YEAR IN REVIEW – 2022 From A to Z: Recapping 365 Days in Just 26 Letters

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Photo taken on Sept. 12, 2012 shows the logo of the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C., capital of the United States. (Photo/Xinhua)
Photo taken on Sept. 12, 2012 shows the logo of the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C., capital of the United States. (Photo/Xinhua)

Take a few minutes to recap the biggest stories we brought you in 2022, from A to Z!

A: Abortion

The issues of abortion and reproductive healthcare were at the forefront of US political dialogue in 2022, following the May leak of a draft Supreme Court decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. In June, the court officially overturned Roe v. Wade, returning the right to regulate abortion to state governments.

In response to the ruling, a number of states quickly implemented restrictions on abortion. In July, the House passed a pair of bills to provide federal protections for abortion providers and patients traveling between states for care.

However, with Republicans gaining control of the House and Democrats retaining control of the Senate next Congress, it is unlikely lawmakers pass either federal protections or restrictions on abortion.

During midterm elections in November, several states also held votes on their abortion policies, with states including Vermont and California solidifying abortion protections, and others including Kentucky and Montana rejecting abortion restrictions.

B: Bout

The United States released Russian businessman Viktor Bout from prison in December in exchange for Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) player Brittney Griner. Bout had served over 14 years in prison after being arrested in a US sting operation in Thailand for allegedly conspiring to supply weapons to Colombian rebels.

Griner was arrested in a Russian airport in February after law enforcement officials found her in possession of cannabis oil. She pleaded guilty in July and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Paul Whelan, a former US Marine serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on espionage charges, remains in custody even though the Biden administration pushed for his release as part of the exchange. Russia asserts it considers Whelan in a different category than Griner in terms of criminality.

C: COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and governmental response efforts continued throughout 2022, with December marking three years since the novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China. More than 6.6 million people have died of the virus worldwide, including over one million in the US.

Cases continue to be detected worldwide, although Biden said in September that the pandemic stage is over. Nevertheless, in December, the White House relaunched a free, at-home COVID-19 testing program in anticipation of rising case numbers this winter.

The White House noted that COVID-19 remains a public health threat despite causing less disruption than during the peak of the pandemic.

D: Donald Trump

Former US President Donald Trump remained in the political spotlight throughout 2022 amid federal and congressional probes into his conduct, as well as the announcement of a 2024 presidential election bid.

In August, federal agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence as part of an investigation into the potential mishandling of sensitive materials from his presidency. Trump has characterized the investigation as a weaponization of the US justice system against him.

Moreover, the House panel tasked with investigating the January 6 Capitol riot finished their probe into the incident, ultimately recommending Trump for criminal prosecution by the Justice Department. The panel accuses Trump of bearing responsibility for the riot and attempting to reverse the 2020 election results.

The investigations did not dissuade Trump from announcing a 2024 reelection bid in November, basing his platform on issues such as election and lobbying reform. Biden has yet to announce a 2024 campaign, although he is expected to confirm his decision early next year.

E: Elections

In November, the US held midterm elections across the country to determine the balance of Congress for the second half of Biden’s term as president. Although a “red wave” was predicted by some, Democrats retained control of the Senate while Republicans gained a slim majority in the House.

The federal elections were the first since the 2020 US presidential race and subsequent Capitol riot on January 6, which was fueled by skepticism about electoral processes and outcomes. However, an Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe monitoring group found that the elections were competitive and professionally managed despite concerns about a divisive political environment.

F: FTX

Cryptocurrency company FTX, led by Sam Bankman-Fried, collapsed in November, adding further uncertainty to a market already on the decline for much of 2022. The cryptocurrency exchange commenced voluntary bankruptcy due to a liquidity crunch and commingling of funds, with neither individual nor institutional investors expected to recover their money.

FTX’s collapse prompted federal regulators and lawmakers to pursue strengthened oversight of the digital assets market, which was already under scrutiny as an emerging technology. Additionally, some Republican lawmakers have called for investigations into potential corruption involving FTX, the Democratic Party and Ukraine.

US prosecutors are charging Bankman-Fried with crimes including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and violating US campaign finance laws. Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas and later extradited to the US.

G: Grain Deal

Following the launch of Russia’s special military operation in February and subsequent sanctions, exports of grain and other agricultural products from the Black Sea halted, threatening food insecurity in countries reliant on Russian and Ukrainian goods.

