In the 2000s, deemed as the beginning of the 21st century, the internet transitioned into a globalized superpower of modernized communication, fueling the rise of tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
During that decade, mass extinction consequences and unprecedented acts of terrorism, unlike anything attested before in modern history, dominated headlines. Nearing the end of that decade, an international financial crisis took shape, profoundly impacting economic growth.
While many major events reverberated into the succeeding decade, like the War on Terror and the surge of social media, some cheered buoyant standpoints of the 21st century’s second decade.
Throughout the 2010s, the world stood and witnessed the integral growth of social media and the Internet of Things (IoT), giving us a glimpse of our technological future. Arguably the most captivating, controversial, and widely covered news topic in mass media was Trump’s rise to political power as a world leader.
But the immense news coverage of Trump’s occupation at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave was only a drop in the ocean of the many polemical headlines. Extraordinary advancements were made in all sectors of science, tech, and entertainment.
By the end of this decade, we lost indelible public figures, like George H.W. Bush, Nelson Mandela, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong-il, Whitney Houston, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, Neil Armstrong, Stephen Hawking — just to name a few.
In this excerpt, we scoured through the depths of the web and compiled a list of the decade’s top headlines. Here are the 40 biggest news stories of the 2010s.
40. North Korea Assails Yeonpyeong Island (2010)
On November 23rd, 2010, tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated after South Korean forces engaged in military exercises on Yeonpyeong Island, prompting an exchange of artillery shells and rockets.
The incident resulted in the death of four South Koreans along with 22 injuries, according to reports. It is considered the most dangerous confrontation since both conflicting nations signed the 1953 armistice.
39. Chilean Mining Accident (2010)
In northern Chile, a San José mine collapse left 33 men trapped 700 meters underground. “Estamos bien en el refugio, los 33,” a note stated in Spanish, as rescue workers tried to pull the miners up to the surface.
The incident lasted 69 days, with the Chilean government ministry, NASA, and numerous corporations having contributed to the rescue effort. Around 1 billion people watched as the trapped miners were brought back up, one by one, safely, with no casualties.
38. WikiLeaks Releases War Cables (2010)
Throughout 2010, the non-profit organization WikiLeaks publicized an enormous amount of classified diplomatic cables of the War on Terror. Over 75,000 classified documents on the Afghan War were leaked to The Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel; with the Times calling the data “one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history.”
Thereafter, an even larger document dump was made, over 391,000 of the Iraq War, alleging war crimes and human rights abuses. Julian Assange, the organization’s editor-in-chief at the time, dubbed the leaks as “the most comprehensive history of a war ever to be published, during the course of the war.”
37. Deepwater Horizon Explosion & Spill (2010)
In spring of 2010, the Gulf of Mexico, located just south of Louisiana, experienced the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. The environmental disaster originated from a drilling rig explosion on the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit. 11 workers were killed by the subsequent fire, leading to the spilling of 4.9 million barrels or 210 million gallons of oil into the ocean.
Federal charges, including manslaughter and lying to congress, were filed against the British multinational gas company BP. In September 2014, a U.S. District Judge ruled that BP beared responsibility for the incident and agreed to settle it for $18.7 billion, the largest corporate settlement in U.S. history.
36. Historic Earthquake Strikes Haiti (2010)
In this decade, one of the deadliest natural disasters occurred near Port-au-Prince, in Haiti’s capital. On Tuesday, January 12th, 2010, a strong 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the island causing untold destruction that would leave behind a death toll between 230,000 to 316,000, based on estimates by the Haitian government.
The immediate aftermath prompted relief efforts from many countries, with over $1 billion collected, in total, between 23 major charities.
35. Fukushima Nuclear Plant Accident (2011)
In the 1990s, and leading up to 2011, experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of a possible catastrophe regarding Japan’s nuclear plants and its inability to withstand seismic disasters. In March 2011, the island of Tōhoku was rocked by the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history, measuring a magnitude of 9.1, triggering tsunami waves at an excess of 133 ft. The quake caused a Level 7 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the most intense since the Chernobyl disaster.
In totality, the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami is estimated to have caused around $411 billion (USD) in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in modern history. Clean up efforts at the affected power plant are expected to last 30 to 40 years, officials forecasted.
