News in Brief: 8 trends to watch out for this year

The rise of India:

India’s economic growth, according to a recent story in The Economist, may surpass China’s in the next year or two. Last year, their gross domestic product grew by 7.5 perecent. China’s GDP, on the other hand, grew only 7.4 percent, its slowest growth in 24 years, according to Reuters. India has benefited from the drop in oil prices and its banks are lowering interest rates. This bodes well for India’s Prime Minister Modi, who is finishing his first year in office.

Oil abroad…

It is no secret that oil prices have plummeted around the world, from around $110 a barrel over the last four years to less than $50, according to the BBC. This has been hurting nations like Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela, where oil makes up 70-90 percent of exports. The Islamic State continues exporting black-market oil and selling it at much lower prices, bringing in almost $3 million a day.

…And at home:

According to the BBC, the U.S. is producing more oil than it has in the last 30 years. This is partly due to the explosion of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial technique for extracting oil and gas that was banned by New York late last year. The oil infrastructure, however, is in flux. The Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada is still under debate. Unions and refineries are clashing while oil workers strike. And most recently, a train carrying oil tankers derailed in West Virginia, exploding and leaking oil into a creek.

Ukraine

Despite a recent ceasefire between the government and rebel groups, neither side seems keen to comply with the terms, according to the BBC. Although fighting has mostly ceased, Rebels have taken the town of Debaltseve, and neither side has removed their heavy weaponry. The ceasefire was agreed upon in Minsk, Belarus, and promised the removal of foreign troops, lifting of restriction on rebel territory, and decentralization of rebel held areas by the end of the year. Implementing it, however, appears to be more difficult than initially thought.

The Islamic State:

Obama has asked Congress for authorization to use military force to target the Islamic State. Obama’s AUMF calls for a three year time limit and no troop involvement beyond those already on the ground. Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the bill, according to CNN. Some, such as Senator John McCain, say it is too restrictive, while others say it is too permissive. Regardless, nations will continue to respond as IS continues executing captive internationals and members of local minority groups. Most recently, the Libyan branch beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians.

Mars or bust!

The Dutch non-profit Mars One, which wants to create the first colony on Mars, has announced that it has narrowed the list of 200,000 potential colonizers to only 100, according to The Guardian. Out of these, six teams of four will be created. Mars One hopes to land the first of these in 2025, despite MIT researchers announcing that their plan would result in all the settlers dying within a few months. While the plan is almost a decade in the future, there will be plenty of updates between now and then.

Internet for All:

The Federal Communications Commission is planning to pass regulation insuring that all content on the Internet remains equally easy to access, according to The Washington Post. This concept, known as net neutrality, means that all Internet service providers cannot privilege certain content on the Internet by blocking or slowing certain sites. Some Republicans are unhappy about what they see as overreach by the FCC, and one — Senator Dean Heller — has introduced a bill to reveal the draft FCC proposal before they vote on it on Feb. 26.

And much more…

These are just a few stories to track, but there are many more. Oxfam made headlines when it announced that the world’s richest 80 people control as much of the world’s wealth as the poorest 50 percent. The #Blacklivesmatter movement which began last year after police shootings in Ferguson continues. Cuba and the U.S. may continue negotiations to restore diplomatic relations as early as next week. Many Alabama judges are ignoring a federal court ruling to issue same-sex marriage licenses until the Supreme Court rules on the matter in April. What do you think the biggest stories of 2015 will be?

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