AN INAUGURATION LIKE NO OTHER
On Jan. 20, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States in the country’s first Covid-19-era presidential inauguration ceremony. The coronavirus pandemic prompted a downsized in-person celebration, and attendees wore face masks. Almost 33.8 million people watched on television as Kamala Devi Harris made history as the first woman and woman of color to be elected vice president. The overriding theme of the inauguration was national unity, as President Biden called on the country to face its challenges together. “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,” the president said in his inauguration speech, which addressed the Covid-19 crisis and the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
PROTESTS SHAKE RUSSIA
The Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny is a prominent, outspoken critic of President Vladimir V. Putin. In August of 2020, Mr. Navalny was almost fatally poisoned by a highly toxic Novichok nerve agent, and he was later airlifted to a hospital in Germany. He blamed the poisoning on the Kremlin, a claim that Russian officials denied. On Jan. 17, Mr. Navalny returned home to Moscow, where he was swiftly arrested. He would eventually be sentenced to more than two years in prison. On Jan. 23, tens of thousands of people stormed the streets to protest his arrest. As a result of the rallies, the police detained more than 5,000 people in at least 85 cities across Russia. The demonstrations, the country’s largest in years, exposed a festering discontent with Mr. Putin’s government.
MYANMAR’S MILITARY COUP
On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military seized control of the country in a coup d’état and declared a yearlong state of emergency. The military, known as Tatmadaw, spurned the results of the recent general election, which saw Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party win by a landslide. After weeks of mostly peaceful protests against the coup, violence escalated following a confluence of events that included the first civilian casualty, on Feb. 19; the death of two unarmed protesters, including a 16-year-old boy, on Feb. 20; and a general strike, on Feb. 22. An expanded civil disobedience movement has intensified, and over 800 protesters have been killed. Later in 2021, on Dec. 6, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of inciting public unrest and breaching Covid-19 rules, but this was quickly commuted to two years by the leader of Myanmar’s junta. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi awaits verdicts for other charges that could result in a lifetime in prison.
A DIFFERENT MASK FOR MARDI GRAS
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the celebration before the first day of Lent, called Ash Wednesday. It is usually a time of joyful and raucous festivities, especially in New Orleans, La. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, Mardi Gras 2021, which fell on Feb. 16, was more subdued. When the official parade in New Orleans was canceled, plans were made for socially distanced celebrations. Then, videos of maskless revelers surfaced, spurring the city to crack down and shutter bars. In 2020, Mardi Gras celebrations unspooled weeks before Louisiana’s first confirmed coronavirus case. Health experts believe that these large gatherings turned Bourbon Street into a hot spot for the spread of the coronavirus.
RISE IN ANTI-ASIAN ATTACKS IN THE U.S.
On March 16, eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in shootings at three spas in the Atlanta area in Georgia. A then-21-year-old male suspect was charged with eight counts of murder in the attacks. The district attorney of Fulton County characterized the shootings as hate crimes and said that the victims were targeted because of their race, national origin, sex and gender. She said her office would seek the death penalty. From the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Asian Americans have reported being victims of racist attacks, and fears were amplified after the shootings. A report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University compared data from the first quarters of 2020 and 2021 and found that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 169 percent.
STUCK IN THE SUEZ CANAL
The Ever Given, a Japanese-owned 1,300-foot container ship, lay trapped in the Suez Canal for almost a week. On March 23, the nearly quarter-mile vessel got lodged in the canal during a high-wind sandstorm. Sailors and engineers worked nonstop in a complicated aid mission, using a fleet of tugboats and dredging vessels to shift an estimated 1.1 million cubic feet of mud and sand to eventually dislodge the vessel on March 29. The incident halted international shipping traffic and caused massive and costly delays. About $10 billion in trade was lost each day of the blockage. It reinforced both the economic and strategic importance of the Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, and provides the shortest maritime link between Asia and Europe. The Egyptian government later announced that it would widen and deepen the southern part of the canal, where the Ever Given ran aground.
THE DEATH OF PRINCE PHILIP
Britain’s Prince Philip died on April 9 at the age of 99. Buckingham Palace announced that the Duke of Edinburgh passed away peacefully, following a series of hospitalizations throughout 2021. In 1947, he married the future Queen Elizabeth II, and the couple had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. It was reported that Elizabeth told her father that Philip was “the only man I could ever love.” The marriage lasted 73 years. Philip embraced his royal role and served as the patron of over 800 different charities before retiring from public duties in 2017.
COVID-19 DEVASTATES INDIA
The Covid-19 pandemic unleashed a catastrophic second wave in India. In late April, the country recorded over 300,000 new cases each day for nine consecutive days before subsequently surpassing 400,000 daily cases for the first time. Experts believed that many infections had not been reported. India’s health care system was overwhelmed, with oxygen supplies running low in hospitals and vaccine shortages hampering vaccination drives in many of India’s states. The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, now faced increased demand at home. With the open border policy between India and Nepal, the second wave quickly spread to neighboring countries.
