2016 in review: Trump, tragedy and the rise of fake news

There was no shortage of news in 2016. From a historic election in the USA to terror in Europe, 2016 felt like one of the biggest news years in a very long time. Here's a look back at some of the top stories of the year.

The rise of President-Elect Donald J. Trump

The first time real votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election, billionaire Donald Trump came in a close second to Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Iowa GOP caucuses. Trump would go on to defeat 16 other Republicans and claim the GOP nomination.

"The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. This will all change in 2017." Trump said in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Cleveland.

The fall battle with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was, by most accounts, the nastiest in American history.  Clinton, in a private speech to donors, called Trump many of Trump's supporters "deplorables".

“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Meanwhile Trump called Clinton "such a nasty woman" in an October 20 debate.

Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2.5 million, but close victories in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida allowed for Trump to claim more than enough Electoral College votes.

Terror in Europe: Brussels, Istanbul and more

Major European cities continued to be the focus of terror attacks in 2016. The deadliest of those attacks took place in Brussels, Belgium and Istanbul, Turkey. 

The attack in Brussels was actually two simultaneous acts of terrorism in March. Suicide bombers at the city's main airport and a major subway station killed more than 30 people and injured 260.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. Later, police identified two brothers, Khalid El Bakraoui, 27, and 30-year-old sibling Ibrahim, as the perpetrators. Both had been convicted of violent crimes in the past and had links to one of the 2015 Paris attackers.

Less than three months later, gunmen opened fire at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 230. Two of the three attackers blew themselves up with suicide vests while the third was believed to have been killed by security forces.

The attackers were said to be ISIS trained men of Russian and Central Asian descent.

Tragedy in Orlando: The Pulse Nightclub attack

A night of partying and celebration at an LGBT-friendly Orlando nightspot turned into a national tragedy when a mass murderer, Omar Mateen, opened fire. In all 49 people were killed and more than 50 were hurt in America's deadliest mass shooting of 2016.

Mateen was killed in an exchange of gunfire with SWAT team members.

When he hit me in my back, I thought that was my last breath,” survivor Rodney Sumter said. Sumter, a high school football teammate of Tim Tebow, was shot twice in the attack.

“I had a conversation with God and asked him to watch over my kids and family and all those that I love and to forgive me of all sins.”

STORY: Three horrific hours: What happened inside Pulse Nightclub

There has been talk of turning the nightclub into a city-owned memorial, but talks between the city of Orlando and the club's owner have stalled.

The year of the Cyber Hack and WikiLeaks

What does Russia, Wendy's, and your Yahoo e-mail have in common?  They've all been in the headlines for cyber-hacking.

Russia has been accused by some in the intelligence community of hacking into the Democratic National Committee's e-mail system in an attempt to rig the election.  Russia denies the allegation.

Those e-mails and thousands of others have been released throughout 2016 by WikiLeaks. 

WikiLeaks specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption. It has so far published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses.

“WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them and we obtain more.” - said founder Julian Assange in an interview.

One a more personal note, there have been data breaches at companies ranging from Wendy's to Cisco, to Target , resulting in millions of people potentially having their personal information put at risk.

In December, Yahoo announced for the second time, their e-mail system had been breached. This time, over a billion email accounts may have been compromised.

The rise of "Fake" News

The explosion of internet sites and social media has made it easy for anyone to publish something and call it "news".   

"Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word." the fact-checking website Politifact wrote.

Stories like one that claimed Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager were running a child sex ring out of a DC pizza shop went viral on social media sites like Facebook.

POLITIFACT: How Pizzagate went from fake news to a real problem for a D.C. business

The Washington Post went so far as to say Russian propaganda was behind some "fake" stories and an effort to prevent Facebook and Google to filter them out.  Others say news about Russia trying to influence the election itself is "fake news".

"This whole business of Russia hacking our election is fake news with the imprimatur of intelligence agencies and the CIA, and it's brought to us by the same newspapers that took out, tried to take out Richard Nixon.  And if I didn't know better, I would say they are trying to relive the moment and "Watergate" Donald Trump." conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said on his December 12 broadcast.

Facebook has come under criticism for not doing enough to weed out Fake News. The company issued a statement, saying “In accordance with the Audience Network Policy, we do not integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news,"

"While implied, we have updated the policy to explicitly clarify that this applies to fake news. Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance."

