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Newsmakers: The very worst of 2015

From villains and losers to bad-luck falls and bad-faith actors, here’s the worst of what happened this year in world politics, sports, music, and more


 

ENTERTAINMENT

TV and movies are supposed to bring joy. Jaime Weinman highlights some entertainment that proved to be let-downs and troubled.

(Everett Collection)

(Everett Collection)

‘Sesame Street’

It was launched as a populist kids’ show, set in the inner city and aimed at children who didn’t have a lot of money. Now it’s moving to HBO, the channel aimed exclusively at people with a lot of money. The new episodes will be available for free once HBO is finished with them, but in today’s economy, rich kids get the best of everything, even Big Bird.


IMG_6117Jennifer Aniston

When the Friends star married actor Justin Theroux, they had to expect rumours that their marriage was in trouble. But this new couple set some kind of record: there were rumours of their breakup after only 21 days of marriage, when he allegedly cut the honeymoon short. Theroux had to go to to the press to deny that they were anything but “happily married.” The press really doesn’t want Aniston to be happy.


The New York Comedy Festival And The Bob Woodruff Foundation Present The 7th Annual Stand Up For Heroes EventBill Cosby

The world is finally paying attention to allegations of sexual assault by the comedian. In 2015 so many women were emboldened to come forward that Cosby accusations became a media subgenre. New York magazine did a memorable cover with 35 of the women who say that Cosby sexually assaulted them, and A&E did an entire television special, Cosby: The Women Speak, which told the stories of a dozen of his accusers.


07930196-1024x796Brian Williams

It turned out that this popular NBC news anchor had a habit of embellishing stories, like the time he claimed to have been travelling in a helicopter that got forced down by enemy fire (it was actually the helicopter in front of him). He was suspended from NBC Nightly News and demoted to a lower-paying job at the low-rated cable news network MSNBC. For a news anchor, that’s like being sent to Siberia.


LevantSun News

“Fox News North,” as the conservative cable channel was known, abruptly went out of business after only four years on the air, when its parent company was unable to find a buyer for it. By the end, it was reported to have only about 8,000 viewers; Canadian conservatives may have stayed away because its low budget and production values simply couldn’t compare to Fox News’s glossy slickness.


 

SPORTS

There’s the thrill of victory—but also, Jonathon Gatehouse notes, the agony of defeat. Here are the year’s toughest sports stories.

(Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty Images)

(Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty Images)

Connor McDavid

The 18-year-old has been tagged as hockey’s “next, next one” since he was a little kid, and his talents as a junior were so appealing that several NHL teams tanked their season to try to win him in the draft. The lucky Edmonton Oilers (there’s a phrase you don’t see every day) picked him first overall last June, setting off a summer-long celebration. McDavid was living up to the lofty expectations, starting his rookie season with 12 points in 12 games, when he slid into the boards and broke his collarbone. He needed surgery and is expected to be off the ice for months.


07796114-1024x659

Eugenie Bouchard

Canada’s tennis darling appears to have lost her touch. A breakout 2014, in which she made the Wimbledon finals and landed in the world’s Top 5, made her the sport’s “It” girl. She switched coaches and agents and signed a modelling contract. But 2015 turned into one long bummer, featuring lots of early exits, and a concussion after she slipped and fell in a locker room that knocked her out of the US Open. (She’s suing the U.S. Tennis Association for negligence.) Bouchard is now the 48th-ranked women’s singles player.


GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 12: Two Washington Redskins fans watch the second half of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 12, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin III, its $21-million “franchise” quarterback, is sitting on the bench, and it’s heading for yet another losing season, but Washington’s NFL team still has its dignity. No, not really. Dan Synder has always been a capricious owner, but lately, he just seems loopy. In an age where all sorts of sports teams are running away from racially charged mascots and monikers, he’s fighting to keep a name many find downright offensive. Last July, a federal judge cancelled the team’s Redskins trademark on the grounds it was “disparaging.” The Redskins filed an appeal in October, listing 40 other lewd and vulgar firms and products that enjoy copyright protection. The point was elusive. Maybe it’s time to start calling them the Washington WTFs.


(Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)

(Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)

Sepp Blatter

Soccer’s comically corrupt overlords have always had a lot to answer for. But indefensible decisions such as awarding the 2022 World Cup to the tiny desert kingdom of Qatar seem to be catching up with them. This spring, the U.S. indicted 14 current and former FIFA officials on charges of “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted” corruption in regards to tournament bids and TV contracts. Sepp Blatter, the organization’s longtime president, now faces criminal proceedings in Switzerland. In true FIFA fashion, he’s been “temporarily suspended” from his job.


