Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Year in 2013

A liberal year

2013 was a year for liberals. The United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex married couples have the same rights to federal benefits as heterosexual married couples. Several other countries nodded an approval for gay unions. In fact in tacit support of homosexuality, several countries adopted laws and practices to discourage heterosexual contact. Several schools in China, for instance, banned close interaction between students of opposite sex such as holding hands, hugging, passing notes and giving each other gifts. 

"I only smoked cocaine when I was drunk," was how Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, defended his "crack record", knocking down a 65 year old female councillor in the process. On another high note, Uruguay was declared the country of the year by the Economist magazine for legalizing cannabis and several states in America plan to allow legit trade in dope in the coming months.

PM 2.0 and PM 2.5
China got a new President and a new Prime Minister. Li Keqiang, the new prime minister is in a new mould, and hence referred to as PM 2.0.. Prime Minister Li has clear ideas about economics which were dubbed by the press as Liconomics. In fact the year saw the launch of several prime ministerial schools of economics, led by Abenomics - whose practice made the Japanese stock market one of the most successful in the world. Manmohan Singh's Manonics in India reverted India to its customary Hindu rate of growth ("man" in Chinese means slow). However, Raghuram Rajan, the new rock star central bank governor of India, was among a handful of economists who made a correct prediction in 2013. "I am not likely to get any Facebook Likes,'' he said while accepting the job - and he didn't get any, as the Indian economy continued to be in doldrums.

The US house brought the government to its knees by refusing to agree to raise the debt limit of $16.3 trillion. The government reacted by shutting down all state monuments and national parks hoping that deprivation of nature will cause the Republicans to behave more naturally. Obama got a lesson in the benefits of outsourcing, as the domestically developed Obamacare website failed to cope with the demand for affordable insurance.

In China apart from PM 2.0, PM 2.5 (suspended particulate matter of diameter 2.5 micrometers or less) also remained salient in people's mind and dominant in Chinese the air right through 2013, giving a boost to the sales of facial masks and air purifiers.

Changing demographics
In recognition of a rapidly ageing society, and an actual drop in working age population, China relaxed its one-child policy. From now, couples can have two children if one of the parents is an only child - making sure that the words describing relationships such as brother, sister, uncle and aunt still remain in the vocabulary (a whole lot of words were threatened into extinction, as unlike English, the Chinese language uses a unique word for each different relationship based on gender and age difference). Though no imminent shortage or extinction of uncles is expected in the neighbouring North Korea, the state did end the year with one less uncle than expected, as the ruler Kim Jong-un executed his father's sister's husband.


To be on the same page as Google's founder Larry Page, Microsoft copied Google's move of buying mobile set maker Motorola, by buying Nokia's mobile phone business. "We are not trying to copy Google, but merely trying to cut Nokia's losses and paste them in Microsoft," explained Bill Gates. 

Twitter raised nearly 2 billion dollars in its IPO, successfully proving to the market that with a loss of 133 million dollars in the first three quarters of 2013, it really needed the money.

Bitcoins, an online currency produced by a cryptographic software, gained some legitimacy, enhancing its value astronomically, but lost steam as many countries' central banks refused to bite. The Indian geek community, who lovingly called the coin Bittoo, felt particularly “bitrayed” when the Indian central bank issued a warning.  

Science and technology
China and India scored points in space - China landing a rover called Yutu or jade rabbit (not to be confused with Youtube, which remains inaccessible in China) on the moon, and India by pointing and shooting an orbiter called Mangalyaan towards Mars. 

A great year for medicine, as French doctors planted an artificial heart in the chest of a 75 year old man. Apart from patients suffering from a terminal heart condition, the procedure gives a Titanic hope to lovers and poets, as now they can say with greater confidence " My heart will go on...". A truly heartening achievement to end the year with.

Written by Ashok Sethi