2018: The Year That Was
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Newsmakers of 2018: Those who made headlines across the world

Filed on December 24, 2018 | Last updated on December 25, 2018 at 09.34 pm
Newsmakers of 2018: Those who made headlines across the world

(KT illustration by Santhosh Kumar)

We give you 50 people from outside of the UAE who made a difference (mostly for the better, a few for the worse) to the world.


The year-end makes us think back on those who set the tone for the year - by making news that have been life-altering, reaffirming, controversial or even shocking. As the region's leading English daily, we have been in the business of keeping track of news - and newsmakers. Today, we give you 50 people from outside of the UAE who made a difference (mostly for the better, a few for the worse) to the world. This is a subjective list. But we hope you enjoy reliving some of the most important touchpoints of 2018 through these men and women.

Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Everyone had been waiting for this a long time. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan this year, and promised to take his country down a new path: one strewn with transparency and integrity. He cut down on the extravagance associated with high offices, sent out strong diplomatic messages of relations-building - and straightaway set a committed agenda. Added to that the glamour quotient that Khan brings to the table, and here's a newsmaker you cannot miss!

Donald Trump, President of the US

True to his style, he brazened it out this year as well - by wreaking disruption. In 2018, Trump broke more institutional norms, further  debilitated the judiciary and federalism, muffled the media, unleashed a fresh onslaught of public debate on his presidency - and created many more detractors.

Theresa May, British Prime Minister

If Donald Trump has been existing in chaos this year, May is not too far behind. Thanks to her stance on Brexit and her policy on immigration control, her leadership was brought into question, and she's spent most of her time trying to grapple with a power struggle - and hanging in there by a slender thread.

Tanusree Dutta, Former Bollywood actress and #MeToo India star

The Indian chapter of the #MeToo movement opened somewhat late - but when it did, it managed to prise

open quite the Pandora's box. All thanks to Dutta, who returned to India (from the US) with revelations of sexual harassment that she had to face when she was an actress in Mumbai.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany

Europe's "strongest" politician caved in to plummeting poll results and announced she would not seek re-election as leader of CDU in December, and will step down as Chancellor in 2021.

Barbara Underwood, New York State Attorney General

The acting Attorney General sued Trump and his Donald J. Trump Foundation, for "a pattern of persistent illegal conduct" - and it was closed down. A big win for Underwood, now a poster girl for woman power.

MJ Akbar, Indian politician

The editor-turned-politician, who was serving as the Minister of State for External Affairs in the Indian government, had to resign amid a social media maelstrom. Akbar was accused of sexually harassing a number of women in the #MeToo revelations. 

Vijay Mallya, Indian businessman

The 'King of Good Times' - who the authorities in India have been trying to nab for his financial crimes - will now be extradited back to his home country from the UK, a court in London ruled.

Barham Salih, President of Iraq

His appointment this year as President of Iraq has put the country on the fast track to a reconciliation process after decades of war followed by civil strife that brought the economy to its knees.

Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize winner

25-year-old Iraqi-Yazidi human rights activist - who was kidnapped and held by Daesh militants for three months - was awarded (jointly, alongside Denis Mukwege) the Nobel Peace Prize for "efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict".

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO

What a year it's been for Zuckerberg! He's lost more money than any other billionaire this year. Two million users deactivated their Facebook account, thanks to the data privacy scandal that rocked the online world. He's been saying sorry over and over again - but was anyone listening?

Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia

At 92, he made a stunning political comeback, and was sworn in as the world's oldest Prime Minister. Malaysia's longest-serving PM (he had a 22-year tenure between 1981 and 2003), Mahathir came out of retirement and defected from his own party to lead the Opposition to an extraordinary victory.

Xi Jinping, Chinese President

It's been a tough year for China and its President, with a weakening economy and the trade war with the US; but this was also the year Forbes ranked Xi as the most powerful person in the world. Clearly, all eyes are on China: will he rise to the occasion - or whittle it all away?

King Hamad, Ruler of Bahrain

Bahrain has resisted Iran's aggressive policies and King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa has ensured his kingdom stays away from Tehran's sphere of influence. The reliable GCC partner has shown that, despite being small, it will not be bullied by the regime in Tehran that plays to the sectarian gallery. Iran-backed terror groups have been busted in the country. An economic revival plan is in full swing in this progressive Gulf country.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

Once an "impoverished" country, Bangladesh's economy is today a success story - thanks to a fast-growing manufacturing sector set in motion by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Another feather in her cap was her acceptance of thousands of ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Jose Mourinho, Football coach

In a "stunning decision", the high-profile manager of high-profile English Premier League club Manchester United was sacked exactly two days after ManU suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Liverpool by 3-1.

