WikiLeaks sprang onto the Internet scene back in 2007, but its three damning document dumps this year sent Washington scrambling for cover and raised controversial questions about where the line is drawn between freedom of information and espionage. On July 25, the site released some 75,000 U.S. military documents pertaining to the Afghanistan War, some containing damaging leaks about confidential Afghan informants. On Oct. 22, WikiLeaks released the largest leak of U.S. military documents in history: nearly 400,000 Iraq war documents that showed higher civilian casualties and torture by Iraqi forces. And on Nov. 28, the site started publishing more than 250,000 diplomatic cables that embarrassed or infuriated foreign governments.
On Jan. 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake struck near the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, with a shocking magnitude of 7.0, killing thousands and leaving an already impoverished nation in shambles. The Haitian government's death toll estimate of 230,000 puts the temblor at the sixth deadliest on record. Even though many countries swung into action with the emergency aid effort, the island has struggled to recover over the past year. Six months after the quake, hardly any of the vast rubble of buildings had been cleared. Nine months after the temblor, a million refugees were still living in tent camps. Gang and sexual violence in the camps was reportedly increasing. And thousands have died in a cholera outbreak that began in October.
It was a chilling scenario with a survival story for the ages: A main ramp in the San Jose Mine, near Copiapo, Chile, collapsed on Aug. 5, 2010, trapping 33 miners 2,300 feet below ground. For days, anxious relatives braced for the worst, gathered around the mine as rescuers tried to locate the miners to no avail. Then on Aug. 22, a note was attached to a drill bit when it reached the surface: "Estamos bien un el refugio los 33." All of the miners were well in the shelter. After initial, depressing predictions that a rescue may not happen until Christmas or longer, all 33 miners came to the surface one by one through a specially drilled hole and rescue capsule beginning on Oct. 12. The miners inspired all and became instant celebrities.
As the world struggled to recover from global recession, entire countries took a hit and extended a hand for help. In May, the IMF and EU agreed to extend a $145 billion bailout package to Greece. In November, a $113 billion bailout package was extended to keep Ireland afloat. Fears abound about Portugal being the next to need a bailout, or Spain -- Europe’s fourth largest economy, whose need for a bailout would likely exceed the $980 billion bailout fund set up by the IMF and EU in May. But countries trying to tighten their belts didn't go over well, either: In October, a vote by French lawmakers to raise the retirement age to 62 was met with rioting, as was a December decision in Britain's parliament to hike college tuition fees.
The world had grown used to Kim Jong-Il's saber-rattling, nuclear tests, and petulant responses to the on-again, off-again six-party talks. But in March, the South Korean ship Cheonan was struck by an explosion, broke in two and sank in the Yellow Sea. Forty-six sailors died, and an international investigation found a North Korean torpedo fired from a submarine to be the culprit. Pyongyang denied sinking the ship, but on Nov. 23 the North fired a barrage of artillery rounds at South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers and two civilians. South Korea fired back, and the incident ratcheted up tensions even more as an ailing Kim anointed his third son, young Kim Jong-Un, to be prepared to take control of the reclusive country.
Not only did the international community not get closer to solving the dilemma of Iran's budding nuclear program, but Iran made progress over the year in pushing forward with its plans. Tehran claims it wants to go nuclear for energy purposes, while many fear weapons intentions from the saber-rattling Islamic Republic. The U.N. Security Council agreed on May sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, but Iran spent the rest of the year stressing that the sanctions hadn't hurt the country. In August, the Bushehr nuclear plant opened, and was loaded with fuel by November, according to Iran. As Iran remained defiant to negotiations, its program came under attack by a computer worm and by the killings of nuclear scientists.
As teams gathered in South Africa for the summer's World Cup, soccer fans from the world over eagerly seized upon an African horn that made jubilant footie fans sound more like an angry beehive. The controversial horn, which caused many TV viewers to hit the "mute" button, emits 127 decibels, louder than sandblasting or a pneumatic riveter. FIFA president Sepp Blatter jumped into the din and said the vuvuzela would not be banned from venues, but some countries took preventive measures: The Spanish city of Pamplona banned vuvuzelas during its famous running of the bulls. The chief of the 2012 Olympics in London wants vuvuzelas banned there. And the top fatwa authority in the United Arab Emirates issued an edict against the poor vuvuzela.