 

BUSINESS

Greed isn’t good. It’s a lesson that some of these businesspeople forgot, writes Chris Sorensen.

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Martin Shkreli

Where to begin? “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli annoyed nearly everyone, including Hillary Clinton, when his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased an older drug used by AIDS patients to fight life-threatening infections and promptly jacked the price up 5,000 per cent. The former hedge fund manager then smirked his way through a bunch of TV interviews and followed it up with a disastrous “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, in which he joked that a media scandal “is the best possible way to get girls.”


Bombardier workers look at the CS300 aircraft after it was unveiled at a news conference at its assembly facility in Mirabel, QuebecPierre Beaudoin

Two years delayed and $2 billion over budget, the Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft and its problems forced family scion Pierre Beaudoin to step down as CEO in February (he remains on the board). But the saga didn’t stop there. The company, which is being sued by the city of Toronto for not delivering streetcars on time, sought and received a $1.3-billion lifeline from the Quebec government, causing many to wonder why taxpayers must continue to line the pockets of one of Quebec’s wealthiest families.


(Sebastian Kahnert/CP)

(Sebastian Kahnert/CP)

Martin Winterkorn

Volkswagen went from being among the world’s most admired carmakers—cute commercials, German engineering—to one of its most reviled when it emerged it was cheating on government-mandated emissions tests. Winterkorn stepped down as CEO amid a recall of 11 million vehicles and massive sell-off in VW stock. At the time, he said he was “shocked” such misconduct was even possible at such a massive scale. Imagine his surprise a few weeks later when he learned VW had manipulated emissions on another 800,000 vehicles. Das ist inexcusable.


( Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

( Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images)

Ali al-Naimi

For those living in Alberta—indeed Canada in general—Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi is a name you dare not mention. While the Saudis aren’t solely responsible for the oil glut that pulverized prices and tipped Canada into recession, they’re certainly doing everything in their power to prevent them from rising. Instead, they’ve elected to keep OPEC’s taps wide open in bid to “sweat out” higher-cost shale oil producers in the U.S. (and, by default, even higher-cost producers in Alberta’s oil sands) and reclaim the Middle East’s global market share.


China Financial MarketsWang Xiaolu

Accused by Beijing of spreading “panic and disorder,” financial journalist Wang Xiaolu became a scapegoat for China’s epic stock market meltdown last summer. But it was fearful Chinese investors who wiped out trillions in value and prompted a further plunge in global oil and commodity prices. And who could blame them? After a decade of frenetic growth, China’s slowdown has investors everywhere worried about the potential for a hard landing.


 

SCIENCE

Kate Lunau finds some scientific stories that represented something less-than-progress

baconMeat

Bad news, meat-eaters: Bacon and hot dogs cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization, which classified processed meats as “carcinogenic to humans,” alongside asbestos and smoking. (They saw limited evidence that eating red meat could be cancer-causing, too.) Still, no need to throw the salami out with the cigarettes: It doesn’t mean smoking and meat-eating are equally dangerous, the WHO emphasized. We can go on enjoying our burgers and smoked meat, like everything else, in moderation.


The anthropomorphic robot named hitchBOT sits on the shoulder of Highway 102 to begin its 6000 kilometer cross country journey outside of Halifax

HITCHbot

Last year, the plucky hitchhiking robot traversed 10,000 km across Canada, taking rides from strangers. So, in 2015, HitchBot—created by researchers at Ryerson and McMaster to study human relationships with robots—planned an American road trip, from Boston to San Francisco. Sadly, on Aug. 1, just two weeks in, HitchBot was found decapitated in Philadelphia. His “body” was collected by fans and brought home. Do people trust robots? Evidently. Looks like it’s robots that shouldn’t trust us.


Texas Launch Site

Elon Musk

SpaceX’s flamboyant CEO has high hopes for private space flight—he famously hopes to retire on Mars—so when the company’s unmanned Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a resupply mission to the International Space Station in June, it was a setback. Explaining the rocket’s failure, which seemed to be due to a faulty steel strut, Musk noted in a humblebrag that SpaceX had become “complacent”: “When you’ve only seen success, you don’t fear failure quite as much.”


