By Robert A. Vella
2015 is set to go down as the hottest year on record since the Industrial Revolution unleashed the specter of climate change through the burning of fossil fuels. But, it isn’t just global temperatures that are rising at an alarming rate. All across this living planet we call Earth, the heat is mounting in the form of religious violence, political conflict, social unrest, and geopolitical war. If it’s true that “familiarity breeds contempt,” then our world’s nearly 7 and a half billion people have been getting mighty familiar with each other lately.
This is our first annual year in review of important news stories covered on The Secular Jurist throughout 2015. The individual stories may be accessed via our Monthly Archives links located near the bottom of any of our blog posts.
America’s awareness of growing political corruption sharpened with the jail sentencing of criminally convicted former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell who had been seen as the GOP’s front-running candidate for U.S. president. Islamophobia rises in Germany. Racial violence struck Colorado with the bombing of an NAACP office. Republicans took control of both houses of the U.S. Congress following their sweeping victories in the 2014 midterm elections and, as a consequence, an intra-party divide opened between Democrats and their populist base. Climate scientists reported that 2014 was the hottest year on record. Global commodity prices crashed, particularly for fossil fuel energy sources, due to weak global economic conditions. Low viewership ratings for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech highlighted concerns about civic disengagement among the populace. Occupy protesters arrested in Hong Kong. The political system in Yemen disintegrates after its president resigned. Ocean acidification ruins shellfish industries in Maine. Anti-austerity leftist party Syriza gains power in Greece. Mass death of seabirds along U.S. west coast.
Mercury levels found to be rising in Pacific yellowfin tuna populations. Criminal investigations continue into scandal-plagued administration of New Jersey governor Chris Christie including links to United Airlines. Massive oil residue discovered on sea floor from 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Republican attacks on collective bargaining and labor unions expand to Illinois. U.N. urged Mexican government to investigate its role in the disappearance of thousands of its citizens. Contempt of court proceedings held against anti-immigrant activist sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona. Former high-ranking adviser to President Obama, John Podesta, expressed his greatest regret as helping the federal government keep UFO secrets from the public. Homeowners assert engineering reports were altered to minimize insurance claims from super-storm Sandy. A rash of destructive and deadly train derailments cast light on lax safety requirements and infrastructure crisis in America. Conservative lawmakers and bureaucrats accused of rewriting history in school textbooks. U.S. Department of Homeland Security releases intelligence report warning of high domestic terrorism threat from right-wing groups. Takata fined for resisting vehicle airbag probe. Budget shortfalls in Republican controlled U.S. states force drastic spending cuts and regressive tax policies. Ocean acidification impacting fisheries as it spreads to more areas along U.S. coastline. Big banks investigated for price rigging in gold and other markets. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren exposes anti-democracy Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause in secretive free trade agreement. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission rules in favor of net neutrality. Alaskan villagers relocating due to rising seas and other climate change impacts.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission overturned laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that restricted the ability of local government to provide Internet service to their residents. Scientists assert that global warming-induced drought contributed to the civil war crisis in Syria. The CIA-backed Hazzm movement, a group of moderate Syrian rebels fighting against the regime of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, collapsed under pressure from more extremist rebel groups. Classified information leaked by Edward Snowden revealed spying by New Zealand on its Pacific allies in conjunction with the U.S. National Security Agency and other Five Eyes nations. California began shutting down oil wells which were pumping contaminated wastewater into the parched state’s fresh water aquifers. Scientific debate intensified over the possibility of catastrophic methane releases in the Arctic triggered by global warming. Government scientists in Florida reported that the state’s Republican hierarchy had banned them from mentioning “climate change” and “global warming” in their official communications. Amid worsening relations between local law enforcement and minority communities, the NYPD was caught trying to whitewash the Wikipedia entries for “police brutality.” After the U.S. declared its war in Afghanistan over, President Obama announced abandoning his administration’s plans to reduce the number of troops stationed there. Drastic water conservation measures began to be taken in California in response to the ongoing mega–drought crisis. The U.S. Department of Defense admitted to losing $500 million in weapons to opposing sectarian groups fighting in Yemen. Scientists reported evidence that the Earth’s thermohaline ocean circulation system slowing down in response to climate change. Many private colleges in the U.S. are failing due to financial difficulties. Vast ice shelves in Antarctica are melting faster than previously thought.
