◆ WikiLeaks Revelations Send Shockwaves Around the World
Classified U.S. diplomatic cables unveiled by WikiLeaks sent shockwaves around the world. The release of the cables from U.S. diplomatic missions caused an uproar not only because they contained classified information but because they touched sensitive diplomatic issues involving foreign governments complete with candid descriptions of their leaders. WikiLeaks claims it has more than 250,000 classified documents in all and has so far released some 2,000 of them.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently staying in the United Kingdom, was arrested there because he is wanted for questioning in Sweden about allegations of sexual assault. He was released on bail.
◆ Smartphones, Tablet PCs, Social Networking Bring Changes
The social networking service Facebook saw the number of subscribers surpass 600 million this year, while the short message service Twitter is close to attracting more than 200 million. The launch of smartphones boosted the spread of social networking services. Apple's iPad released in April and Samsung's Galaxy Tab in September signaled revolutionary changes in the PC market.
◆ Natural Disasters Devastate Lives
There were an unusually large number of natural disasters this year. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rattled Haiti on Jan. 12 killed 220,000 people. A month later, an 8.8 quake in Chile took 520 lives. In Pakistan, 17,000 people died in heavy floods that inundated one-fifth of the country.
Eighteen countries, including Russia, saw record high temperatures this summer. The hot and dry weather caused major forest fires surrounding Moscow. A volcanic eruption in Iceland in April caused air traffic chaos in Europe, while Indonesia was hit with a triple whammy in October, experiencing a volcanic eruption, earthquake and tsunami.
◆ Japan in Territorial Disputes with Russia and China
Japan saw territorial disputes intensify with China over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) and with Russia over the Kuril Islands (Northern Territories in Japanese). China claims Japan illegally occupies the Senkaku Islands, while Japan claims Russia annexed the Kuril Islands at the end of World War II. In East Asia, the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands are also potential areas of disputes.
◆ 33 Chilean Miners Rescued After 69 Days Underground
The world cheered on Aug. 5 when all 33 miners trapped 700 m down a copper mine in Chile were rescued after 69 days. A billion people around the world watched as the real-life drama unfolded on their TV screens with each of the trapped miners being rescued in a metal capsule called Phoenix that pulled them out of a hole just 61 cm in diameter.
◆ Chinese Activist Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, but the award ceremony was held without him since he was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December last year for his pro-democracy activities, including participating in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. China protested vociferously at the award.
At the award ceremony held in Norway, the prize and medal were placed on an empty chair reserved for Liu. It was the first time in the history of the Nobel Prize that neither the recipient of the honor nor even a representative was unable to accept the award.
◆ Toyota Hit by Massive Recalls
Toyota, long revered for the top-notch quality of its cars, recalled 4.26 million vehicles in November 2009 and another 2.3 million in January this year. In February, some 440,000 units of the Prius, considered to embody the latest green automotive technologies, were recalled due to defective brakes. Recalls involving Toyota pick-up trucks ensued.
Once lauded as the "champion of quality," the Japanese carmaker suffered a severe dent to its reputation with recalls of more than 10 million vehicles worldwide.