This photo provided by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, taken in February 2015, shows coral after bleaching in American Samoa, when the XL Catlin Seaview Survey responded to a NOAA coral bleaching alert. Devastating bleaching of colorful coral is spreading into a rare worldwide crisis, scientists announced, predicting it will likely get worse. Triggered by global warming and the El Nino, record hot ocean water is causing the fragile coral to go white and often die, threatening picturesque reefs that are hotspots of marine life, experts say. (XL Catlin Seaview Survey via AP)

(XL Catlin Seaview Survey via AP)

Coral bleaching

Colourful coral reefs are called “rainforests of the sea” for the riotous range of life they support. But, in 2015, provoked by warm ocean temperatures, reefs around the world turned a pallid white. In October, the U.S. declared a “global coral-bleaching event,” the third in recorded history. Heat stress is expected to wipe out more than one-third—12,000 sq. km—of the world’s coral reefs. “We’re in shock and awe,” says marine scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldburg. “It’s a doozy.”


 

WORLD POLITICS

It was another banner year for politicians behaving badly, Michael Petrou found—including one who gave us a new definition of pork-barrel spending.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks with a reporter following a closed-door GOP caucus meeting  at the Republican National Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. Invoking the Paris terror attacks, House lawmakers pushed toward a vote Tuesday on legislation tightening controls on travel to the U.S. and requiring visas for anyone who's been in Iraq or Syria in the previous five years. "You have more than 5,000 individuals that have Western passports in this program that have gone to Iraq or Syria in the last five years," said McCarthy. "Those are gaps that we need to fix."  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Kevin McCarthy

If there was merit to congressional hearings into the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Republican majority leader wholly undermined it by admitting the exercise was intended to inflict political damage on Hillary Clinton, the presumptive favourite to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Unfortunately for McCarthy, Clinton performed well during 11 hours of questioning, while the Republicans’ motives were laid bare.


BRITAIN-VOTEDavid Cameron

You wonder how long Britain’s ruling class can survive its own creepiness. The Conservatives had barely won a second mandate when a book emerged alleging that their blue-blooded leader had, during his time at Oxford, stuck his penis into the mouth of a dead pig. The PM voiced outrage, but did not specifically deny the anecdote, or sue. Such actions, evidently, are beneath him.


Cristina Fernandez de KirchnerCristina Fernández de Kirchner

Once a glamorous figure, Argentina’s president is accused of covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Conspiracy fears abound: Alberto Nisman, the chief investigator who accused Fernández, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head just hours before he was to present his findings before the country’s congress.


Vladimir Putin G8 Featured

Vladimir Putin

Fine, the Russian president is co-operating in the war against ISIS, but he remains a malign force in countless other ways. He’s openly supportive of Syria’s autocratic leadership. He plays coy over his support of rebels in eastern Ukraine. He smilingly shrugged when police dubiously pinned the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, Putin’s main political rival, on a pair of Chechens.


 

MUSIC

Adrian Lee finds some news in the music world that sounded out-of-tune this year.

(AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

(AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

Dr. Luke vs. Kesha

Pop stars are built, brick by brick. But what if the foundation goes bad? This year saw a sad turn in the battle between Kesha, she of the Jack Daniel’s dental regime, and Dr. Luke, an elite pop producer. She had accused him of sexual assault last year, and he countersued; the pair also went to court over her contract, as Kesha sought an injunction to let her record with other producers. In response, the judge delivered a harsh statement that reflects the industry at large: “Until this Court rules on the declaratory judgment claim, Kesha is at an impasse. She cannot work with music producers, publishers, or record labels to record new music . . . Her brand value has fallen, and unless the Court issues this injunction, Kesha will suffer irreparable harm, plummeting her career past the point of no return.” Cold, damning, and true.


 

Ukraine-born classical pianist ValentinaValentina Lisitsa

The star Ukrainian-American pianist was dropped from a gig with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this summer for her racist tweets about Ukrainians, and her music was removed by KLM after a passenger complained. Wherever you land on the debate over policing artists’ speech, it’s safe to say there’s nothing good about tweets like “Conscious Ukrainians: . . . you are dog s–t.”


(Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

(Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

The ‘Ban Kanye West’ movement

Kanye West may as well have the word “divisive” legally attached as a prefix to his name. But the hatred turned into something inexplicable this year with attendees of various festivals, including Ottawa Bluesfest and Glastonbury Festival, petitioning for him not to perform. Many of them pointed to his boorish behaviour and inflated ego—though far crasser artists, some with criminal records, didn’t face the same recrimination— so it was hard not to read these efforts as racially driven. Perhaps the political climate will change by the time of West becomes president in 2020.


 

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