Massive glacial melt discovered pouring into the Gulf of Alaska. Public firestorm ignites over Indiana’s anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law. Sardine fisheries shut down along U.S. west coast due to severely declining stocks. Middle East tumult increasingly seen as sectarian war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Kansas becomes the first U.S. state to ban common form of abortion. Ferguson riots lead to revelations about systemic institutional racism in St. Louis County, Missouri. Electric car battery technology reaches critical price point in its development. President Obama aggressively pushes his controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in defiance of his Democratic Party base. Global Witness reports 20% increase in the killing of environmental activists worldwide. Hundreds leave South Africa during a wave of anti-immigration violence. Report shows private prison industry spent millions on political lobbying to maintain a quota on detaining illegal immigrants. Water contamination warning issued in North Carolina after huge coal ash spill by Duke Energy. Riots break out in Baltimore after funeral for black man who died mysteriously in police custody.
New study records big jump in sea level rise, and another study says 60% of Earth’s large herbivores are at risk of going extinct due to habitat loss, industrial pollution, and climate change. The United Nations called for the suspension of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership over concerns that the proposed trade deal would exacerbate human rights abuses by multinational corporations. A U.S. federal appellate court ruled the NSA’s phone surveillance program to be illegal. Conservative Tories win parliamentary elections in the U.K. Police misconduct across the U.S. spurs interest in body cameras to record officers’ activities. Hawaii makes great strides in transforming its economy towards renewable energy sources. Study confirms previous indications that Americans are becoming less religious and more secular. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that a mammoth Antarctica ice shelf is on the verge of completely disintegrating. Drought emergency declared in Washington state. The Swiss banking giant UBS pleaded guilty to manipulating currency and interest rates in the LIBOR scandal. Several U.S. cities approve minimum wages hikes to help offset a widening inequality of wealth in the country. Rising college education costs seen as posing a looming crisis for the U.S. economy. Major oil pipeline spill in southern California. Ireland legalizes same-sex marriage. Indictments handed down in FIFA scandal (Fédération Internationale de Football Association – i.e. soccer). Massive heat wave kills thousands in India. France makes rooftop solar panels mandatory on new commercial buildings.
Judge finds widespread corruption inside Orange County, California prosecutors office. Major public opinion poll shows 80% of Americans believe money plays too big a role in politics. Weak reforms to NSA surveillance programs, known as the USA Freedom Act, are signed into law by President Obama. Scores of graves found in Malaysia cast dark shadow on proposed TPP trade deal. Global commercial banana supply threatened by fungus outbreak. Secret information leaked about the international Trade in Services Agreement which would restrict both the laws of sovereign nations and their ability to run state-owned enterprises. A panel of three conservative federal judges sanctioned legislative actions designed to close down abortion providers in their respective states. Louisiana takes the lead in dismembering America’s separation of church and state by including biblical teachings in public education. TTIP vote postponed in European Parliament over backlash to free trade deals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave manufacturers 3 years to remove trans fats from their products. Kansas, led by Tea Party extremists, raise taxes on the poor after cutting taxes for the rich. White supremacist Dylann Roof slaughters black churchgoers, including a state senator, in Charleston, South Carolina. Ten of thousands protest government’s austerity plans in London. U.S. Congress grants fast track trade authority to President Obama. Google caught installing eavesdropping software on computers without permission. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) wins critical ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. drops to #23 in World Happiness Rankings. U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide. FBI joins local investigations into a rash of fires at black churches across 5 U.S. states. Worst wildfire record broken in Alaska.
Western Europe shatters temperature records during heat wave. New PBS documentary traces origins of Israel-Palestine conflict back to eastern Europe.of the late-19th to early 20th centuries. Universal Basic Income takes root in The Netherlands. Greek referendum vote rejects austerity-laden bank bailout plan, Germany angered by the result. China’s economic bubble bursts sending stock markets into turmoil. Court clerk in Kentucky refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses, her long legal troubles begin. Exxon knew about global warming in 1981, denied it for 27 years. Report finds government psychologists deliberately shielded U.S. torture program. In the aftermath of the Charleston shootings, Confederate flags start to come down from public buildings throughout the American South. Florida Supreme Court strikes down Republican-drawn gerrymandering. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza Party, capitulates to European demands for austerity as part of a bank bailout deal. Denmark’s wind power generation exceeds the nation’s electricity demands. Monster El Niño emerges from the depths of the eastern Pacific. Iran nuclear agreement reached. Anti-austerity protesters clash with police in Greece. NASA announced global temperatures rose to 1C of warming, halfway to a 2C catastrophe. Huge oil pipeline spill in the heart of Canada’s tar sands industry. Former congressman from Staten Island, Michael Grimm, convicted of tax fraud. Childhood poverty rises in the U.S. White supremacist shoots up a movie theater in Louisiana. Turkey finally agrees to U.S. urges for it to join the battle against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL), but is more concerned with battling the Assad regime in Syria as well as its own Kurdish minority. Half of the Columbia River’s sockeye salmon die in unprecedented heat wave. Russia vetoes U.N. resolution on tribunal to investigate the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine. U.N. projects the world population is on pace to reach 11.2 billion by 2100. Unbelievable and deadly heat wave strikes Iran.
