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.

 

Eventful - May

We'll start as we so often did last year, with Syria, where nearly 30 air strikes hit rebel-held areas of Aleppo on May 1st as a temporary "calm" declared by Syria’s military took effect around Damascus and in the northwest. This was the ninth day of deadly bombardments in Aleppo, which had borne the brunt of increased fighting that ended a February ceasefire and had killed nearly 250 people in the city since late April.

The destruction continued through the month, as bomb explosions killed about 150 people and wounded at least 200 on Syria's Mediterranean coast late in May. These cities are government-controlled and are home to Russian military bases. Islamic State took responsibility for the attacks, claiming to have been targeting members of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority. Until May, coastal towns have escaped most of the violence that had ravaged Syria for five years. The explosions took the form of five suicide bombers and two explosive devices placed in cars.

In South America, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was finally impeached in mid-May. Her critics argued that she caused irreparable damage to the country, with supporters calling the move for impeachment a coup d'etat. Rousseff was accused of illegal accounting manoeuvres to hide budget deficiencies during an election year. She denied that her administration's financial manoeuvres were criminal, arguing that many prior presidents have exercised similar strategies with no punishment. When Rousseff was suspended from office, Vice President Michel Temer took over, and as her removal later became permanent, as did his appointment.

Philippine Presidential Election Results

Philippine presidential hopefuls held mass rallies in a festival-like finale to a divisive campaign and called on voters to block firebrand frontrunner Rodrigo Duterte's path to the presidency. Pop stars and celebrities entertained large crowds across Manila, two days before an election shaken up by a last-gasp appeal from President Benigno Aquino for a united front to stop Duterte converting his runaway popularity into victory.

Polls in the days ahead of the vote showed that Rodrigo Duterte was comfortably ahead of his rivals for the presidency, and were ultimately proved correct as he was elected with nearly 40% of the vote.

 

On May 3rd, Ted Cruz, the US Republican senator who was second to Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, suspended his campaign. This announcement came after the Cruz campaign suffered a bad loss to Trump in Tuesday's Indiana primary. Following Cruz's campaign suspension, Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The next day his sole remaining rival, John Kasich, dropped out of the race.


The Wilds of Canada

A massive wildfire near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, quickly grew to five times its initial size through the first week of May, forcing evacuations as 88,000 people fled the city in the nation's energy heartland. The uncontrolled blaze consumed swaths of the city, and shut some oil production in the area, affecting projects and pipelines across the heavily forested region. Authorities characterised fire conditions as "extreme" with low humidity and gusting winds.

The raging wildfire grew explosively on Saturday 8th as hot, dry winds pushed the blaze across the heartland of Alberta and smoke forced the shut-down of a major oil sands project. The fire that prompted the evacuation from Fort McMurray was on its way to doubling in size again, in the seventh day of what was projected to be the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history. With temperatures on that Saturday staying seasonally high, the weather hindered any efforts to fight the wildfire.

As it continued to ravage northern Alberta, the wildfire cut Canadian crude output by 25%, and hurt corporate earnings beyond the oil patch, especially hitting the rail and hospitality sectors. The fire, which caused an estimated $50 million a day in lost production for oil sands companies near Fort McMurray, also caused pain to large companies that serve the sector and smaller ones catering to thousands of industry workers. The Bank of Canada came out with a hawkish statement on how the economy would be hurt by damage from the wildfires, predicting the disaster would shave over 1% off economic growth in the second quarter.


The Ongoing Refugee Crisis

At the start of last May we were given an indication of the true scale of the European refugee crisis. A report published on the 3rd suggested some 88,300 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in the European Union in 2015, 13% of them children younger than 14, crossing continents without their parents to seek a place of safety. In total, more than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa reached Europe in 2015. While that was roughly double the 2014 figure, the number of unaccompanied minors quadrupled.

Following on from last month's review, the number of migrants arriving in Greece dropped by 90% in April, a sign that a new agreement with Turkey to control traffic between the two countries was working. 2,700 people arrived in Greece from Turkey in April, most of them from Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, a 90% decline from March. In Italy, 8,370 migrants arrived through the longer and more dangerous route from northern Africa, and there was no sign that significant numbers of migrants were shifting from the Greek route, to the central Mediterranean route.

Turning to the human side of this tragedy, migrants that were rescued at the end of the month from two boats in the Mediterranean told humanitarian workers that they watched as another boat carrying roughly 400 people sank. Three boats filled with migrants were said to have sunk in May's last week alone, with only 60 bodies recovered.

As estimates were revised, at least 700 migrants are said to have died during the crossing in that same week. A humanitarian organisation distributed a picture (right, taken on the 28th) of a German rescuer from the organisation Sea-Watch holding a drowned migrant infant near the Libyan coast. The baby appears to be younger than one year old, and was a victim of a capsized wooden boat.


Most Read Long Reads

  • On up, on up the Ganges. This beautiful series of photos from spots all along the 1,500 mile-long course of the river shows the variety of landscapes, and lives, that this great river links as it flows from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal.
  • We always have to feature the Middle East, but what is it about the region that cultivates war, to an extent no longer seen across the rest of the world? I'm unsure there's a good explanation, but over at the Economist they've tried to explain one such reason.
  • For every shocking or surprising story you hear, there's a family behind those involved. In this case, the story is of Russian spies in the United States, and the family is their two sons. How on earth do you deal with finding out your parents whole life was a lie? Their boys certainly handled the situation with a maturity beyond their years.
  • By now, every food has at some point been linked to cancer, or definitely not linked to cancer, multiple times. But as many of these studies are never replicated, it's often difficult to know what's true and what isn't.