Logan Paul, YouTube star

He was virtually crucified after he vlogged from the "suicide forest". But he's bounced back with a No 10 ranking on Forbes' annual Highest-Paid YouTube Stars list - and a resurrected rep.

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Abe was re-elected this year to emerge as the country's longest-serving PM. He has been credited with reviving Japan's economy and diplomatic ties with key allies. Abe is on track to "build a new country together".

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

She's the youngest woman Prime Minister in the world, and this year she's established her status as being a poster girl for feminism with her progressive policies. Also, how cool is it that she takes her baby daughter (born this year) to parliament?

John Oliver, Political commentator and TV host

Oliver scaled new heights with being anti-establishment on Last Week Tonight. His take on Theresa May was so scathing, it was banned on UK television.

Carlos Ghosn, Former Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi chairman

Oliver scaled new heights with being anti-establishment on Last Week Tonight. His take on Theresa May was so scathing, it was banned on UK television.

Nirav Modi, Indian businessman

Criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, corruption, money laundering, fraud - the diamond merchant was charged of all this (and more!), and is now one of the 'most wanted' by Interpol.

Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia

He is transforming his country socially and economically. The economy is getting diversified; women can drive; the youth are finding their spark of innovation. Under the Crown Prince, aka MBS, the kingdom has become more assertive as a regional power - tackling terrorism and maintaining its position as a global energy powerhouse.

Naomi Osaka, Tennis player

The young Japanese did something unthinkable: she beat a re-energised Serena Williams at the US Open to emerge a new champ in an ageing game, and became the first Japanese Grand Slam singles champion. This year, she also rose to a career-best ranking of world No 4.

Serena Williams, Tennis player

Getting back on the circuit after a 14-month maternity leave, she displayed some of her finest tennis acumen, reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open - never mind the unpleasant incident at the latter finals with Naomi Osaka.

Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea

Will there be a détente? Or not? 2018 tried to take us down a new path. Kim displayed an interest to open dialogue with South Korea - to try and end hostilities. He also met Donald Trump for a summit and signed a declaration, affirming a commitment to peace and nuclear disarmament. But the enigma persists...

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Croatian President

If there's one reason why Croatia is top of the mind worldwide - other than its soccer team reaching the Fifa World Cup finals - it's because Grabar-Kitarovic attended the Fifa quarter-final and final matches wearing the colours of the national flag in support of the national team. What's more, she "travelled to Russia at her own expense in economy class".

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex

The leading lady at the most anticipated wedding of the year finally broke into the British royalty bastion. The bi-racial former actress from across the pond won over hearts all over the world and became a public icon. She's now pregnant, and everyone's loving her baby bump!

Rahul Gandhi, Indian politician

Widely considered to be Modi's chief opponent in next year's general elections, the president of the Indian National Congress could well be in the running for the prime minister's office. This year has seen him establish his mettle, and administer some shock defeats to the ruling party, the BJP, at the state elections.

James P. Allison, Winner of Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

This American immunologist may well be en route to cracking the biggest medical code: a cure for cancer. He, along with Tasuku Honjo, was jointly awarded the Nobel in 2018 for their discovery of cancer therapy by the inhibition of negative immune regulation.

Abdel Fattah El Sisi, President of Egypt

He's played a major role in Arab unity efforts after winning a second term in elections this year. The Arab world's most populous country has embarked on major economic reforms while maintaining a strategic balance in the Mena region.

Luka Modric, Real Madrid and Croatian footballer

During Fifa, he was the star of the season, and went on to win the Best Fifa Men's Player. Modric became the first Croatian footballer to win the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award. And by winning the Ballon d'Or, he broke Cristiano Ronaldo's and Lionel Messi's 10-year-long stranglehold on the prestigious award.

Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister

In the world's largest democracy, all eyes have been on him since it's the big year next year: will he be able to weave electoral magic yet again at the general elections? India went through a volatile time in 2018, so Modi was in the news for all the (mostly) wrong reasons.