On July 22, the United Nations, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine agreed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, ensuring the safe export of food and fertilizers from Russian and Ukrainian ports. The deal has since been extended.

However, Russia argues that sanctions continue to hinder its grain and fertilizer exports despite the deal’s terms. President Vladimir Putin has also voiced concerns about Ukrainian grain ending up in Europe instead of the world’s poorest countries.

H: Haiti

Haiti faced instability for much of 2022 following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise last year, with former Prime Minister Ariel Henry taking power in his wake.

Protests erupted in Haiti after Henry ended fuel subsidies, leading to rising energy prices and cost of living. In October, Henry requested foreign forces intervene to help the Haitian government combat armed gangs. The US and Mexico sent military equipment in response.

The country is also experiencing an outbreak of cholera, which started in October. As of December 11, 191 people have died of the disease and more than 12,000 others hospitalized.

I: Iran protests

In September, the Iranian “morality police” arrested 22-year old Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating laws on the wearing of hijab. Amini died in police custody, with Iranian officials claiming she died of a heart attack while protestors allege she was beaten by police.

The Iranian government’s response to the protests resulted in condemnation and sanctions by the US and others, including expulsion from the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Iran accuses Western countries of interfering in its domestic affairs via support for the protests.

J: JCPOA

The aforementioned death of Mahsa Amini and related protests have also taken the Biden administration’s focus away from negotiating a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Talks have stalled in recent months, leading Biden to call the negotiations “dead” in a video leaked in December.

The White House does not see the parties making progress on the Iran nuclear deal in the near future, according to Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby. The US entered the JCPOA under Obama, exited it under Trump and is seeking a return to the deal under Biden.

K: Korean Peninsula

North Korea (DPRK) launched a record number of missiles in 2022, conducting tests on 35 different days. In October, one of the test missiles flew over Japan – the first such incident since 2017.

The Biden administration warned of a potential nuclear test by the DPRK throughout the year, threatening consequences for Pyongyang if they were to conduct a test. The Biden administration claims to have repeatedly called on the DPRK to engage in dialogue, only to receive no response.

L: Liz Truss

Liz Truss made history in 2022 by setting the record for shortest-serving British prime minister. Truss replaced Boris Johnson as leader of the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party and became prime minister on September 6.

On October 20, her 45th day in office, Truss resigned as prime minister amid a cost of living crisis and controversial budget proposal. Truss, who still serves in parliament, was replaced by Rishi Sunak.

M: Mass shootings

The US experienced a number of mass shootings again in 2022, including at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The shootings once again brought attention to the issue of gun control in Congress, with lawmakers passing a bipartisan gun control bill in June.

As of December 20, there have been 636 mass shootings in the United States in 2022, according to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive.

N: Nord Stream

In September, Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were sabotaged in a series of clandestine bombings.

An investigation into the incident led by the Swedish Security Service determined it to be an act of sabotage. The Russian Defense Ministry accused the UK Royal Navy of involvement in the attack, which the UK denied.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline has not transported any gas since August when Russia shut it down, citing maintenance issues related to sanctions. Nord Stream 2 has never been put into operation, as Germany halted the certification process following Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.

O: Olympics

In February, China hosted the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, following the delayed summer games in Tokyo just six months earlier. Norway won a record 16 gold medals, Germany 12 and China 9, earning them the top three places on the medal table.

Officials from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Belgium and several other countries engaged in a diplomatic boycott of the games over human rights concerns.

P: Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in November that she will be stepping down from Democratic Party leadership positions next year, honoring an informal 2018 deal to step down as speaker after four years. Pelosi entered Congress in 1987, serving as speaker under four administrations: from 2007 to 2011 under Bush and Obama, and again from 2019 to present under Trump and Biden.

Pelosi made the announcement following midterm elections, during which Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. Pelosi said she will continue to serve in Congress as a representative of San Francisco.

In August, Pelosi and other lawmakers made a contentious trip to Taiwan despite warnings by the Biden administration, sparking condemnation and heightened military activity by the government of China. Pelosi was the first US House Speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Q: Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, died in September at the age of 96. Her state funeral, attended by a number of world leaders including Biden, became one of the most viewed events in UK television history, with over 26 million people tuning in to watch.

Elizabeth II’s eldest son, Charles III, was proclaimed king following her passing.