A CEASE-FIRE IN THE ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT
Following 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, a fragile cease-fire was declared on the morning of May 21. Israel and Hamas have a long history of tension. After Israel unilaterally disengaged from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas gained control of the area in 2007. Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union and Britain, does not recognize Israel. On May 10, following escalating tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas launched unguided rockets mostly into southern and central Israel, with some targeting Jerusalem. In retaliation, Israel deployed a series of strategic airstrikes. During the conflict, Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets toward Israel, and most were shot down by Israel’s defensive Iron Dome. Israel’s Air Force struck more than 1,000 targets in Gaza.
BELARUS FORCES DOWN PASSENGER PLANE
On May 23, Ryanair Flight 4978 was flying from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania, with about 170 passengers on board, including the Belarusian opposition journalist Roman Protasevich. The passenger plane was traveling through Belarusian airspace when it received a warning from the country’s air traffic control of “a potential security threat on board.” A Belarusian fighter jet escorted the plane to Minsk. During the on-ground inspection, no bomb was located. The police, meanwhile, arrested and jailed Mr. Protasevich, who now faces more than a decade in prison. This interception was ordered by President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, a strongman leader facing increased scrutiny over his tactics to stop dissenters. European officials condemned the incident, comparing it to a hijacking.
A PRESIDENTIAL SUMMIT
On June 16 in Geneva, President Biden met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The first in-person presidential summit between the two leaders was held at the end of Mr. Biden’s weeklong European tour. Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin discussed issues ranging from cyberattacks to human rights. Tensions between the United States and Russia remain over the issue of cyberweapons, in a shift away from the traditional threat of nuclear weapons. Mr. Putin denied claims of Russia’s involvement in an increased number of cyberattacks on gasoline pipelines and hospital operations, among other institutions, in the United States. Mr. Biden cited the need for rules surrounding cybersecurity and for the two nations to determine what infrastructure should remain off-limits to cyberattacks.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC WINS THE FRENCH OPEN
The Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic won the French Open on June 13, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. In a best-of-five-set match, Mr. Djokovic came back from a two-set deficit to win the title. Now Mr. Djokovic is the only male player of the modern era to have won each of the major tennis tournaments twice. Mr. Djokovic’s goal is to end his career with a record number of tournament titles. “Everything is possible,” Mr. Djokovic said after his victory. A Grand Slam, meaning winning the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in a single year — something that no man has accomplished in more than 50 years — was almost within Mr. Djokovic’s reach, but he was defeated in the finals at the U.S. Open in September.
THE ASSASSINATION OF JOVENEL MOÏSE
On July 7, President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti was killed in a raid at his home outside Port-au-Prince. The attack, which left his wife wounded, was carried out by a group that included 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, police said. The assassination intensified the turmoil of a country already battered by political unrest, constitutional crises, a coup attempt, protests and lawlessness. A month later, two natural disasters struck: an earthquake and a direct hit from Tropical Depression Grace. In October, a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries were kidnapped by one of Haiti’s rampant gangs, who are believed to control about half of the country. The future of the presidency, meanwhile, remains in flux: Haiti’s general elections have been postponed indefinitely.
EUROPE'S DEADLY FLOODS
In mid-July, severe floods ravaged several European countries, including Germany and Belgium, killing at least 220 people. The estimated property damage wavered between $11 billion and $25 billion following flash flooding and overflowing rivers that tore through towns. Bridges were decimated by debris and mud, cars were smashed together into crumpled heaps of metal, and rising water levels forced survivors to their roofs to escape. Climate scientists said that climate change likely exacerbated the floods, positing that global warming made extreme rainfall at least 20 percent more likely in the affected region.
THE TALIBAN RETURN TO POWER IN AFGHANISTAN
Amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a grinding Taliban offensive across Afghanistan toppled provincial capitals like dominoes, and swiftly defeated a struggling Afghan National Army, whose troops surrendered or escaped. On Aug. 15, Kabul, the nation’s capital, fell; President Ashraf Ghani fled; and the Afghan government collapsed — all before the United States could complete a full pullout of troops and civilians. Desperate to escape, thousands stormed Kabul’s airport. As chaos mounted, on Aug. 26 an ISIS-K suicide bomber attacked the airport’s gate, killing over 170 civilians and 13 American troops.
FINANCIAL MELTDOWN IN LEBANON
In August, a year after the devastating port blast in Beirut, Lebanon’s financial meltdown continued to boil over, even as the nation observed the anniversary of one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history. Protesters took to the streets. Riots erupted. In the spring of 2021, the World Bank characterized the financial crisis as being among the worst in a century and a half. An alarming percentage of households remained strapped for basic necessities: food, medicine, gasoline, electricity. A sectarian political system has punctuated a nation marked by factionalism, as the government seeks to resume negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a recovery plan. In October, deadly street fighting between Christian and Shiite Muslim militias carried echoes of the country’s civil war more than 30 years ago.
