The Japan Times editors selected these world stories as the most important of 2014.
1. The rise of the Islamic State group: A new threat emerges in the Middle East after militants seize land in Iraq and Syria, provoking outrage with gruesome videos of hostage beheadings filmed within the borders of their self-styled caliphate.
2. Revolution in Ukraine: Protesters take control of Kiev following President Viktor Yanukovych’s 2013 decision to abort an agreement with the EU in favor of pursuing closer ties with Russia. A heavy-handed crackdown leads to the deaths of dozens of demonstrators, the ouster of Yanukovych and an ongoing conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the country’s restive east.
3. Ebola outbreak: Travelers in Gueckedou, a forested area in Guinea on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone, bring the first 14 cases of the lethal virus to West Africa. Infections rates soar. By Dec. 16, 7,841 deaths have been reported worldwide.
4. U.S.-Cuba detente: President Barack Obama orders full diplomatic ties with Cuba restored and the opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana for the first time in over 50 years. The deal followed 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis, and was concluded by a telephone call between Obama and President Raul Castro.
5. The mystery of MH370: The March disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines flight sparks an international search and rescue operation. No trace of the missing jet has yet been found.
6. The sinking of the Sewol: A ferry carrying 462 passengers, mostly students, capsizes and sinks off Jindo Island, South Korea, causing 259 deaths. The captain is charged with gross negligence and sentenced to 36 years in prison after revelations that the ship was overloaded on the day of the disaster.
7. Riots in Ferguson: The slaying of black teenager Michael Brown, 18, by white police officer Darren Wilson ignites protests and sparks a national debate on police brutality. The Missouri city is hit again when a grand jury refuses to indict Wilson.
8. Hong Kong pro-democracy protests: Activists take to the streets starting Sept. 26, demanding free elections in 2016, after the government announced prospective candidates must be vetted by a Beijing-linked panel.
9. Scotland’s referendum: A Sept. 19 independence poll shakes the foundations of Scotland’s 307-year union with the United Kingdom and energizes a generation of Scots; 55.3 percent vote against independence amid a record turnout of 84.6 percent.
10. Philae lander touches down: A cosmic first as European scientists successfully land a space probe on a streaking comet. Data gathered by the probe before it ran out of power indicated that water on Earth most likely came from asteroids rather than comets like 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
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