised the movement’s profile ever so slightly. But even with an endorsement from Brand, the global march will likely end up on this list come next year.

The Wiki-Leaks keep on coming, while Assange marks 4 years without freedom

December 7 marked the four-year anniversary WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was first remanded into custody over sex-crime allegations. After spending nearly two-and-a-half years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his fate seems no less certain. None of that has stopped WikiLeaks, which continues in its quest for transparency, shocking the world with its revelations. US plot to close down a Kurdish TV station to appease Turkey and secure a new NATO chief? Check. The NSA recording and storing all the phone calls in Afghanistan and the Bahamas? Got it. A secretly Trade in Service Agreement covering 68 percent of the world - are you serious? Whether its exposing Google collusion in Afghanistan spying or CIA doubts about backlash from drone strikes and other targeted counterinsurgency programs, WikiLeaks continues to speak (and leak) truth to power.

The future of net neutrality

What could bring together President Barack Obama and a group of porn stars? Net neutrality of course! Although a complicated issue, it boils down to whether or not all internet traffic will be treated equally. Critics of net neutrality such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel are against it, arguing a “fast lane” should be created for “special services.” What’s at stake is the nature of the internet as we know it.

Pirate Bay walks the plank

In October, Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail for hacking. November saw the bittorrent site’s third and final co-founder arrested after 4 years on the run. In December, Swedish authorities raided them yet again on alleged copyright violations. The life of a pirate certainly isn’t easy, though those who take to the high seas (or the cloud) have managed to keep themselves a step ahead the authorities, even if all their leaders are behind bars.

Mysterious death of Serena Shim

Serena Shim, a Lebanese-American Press TV reporter who died in a car crash near the Turkish-Syrian border, claims she was being tracked by Turkish security services due to her reporting in the besieged Syrian city of Kobani. One day prior to her death, Turkish intelligence had allegedly accused her of being a “spy.” Family members and Iranian media have speculated about the cause of Shim’s death, while her sister says the US government has offered no support in investigating the matter

Monsanto beats back GMO labeling

Despite mounting public opposition, Monsanto managed to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in both Colorado and Oregon this year after pouring millions of dollars into its campaign to leave its influence on the US food system invisible to consumers. In Oregon, the initiative failed to pass by a mere 812 votes, although in Colorado, 66 percent voted for the right not to know. In December, activists in Oregon filed suit, claiming 4,600 valid ballots had been erroneously rejected. Despite the victories stateside, on the other side of the Atlantic, the EU approved a law that will allow the bloc’s 28 member states to restrict the cultivation of genetically modified crops.

Fracking fears

Banned in its Texas birthplace and drastically expanded across the UK, fracking – the oil and gas extraction method – remains as controversial as ever. In October, some 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater were dumped into central California drinking-water and farm-irrigation aquifers. One recent study found living near a fracking site deteriorates health. Another said it could be as dangerous as asbestos or tobacco. With so much bad press, even 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton expressed her concerns over the shale gas boom, though she might change her tune once on the campaign trail.

Anti-Austerity protests hit UK

Sometimes, even starting a march on the doorstep of the BBC won’t get you media coverage, even if Russell Brand does show up. The latest People’s Assembly protest descended on Number 10 Downing Street to throw out a collective voice against austerity. But even so close to the heart of power, it remains to be seen if anyone was listening.

’F**k the EU’ and more Ukraine tape leaks

Just weeks before former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted from power, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland had a lot of ideas for Ukraine’s future leadership and some choice words for European policy makers approach to the conflict. "F**k the EU," Nuland allegedly said in a hacked phone call with US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. Critics claimed the conversation proved the US was manipulating the pro-EU opposition to help in its efforts to see Yanukovich driven from power.

Some Ukrainian leaders pulled no punches in their phone conversations too. In a leaked Yulia Tymoshenko tape, Ukraine's former PM called for "grabbing guns and killing damn Russians." Other private conversations made public allegedly resulted in dozen of deaths. Ukrainian prosecutors have detained several Berkut riot police officers, saying they may be behind the mass killings by unidentified snipers in Kiev on February 20, killing dozens of people in Ukrainian capital. At the same time, in the leaked conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and the EU then foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Paet suggested that the snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were allegedly hired by Maidan leaders. Estonian Foreign Ministry later confirmed authenticity of the leaked call.

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