18 November 2018Last updated

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What got us talking in 2014

As another year ends, Catherine Langley looks back at the historic moments that made it 12 months to remember

By Catherine Langley
1 Dec 2014 | 03:38 pm
  • Ebola epidemic.



After a small outbreak in Guinea at the end of 2013, Ebola quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, before becoming the most widespread epidemic of the disease in history.


The Ebola epidemic

Ebola survivor-turned-mental-health counsellor Salome Karwah* lost both parents in the outbreak. She now works at the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ebola treatment centre in Liberia.

“On August 21, my whole family made our way to MSF’s Ebola treatment centre in Monrovia. When we arrived at the unit, the nurses took my mother and me to the same tent. My fiancé, my sister, my father and my niece were taken to separate tents. They took our blood and we waited for them to announce the results. When it was confirmed we were all positive I thought that was the end of my world because we had heard Ebola was a death sentence.

“After a few days in the isolation ward, my condition became worse. My mother was also fighting for her life. At that point, the nurses made the decision to move me to another tent. By then, I barely understood what was going on and I was totally helpless. The nurses had to bathe me, change my clothes and feed me. I was vomiting constantly and very weak.

“The only way I can describe Ebola is like a sickness from a different planet. It causes so much pain that you can feel it in your bones. I’d never felt anything like it.

“My mother and father died while I was battling for my life. I didn’t know they were dead until a week later, when I had started recovering. I was so sad that I had lost both my parents, but I was thankful that God spared me, as well as my sister, my niece and my fiancé.

“After 18 days in the treatment centre, the nurses came in one morning and took my blood. Later that evening they said I was ready to go home because I had tested negative. In that moment I felt as though my life had begun again.

“However, when I arrived home my neighbours were afraid of me. There was one particular group who kept shouting ‘Ebola home’ at our house. But, to my surprise, one of the women in the group later came and begged me to take her mother to the treatment centre because she was sick. I agreed to help because Ebola is a disease that anyone can get and it isn’t good to stigmatise it.

“Now I am back at the treatment centre working as a mental health counsellor. When I am on shift, I counsel my patients. If they don’t want to eat, I encourage them. If they are weak, I help them. It’s my aim to inspire them with my story, to help them understand that they have hope of surviving Ebola too.”

© Adolphus Mawolo/MSF



Dylan Farrow accuses Woody Allen of child abuse

In February Dylan Farrow penned an open letter in The New York Times detailing allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive father, Woody Allen. Allen was quick to deny the accusations, calling them ‘untrue and disgraceful’.



Solange attacks Jay Z

All was not well in the Knowles family back in May when shocking footage released by TMZ showed Beyoncé’s younger sister Solange violently attacking brother-in-law Jay Z. The fracas, which took place in an elevator during a Met Gala after-party, saw the feisty singer swinging and kicking while a stunned Beyoncé looked on. After the incident the family released a statement saying their family is “like any other”.



After the seizure of Mosul in Northern Iraq, Daesh (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) began its spread of online propaganda, with frightening results.

Daesh hijacked social media

Terrorism has been part of our lives for decades, but with the rise of hi-tech media jihadists, we are now facing the biggest threat yet, says global terrorism expert Greg Barton.

“In June this year I began to receive calls from journalists about Daesh. At the time they were relatively unknown and people were asking, ‘who are these guys?’ But the roots of Daesh go back to the 1980s. What makes 2014 Daesh more dangerous than its earlier incarnations is how this group has stepped comfortably into the 21st century and made use of social media. For the first time we are seeing terrorists who have a sophisticated online strategy that is designed to recruit fighters, spread propaganda and garner financial support – and they’re good at it.

“The numbers speak for themselves; to date there have been around 17,000 foreign fighters leaving their homes to join Daesh. Perhaps one of the saddest things is that through various media platforms, whether it be online magazines, Twitter or their now-infamous beheading videos, Daesh has developed the ability to connect with and radicalise people, many of them young and impressionable. One recent case involved Sydney teenager, Abdullah Elmir, who has appeared in a series of propaganda videos for Daesh. On screen he looks very pleased with himself, but the reality is that he probably has a one-way ticket and will be lucky if he lasts a year.

“Modern terrorism is, more than anything else, about a struggle of hearts and minds – which is precisely why Daesh uses the internet to highlight its atrocities. The goal is to outrage people, because that breeds prejudice and makes it easier to recruit those who become the target of it. The terrorists want us to show their videos on our home feeds and retweet their words on Twitter. But, as we have seen time and again when dealing with terrorists, we should never give them what they want.

