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AS the year draws to a close, here is an overview of some news-makers. Headlining news organisations and setting social media websites abuzz, here are four people — and a couple — whom we think have changed the world.

Pope Francis
From his plain, unassuming garb to the way he preaches about how Christians should always lend a helping hand to the poor and exercise tolerance towards those deemed to be “sinners”, Pope Francis, whose real name is Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has won the hearts of millions around the world — Catholic or not. He has been named “Person of the Year” by both Time and The Advocate, and was even featured on the Rolling Stones magazine cover in January 2014. Pope Francis has now come to be known as one of the most outspoken popes against sex abuse within the church, a champion of the poor as well as a teacher of tolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) community, other religions as well as women’s rights.

Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh
When 58-year-old Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh diagnosed Patrick Sawyer — a Liberian national who had collapsed at the airport and was subsequently brought to the hospital she was working at — with Ebola virus, she refused to allow the pressure being put upon her by the Liberian government to discharge Sawyer, to cloud her judgement. Instead, she had the vehemently in denial Sawyer quarantined and tested, and by the time he was found to have Ebola, had already passed the disease on to over a dozen hospital staff, Adadevoh included. When she succumbed to the disease on Aug 11, 2014, she was credited for being the key person in containing the spread of Ebola to the most populous country in Africa.

Jill and Greg Henderson (Hoverboard)
Inspired by the famous “hoverboard” which made its appearance in the Back to the Future franchises, Jill and Greg Henderson sought to make it a reality. Part 2 of the Back to the Future movie is set in the year 2015, and it looks like the hoverboard is no longer a fictional “toy”, although the real board is extremely heavy and has to be ridden on a non-ferromagnetic surface. It is based upon maglev (magnetic levitation) technology employed in high-speed trains, and retails at US$10,000 (RM34,753). The hoverboard made headlines when legendary pro skateboarder Tony Hawk had the honour of becoming the first person to ride it.

Malala Yousafzai
Two years after her nearly fatal assassination by Taliban radicals in her homeland of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai is rewriting history with her courage, intellect, and her fighting spirit. In October 2014, she was announced the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. With this, she became the youngest person to ever, at just 17, to become a Nobel Prize laureate, proving to the world that with determination and spirit, one can never be put down or scared into submission.

Joko Widodo
Most believe that politics is necessarily corrupt, whether or not we like it. The election of Joko Widodo as the President of Indonesia in 2014 marked a tide of change in the world of politics. Indonesian presidents have always been selected from a handful of military leaders, so when Joko Widodo (affectionately known as Jokowi) won the election with 53% of the nation’s votes, it marked a 180-degree change for Indonesian citizens. For a man who was born in an underprivileged, lower-class background, he has truly moved mountains in order to get to where he is today. However, it is also his background and upbringing that millions of Indonesians are placing their hopes on — perhaps, he could become a champion for the poor, and bring more equality to a nation where the wealth gap is only growing larger.


This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on December 15, 2014.