R: Rail Strike

Railworker unions and railroad companies have been battling over worker attendance policies for several years, with the US government’s National Mediation Board assisting in negotiations since June 2021.

However, the situation came to the brink of crisis in 2022, with Biden’s team informing him in July that the labor dispute posed a substantial threat to interstate commerce and essential transportation services.

In November, the House of Representatives passed a tentative version of a labor agreement between the parties amid a looming strike, with the Senate following in December. Biden signed the agreement into law, intervening to avoid the potentially catastrophic strike – a power granted under the Railway Labor Act.

S: Sanctions

As the conflict in Ukraine continued on, so too did efforts by the US and its network of partners to impose a number of sanctions on Russia. Everything from government officials to banks, to luxury goods, as well as a number of individuals, entities and items have been subject to financial restrictions in an effort to impose costs on Russia for its special military operation.

At the forefront of the sanctions regime was an effort to impose a multilateral price cap on Russian oil. A coalition of countries, led by the US, set a flexible price cap designed to limit the impact on the global energy market while curbing Russian revenues from oil sales.

Russia condemned countries participating in the price cap, threatening to withhold oil from them entirely and reduce overall oil production.

T: Twitter

In April, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk offered to purchase social media company Twitter for $43 billion. After a series of legal battles over the number of fake accounts on the platform, Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion in October.

Musk’s reforms to the platform include a focus on protecting freedom of speech, combating inauthentic accounts and removing bans on accounts such as that of former US President Donald Trump.

Musk, who used his status as chief of Twitter to comment on a number of political issues such as the prospect of peace in Ukraine, has faced extensive criticism in the role. In December, Musk expressed a desire to step down as CEO of the company.

U: Ukraine

Perhaps no other story has received as much attention in 2022 as the conflict in Ukraine. On February 24, Russia launched a special military operation to help protect the Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine’s east, targeted by Kiev since 2014.

The operation drew condemnation by the US, NATO, UN and other international bodies, who characterized the action as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia contends the operation is aimed at “denazifying” Ukraine.

In September, the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions voted to join Russia through referenda. Fighting is expected to continue into 2023, although changes in the frontlines have slowed as both sides prepare for the winter months.

V: Venezuela

In March, the US began expressing interest in working with Venezuela on global energy supply concerns in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, which prompted a number of sanctions on Russian oil and caused instability in world markets.

In May, the US issued a narrow license authorizing energy company Chevron to negotiate future activities in Venezuela. Chevron confirmed to Sputnik in November that the company received US government authorization to extract oil in Venezuela. However, sources also told Sputnik that a blanket lifting of sanctions is unlikely.

W: World Cup

Qatar hosted the 2022 FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18, becoming the first country in the Muslim world to host the tournament. Argentina ultimately won the tournament, defeating France 4-2 on penalties in the final match, with their team captain, Lionel Messi, winning the Golden Ball award for best player.

However, the tournament was the subject of a number of controversies, including concerns about Qatar’s human rights record, their treatment of LGBT fans and restrictions on alcohol.

X: Xi Jinping

Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping was elected to an unprecedented third term as leader during the 20th National Communist Party Congress in October.

The next month, Xi met with Biden for the first time since the latter took office as president. During the meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, the leaders discussed issues including Taiwan, North Korea and the conflict in Ukraine.

Y: Yemen

In April, the United Nations helped facilitate a nationwide truce between the parties to the conflict in Yemen, which has been ongoing since 2014. The truce was extended several times. The UN Security Council praised the agreement as a foundation for progress toward a political settlement of the conflict.

However, in October, the UN announced that the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels had failed to negotiate a further extension.

Z: Zelenskyy and The Z

Ending our list is a double entry, with both Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the literal letter “Z” as emblematized by the Russian military serving as contrasting representations of the two conflicting sides at the center of the 2022 news cycle.

Zelenskyy, elected in 2019, has served as Ukraine’s leader and public figurehead throughout Russia’s special military operation. A former comedian turned politician, Zelenskyy spoke virtually with a number of world leaders and organizations from Ukraine during the conflict, eventually traveling to Washington to meet with Biden and appeal to the US Congress in person in December.

The “Z” painted upon Russian equipment used in the special military operation has also become a symbol of their larger effort to reunite Russian-speaking populations under a single nation, with the Ministry of Defense saying the non-Cyrillic letter represents the phrase “for victory,” or “za pobedu” in Russian.

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