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9 Incredibly Important Things That Happened In 2013 That Most People Aren’t Talking About

Here are the top issues of the year that failed to get the coverage they deserved.

In a media environment increasingly dominated by celebrity, scandal and the political horserace, many of the most important stories receive scant coverage. Here are nine hugely important things that happened in 2013 that are rarely discussed:

1. Human rights abuses in North Korean prisons reached a level not seen since the Nazi atrocities.

A new report from the U.N. released in January found that hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are being subjected to historic human right abuses. Michael Kirby, a retired Australian judge who took the lead in creating the report, told BBC News “They had to live on rodents, grasshoppers, lizards and on grass and they were subject to cruelty, All in all it is a very horrifying story, the like of which I don’t think I’ve seen or read of since the Khmer Rouge [in Cambodia] and the Nazi atrocities during the second world war.” A former camp inmate “told investigators that he was lucky when a warden ordered the tip of his finger chopped off for damaging a piece of sewing equipment used to carry out forced labor — he could easily have been executed for the transgression.

2. The Tea Party became a major advocate for solar energy.

In Georgia, the Tea Party has teamed up with clean energy advocates to bring more solar energy to the state, over the objections of utility giant Southern Co. Tea Party, advocates are motivated not by reducing carbon emissions but by adding more competition to the energy market and reducing prices. Still, the atypical coalition could be a game-changer as renewable producers seek access to energy markets.

3. American cities criminalized homelessness.

In South Carolina, Columbia City passed an ordinance “to remove homeless people from the downtown business district.” Police officers are now specially assigned to patrol the downtown area and a hotline was set up “so local businesses and residents can report the presence of a homeless person to police.” In Los Angeles, Harrisburg, and Raleigh authorities cracked down on good samaritans providing food to the homeless in public. New York, Palo Alto, Tampa and Miami have focused on criminalizing sleeping in public. Overall, these efforts make it next to impossible for the homeless — a population of about 600,000 in America — to get back on their feet.

4. Thousands of people who worked their entire lives had their pensions stolen.

In Illinois and Michigan, thousands of working Americans had their promised pensions stolen from them, despite guarantees in their states’ constitutions that protected their benefits. Those impacted include “retirees who worked their careers as sanitation engineers and teachers, firefighters and police officers, public defenders and city clerks” — many of whom will now be thrown into poverty. As these two Midwest states appear to be getting away with it, many other localities may follow suit.

5. More people died in America from suicide than car accidents.

While mass shootings frequently land on the front page, many more people die of suicide each year. Data released in this year, covering 2010, found that for the first time more people died from suicide (38,364) than car crashes (33,687). While suicide is frequently associated with teenagers and the elderly, the growth has been fueled by “middle-aged Americans.” Experts speculate the rise might be attributable to middle-aged people “coping with the stress of caring for aging parents while still providing financial and emotional support to adult children.”

6. The oceans changed dramatically, transforming into an acidic stew inhospitable to marine life.

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