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter shocked the status quo establishment by publicly stating what a growing number of people around the world now believe, that America is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy. Attorney General of Texas indicted for securities fraud. Historic automatic voter registration bill signed into law in Oregon as a countermeasure to declining voter participation among Americans. Puerto Rico becomes the largest municipal bond default in U.S. history. Toxic algae bloom in the Great Lakes due to warming temperatures and agricultural runoff. James Holmes, the Colorado movie theater shooter, sentenced to life in prison. Nihilistic attitudes seen as becoming more prevalent in America and elsewhere. State of emergency declared in Colorado mine spill. Racial protests return to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. High gun ownership in America linked to higher rate of police officer deaths. Depopulation projected for latter 21st century due to climate change caused decline in global food production. New Mexico police officers ordered to stand trial for murder. Undercover police have spied on Black Lives Matter activists in New York. Former U.S. marshal and DEA agent says he was told not to enforce drug laws in white areas. Major selloff in global stock markets. Young National Football League player, Chris Borland, raises awareness of concussions and brain trauma by retiring from the sport. Worst wildfire season on record in the U.S. Pacific northwest. Huge chunk of Greenland glacier falls into the sea. Dead bodies pile up as Europe’s Syrian refugee crisis intensifies. Fulton County, Georgia admits to illegally disenfranchising minority voters.
Stock markets plunge again over concerns about China’s economy and weak consumer demand worldwide. Murder rates rise sharply in U.S. cities. New Mexico Secretary of State charged with fraud, embezzlement, and conspiracy. Guatemalan president resigns amid scandal. Arson attack on Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington state. Scientist describes vanishing Pacific northwest glaciers as “disastrous.” Baltimore becomes the latest U.S. city to pay large damages to settle claims of police misconduct. Washington state Supreme Court expels charter schools from its public education system. U.S. federal government fuels secrecy criticisms against it by blocking the release of details about CIA torture program. Turkey launches air strikes against Kurds in Iraq. U.K. Labour Party turns sharply left. Catalonia threatens to secede from Spain. Populist presidential candidates Donald Trump (Republican) and Bernie Sanders (Democratic) rise in U.S. politics. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott ousted by his own party. World temperature records broken for June, July, and August. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reports marine life slashed by one-half since 1970. Missouri Republicans go full fascist by approving private corporations to act as police forces. Brazil bans corporate money in politics. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch acquires National Geographic. Scientists report the formation and sudden drainage of sub-glacial lakes in Greenland. Xenophobia pervades conservative politics in the U.S. Pope Francis refutes conservative ideology in an historic speech to the U.S. Congress. Speaker of the House John Boehner unexpectedly resigns from the U.S. Congress. Budget cutting, privatization schemes, and ill-conceived performance standards, have gutted America’s once great education system. After receiving authorization from the Obama administration to drill in the Arctic, Shell abandons its offshore Alaskan oil well. NASA finds recent evidence of flowing water on Mars. Fur seal carcasses found washing ashore in California in unprecedented numbers.
Another mass shooting massacre in America this time at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon. Voting rights attacked again in Alabama through executive action. Federal lawsuit filed against Kansas Secretary of State for massive voter registration purge. Deadly U.S. airstrike on Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. South Carolina inundated by floodwaters – The Weather Channel doesn’t mention climate change. U.S. training program for Syrian rebels jeopardized by tactical and strategic failures. Scientists report surge in sea level rise. Anti-vaxxers’ study inconveniently reveals no link between vaccines and autism. U.S. Secretary of Education resigns amid failure of the nation’s school system. Suicide bombers attack peace rally in Ankara, Turkey. More school shootings at Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University. Premature births, at-risk pregnancies, linked to fossil fuel fracking operations. Recently declassified documents confirm that top CIA officials were complicit in withholding vital information from the Warren Commission’s investigation into the JFK assassination. Hundreds of thousands protest against the proposed TTIP trade deal in Berlin. Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert pleads guilty in hush-money case. Evidence of climate change caused methane releases off the Oregon coast . Centrist Liberal Party wins Canadian elections. Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions fall to record low. Arson hits five black churches in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Texas officials raid Planned Parenthood offices in totalitarian, anti-abortion persecution operation. Iceland sentences banking executives to prison. U.S. federal court lambastes Drug Enforcement Agency over raids and prosecutions of medical marijuana businesses. New study accuses U.N. of being manipulated by transnational corporations. Debate heightens over capital punishment (a.k.a. death penalty) as federal authorities confiscate banned lethal injection drugs being imported by two U.S. states. Right-wing government elected in Poland, center-right in Guatemala. “Debtors’ prison” resurrected in Mississippi. Climate change forecast to make the Persian Gulf uninhabitable by the end of the century. Extensive coral damage found in Gulf of Mexico related to BP oil spill. U.S. to send ground troops to Syria. Europe to drop criminal charges against NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden. U.S. Department of Agriculture whistle-blower says it suppressed information about pesticide’s role in honeybee colony collapse disorder.
