The Year As We Saw It
The Daily has been sent every day at 7:30am since February 2016, with a few planned exceptions for holidays and maintenance. Some of you just got here a week ago, some have been with us for over 12 months. Thank you for reading and I hope our review does a good job of showing off what we've done, and keeping you abreast of anything you missed last year.
Into Our Groove - April
Brussels Airport reopened to passengers on April 2nd, and would eventually reach maximum capacity before the start of summer holidays at the end of June. The airport had not handled passenger flights since two militants carried out the suicide attacks two weeks earlier. On its first day back, the airport handled just three flights, the first bound for Faro in Portugal with only about 80 passengers on board. The plane bore a surrealist design of clouds and birds in homage to Belgian painter Rene Magritte (top picture) and had been unveiled the day before the bombings. It taxied toward the runway flanked by an honour guard of staff and, after a minute's silence, took off.
In Djibouti, President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who's held power since 1999, won a fourth term in office in an election in early April, although opposition candidates openly doubted the integrity of the vote. Guelleh, won the last election in 2011 with almost 80% of the vote, and has overseen Djibouti's economic rise as it seeks to position itself as an international port.
Djibouti's opposition lashed out at Guelleh after he claimed a landslide victory in the election, accusing him of stealing the ballot in an "electoral hold-up". The vote, which activists complained was preceded by political repression and curbs on basic freedoms, saw Guelleh winning 87% of ballots cast, according to the interior ministry. Facing a fractured opposition, Guelleh had been widely expected to extend his rule with a fourth term in the tiny country, which has attracted the US, France and China as a prime location for military bases.
Migrants protested on a Greek island and rights groups raised legal objections at the start of April, just three days before a disputed EU deal to return rejected asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey was due to go into action, with neither side completely ready. Hundreds of migrants and refugees on the island of Chios tore through a razor wire fence surrounding their holding centre and set off for the port in protest against planned deportation.
Greece said that authorities would start ruling on asylum applications from hundreds of migrants late in April, in a major test of a new deal to try to control the flow of people desperate to reach Europe. By the latest count, more than 50,000 people, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, were stranded in Greece since several countries closed their borders to migrants and refugees wanting to cross, mostly on the way to Germany. Asylum applications had been piling up since March, when the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement intended to close off the main route into Europe, which has seen an influx of over a million refugees and migrants since last year.
Pro-impeachment ministers chanted "Dilma Out" in the lower house of the Brazilian Congress on April 15th, as it opened a three-day debate on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff on charges of manipulating budget accounts. Major trade unions and landless peasant movements planned nationwide protests, when the debate is set to culminate with a vote that Rousseff eventually lost. The government lost a last-ditch appeal before the Supreme Court to halt the impeachment process, which could bring further instability or even chaos to South America's largest economy.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's government vowed to fight impeachment after the lower house of Congress delivered a humiliating defeat that paved the way for her likely removal from office. In a vote later the same week, that sparked jubilation among Rousseff's foes, the opposition comfortably surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to send the president for trial in the Senate on charges she manipulated budget accounts to boost her reelection in 2014.
The Senate affirmed on May 12th, and Rousseff was suspended from office for the period of the proceedings, and we'll cover that in next month's review.
Prince, the innovative U.S. music superstar whose songwriting and eccentric stage presence electrified fans around the world, died on April 21st in Minnesota at the age of 57. The singer and musician's influential, genre-defying music combined jazz, funk, R&B and disco, winning seven Grammy awards and an Oscar. President Obama paid tribute to Prince, saying he was "one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time. And few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly." Prince sold more than 100 million records. In addition to his seven Grammy awards, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. And in 2007, he played the Super Bowl in one of the greatest half-time shows the NFL has hosted.
Panama Papers Special
Governments across the world began investigations into financial wrongdoing after a leak of four decades worth of documents from a Panamanian law firm, specialising in setting up offshore companies. The "Panama Papers" revealed financial arrangements of politicians and public figures, including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president of Ukraine, and relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland, and Pakistan. While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, journalists who received the leaked documents said they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes. The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, which says it has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe, denied any wrongdoing and called itself the victim of a campaign against privacy.
There was public outrage around the world, and nowhere was more vociferous than Iceland. Thousands attended a protest in Reykjavik’s Austurvöllur square calling for the prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugssonin’s resignation after the Panama Papers revealed he co-owned a company called Wintris Inc, set up in 2007 in the British Virgin Islands, to hold investments with his wife. 4th
Opposition lawmakers accused the Icelandic government of trying to cling to power amid a political impasse after the prime minister stepped aside in the aftermath of the "Panama Papers" leak, which implicated him personally. Opposition lawmakers say the "Panama Papers" accounts revealed a significant conflict of interest with Gunnlaugsson's official duties. While the prime minister denied wrongdoing, he recommended that his deputy, Sigurdur Ingi Johannsson, take over as prime minister for the immediate future.
Icelanders, clearly not satisfied with the resignation of the prime minister and a promise to hold elections in the autumn, took to the streets again later the same week to demand the entire government quit over the scandal. About 2,000 people showed up at parliament for another day of demonstrations, banging pots and pans and calling for immediate elections. Many Icelanders stood firm in claiming it is not enough for Gunnlaugsson to simply step aside.
Later in April, Panama's attorney general raided the offices of the Mossack Fonseca law firm to search for any evidence of illegal activities. The national police said they were searching for documentation that "would establish the possible use of the firm for illicit activities." The firm has been accused of tax evasion and fraud. Founding partner Ramon Fonseca said the company had broken no laws, destroyed no documents, and all its operations were legal.
Most Read Long Reads
- Suicide rates in Greenland are the highest in the world, and more than double that of the next country on the list. For a long time no-one knew why, or even acknowledged the problem. The rapid destruction of rural communities definitely played a part, but there's more to it than that, NPR goes deep into this one.
- Death is hard to deal with at the best of times, but for the sister of a young man only just released from prison the pain of knowing a wasted life was raw, and his memory endures even 15 years later. This might be one of the most powerful pieces the Daily has featured, dealing with her new role as a "survivor".
- We hear about the ongoing fight against Islamic State, but rarely do we get a perspective from the front line. The New Yorker, and it's definitely worth it to understand the fight on the ground, and not just in the headlines.
- Desperate for water, most countries have to be cautious with it, import it, or suffer without it. Saudi Arabia is abandoning several agricultural projects to preserve drinking water supplies, and California has severely restricted water usage at several times. This piece from Reveal runs through many of the concerns, and the current situation around the world.