GERMANY'S NATIONAL ELECTION
Germans hit the polls on Sept. 26 to vote in the national election, setting into motion a process that would determine the country’s new chancellor. After nearly 16 years over four terms, Angela Merkel, of the Christian Democratic Union, announced she would step down as chancellor, leaving a wide-open race for the office. Based on a complex federal parliamentary system, the election gave the three leading parties the opportunity to form a new coalition government, with talks to be completed by late November. Then, by the first week of December, the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz is expected to be elected chancellor. Mr. Scholz was the vice chancellor in Merkel’s last coalition government.
SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS NEW TEXAS ABORTION LAW
On Sept. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 vote, refused to block a Texas abortion law from taking effect. The law is the nation’s most restrictive abortion measure and bans abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy. Under the new measure, the enforcement of the law falls not to the state, but to individuals who are deputized to sue anyone who aids or performs abortions. If they’re successful, the plaintiffs are entitled to an award of at least $10,000 and payment of legal fees. Critics raised concerns about the law’s architecture, decrying the empowerment of “bounty hunters” to enforce it. On Nov. 1, the Supreme Court heard challenges to the law from the Biden administration and abortion providers, and signaled they may allow abortion providers to continue to dispute it.
PANDORA PAPERS LEAK
A sweeping rundown of assets and financial dealings, involving the likes of King Abdullah II of Jordan, the former prime minister of England Tony Blair, the singer Shakira and people linked to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, surfaced in a sea of leaked documents called the Pandora Papers. They detailed how the wealthy allegedly used offshore companies to amass and conceal assets, avoid taxes, or undertake secret financial transactions. Comprising nearly 12 million files from 14 offshore firms, the report was released by the Washington, D.C.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in collaboration with media partners that included The Guardian and The Washington Post. Among others, the report named more than 330 public officials from over 90 countries and territories, including 35 current and former world leaders.
THE STABBING DEATH OF DAVID AMESS
David Amess, a long-serving Conservative member of the English House of Commons who was knighted in 2015, was fatally stabbed on Oct. 15. Mr. Amess, 69, was meeting constituents inside a church at a quiet seaside village east of London when he was attacked — the second time in five years that a British politician was killed during a public event. Police declared the murder a terrorist attack and identified the suspect as Ali Harbi Ali, a British national of Somali heritage believed to have ties to the Islamic State. At a court hearing, prosecutors held that Amess was targeted because he supported airstrikes in Syria. The attack prompted calls for a review of security measures to ensure the safety of public officials.
DEMANDS FOR ACTION AT CLIMATE SUMMIT IN GLASGOW
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, was held in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13. During the conference, over 130 heads of state and thousands of global diplomatic representatives gathered to address the threat of climate change. The meeting was initially scheduled for November 2020 but was delayed a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Among its commitments, the conference set targets to reduce fossil fuels in a new global agreement known as the Glasgow Climate Pact. Amid the gathering, Nov. 6 was designated as a Global Day for Climate Justice. Over 100,000 demonstrators marched in the streets of Glasgow to bolster support for climate reform and demanded that world leaders take action.
ETHIOPIA’S TIGRAY CONFLICT
In late November, diplomats from the United States and the African Union were still trying to negotiate a cease-fire in a push to end the conflict between the northern Ethiopian rebel fighters known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, and the Ethiopian central government. The fighting had spread beyond the Tigray region into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. Earlier in the month, the government declared a state of emergency amid fears that the TPLF would besiege the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa. Reports from both the United Nations and Amnesty International cited humanitarian abuses on both sides. Thousands of people have been killed, at least 400,000 are facing famine because of a blockade of the Tigray region, and almost 2 million have been forced from their homes. Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, and in a war-torn continent, the nation has been a key, stable Western ally for years.
A CHOKED SUPPLY CHAIN USHERS IN THE HOLIDAYS
In December, offshore cargo container ships and U.S. ports and warehouses remained packed with goods that had not yet made it onto store shelves for holiday shoppers. Two months earlier, the Biden administration announced plans to extend operating hours at the Port of Los Angeles to help ease the bottleneck. Still, only 21 of the roughly 125,000 companies that import goods through Los Angeles committed to pick up cargo during the extended hours. While big-box retailers like Walmart, Macy’s and Target have reportedly found ways to keep shelves stocked in the United States, experts said smaller businesses with less capital and resources have been hit hard. A report from the research firm Oxford Economics suggested that supply chain disruptions have peaked or will peak in the last quarter of 2021.
COVID-19’S CONTINUED IMPACT ON INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
Travelers have been forced to wrestle with ever-changing travel restrictions and conditions wrought by the pandemic, from proof of vaccination to testing to tension over masking, along with rising costs of airline tickets, car rentals and gasoline. On Nov. 8, vaccinated foreign travelers from more than 30 countries were allowed to enter the United States, as airlines banked on a burgeoning wave of international passengers heading into the holiday travel season. But on Nov. 26, the World Health Organization designated the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 a “variant of concern.” As fears swelled, President Biden established travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens from eight African countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Other counties, including Israel, Japan and Morocco, have banned entry to all foreign visitors.