“The only way forward is not on the battlefield, but to undermine their social support and deny this group the notoriety they are striving for.”



Bloom and Bieber come to blows

Word on the street is that Orlando’s estranged wife, Miranda Kerr, and Justin’s ex-girlfriend, Selena Gomez, prompted this July brawl. The grainy footage, showing Orlando and Justin having a fisticuffs in Ibiza, divided celeb-land. On Team Bloom was James Franco and Leo DiCaprio. On Team Bieber was… we’ll get back to you on that.



Nude JLaw photos surface

Jennifer Lawrence was among a spate of stars to have her privacy violated in August, when naked pictures of her were leaked on photo website 4chan. Dozens of explicit photographs of the Hunger Games star appeared online. The hacker claimed he tapped into the celeb’s phone via an Apple iCloud leak. Speaking to Vanity Fair in October, JLaw referred to the hacking as a “sex crime”.



Robin Williams found dead

The world was left in shock when beloved actor Robin Williams committed suicide following a long battle with depression.

In the wake of the Oscar-winner’s death, it’s time to break the taboo of talking about depression once and for all, says counselling psychologist Carey Kirk*.

“When it comes to depression there’s always a tendency to stereotype. We think of the person who can’t get out of bed, the person who never smiles, or the person who can’t leave the house.

“But these are extremes and there are plenty of people who function on a daily basis, but still feel empty inside. Take Robin Williams for example. When the news of his suicide broke, people were in a state of shock. Why? Because when we think of him, we usually conjure up images of a charismatic individual who spent his career making people laugh. How could someone who was a comedian be depressed? But we have no idea what Robin Williams was feeling inside. The bottom line? We just never know when someone is struggling.

“There is still a lot of confusion when it comes to depression. Many people view it as a weakness and the only way to break the taboo is to discuss it on a broader platform as a public health issue. The more education we can provide, the more likely people are to recognise the signs and symptoms of depression and to feel comfortable reaching out for the help they so desperately need.

“At the end of the day Williams’ death was an unfortunate tragedy. I hope that if we can take anything from it, it’s that depression can affect anyone. Therefore we must learn to accept it as a real, potentially fatal disease and support those who suffer in getting treatment.”

*Carey Kirk is program manager of the Lighthouse Arabia in Dubai



Scotland voted in a referendum on Scottish independence. Voters answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The ‘No’ side won with a majority of 55.3 per cent.

Scottish independence referendum

A nation divided when SNP leader Alex Salmond led the fight for independence from Great Britain. Here, two women with very different views give us their side of the story


Laura Walkerdine, 33, is a business risk approvals coordinator from Glasgow. She voted ‘Yes’ to independence

“When I heard about the referendum I was over the moon. It felt like democracy in action. For me, it all comes down to freedom. Had we won independence we would have been able to govern ourselves, make our own decisions and we would have been a very successful nation. However, when I woke up the morning after the vote I felt gutted that nothing had changed. It doesn’t stop here though. If nothing else, the referendum has got Scottish people to sit up and take notice of politics and if we have another referendum in 10 years’ time we will be a little bit wiser and
I’m certain the outcome will be very different.”


Lindsay Johnston, 34, is a managing director of a PR agency. She is from Aberdeen but has lived in Dubai for seven years. She supported the ‘No’ vote, but was unable to vote due to her expat status.

“I’m a patriotic Scot. We are a proud nation with deep historical roots and that passion courses through our blood. That said, I am also British and proud to be so. My opinion and desire to stay together never swayed. Great Britain is just that – great. Together we have achieved remarkable things and I think we can continue to do so.”



After a six-month trial, Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of the culpable homicide of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, but cleared of murder. He was sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

Oscar Pistorius is found guilty

Court reporter Dianne Hawker has had a front row seat at some of South Africa’s biggest court cases, but nothing could prepare her for the media frenzy that surrounded the Oscar Pistorius trial

“I’ll never forget the first morning I walked into the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. There was a scrum of reporters and photographers lining up outside and a crowd of people had turned up in the hope of getting a glimpse of Pistorius on his way into the court. Cameras were set up in the courtroom and the proceedings were broadcast live on TV. It felt a bit like a soap opera and it seemed as though the whole world had honed in on this one little courtroom in Pretoria.