Demi Lovato, Singer

There's a reason why the 25-year-old singer has been the "most searched" personality on Google this year: it saw her getting back from the brink - after a drug overdose - and getting admitted into rehab, and bravely "coming out" about her depression and mental health issues.

Virat Kohli, Indian cricketer

He has emerged cricket's No 1 batsman this year: the second fastest after Don Bradman to score 25 Test centuries and smashing 11 international centuries (including six in ODIs). So what that his off-field conduct has been under the scanner?

Mary Kom, Indian boxer

At the 2018 AIBA World Boxing Championships, Kom became world champ for a record sixth time, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the seven world championships.

Ayushmann Khurrana, Bollywood actor

The unlikely star of the year who helmed two of 2018's most critically-acclaimed hits (Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho). The "boy next door", with astounding comic timing, has come of age, and word on the street is he's the next big thing in Bollywood.

Bill Cosby, Actor, comedian, musician

The #MeToo movement began in the West last year; this year, superstar comedian-musician Cosby was the first celebrity to be convicted of sexual abuse. A jury found Cosby guilty in April on three counts, and sentenced him to three to 10 years in prison.

Jared Kushner, US President's advisor

Donald Trump's senior adviser - and son-in-law - has become a moving force in the corridors of power. Recently, Kushner was actually praised for his role as being the driving force of the First Step Act, which is likely to overhaul the criminal justice system - for the better.

Priyanka Chopra & Nick Jonas

The Bollywood-turned-Hollywood actress tied the knot after a very public courtship with singer Nick Jonas. The Quantico star found her prince in shining armour; the two took on critics, and true love triumphed in the end.

Vladimir Putin, Russian President

This year saw the incumbent President sweep the elections for his second consecutive (fourth overall) term in office with 77 per cent of the vote. But as the year went by, Putin's popularity dipped, with the Russian economy weakening.

Saad Hariri, Lebanese Prime Minister

His second stint as PM has been rocky as he balances different political formations in the tiny country. He has met with limited success after denying Hezbollah, the political-military outfit, some key demands. The billionaire PM, who is backed by Saudi Arabia, has kept his calm in trying times. A government could be formed by year-end, reports say, six months after elections. That could give Hariri some respite in the new year.

Emmanuel Macron, French President

This was the year when the youthful French President proved he was not the People's President. He faced the brunt of a litany of awkward events - culminating with the yellow vests movement in Paris.

James Ivory, Filmmaker, scriptwriter

By winning the Oscar and BAFTA at 89 for the screenplay of critically-acclaimed Call Me By You Name, Ivory became the oldest-ever winner in any category for both awards.

Emma Gonzalez, Student and youth leader

The 18-year-old survived the horrendous mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, and embarked on a youth movement against gun violence. Her special moment was at the March For Our Lives protest in Washington a month after the shooting, where she stood on stage for 6 minutes and 20 seconds - the same time it had taken for the carnage to unfold.

Elon Musk, Founder of Tesla and CEO of SpaceX

Musk was charged by the SEC with "misleading investors with tweets"; reportedly, his tweets triggered off supreme chaos at stock markets, and he had to step down as the company chairman after he agreed to pay $20 million each to financial regulators.

King Abdullah II, King of Jordan

His has been the voice of reason in the Middle East that has been wracked by protracted conflict. King Abdullah's role as a reliable peacemaker has grown as he continues to build bridges between civilisations. He rapport with world leaders has helped him forge consensus on key issues in the Arab world. King Abdullah has tirelessly championed interfaith harmony this year, shuttling between continents, speaking at events, connecting leaders and people. He even won the Templeton Prize for his efforts.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian President-elect

The man who espouses far-right ideologies, is often called out for his offensive rhetoric and referred to as 'Tropical Trump', Bolsonaro won the Brazilian elections in October this year, and will be assuming office in January.

Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter

A new verification system for Twitter, being named one of the best CEOs in the world by CEOWORLD magazine, a loss of face when he had to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then the 10-day silent meditation trip to a centre in Myanmar - it's been an eclectic year for Dorsey.

Jeff Bezos, Chairman, CEO and President of Amazon

It was bigger and better for World's richest man. Bezos announced space trips through his rocket company Blue Origin, made deeper commitments to the cause of philanthropy with the Bezos Day One Fund, ensured first-rate journalism at The Washington Post, and zeroed in on venues for his second set of headquarters.





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