From the Pentagon's UFO program to death by cyanide at the UN court: 17 unbelievable stories that got lost in the relentless news cycle of 2017

President Donald Trump. Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. The Russia investigation. The #MeToo movement. Las Vegas.

There were so many huge, consequential stories in 2017, and they all came at a breakneck pace, one after another. The news cycle was so quick that many stories that would have otherwise made a massive impact either were forgotten soon after they broke, or fell by the wayside entirely.

Here are 17 consequential news stories from 2017 that you might have missed, but should definitely remember:


The Pentagon’s $US22 million UFO investigation program

Department of DefenceScreengrab from a Department of Defence video showing a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets and an unknown object.

From 2007 to 2012, the Pentagon investigated whether UFOs existed, and what threats they posed for the US military.

Initially pushed for by Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the program interviewed pilots and military officers who had encounters with unexplained objects over the years. Intelligence official Luis Elizondo led it, and told The New York Times that he resigned in October because he said the Defence Department didn’t take his findings seriously.

Essentially, the US military was studying whether aliens existed. Aliens!


1 million people contracting cholera in Yemen

Yemen’s cholera outbreak, which started in 2016, has grown at an alarming pace amid the country’s ongoing civil war.

In December, the Red Cross confirmed that 1 million people in the country have contracted the disease, an astronomical number considering it is treatable and preventable.

But the conflict in Yemen has led to a perfect storm that has allowed the disease to flourish.


Puerto Rico burning the dead after Hurricane Maria

While the official number of deaths in Puerto Rico that have occurred as a result of Hurricane Maria sits only at 64, at least 1,052 people have died in the aftermath of the hurricane.

They weren’t included in the official death toll because their bodies were not examined to determine the cause of death. The government had also allowed funeral homes to burn the bodies of the dead to cut down on burial costs.

While Puerto Rico dominated the headlines as the Category 4 storm ravaged the island, the US territory’s woes have only grown as the news cycle moved on. As much as half of the island’s people remain without power over three months after the disaster.


A Croat war criminal’s suicide by poison during his trial at the Hague

Slobodan Praljak was a commander in the Bosnian Croat forces fighting in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. In 2013, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

During an appeal trial at the UN’s International Court of Justice at The Hague in November, Praljak’s sentence was reaffirmed.

“Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal! I reject your judgment with contempt!” Praljak shouted in the court room.

Then he suddenly drank a vial of potassium cyanide. Praljak was rushed to the hospital, where died a few hours later.


Trump’s conflicts of interest

A story that often took center stage during the 2016 presidential campaign but faded under the mountain of news in 2017 was Trump’s various conflicts of interest.

Among them are the Trump Organisation’s continued lease for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, which sits in a federal building, and pending trademark applications for his brand in China.

Despite protest from ethics lawyers and liberals, Trump’s continued potential conflicts have never truly been resolved. Some reports claim that he is still involved in running the Trump Organisation, despite announcing he would hand control over to his sons in January 2017.

Obama-era holdover Walter Shaub resigned as director of the Office of Government Ethics in July, and has since said “Trump’s ‘half blind trust’ is totally bogus.”

Trump’s financial interests have also come up in the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the election.


Obama letting Hezbollah off the hook in order to secure the Iran deal

A Politico investigation detailed how the Obama administration sidelined a campaign to stop Iran-funded Hezbollah’s drug trafficking in Latin America in order to secure the Iran deal.

The effort, called Project Cassandra, had been active since 2008 and focused on the Lebanese terror group’s international crime operations, which included drug and weapons smuggling.

Despite numerous leads, according to Politico, the Obama administration refused to work with the project on numerous occassions, allegedly delaying or hindering progress in their efforts to file criminal charges against a host of institutions linked to Hezbollah and Iran.

Politico’s sources allege these decisions were part of a policy by the administration.

But Obama administration officials threw water on those conclusions, citing several examples of prosecuting members of Hezbollah.


Monsoon floods that killed 1,200 people and left a third of Bangladesh underwater

Picture: Getty Images

While Americans’ attention was turned toward the flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, massive record-breaking floods were also wreaking havoc in South Asia.

In late August and early September, monsoon rains pounded Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, killing over 1,200 people and leaving millions either stranded or displaced.

By early September, as much as a third of Bangladesh was underwater, and aid agencies were scrambling to provide assistance for a flooding disaster unseen in years.


Hobby Lobby’s illegal smuggling of artifacts from the Middle East

Craft store Hobby Lobby came under fire this summer for smuggling millions of dollars worth of artifacts from Iraq around 2010 to be featured in a Bible Museum that the company’s billionaire owners built in Washington, DC.

In July, the company agreed to hand over the smuggled items and pay $US3 million in fines.

While there was some speculation that Hobby Lobby might have inadvertently funded ISIS by purchasing the artifacts, this was debunked.


The terrorist attack that killed over 300 people in Egypt

On November 24, Islamist militants surrounded a Sufi mosque compound in the town of Bir al-Abed in North Sinai governorate in Egypt, set off a bomb, and then shot fleeing worshippers in what became the single deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s history – 305 people died.

