Now that 2010 is almost over, it's time to look at some of the stories that should have made the front pages throughout the Americas, but didn't.
If most of us in the media focused on the issues that really matter -- rather than on celebrity tragedies or the political scandals of the day -- these are some of the stories that would have dominated the news this year:
"Shanghai tops world education survey:'' For the first time, a Chinese city ranked No. 1 in the world's most recognized standardized test for 15-year-old students, the 65-country Pisa test run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In reading comprehension, South Korea ranked No. 2, the United States ranked 17th, Chile 44th, Uruguay 47th, Mexico 48th, Brazil 53rd, Argentina 58th and Peru 63rd. In math, Singapore ranked second, the United States ranked 31st, Uruguay 48th, Chile 49th, Mexico 51st and Argentina 55th.
In a knowledge-based global economy, the Pisa test is considered a key measure of which countries are advancing the most in generating scientists and technologists who will produce increasingly sophisticated goods. While the Pisa test measured just one Chinese city, Shanghai's performance is seen as proof that China is forming new generations of highly-skilled people who may challenge the West's scientific supremacy.
"South Korea hits new record of patents:'' While the United States remains by far the world's biggest producer of new inventions, Asian countries are gaining ground, and Latin American countries are falling behind.
South Korea more than doubled its patents over the past decade to reach 8,800 last year, according to the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. patents has dropped slightly over the past 10 years, to 83,400 last year. By comparison, Brazil registered only 103 patents last year, Mexico 60, Argentina 45 and Chile 21, according to U.S. figures.
"Brazil becomes new headache for Washington:'' Brazil, no longer content with its role as Latin America's regional leader, sought global prominence in 2010 by defying U.S. and European foreign policies on almost every front, although always with a smooth rhetoric and a polite smile.
Early this year, Brazil -- which was criticized by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for supporting dictatorships around the world -- embraced Iran's regime after the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran was developing a nuclear program.
More recently, Brazil announced its recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, which did not include east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Israel and the United States criticized the move.
Brazilian President-elect Dilma Rousseff may focus more on domestic issues, and her foreign minister designate, Antonio Patriota -- a recent Brazilian ambassador to Washington -- is likely to be more moderate than his predecessor. But Brazil, much more than Venezuela, is likely become the biggest new challenge to U.S. and European diplomacy in the global arena.
"Slow-motion coup in Venezuela'': It's not making world headlines, because it's happening on a piecemeal basis, but Venezuela's narcissist-Leninist President Hugo Chávez -- who lost the majority vote in the 2010 legislative elections -- is turning his country into an all-out dictatorship.
Shortly before a newly elected Congress is to take office with a greater opposition presence, the Chavez-controlled National Assembly gave him extraordinary powers to rule by decree and passed laws prohibiting television stations from broadcasting news that ``foment anxiety'' and declared the Internet to be a ``public service'' which is to be controlled by the state, much like in Cuba, or China.
"U.S. considers prosecuting Assange:'' The Obama administration's suggestion that it may prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on espionage charges for publishing classified U.S. cables could amount -- if carried out -- to a devastating blow to press freedom around the world.
Authoritarian governments would feel vindicated, and others would have their best excuse ever to clamp down on the Internet and basic press freedoms.
I readily concede that this list of most important headlines is incomplete. Please feel free to write to me about others I've missed. In the meantime, I wish all of you a 2011 with plenty of health, passion, purpose and peace.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently of Saving the Americas. E-mail Andres at email@example.com. Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.