“I’ve reported on a lot of trials and I thought I had seen everything, but this case took it to a new level. As well as being one of the most-watched, most-tweeted and most-hyped murder court cases in history, everything from the conflicting stories of what happened to Reeva Steenkamp that night, to Oscar’s reaction to evidence – he frequently sobbed and vomited throughout the trial – was surreal. The fact that it was televised also made it that much more intense because every aspect was being watched closely, not just by those in the court, but by people in their homes.”

Looking back


10 years on: Tsunami

December 26 marks 10 years since the Indian Ocean Tsunami. It was triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, and the estimated death toll is said to be close to 228,000.


20 years on: The Rwandan Genocide

On April 7 it was 20 years since the start of the Rwandan Genocide, which saw nearly 1 million people slaughtered in 100 days of sectarian violence.


100 years on: The First World War

Thousands flocked to the Tower of London to see the poppy display in tribute to the British servicemen who died in the First World War, which began on July 28, 1914.

Big fat celebrity weddings


Angelina and Brad

In typical Brangelina fashion, this one flew right under the radar. The small ceremony, which took place at their chateau in France in August, was attended by a select group of family members, including the couple’s six children.


George and Amal

It was a star-studded affair for George and Amal when they tied the knot in Venice in September. Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Bono and Cindy Crawford were just a few of the celebrity guests to attend the epic celebrations.


Kim and Kanye

Say what you like about Kimye, but they know how to put on a good show. Their May wedding, which began with a rehearsal dinner at the Palace of Versailles in Paris and then to Florence for the ceremony, was shown on the Keeping Up With The Kardashians finale in September.

The best-dressed celebs of the year


Victoria Beckham: The Spice-Girl-turned-designer hit the big 4-0 in April, and her sophisticated style remained timeless as ever.

Jessica Alba: Whether rocking printed denim on the street or Cali-chic femininity on the red carpet, Jess just didn’t get it wrong.

Blake Lively : Blake had us drooling over her princess-style gowns for the first part of the year and her maternity style has been spot-on ever since.


Taylor Swift: Taylor’s girly style was given a glamorous makeover in 2014 as she ruled the red carpet in stunning gowns.

Lupita Nyong’o: Lupita’s block colour statement style has been consistently flawless in 2014 – did we mention we love her?!

Jennifer Lawrence: JLaw’s style had a complete overhaul in 2014, taking her from fashion victim to sartorial queen.

Beauty trends: Lob


Alexa Chung has always been queen of effortlessly cool hair, and this year celebs everywhere followed suit with their own versions of the Lob (long bob) – worn sleek and chic by Rose Byrne and Jen Aniston, or girlishly mussed up like Alexa.

The trends we’ve all been rocking


Sports luxe as seen on Cara Delevingne.

Sixties as seen on Blake Lively.

Geometric prints as seen on Emma Stone.

Floral as seen on Kerry Washington.

And the ones we wouldn’t be seen dead in now..



Harem trousers, wedge trainers, short suit, the cape and slogan t-shirts.

Beauty trend that’s going down


Top knot.

What kept us in on Friday night?

A host of new TV series and box sets kept us glued to our living room sofas


True Detective, HBO

We sometimes had to watch it from behind a cushion, but that didn’t stop this dark drama, starring Hollywood heavyweights Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, from keeping us gripped for eight enthralling episodes.


Fargo, FX

2014’s answer to Breaking Bad, this dark comedy-crime drama, set in small-town Minnesota, won rave reviews for its brilliant performances. In particular, bad-boy Billy Bob Thornton was hailed for his turn as a ruthless killer on a rampage.


Gotham, FOX

Gotham City without Batman? A bit like French fries dipped in milkshake – 
it sounds odd, but actually works. Centring on the origin stories of several Batman villains, Season One kept
 us transfixed.


The Flash, The CW

This slick, comic-book adaptation made us giggle and gasp in all the right places with its extraordinary story lines and outlandish effects. What’s not to like?

People we will miss


Peaches Geldof

The mother of two was found dead at her country home on April 7. An inquest ruled that she died of a heroin overdose.


Oscar De La Renta

The legendary fashion designer passed away on October 20 after a long battle with cancer.


Joan Rivers

The 81-year-old comedian suffered a heart attack during a routine throat procedure and later died on September 4.

By Catherine Langley

By Catherine Langley