Thursday, January 27, 2022

2021's top national stories

| January 4, 2022 1:00 AM

As each year closes, the Coeur d’Alene Press and many other papers list their top news stories for the year. They may be chosen by number of online clicks, degree of reader feedback, or they may be stories that affected most everyone.

Scanning lists from national papers and network news sites, a few popped up most often:

The Capitol riots: On Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory, hundreds of protesters in D.C. for the “Save America” rally breached the U.S. Capitol building. Violence ensued and the group made it as far as the Senate chamber, killing one police officer, injuring more than 140 others, and causing $1.5 million in damages.

Instead of encouraging a peaceful transfer of power—a fundamental tenet of American democracy—President Donald Trump reportedly stoked the flames of insurrection with rhetoric about the election being stolen and called on supporters to act. The next week, Mr. Trump was impeached, for an unprecedented second time, for “incitement of insurrection.” More than 700 people involved in the riots have been charged with various crimes.

Inauguration of Joe Biden: That didn’t end it. The legitimacy of Biden’s victory with 306 electoral votes was questioned by Mr. Trump and his supporters, with claims of voter fraud used as a rallying cry for the Capitol insurrection and rioting. Such claims since investigated by states have so far been found unsubstantiated, according to official reports.

President Biden’s approval rating, at 44% in December, is among the lowest of any president polled at this point in their term. Reasons cited include his perceived inattention to the economy and America’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan (the withdrawal was another top news story).

Global supply chain block: “Ever Given” was a massive cargo ship carrying more than 18,000 containers of consumer goods which ran aground in the Suez Canal on March 23. The ensuing week-long block of the passage of 400 other ships created a massive strain on an already-weakened global supply chain. The two-month ripple effect was reported to cost shipping delays for roughly $60 billion worth of products, and shone a light on our outdated freight shipping processes.

Blockchain and NFTs: The exact date that non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, were introduced to the world is unclear, but they became big news in 2021. On March 13, Christie’s sold the first (digital) NFT artwork, “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” by artist Beeple, for $69 million. It has something to do with digital data, but the sale represents a significant shift in the way people create, purchase, and authenticate digital art. Other examples of NFTs include Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, and Nike sneakers. If you don’t understand this one, it’s because this writer is tech-deficient.

COVID-19 vaccines freely available: By May 1, adults in the U.S. across all 50 states were eligible to receive a vaccination – a milestone met by some with hope and others, wariness. While in the following month coronavirus cases hit their lowest in a year, by midsummer the high transmissibility of the Delta variant had them climbing again (and now we expect Omicron).

The U.S. has the second-highest vaccine hesitancy rate among 15 wealthy countries polled by Morning Consult, with 28% of people reporting they are unwilling or uncertain when asked if they would receive a vaccine. Roughly 61% of the population is fully vaccinated, lower than 60 other countries.

The Facebook Files: In September, the Wall Street Journal published a series of investigative reports called “The Facebook Files” based on documents from company whistleblower Frances Haugen, a data scientist. The data – widely spread internally and well-known by company leaders - confirmed allegations against Facebook and its subsidiaries, including the negative impact on teenagers, the pervasive spread of hate speech and misinformation, and decisions about censorship.

The billionaire space race: Want to be a space tourist? See Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Richard Branson. On July 11, Branson became the first civilian aboard his own rocket to reach space, if “space” is 53 miles above ground (debated). Nine days later, Bezos did it 66.5 miles above Earth (more accepted). Musk’s company SpaceX launched the groundbreaking Inspiration4 mission on Sept. 15, sending four civilians in orbit for three days without trained astronauts on board (no thanks).

If you’re a daring multimillionaire, you can probably afford a ticket.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email

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