The lesson....don't believe everything you read online and follow multiple news sources with different points of view to get a complete picture of what is really going on.

The humanitarian tragedy in Aleppo

Whether he knew about it or not, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's slip up on the humanitarian tragedy in the Syrian city of Aleppo made millions aware of what is taking place in that city under siege. 

The city at the heart of the Syrian Civil war has been divided between areas controlled by forces aligned with President Bashar Al-Assad and rebels, some considered moderate allies of the U.S. and others aligned with ISIL and other radical groups. 

The eastern part of the city has been under siege for months, with thousands dying and tens of thousands more fleeing for their lives, evacuating to neighboring countries like Jordan.

As government forces re-established control in Aleppo, Abdulla Saleem, 39, a doctor living in the bombed out remains of a building, said via WhatsApp, "They are killing everyone. ... My friends are doctors, who were providing the only possible medical care to the injured. Now they are butchered. Everyone is dying. I will soon die, too." 

As of this writing, a cease-fire has been reached to allow civilians to evacuate the city.

USA TODAY: Convoy of buses, ambulances begins Aleppo evacuation

Cops becomes targets 

"Blue Lives Matter". That has been the rallying cry of people who support police officers who were the targets of gunfire in incidents across the country.

Dallas became the epicenter of this story in July when a dozen cops who were helping protect a peaceful justice rally in the downtown area were shot, along with two innocent bystanders. Five police officers lost their lives that day.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the suspect, Micah X. Johnson, 25 was killed after a long standoff with police. Negotiations were underway when Brown says Johnson told police he was angry over #BlackLivesMatter and was mad at white people.

"He wanted to kill white people, especially white officers," Brown said.

In all, 64 law enforcement officers have been killed nationwide in 2016 as of mid-December, according to CNN, the most in five years.

Gymnastics, swimming dominate headlines at Rio Olympic Games

She stands only 4'8" and weights only 105 pounds. However nobody stood taller at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio than American gymnast Simone Biles.

Biles racked up four gold medals and a fifth bronze in Rio, helping lead Team USA to victory in the all-around.

Her accomplishments garnered the respect of Olympic teammates as she was chosen to carry the flag in the Closing Ceremonies.

“This experience has been the dream of a lifetime for me and my team, and I consider it a privilege to represent my country, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics,” said Biles.

“My first Olympic experience just keeps getting better and I want to thank Brazil for hosting an incredible Games.”

Meanwhile, swimmers garnered headlines for both right and wrong reasons in Rio.

In the pool, American swimmers won 33 medals and Michael Phelps likely finished his record-setting career winning five gold medals and a silver. Teen phenom Katie Ledecky dominated women's competition, setting two world records and winning four golds and a silver.

However many will remember U.S. swimming in a negative light after gold medalist Ryan Lochte and three of his teammates got involved in an incident at a Rio gas station. Lochte claimed he and his teammates were robbed a gunpoint by men posing as police officers.

It turned out they lied about the story and Lochte was charged with filing a false robbery report. 

All four swimmers were suspended from U.S. swimming.

Pre-Olympic fears of the Zika virus, terrorism, and polluted waterways did not end up impacting the games and organizers were pleased with what happened.

"The games worked," said Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games. "Were they perfect? No. The organizers faced immense difficulties. But, in the end, you have to take your hat off. It's extraordinary what they have delivered."

Prince, Ali lead list of celeb deaths

A larger than life figure, Prince was perhaps the most well-known in a year full of the loss of famous people.

The singer/songwriter was found dead in his Chanhassen, Minnesota home in April, dead of an apparent drug overdose.  He was 57 years old.

President Obama even posted to social media about the death of the music legend, saying " Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. "

Muhammad Ali is another figure who died in 2016. The former world heavyweight champion had been battling Parkinson's disease for more than three decades and had been last seen in public in 2015. Ali was 74 years old

USA TODAY: Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies at 74

Ali first came on the scene as Cassius Clay, winning a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. He went on to convert to Islam and take the name Ali.

He also was known for taking political stands, especially on civil rights issues.

Hollywood also lost legends like Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains) and Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka, Young Frankenstein, others) in 2016.  

Other famous people who are being mourned this year are astronaut turned U.S. Senator John Glenn and former Attorney General Janet Reno.

 


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