Education study on online charter schools reveals virtually nonexistent learning by students. Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightens his grip on power with election victory. Conservatives sweep off-year elections in U.S. as low voter turnout trend continues. Republicans in U.S. Congress launch anti-climate, anti-science, anti-government witch-hunt against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. New documentary discovers government-supported reign of terror in America by South Vietnamese nationalists many years after the Vietnam War. Obama administration finally releases text of secretive TPP trade deal. Giant pools of methane found under Siberian craters. Missouri college football strike illuminates the severity of America’s racial tensions. Myanmar ruling party concedes in landslide election victory for opposition. Fast food workers strike in over 270 U.S. cities. Anti-austerity left-wing coalition brings down center-right government in Portugal. Mass resignations hit Mormon Church in America after new anti-LGBT policies enacted. Paris rocked by deadly terrorist attacks. American progressives accuse the Democratic Party of conspiracy in the limiting and manipulation of its presidential debates in order to protect establishment candidate Hillary Clinton. Massive arrest of protesters in Minneapolis after black man killed by police. Self-induced abortions increasing in Texas. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gives major speech to educate indoctrinated Americans on the virtues of socialism. Physicists prove Einstein’s “spooky” quantum entanglement. Election shifts Argentina to the right. Turkey shoots down Russian warplane causing fears of geopolitical escalation in the Syrian Civil War. Merger of pharmaceutical giants highlight tax-avoidance schemes by American corporations. White supremacists shoot and injure several Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. Shooting massacre strikes Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, perpetrated by religious fanatic Robert Lewis Dear. Fast food manager testifies before a federal grand jury that Chicago police erased the store’s surveillance video of their shooting a black teenager the year before. Paris Climate Summit (COP 21) begins with ‘realistic determination,’ but proposals deemed to weak to avoid catastrophe.
Criminal prosecutions and convictions stir up political corruption debate in New York state. Federal grand jury indicts three white supremacists in race war plot. A religiously-radicalized Muslim-American couple, who recently came into conflict with coworkers, commit mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Turkish troops conduct military operations against Kurd militant group inside Iraq without permission and in violation of international law. U.N. officials warn of climate disaster if Paris pact fails. Venezuelans oust their longtime socialist government, formerly led by Hugo Chávez, in consequential election. Climate change wreaking havoc in Brazil as agricultural crop failures loom, shifting precipitation patterns threaten hydroelectric power generation, and deadly Zika virus attacks children and pregnancies. The failed No Child Left Behind law is replaced in the U.S.. with a more decentralized education system. Study finds the besieged middle class no longer constitutes a majority of the American public. GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump is increasingly linked to fascism by political opponents in the U.S. including members of his own party. A former Oklahoma City police officer, who is white, was found guilty of multiple counts of rape, sexual assault, and sexual battery against numerous black female victims. Paris Climate Summit agreement reached. Tactical voting by socialists saves France from a far-right election victory. Scientists report 2015 is shattering the previous global temperature record. Thailand’s export shellfish industry accused of slave labor. Lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan water supply. Solar farm banned in North Carolina. Nevada’s government slashes rooftop solar power incentives and payments for selling electricity back to the grid. The Federal Reserve raises interest rates to control inflation even though inflation has been almost nonexistent since the Great Depression. Price-gouging pharmaceutical executive criminally charged with securities fraud in the U.S. Guns are now killing as many people in the U.S. as cars are. Study tracks spread of pro-creationism laws in the U.S. Hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. have tripled since the San Bernardino massacre. Turkey launches major military offensive against its own Kurdish minority in the east of the country. Research shows a rise in gun-related homicides since Missouri relaxed its gun control laws. Statistics indicate 44 percent of people shot and killed by police in Georgia were either unarmed or shot in the back. U.S. foreign arms sales increased by $10 billion in 2014. Iraqi army and militias retake the Anbar province town of Ramadi from the Islamic State. Arctic temperatures to rise above freezing in mid-winter for only the second time on record.
Last updated: December 30, 2015 – 12:09 PM PST