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2020 Yearender: Top world stories other than COVID-19

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 31 2020 12:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 31 2020 01:17 PM

2020 Yearender: Top world stories other than COVID-19 1
US President-elect Joe Biden, Kevin Lamarque, Reuters; Incumbent US President Donald Trump, Carlos Barria, Reuters; Lebanon blasts, Amwar Amro, AFP

The COVID-19 pandemic dominated world news in 2020, but the year still saw many events unfold, including leadership changes, massive protests, and a number of tragedies.

Here’s a look back at stories that made headlines and captured the interests of news.abs-cbn.com readers here and abroad other than COVID-19.

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2020 US ELECTIONS

The American people on Nov. 3, 2020 elected Democrat Joe Biden as their next leader.

The US Electoral College confirmed on Dec. 14 that Biden won over incumbent President Donald Trump.

Biden got 306 Electoral College votes compared to Trump’s 232.

Trump, however, is still not conceding defeat and continues to trumpet that the polls were rigged.

US election officials rejected Trump's claims of fraud and said that "the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history."

Several world leaders, including Pope Francis and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, congratulated Biden on his victory in the White House race.

President-elect Biden is set to be sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 25, 2019. Erin Schaff, The New York Times/File

JAPAN LEADERSHIP CHANGE: SHINZO ABE’S RESIGNATION, YOSHIHIDE SUGA’S ASSUMPTION

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister, resigned in August due to health reasons.

The 65-year-old Abe was supposed to stay on until 2021. He resigned after more than 8 years in office over two terms.

He was 52 when he first became Prime Minister in 2006. But that term was short-lived as he resigned due to ulcerative colitis. He again got the post in 2012.

He is known for his “Abenomics” policies involving government spending, monetary easing and structural reform. Japan is the world’s No. 3 economy.

The ruling party elected Abe’s successor, his close adviser, chief Cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, who will serve as Prime Minister until September 2021.

Last year, Suga became a household name as "Uncle Reiwa" after unveiling the name of the new imperial era.

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Demonstrators protesting the proposed extradition bill aim their flashlights towards riot police as they are chased through the streets of Hong Kong, China, Aug. 25, 2019. Willy Kurniawan, Reuters

HONG KONG NATIONAL SECURITY LAW AND PROTESTS

Since 2019, Hong Kong was beset with political tensions, sparked by the extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland China. The bill was eventually withdrawn but demonstrations continue mainly to oppose Beijing’s control over the Special Administrative Region where protesters say the “one country, two systems” principle should have prevailed. Protesters, majority students, were met with truncheons, water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas by the riot police.

Tensions further escalated with the passage of a far-reaching national security law in June this year, which the group Amnesty International described as “dangerously vague and broad”.

The new law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with other foreign forces, and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

The implementation of the law saw the arrest of many people, including pro-democracy lawmakers.

Other countries expressed deep concerns over the implementation of the security law that is feared to violate human rights and restrict freedoms in the territory.

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Thai security forces evacuate people who were stranded inside the Terminal 21 shopping mall following a gun battle, to try to stop a soldier on a rampage after a mass shooting, in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, February 9, 2020. Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters

THAILAND MALL ATTACK

A debt dispute allegedly prompted a Thai junior soldier to go on rampage in a mall, killing at least 26 people—civilians and soldiers—in the process on February 9, 2020.

The gunman, identified as Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma, even used Facebook to document the attack.

Reports say that the gunman first killed people at a senior officer's house before going to the town center with a stolen M60 machine gun, rifles and ammunition and a military truck to carry out the attack.

The siege that trapped many mall shoppers lasted for 17 hours until security forces shot dead the gunman.

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Demonstrators clash as people gather to protest the death of George Floyd near the White House in Washington, United States on Saturday. Protest erupted across the US to protest the death of Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. Evan Vucci, AP

GEORGE FLOYD KILLING

The death of a 46-year-old African-American man sparked outrage in the United States.

On May 26, 2020, George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis in Minnesota for allegedly using counterfeit money.

A video showed Floyd being taken away in handcuffs by policemen. While he was held to the ground, one of the policemen pressed his knee on his neck, eventually killing him.

Several cities across the US imposed curfews following violent protests against police brutality triggered by Floyd’s death.

The case was seen as the latest example of police brutality which gave rise to the movement Black Lives Matter years ago.

