02 January 2011    0 Comments
Year in Review: An Obituary for 2010

Now that 2010 is officially an emblem of the past, rather than give a basic year-end review, I thought it might be a good time to count the dead and reflect.  And so without further ado, here is 2010′s obituary:

Iraq and Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan took the lives of one American and seven Afghans every day of 2010.  That means that Afghans and coalition troops were dying in increased numbers during 2010, up 20% and 40% respectively.  Suicide attacks averaged three per week in Afghanistan.  Afghan deaths were somewhere around 2,900 during 2010, up from 2,412 in 2009.  The number of coalition forces’  deaths rose to 709 from 521.

Meanwhile, in Iraq civilian deaths were on the decline, from 4,680 in 2009 to 3,976 in 2010, while coalition deaths dropped from 150 to 60.  This was likely due to the U.S. troop withdrawal (policy hint).  This puts the total of civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war around 150,000 (and you can thank Julian Assange and Wikileaks for providing information to add 20,000 to that figure).

And now the good news: Americans don’t like our little war in Afghanistan anymore, to the tune of 63%.  So hop on the war-hating bandwagon, and welcome aboard.

BP Oil Spill

On April 20, 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and injuring 17.  In the ensuing three months, over 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, immersing the wildlife in a slick of crude.  While BP has covered up many of the dead by burying them without report, according to the count maintained by the Fish and Wildlife Services, the spill has resulted in the confirmed deaths of 6104 birds, 609 sea turtles, and 100 mammals.  Of course, the problem with counting birds, turtles and dolphins is that you can only count what washes ashore.  The statistics on the number of dead fish are almost nowhere to be seen, so the best we can do is guess and say: millions.

Why millions?  Because in September, this washed ashore in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish:

Yes, those are fish floating on the water.  And if a few hundred thousand dead fish don’t get your heart going, a dead baby whale was found near the site earlier that week.  But of course, outrage and despair will only get us so far.  Perhaps a good place to start in the new year is by seriously evaluating your use of oil on a personal level.


In January, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti just 15 miles from its capital Port-au-Prince (metropolitan population 2.3 million).  The earthquake was strong enough to level virtually every building in the city, including the presidential mansion.  The ensuing humanitarian catastrophe took the lives of some 230,000 Haitians, or about one out of every 10 Port-au-Prince residents.

Known Persons

While some persons are only remembered by a number, others are lucky enough have lived such significant lives that we mark their deaths with their names and their accomplishments.  The list of known persons that died this past year include famed author J. D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye), actor and comedian Leslie Nielsen, and director Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), who all died of old age.  Basketball big-man and humanitarian Manute Bol died of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a skin disease, actor Dennis Hopper died of prostate cancer, and actor Gary Coleman, who suffered from health ailments all his life, died of a brain hemorrhage after being taken off life support.

Childhood actor Corey Haim died at 38 of a suspected drug overdose, and professional wrestler Chris Kanyon died after swallowing a bottle of anti-depressants.  Fashion designer Alexander McQueen and financier Mark Madoff were both found hanging in their homes in apparent suicides.  George Steinbrenner, the short-tempered owner of the New York Yankees, died of a heart attack, Elizabeth Edwards died from breast cancer, and John D’Agostino Sr., author of the comics Archie, The Incredible Hulk and G.I. Joe, died of bone cancer.  Paul the octopus, who successfully predicted the outcome of 12 out of 14 World Cup matches (probability = 0.65%), died in his aquarium of natural causes.  He was 2.5 years old.

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