15 things about the year ahead

In February 2015, South Africa will celebrate 25 years since the liberation movements were unbanned and Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years.

In February 2015, South Africa will celebrate 25 years since the liberation movements were unbanned and Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years.

1. In 2015, the Mail & Guardian will turn 30 years old. It was started as The Weekly Mail in 1985.

2.
In February 2015, South Africa will celebrate 25 years since the liberation movements were unbanned and Nelson Mandela was released from jail after 27 years.

3. According to the Hebrew calendar, it is the year 5775, which began with Rosh Hashanah in late September 2014. The Hebrew calendar was drawn up in the 12th century CE, starting from the creation of the world by God, as described biblically. It was finalised by the Jewish sage Moses Maimonides in 1178. The first such calculation was made by a rabbi in about 150CE. Calendric counting from the start of creation is known as Anno Mundi (“in the year of the world”) as opposed to another Jewish system that counted from the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by the Romans (70CE), and the Christian system of Anno Domini (“in the year of our Lord”), which counts from the alleged date of Christ’s birth.

4. In the Islamic calendar, 2015 is largely the year 1 436, running from October to October. The Islamic calendar marks the years since the Prophet Muhammad’s Hegira, or Hijrah, his flight to Mecca from Medina, after he had received news of a planned assassination. This took place in 622CE, according to the Gregorian (now international) calendar. Medina was then called Yathrib, but after Muhammad too up residence there it became known as Madinat al-Nabi or City of the Prophet, later shortened to Medina. In other versions of the story, Muhammad was invited to base himself in Yathrib by converts to his religion. After the Hegira, there were raids and skirmishes between the Muslims in Medina and the Meccans; eventually, at the Battle of Badr, Muhammad’s forces defeated the army of Mecca.

5. The charity single We Are the World was released 30 years ago. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie, it featured a host of superstar singers and sold more than 20-million copies.

6. Artists United Against Apartheid’s Sun City song, a protest against apartheid and the stars who played at the Bantustan resort, was also released in 1985. Some of its proceeds were handed directly to the ANC.

7. It will be 100 years since Albert Einstein presented his theory of general relativity to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. The theory consisted of just 10 equations, but it took Einstein four days to explain it to the academy.

8. The Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh died 125 years ago. Long thought to be a suicide, his death has now been re-examined; it may have been a drunken accident.

9. The Magna Carta turns 800. The document was presented to England’s unpopular King John by a group of rebel barons, who wanted limits placed on royal authority and a commitment that he would rule through “the law of the land”. At a meeting of John and the rebel barons at Runnymede, they presented their draft of the charter, which was then redrafted and refined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, John’s chief negotiator. The royal seal was attached to the document on June 15 1215 and the Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Liberties) was promulgated. Though it referred to relations between barons, kings and the church only, the Magna Carta became an important symbol of freedom and rights for ordinary people and a weapon against absolute monarchies. When John reneged on the charter, war broke out between him and the barons (and Prince Louis of France, who invaded England), but John died in 1216 and Louis’s forces were blocked at the battles of Lincoln, Dover and Sandwich in 1217. John’s heir, Henry III, issued a revised version of the Magna Carta.

10. It will be 200 years since Napoleon Bonaparte was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 by a coalition of British and German forces. Between 1799, when he seized power in post-revolutionary France, to 1813, when he was defeated at Leipzig, Napoleon had conquered most of Europe and a swathe of Africa. He made a comeback in 1815, only to meet his Waterloo 100 days later.

11. This year is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan by the United States during World War II. About 200?000 people died, most within 24 hours of the bombings.

12. It will be 150 years since the ending of the American Civil War.

13. It’s the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most devastating hurricane to hit the US.

14. Fifty years ago, in August 1965, US president Lyndon B Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. It was the strongest legislation yet to combat racial discrimination and disenfranchisement.

15. And that was 10 years after civil rights activist Rosa Parks was arrested in Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person.

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