Several companies and personalities including those in sports and the music industry condemned the death of Floyd.

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FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy protesters gather demanding the government to resign and to release detained leaders in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020. Jorge Silva, Reuters/File Photo

THAlLAND PROTESTS

Anti-government protests in Thailand grew as demonstrators, led by students, demand to overhaul the government.

Many protesters support the opposition Future Forward Party and were enraged when it was dissolved and its leaders banned from politics for a decade over claims of electoral breaches which they said were politically-motivated.

New generation protesters, who were able to conduct two large anti-government mass gatherings attended by tens of thousands on July 18 and Aug. 16, borrowed pop culture symbols including staging Harry Potter-themed demonstrations and using the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games movies.

The pro-democracy movement wants an end to dictatorship. They also want a new constitution to replace the current military-sponsored one and dissolve the House of Representatives to make way for a fresh election.

Reforming the monarchy was also among their demands, including the abolition of the lese majeste law against criticizing the king.

An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut port's grain silos (C) and the area around it on August 5, 2020, one day after a mega-blast tore through the harbor in the heart of the Lebanese capital with the force of an earthquake, killing more than 100 people and injuring over 4,000. AFP Photo

LEBANON BLASTS

An explosion on Aug. 4 in the port of Beirut in Lebanon claimed the lives of around 200 people and left more than 6,000 others injured in the deadliest peacetime disaster.

Among those who died and were injured are Filipino overseas workers.

The powerful blast sent a mushroom of clouds above the city and shockwaves, destroying buildings and other establishments for miles causing massive damage to life and property.

Triggered by a fire, it ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored for years in a warehouse at Beirut’s port.

International rescue teams with sniffer dogs and specialized equipment helped search for bodies at the ground zero.

Days after the blast, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced his government’s resignation amid growing public anger.

Government prosecutors have also launched an investigation and have since detained at least 25 people connected to the port.

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People search for survivors at a collapsed building after a strong earthquake struck the Aegean Sea where some buildings collapsed in the coastal province of Izmir, Turkey, October 30, 2020. Tuncay Dersinlioglu, Reuters

STRONG QUAKE IN GREECE, TURKEY

A powerful quake struck the Aegean Sea on Oct. 30, 2020 resulting in over a hundred deaths and causing massive damage to Turkey and Greece.

Over a thousand were also left injured by the magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

The temblor was felt in both Turkey and Greece. It caused buildings to collapse, leaving many stuck under the rubble in some districts of Izmir, one of Turkey’s main tourist regions.

Water also rose flooding the streets.

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President Rodrigo Duterte joins other leaders of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 via video conference from the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on Tuesday. The meeting, headed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam, focused on ASEAN member states’ efforts in addressing the coronavirus pandemic. RTVM

INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT VIRTUAL MEETINGS

World leaders have turned to virtual meetings to discuss key issues, including the coronavirus disease 2019, as the pandemic limited global movement.

In April, Southeast Asian Leaders held a special virtual conference to tackle the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ASEAN’s 36th summit was rescheduled from April to the end of June due to worries about the spread of the virus. Vietnam hosted this year's ASEAN meetings.

In September, the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary that started with the global body’s General Assembly, sans en masse gathering of world leaders and representatives, in New York.

UNGA only allowed for one representative from each of the 193 UN members while the rest used videoconferencing streamed online. Among leaders who went online was Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who, in a pre-recorded video message, emphasized “ensuring universal access” to medicines and technology to combat COVID-19.

In November, Asia Pacific leaders also held a virtual summit, hosted by Malaysia, that discussed the coronavirus crisis and the global economic recovery.

The virtual summit was joined by US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping together with the leaders of the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

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Pope Francis wearing a face mask attends an inter-religious prayer service for peace along with other religious representatives in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, a church on top of Rome's Capitoline Hill, in Rome, Italy, October 20, 2020. Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

POPE’s VIEW ON SAME-SEX CIVIL UNION

Pope Francis in October made an announcement that acknowledges support for same-sex couples.

In the documentary “Francesco” by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky, the Pontiff said there is a need to create a civil union law so that same-sex couples can be legally covered.

But this message has drawn different interpretations from members of the Catholic Church who said that the Pope was misquoted by the press.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are. It also says that homosexuals should be treated with dignity.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 28 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and the United States.

Last year, Taiwan became the first place in Asia to allow gay marriages.

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