34. Osama bin Laden is Assassinated (2011)
In the previous decade, in the core of New York City, the World Trade Center was allegedly brought down by operatives of Al-Qaeda as part of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The mastermind, Osama bin Laden, was said to be behind those attacks and others, prompting the War on Terror and the signing of the Patriot Act by Jim Sensenbrenner, granting omissible surveillance capabilities to the National Security Agency for inhibiting acts of terrorism.
Following a 10-year search, bin Laden, 54, was reportedly executed at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by a team of United States Navy SEALs. The 44th U.S. President Barack Obama appeared on major television networks to address the nation just before midnight, stating: “To those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.”
33. New York Becomes Largest State To Allow Same-Sex Marriage (2011)
In mid-2011, a same-sex marriage bill was passed by the New York Senate in a 33 to 29 vote, recognizing its legality. The law, known as the Marriage Equality Act, prohibits local and state courts from penalizing religious institutions or employees.
Signed by Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the 56th Governer of New York, the state became the sixth in the U.S. to permit same-sex marriages, paving the way for the passing of bills in other states as well.
32. Whitey Bulger Is Apprehended (2011)
James Bulger, also known as Whitey Bulger, was an Irish-American organized crime boss whose criminality can be traced as far back as his time in the U.S. Air Force. After receiving an honorable discharge there, Bulger was sentenced to federal prison for armed robbery. In 1994, he fled Massachusetts amid a tip off from an FBI official of a pending RICO indictment.
Bulger was finally apprehended on June 22nd, 2011 and charged with numerous crimes, including racketeering, murder, and extortion. Since his capture, the life of Bulger has been depicted in numerous books, television series, and films.
31. Occupy Wall Street Goes Viral (2011)
Over at Zuccotti Park in New York City, a protest movement against economic inequality took shape on the morning of September 17th, 2011. The massive show of activism toward the corporate influence of government and political corruption transitioned from the park to university campuses, corporate headquarters, and banks.
Throughout its most active moments, the Occupy Wall Street movement had appearances from notable public figures, including Michael Moore, Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Alec Baldwin, and more. By the end of 2011, the protests were covered in Time magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year, becoming the largest movement of that year.
30. Scientists Discover A New Subatomic Particle: Higgs Boson (2012)
This decade, scientists made a historic advancement in the field of particle physics. The Higgs boson, sometimes known as the “God particle,” was named after British physicist Peter Higgs, who, along with other physicists during the 1960s, theorized that one day the discovery of this fundamental particle would lead to a perspicuous understanding on the origins of mass.
In 2012, scientists confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, labeling the announcement as one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history. The effort, mainly attributed to Higgs, and François Englert, a Belgian theoretical physicist, led to a Nobel Prize in Physics the following year. As of 2019, both the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the Large Hadron Collider have vindicated their findings.
29. NASA’s Curiosity Lands On Mars (2012)
(From first to last – (1) Curiosity landing on the surface of Mars, (2) First image from Curiosity without a dust cover, (3) Selfie of Curiosity near Mount Sharp, (4) Self-portrait of Curiosity over Mount Sharp, (5) First nighttime image of the Sayunei rock, (6) A United States flag on the surface of Mars / Photo via: NASA)
Equipped with a similar radioisotope thermoelectric generator as the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars landers, Curiosity successfully landed on the Martian surface on August 6, 2012 at 5:17 UTC. As the first image without a dust cover was sent back to earth, employees at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) jolted in an excitatory state at what became one of the most momentous milestones since Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon. Another significant milestone occurred just three years later when Curiosity signaled back evidence confirming the presence of liquid water flowing within the Hale Crater on the Red Planet.
As of the final days of 2019, Curiosity has been in operation for over 2,700 days, probing the planet’s climate and geology, including the examination of several sites for environmental conditions that support microbial life. More surface missions from NASA are expected in the upcoming decade, with the Mars 2020 rover to launch in July of 2020 and land in the Red Planet’s Jezero crater on February 18, 2021. The rover will carry a helicopter drone and a core drill to assess any evidence of past life.
28. President Barack Obama Is Re-elected (2012)
Nearing the end of the last decade, American voters elected the country’s first African American President into federal office, as part of a historic victory, which merited the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Barack Hussein Obama, who served as the 44th president of the United States, was re-elected in 2012 after defeating former Arizona senator John McCain and then Utah senator Mitt Romney.