The attack was likely perpetrated by jihadist militants fighting in the sparsely populated eastern region of the country, where many fighters have ties to ISIS. Despite the enormous death toll though, the event quickly faded from Western media shortly after it took place.

But it was not an isolated incident. Just this week, militants killed 10 Coptic Christians in the city of Helwan, and have been actively carrying out attacks across the country for several years.


The continued rise of American militias

Militias, certainly ones of the anti-government variety, are nothing new in the United States. Since the 1990s the number of militias has fluctuated, but generally, militias rise under Democratic administrations and decline under Republican ones.

This has not been true under Trump, though. There are 500 militia groups in the US today – more than double the number in 2008, according to a PBS report citing the Anti-Defamation League.

Many hold right-wing, conspiratorial, or anti-immigrant views, and see Trump’s presidency as a good thing. But many militia members say they believe there are enough threats to his vision that disarming now wouldn’t be a good idea.


Trump’s long-term judicial impact

White House/Shealah CraigheadAnthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, swears in Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch on Monday, April 10, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Trump made headlines with his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, but he has also been quietly remaking the American court system.

He’s been nominating numerous judges to federal district and appeals courts across the country, and the Republican-controlled Senate has also been doing its best to confirm them at a rapid-fire pace.

Trump’s quick nomination rate has backfired on several occasions. A few of his picks have withdrawn themselves from consideration, including an Alabama lawyer who never tried a case before.

As he continues to fill posts, Trump is poised to have a significant impact on the entire American court system.


The mini-civil war between Iraq’s government and Iraqi Kurds

After Iraq’s Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in September, a small-scale conflict broke out between Kurdistan’s peshmerga militias and Iraq’s Security Forces in which the Iraqi army recovered control of the city of Kirkuk, the location of major oil fields.

While the fighting didn’t last long, 100,000 people fled the city, and the battle resulted in at least several casualties. The event did not have the far-reaching consequences some analysts had predicted it might have, but was an important phase in the reunification of Iraq following ISIS’s ouster earlier this year that was quickly forgotten afterward.


The arrest of Reuters journalists who uncovered mass graves in Myanmar

Rohingya Muslim refugees crossing the border into Bangladesh. Picture: Getty Images

Two Burmese journalists were arrested by authorities in Myanmar after reportedly uncovering evidence of mass graves in the village of Inn Din, where ethnic Rohingya Muslims were allegedly targeted by the military and Buddhist civilians.

The Burmese military said it was investigating claims of war crimes by its soldiers, but maintained that reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested for trying to illegally obtain information about Rakhine state where the Rohingya are concentrated.

The news came months after continued reports of ethnic cleansing being perpetrated against the Rohingya population in Rakhine.


The assault of anti-Erdogan protestors by the Turkish president’s bodyguards in Washington, DC

Screenshot via VOA TurkishA view of a protest that turned violent outside the Turkish embassy in Washington D.C., May 16, 2017.

When demonstrators protesting against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies showed up at the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC in May, they were met by the president’s bodyguards, who proceeded to violently assault them.

The incident sparked a tit-for-tat between the US and Turkey, with American authorities seeking swift and strong action against the Turkish bodyguards.

In response, Ankara gave the US ambassador in Turkey a stern letter protesting the actions. DC authorities eventually charged the bodyguards with felony aggravated assault, among other crimes.


The Department of Justice demand for information on all visitors to an anti-Trump resistance website

The Department of Justice demanded that the anti-Trump site Dreamhost hand over information on all 1.3 million visitors to its site to the federal government in connection to protests that took place during Trump’s inauguration in January.

The DOJ eventually rescinded its demand following public pressure.


The war in Ukraine is still happening, and shows no signs of ending anytime soon

The war in Eastern Ukraine, also called the War in Donbas, has been grinding on ever since the end of 2014, and although it rarely makes US headlines, it is still no closer to stopping.

Today, rather than troop movements and urban battles, the war in the region consists mainly or intermittent shelling and a frozen frontline – along with an ever-present sense of dread among local inhabitants.

There was also an internal shakeup this year among the Russian-backed rebels based in Luhansk, which, along with Donetsk, is one of two major cities under rebel control in the country.

Amid the various other stories, conflicts, and events that took center stage in 2017, it has been easy to forget that there is still an active war taking place between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government within Europe’s borders.


A Philadelphia Eagles defensive end donated his salary to fund scholarships for underprivileged youth

Maddie Meyer/GettyChris Long during his time playing for the New England Patriots.

Eagles defensive end Chris Long donated the salary from his first six games of the season to fund scholarships for kids in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

And after that, he decided he wanted to donate the pay for his remaining 10 games, too.

Long used the salary for his last 10 games to launch an initiative called Pledge 10 for Tomorrow to promote education equity and opportunity in the three cities he has played in – Boston, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.

He says he has received in donations from fans and fellow players, too. The organisation has since raised over $US929,000.

Former President Barack Obama tweeted that this was one of his favourite overlooked news stories from 2017.

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