Saturday, the 30th of December
EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the final 2017 edition of The Weekly Wrap. In lieu of our regular programming, this week we'll Deep Dive into seven of the biggest stories that made the news not only this week but throughout the year. 

We'd also like to take this opportunity to thank you, our dear readers across 199 countries around the world. We know how busy you are so we're grateful for the 400,000 hours you spent with us this year. We hope we delivered good value for your time.

Happy new year, and best wishes to you and your family in 2018.

- the inkl team

A malnourished Yemeni child. The famines gripping much of Africa and Yemen have complex and overlapping causes. Photo: AFP.
Famine - In 2017 inkl has sadly featured hundreds of stories concerning the dire and worsening humanitarian situation across East Africa. Spiralling population growth, drought and scorched-earth warfare are largely to blame. And despite the extraordinary work done by local and foreign NGOs, some 28 million people are starving in the Horn of Africa.

Somalia, where half the population is at risk of starvation, is the worst-hit. In February a drought was declared across large swaths of the country, provoking painful memories of a similar drought in 2011 that at its peak had caused 10,000 people to starve to death everyday. Meanwhile the terror group al-Shabaab and government militias alike continue to commandeer aid shipments. There are no easy answers for this war-torn country. 

In South Sudan, the situation is very similar: almost half the population is malnourished. This week the president and his rebel commander counterpart signed a ceasefire. Optimists see this as the circuit-breaker that could end a civil war which has killed thousands, displaced millions and seen the vast majority of the country's productive farmland being incinerated. 

And last of all, our readers will by now be well acquainted with the entirely avoidable tragedy in Yemen, where 8.4 million people are on the verge of starvation. One million cases of cholera have been reported and families and even entire villages are at risk of disappearing while the Western-backed Saudi coalition continues to wage its punitive bombing campaign against those who live in the fractured Yemeni state. On just one single day this week, 68 civilians were torn apart by Saudi and Emirati jets. 
An ISIS militant lies dead on the streets of Mosul. Photo: Goran Romasevic / Reuters.
The caliphate crumbles - The military campaign against ISIS was declared a victory late in the year. It was a conflict marked by atrocities on both sides. The last major battle in Mosul claimed many thousands of lives and most of the city now lies in ruin.

Having snatched back territory that was so humiliatingly surrendered to ISIS three years ago, authorities in Baghdad must now address the grievances that allowed so many of their constituents to support the terror group. Terrible sectarianism and corruption remains, as do hated soldiers from foreign powers.

In Syria the war has been far more complex. Many ISIS strongholds, including the self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, fell to Western-backed Kurdish and Arab fighters during the year. But Turkey remains at war with ISIS, as does the Assad regime, as do Islamist militants in the west of the country. Under the fog of war, Coalition warplanes showed little of the restraint that they had over Iraq. Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor have been flattened entirely.

The war in Syria has now been reduced to a comfortable pace for the Assad regime. In the shattered suburbs of East Ghouta, government forces are snuffing out the last rebel foothold in the capital. Meanwhile, airstrikes continue to smash marketplaces and mosques in Hama, Homs and Idlib, aided by Russian jets, Iranian soldiers, Hezbollah fighters and Western intransigence. Bashar al-Assad will remain at the helm of this battered and trisected country. 

Elsewhere, ISIS continues to gain followers and territory with alarming ease. In some provinces of Afghanistan it now rivals the Taliban; just this week ISIS claimed responsibility for a string of bombings in Kabul that left 41 dead and 80 wounded. In the Philippines city of Davao two Islamist groups joined forces under the ISIS banner and fought a devastatingly effective guerrilla war against the government. And in the Egyptian Sinai, the local ISIS-affiliate has waged a grotesque war against undefended religious minorities.

There will be more of this in 2018.
A virulent strain of white nationalism has risen in the United States. Photo: Alejandro Alvarez / Stringer.
Trump's America -  America's least-likely (and least-liked) president has dominated the headlines since his inauguration on January 20th. His meteoric and vastly underestimated rise through the previous year carried him into office with substantial momentum. Needless to say it's been a historic year.

Trump has battled the media, the Democrats, his own party, foreign leaders and at times reality. Dozens of staffers, and judicial and bureaucratic nominees have quit in disgrace or been purged. Senior members of his cabinet and inner circle have been arrested and charged with a smorgasbord of offences. Multiple investigations are underway into not only his administration, but also his family.

Trump's tweets have sparked fear and censure across the globe on a variety of sensitive issues. An unmistakeable dread has followed every exchange of petty insults between Trump and his North Korean opposite, Kim Jong-un. 

Yet in spite of all this, the protestations of a largely inept Democratic party, his clear lack of facility with the issues of governance, and the ill advice he has received from his most trusted advisers, Trump remains the president and continues to prosecute his agenda.

And despite the deeply humiliating individual and collective denigration heaped on them by Trump, the Republican establishment continues to stand by him. And it has reaped the rewards for doing so. After a fractious start to the year, the GOP has finished strong with major victories on the environment, immigration, tax reform and the dismantling of Obamacare.

All the while the American economy soars to dizzying new heights and the wealthiest Americans continue to accumulate the lion's share of the spoils.
Xi Jinping has moved to centre-stage. Photo: NYT.
The Chinese century - Nature abhors a vacuum, so as America's influence wanes across the globe, another's rises. China's President Xi Jinping  has secured five more years in charge and with that, the chance to build the largest legacy of any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. Xi has embarked on the ambitious One Belt, One Road policy - the funding and construction of ports, railways and roads that spread out from western China in a far-reaching web of infrastructure. The project will place Beijing at the centre of a new Silk Road.