Throughout the course of his presidency, the Obama administration fought for same-sex marriage rights, pushed for gun control, addressed purported concerns of immigration and racial disparities, and ordered military intervention in Iraq. Although Obama’s time in office drew favorable coverage by the mass media throughout the first term, his administration was profoundly loathed in the second term by actions taken in the Middle East and a lack of measures toward Russia’s involvement in the Annexation of Crimea and the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election.
27. Sandy Hook Shooting In Connecticut (2012)
At 9:35 a.m. EST, on December 14th, 2012, in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza, 20, entered Sandy Hook Elementary school with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, massacring 26 people. Most victims were children between the ages of 6 and 7, according to local reports. No indication of a clear motive was ever established. Although Lanza was thought to suffer from Asperger’s syndrome, investigators concluded his psychological anomalies played no role in the murders.
Shortly after the shooting, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, openly criticized violent video games as a possible cause for the sudden surge in mass killings. Compared to other mass shootings, the incident was regarded as the second-deadliest school shooting in the U.S. and sparked a slew of debates on gun control. The shooting also attracted conspiracy theorists refuting the official narrative.
26. Mesoamerican Calendar Ends (2012)
In the early-2000s, the Y2K glitch prompted an apocalyptic-like panic that computers would stop working on December 31, 1999. The reason, experts asserted, was due to potential system failures in recognizing the year 2000 as a leap year. In this passing decade, mass hysteria of unrivaled proportions ensued as the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar neared its end. The belief was that cataclysmic or transformative events would transpire on December 21st, 2012, the same day the Mayan civilization’s vigesimal calendar reached its final digit.
As the 2012 phenomenon came to an end on December 22nd, instead, it resulted in the foundation of television appearances, blockbuster films, pop music hits, and even a drastic surge in tourism, hospitality, and consumerism across the world. Popular scenerios purported to have occurred on the calendar’s final day, but didn’t, included a catacylsmic pole shift, a collision between Earth and a foreign space object, and a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
25. Benedict XVI Resigns As Pope (2013)
In 2013, pope Benedict XVI stepped down as leader of the Catholic Church, an unexpected move that put his successor, Pope Francis, in his capacity. The event was considered a first since Gregory XII’s departure in 1415. The unusual resignation occurred as a result of declining health at his age, the pope indicated.
At 85 years of age, Benedict was the fourth-oldest person to hold the office of pope. His final Angelus was delivered on February 24th, 2013, with an attendance rate of 35,000.
24. Xi Jinping Ascends To Power In China (2013)
Xi Jinping, born in Beijing, China, ascended to power as the President of the People’s Republic of China in March 2013. A Chinese nationalist, Xi has backed numerous ideals like internet censorship, boosting mass surveillance, and advocating socialist market economic reforms. In 2018, Xi sought the removal of term limits for the presidency, asserting indefinite rule of power in China.
Among observations of many experts in politics, Xi is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Chairman Mao Zedong, the country’s founding father. And based on a 2018 report by Forbes, Xi is also the single most powerful and influential person in the world. Xi also tops the list on The Economist‘s selection of the world’s most powerful.
23. Edward Snowden Leaks NSA Systems (2013)
In 2013, Edward Snowden, a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, perpetrated the dissemination of highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA), disclosing purported global surveillance programs, shaping the public’s perception of data gathering. Snowden fled to Hong Kong where he leaked thousands of classified documents to the Guardian, before departing for Moscow’s Shermetyebo Airport. Upon arriving in Russia, Snowden’s passport had been revoked and criminal charges were unsealed, which include theft of government property and two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He was granted asylum, valid until 2020.
Since his unplanned stay in Russia, Snowden had been the subject of both praise and backlash from numerous high-ranking government officials in the U.S. and abroad. Classified surveillance programs leaked by Snowden include PRISM, XKeyscore, DS200-B, and Tempora. A film depicting the ordeal, titled Snowden, was released in 2016.
22. Haiyan Impacts The Philippines (2013)
One of the most intense tropical cyclones ever recorded made landfall over the Philippines in November 2013. Super Typhoon Yolanda, known internationally as Typhoon Haiyan, impacted Southeast Asia as a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with maximum sustained winds estimated at 195 mph.
The catastrophic destruction, particularly over the Visayan Islands, left more than 6,300 people dead and inflicted over $3 billion (USD) in damage. On December 30, 2013, a documentary detailing the destruction of the tropical system, called Megastorm: World’s Biggest Typhoon, was released on the Discovery Channel.
21. Malaysian Flight MH370 Vanishes (2014)
A Malaysian passenger flight was scheduled to reach its destination at Beijing Capital International Airport in March 2014. However, its deviation from its normal path near Penang Island ended in the costliest search for a missing plane in aviation history.
Popular theories as to the cause of the flight’s disappearance included a cyber/electronic hijacking and terrorism. Eventually, all 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 were presumed dead and its disappearance remains one of the greatest unsolved aviation mysteries in recent memory.
20. Russian Intervention In Ukraine (2014)
In early-2014, the Republic of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation, sparking Russian military intervention and condemnation from world leaders. The annexation began when Russian troops occupied airports and military bases in the region. The Supreme Council of Crimea was seized and a treaty was signed on March 18th between the Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation.
As a result of condemnation from many nations, in 2019, Crimea is still regarded as Ukrainian territory by the United Nations. 114 UN member states, including Ukraine, do not claim Crimea as a territorial body of the Russian Federation.
19. AQAP Agents Target Charlie Hebdo (2015)
In the morning hours of January 7th, 2015, two armed assailants linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP) stormed their way into the headquarters of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The two men, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, opened fire over the featuring of a cartoon named Muhammad, killing 12 people and wounding 11 others. More attacks associated with the assailants transpired the following days near the Île-de-France region. One of the additional assailants, Hayat Boumeddiene, who in 2019 is still being sought by French police, may have been killed in an airstrike in Baghouz; however there have been no confirmation of the casualty.
A few days after the mass shooting, millions gathered in Paris for a rally of national unity and freedom of speech, condemning the acts of terrorism. The incident also popularized the phrase “Je suis Charlie.” Among the victims killed included a building maintenance worker, two police officers, a psychoanalyst, a copy editor, a travel writer, an economist, and five visual artists.
18. Caitlyn Jenner In Vanity Fair Exclusive (2015)
William Bruce Jenner, a former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete, appeared in an exclusive by Vanity Fair revealing his coming out as a transgender woman. In the interview with Diane Sawyer, released in April 2015, Jenner details of having dealt with gender dysphoria for most of adolescency.
On the web, the interview set a Guinness World Record, amassing over one million new profile followers on the social networking site Twitter in only four hours and three minutes. In 2015, Jenner was the second most searched person on Google. Overall, she is labeled by many as the most famous transgender woman in the world.
17. Hurricane Patricia Affects Mexico (2015)
In the Pacific Ocean, Mexico was impacted by the most intense tropical cyclone in modern history. Hurricane Patricia, forming near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, became a tropical depression on October 20th and underwent explosive intensification 48 hours later. The storm intensified from a tropical storm to a powerful Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours, before making landfall near Cuixmala as a Category 4 system.
At its peak, the storm attained maximum sustained winds of 215 mph, a global record, and a pressure of 872 millibars, a first in the Western hemisphere. The storm caused 8 fatalities and $462 million (USD) in damage. In 2016, the name Patricia was retired by the World Meterological Organization from its six-year cycle of Pacific hurricane names due to its historic attainability.
16. Mexico’s Joaquin Guzman Is Nabbed (2016)
Currently housed at ADX Florence, Joaquín Guzmán, commonly referred to as El Chapo, implemented and oversaw operations as leader of a Mexican crime syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel. In 2016, Guzman was apprehended and later sentenced to life in prison. During his trial, Guzman confessed to paying $100 million in bribes to Peña Nieto, the former President of Mexico. Over $12 billion in assets were demanded by the court to be forfeited, according to reports.
From 2009 to 2013, Guzman was ranked by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful people and endured an image as a pioneer of organized crime and trafficking before his nabbing and extradition to the United States. Guzman’s unconventional lifestyle has been depicted in countless music, books, and television series.