Despite the gargantuan sums China will spend on the project, many nearby countries are suspicious. The growing pains of abutting regional powers was evident in the Doklam border dispute with India, and the militarisation of artificial reefs in the South China Sea continues to be an issue. Even within China there are worrying signs of how a communist power (despite the many trappings of a capitalist economy) will rule in the 21st century. The growth of mainland influence on Hong Kong continues apace and the restive region of Xinjiang lives under an Orwellian police state.

It's projected that China will surpass America economically by 2032 and local companies continue to burst through new ceilings. Hong Kong's Tencent and China's Alibaba respectively passed and are on the verge of passing the US$500b capitalisation mark. This economic heft puts them on the same playing field as the largest corporations on earth (Apple and Google). But the high-profile public drawdown of HNA Group's assets also shows how quickly things can change for Chinese companies and their foreign partners. 

One thing to watch in 2018 is the lightning pace at which Xi is implementing environmental reform. The glaring lack of leadership from Washington has provided Beijing with ample reason to push forward with decarbonising its economy.
A year to forget for the European Union. Photo: BBC.
Annus horribilis - The entire European project threatened to come undone in 2017 when a rash of Eurosceptics rose to power within its own member states. First amongst these, of course, is the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Theresa May, carrying the bucket passed to her by David Cameron, set off the year marching towards Brexit. An early election and a 10% swing to Labour almost derailed that plan. British negotiators have battled valiantly throughout the year to keep up the image of a dignified Brexit, although it's clear that it won't be.

As Brussels manages what will undoubtedly be a complicated and at times acrimonious split up, other spot-fires have flared across Europe. The resurgence of right-wing nationalism, anti-immigrant racism and protectionism have rattled the central authority. However, many fringe right-wing groups have only enjoyed modest success at the polls. Some that are already in power, like in Poland, have shocked European sensibilities with calls to restrict abortion rights and to marginalise refugees.

In the background, the long and deeply held tradition of Catalan nationalism has become a genuine flashpoint for the European Union. After decades of semi-autonomous rule, Catalonians voted in an unofficial referendum to secede from Spain. Madrid and Brussels were horrified. Catalonian parliamentarians have been rounded up and jailed, but a Spanish attempt to balance the scales in their favour with another election backfired. The independence parties have more votes than ever. 2018 will be a fascinating year to watch how Spain manages this crisis.
Harvey Weinstein - the man who inadvertently started a movement. (Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Harrassment - Prior to 2017, if you had mentioned gender equality it was generally assumed that you were talking about equal pay. But this year the gender debate changed dramatically as unwanted workplace advances, and grotesque abuses of power assumed focus. 

The biggest sexual harassment revelations of the year centred on technologyentertainment, and politics. But even though each new instance was reported as a shocking discovery, there was a striking similarity to all these stories. Every tale involved well-respected leaders who had used their positions of power to prey on those who were vulnerable to such abuse, and who had done so repeatedly and consistently - with an air of impunity. So what should perhaps be more shocking is that half of the human race had simply learned to accept and live with this reality while the other half remained blissfully unaware (or unmoved). 

There is little doubt that in 2018 there will be new reports emerging from new spheres that continue to trace this now well-known arc. But if there's one positive change to emerge from 2017 it is that leaders everywhere will be forced to think twice about the scrutiny they may endure 10, 20, or even 30 years in the future. That alone, if nothing else, will hopefully be an impediment to such behaviour in the future.
Virtual gold? Or fool's gold? (REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Illustration/File Photo)
Crypto - 2017 is the year in which most people learned the words 'cryptocurrency' and 'blockchain'. And the reason they learned those words this year is of course because the leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, exploded in value by 1000% before settling back to a more sedate 700-800% as we head to the end of the year.

The promise of a decentralised (non-fiat) digital currency that can be traded instantaneously, across borders and without incurring transaction costs is still just that - a promise. What we have in its stead is a new asset class - an alternative to traditional assets like stocks, bonds, gold, and real estate that are largely priced in by sophisticated investors, and that new investors, particularly millennials, are largely priced out of.

As millennials along with other speculators leapt into the fray, the market value of Bitcoin, of other cryptocurrencies, and of companies that deal in the crypto space shot up like one of Elon Musk's rockets. Wall Street too started to look at the space, particularly once crypto-derivatives like futures contracts became available to trade.

Meanwhile governments and reserve banks around the world issued warnings and took steps to curb what many fear is a ponzi scheme driven by those who already hold these cryptocurrencies.

And so we close out the year with the only prediction that can be made about crypto - that people on both sides of the crypto-divide will debate its merit vociferously while in the background the prices of cryptocurrencies continue their heart-stopping swings.  
Jubilant supporters on the streets of Monrovia.
Progress in Liberia - For the first time in seven decades Liberia's power has been peacefully transferred from incumbent to challenger. Civil unrest, police violence and a long-running civil war were spectres that long haunted elections in the West African country. No longer. Former football player George Weah has swept into power comfortably without any bloodshed.

Free power - As Germany's famously windy winter sets in, renewable energy generators are working overtime. The oversupply created by Germany's enormous wind-power grid meant that this week consumers were paid to use electricity. How about that for a Christmas present?
Stop eating all that fish.
Ignoring the bait - With the worlds fish stocks a full one third over-exploited and large fish numbers plummeting by 90%, one would assume that action on illegal fishing would be a top priority for governments around the world. It's not.

A letter to the dead - Thousands disappeared into ISIS secret prisons in Raqqa. They died by the dozen in torture rooms or in hastily dug mass graves. These are the letters to the missing from those who managed to get out.
Your weekend long reads...

It's been a big year. We'll give you a break from your usual weekend long read. Here are the best photos from 2017.

Have a wonderful New Year weekend and we'll see you in 2018.