15. The Panama Papers Exposé (2016)
In what was coined as the Panama Papers by the media, over 11.5 million documents were leaked, exposing 214,488 offshore finance records. In those records, taken from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, reports allege how shell corporations were used for kleptocracy, tax evasion and the dodging of international sanctions by wealthy and powerful public figures. The leaks were made to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by a whistleblower named John Doe.
In the papers, journalists published a trove of notable names, including former heads of state, former prime ministers, business executives, media personalities, athletes, and organized crime syndicates. Gerard Ryle, Director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, attributed the leak as “probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents.”
14. WHO Declares Zika Virus Outbreak (2016)
As a widespread epidemic was promptly underway across regions of South and North America in 2015, scientists were prepping to conduct trials on monkeys and humans to develop an efficient vaccine for what became known as the Zika virus. Originating in Northeastern Brazil, the mosquito-borne disease was evident through symptoms like acute fever, conjunctivitis, rashes throughout the body, and transient joint pain.
In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the disease an outbreak, stressing its significance in causing birth defects and neurological adversities, if transmitted. The epidemic induced concern among public health experts who lamented the lack of Zika response in the United States.
13. Donald Trump Wins The Presidency (2016)
From his former hometown in New York City, Donald J. Trump descended from the escalator in Trump Tower, announcing one of the most captivating and controversial presidential campaigns in the nation’s history. Born and raised in the borough of Queens, Trump took to the political stage his characterizational history as a real estate tycoon and television personality. On November 8th, 2016, Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States as part of an unprecedented election — one that made him this decade’s most consistently covered news topic in mass media.
Considered the first sitting President without prior military or government service, Trump has favorably implemented an America First agenda in foreign policy, ordered the travel ban of citizens from Muslim-majority countries, aggressively tackled the issue of illegal immigration, withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change, initiated historic negotiations with North Korea toward denuclearization, sought the assassination of Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi, and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In 2020, Trump is expected to seek re-election, and if elected, may be the first sitting President since Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve a third term, in the event of a global conflict.
12. Britain Invokes Article 50 Of The Lisbon Treaty (2017)
As part of a decision that prompted the United Kingdom to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (EU), on March 29th, 2017, Britain favored its withdrawal from the European Union. A referendum was held the previous year, in 2016, where voters favored to leave the EU by an outcome of 52% to 48%.
The end of Britain’s membership with the European Union, generally imputed as Brexit, led to resignations in the British parliament and chaotic-like political consensus. Experts theorize Brexit could have damaging immediate and long-term effects to economies for all residing in the UK. There is even an evacuation plan for the Queen, in the likely event Brexit triggers civil unrest. As of the final days of 2019, there is an ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum. The probe is being handled as a joint effort by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee and the United States Senate.
11. Mass Shooting At Las Vegas Strip (2017)
On the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, concertgoers of the Route 91 Harvest music festival were interrupted by a series of gunfire that led to the mass killing of 58 people and left 413 wounded. The perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, had fired over 1,100 rounds of ammunition from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, committing the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.
Investigative reports, including one released to the public by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, found “no single or clear motivating factor.” The incident grabbed the attention of gun control enthusiasts and opened discussion on rewriting gun laws in the U.S. In December 2018, the Department of Justice banned the use of bump stocks, a regulation put into effect in early-2019.
10. Scientists Successfully Clone Monkeys (2018)
A pair of cynomolgus monkeys, given the name Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua by a team of Chinese scientists, are the first cloned mammals since Dolly the sheep back in 1996. The pair were created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
Both primates, born at the Institute of Neuroscience of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, China, received mass international coverage in 2018 after the team’s findings on the use of DNA from foetal cells was released in the journal Cell.
9. Kim Jong Un Crosses The DMZ (2018)
On April 27th, 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a historic walk across the heavily armed demilitarized zone (DMZ) to greet his rival, South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The small steps taken through the DMZ was a remarkable turn of events in contrast to the start of the decade.
Both neighboring countries, which technically are still in conflict, despite the end of the Korean War in 1953, made progress through negotiations on denuclearization. The peace talks were continued efforts by the Trump administration to bring prosperity to the entire Korean Peninsula through the dismantling of nuclear weapons. In 2019, Trump became the first sitting U.S. President to visit North Korea and establish dialogue for denuclearization.