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End of year review: Looking back at 2022 (by Atencia )

Year 2022 is soon coming to an end, which means it is once again time to take a look back at what has happened during the past year. Unlike the past two years, the coronavirus pandemic is no longer the main topic of news reports, with most people having been able to go back to living their lives the way they did before this disease swept over the world. Instead, war and crisis have occupied our minds, proving just how volatile this world can be. Of course, there are also many other things that have happened throughout the year. In this article, we will dive into some of happenings of 2022, hopefully providing you with a quick summary of notable events that have taken place this year.

We begin our journey through 2022 with some medical news. On the 3rd of January, American biotechnology entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on four counts of fraud following a trial held in San Jose, California. Holmes was the founder and CEO of health technology company Theranos, which was based on the purported development of a new blood-testing machine that was claimed to be able to identify myriad diseases and medical conditions using only a few drops of blood. The whole thing turned out to be a sham, and Holmes was later sentenced to more than 11 years imprisonment for defrauding investors. A week later, the first successful heart transplant from a pig to a human was completed in Baltimore, Maryland. The 57-year-old male patient was ineligible for a regular heart transplant, and thus agreed to this highly experimental treatment, in which a genetically modified pig's heart was used. Though initially deemed successful, he unfortunately died from complications two months later. On the 18th of January, the parliament in Indonesia approved a bill to change its capital city from the current Jakarta to a new city located in Borneo, named Nusantara. On the same day, Microsoft announced that it was buying gaming company Activision Blizzard, responsible for games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush, for the modest sum of 70$ billion, becoming the biggest takeover in the world of tech and gaming ever. Six days later, a coup took place in Burkina Faso, as the military announced on TV that they had overthrown President Roch Kaboré, following his failure to stop an Islamic insurgency.

February began with the annual BRIT Awards on the 8th, during which British singer Adele took home all three of the heaviest categories: best artist, song (Easy on me), and album (30) of the year. The following day, authorities in the Nigerian state of Kano destroyed almost four million bottles of beer, enforcing the Sharia laws that prohibit alcohol in a large crackdown. In Saudi Arabia, known for its strictly misogynist laws and customs, 28000 women sent in their applications for 30 advertised jobs as train drivers on the 17th, following a decision allowing women to take on this occupation for the first time ever. In Colombia, there was also reason to celebrate, as significant gains for women's rights were made when the country's Constitutional Court decriminalised abortion in a landmark decision four days later. The month would finish off on a sinister note, as Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th, starting a brutal war that is still going on today. This “special military operation”, as Russian President Vladimir Putin prefers to call it, has killed thousands, and displaced millions who have been forced to flee from their homes as bombs have been raining down on cities across the country. Originally intended to result in a swift victory for Russia, Ukrainian forces have shown incredible strength and resilience, fighting for their lives to defend their country from continued Russian aggression.

March began with a bang, but not in any positive sense. Outside the Portuguese islands of Azores, a large cargo ship carrying nearly 4000 luxury Volkswagen Group cars, including Porsches and Bentleys, sunk on the 1st, two weeks after it first caught fire. We continue on with some more ship-related news, as researchers in the Antarctic discovered Endurance, the long-lost shipwreck carrying Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew during their expeditions in the area, four days later. The wreck now lies at 3008 metres depth, and has been preserved in surprisingly good condition, providing researchers with ample material to work with. In the United States, the conservative wave continued on the 8th, as Florida's senate passed a new controversial law on education, known as the “Don't say gay- bill, which prevents teachers from discussing gender identity and sexuality in the classroom from kindergarten until the third grade. Later during the month, on the 22nd, a new study was published, showing microplastics in human blood for the first time. We are exposed to microplastics on a daily basis, through the the food and water we consume, as well as the air we breathe. Previously shown to be harmful to us, this finding further establishes the need to minimise the use of plastics in our environment. The month finished off on a dramatic note, as the 94th Oscar awards were hosted on the 27th. One person got a bit more attention than others; not mainly for his performance in any of the winning movies, including CODA, which won best picture, but his behaviour: Will Smith, who received his first Oscar, winning in the best actor category, went up on stage to slap Chris Rock, who during his presentation of the award for best documentary had made a joke about Smith's wife, fellow acress Jada Pinkett Smith.

April began with a historic decision made by the United States senate on the 7th, which voted 53-47 in favour of appointing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the latest Supreme Court justice, who thus became the first black woman to hold that position. The following day, the first all-private space flight to the International Space Station, Axiom-1, was launched, carrying an international crew of four men with the aim of conducting both scientific research and a number of outreach projects. We move on with some news from the world of politics, as the 24th saw the re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron, who thus became the first sitting president to be re-elected in 20 years. In Vietnam, the world's longest glass-bottomed bridge opened on the last day of the month. Not for the faint of heart, the bridge, named Bach Long, meaning white dragon, spans 632 metres and stands at a height of 150 metres above the ground, giving visitors a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and forests of Moc Chau Island's park and resort. While speaking of impressive feats, we have to include South African runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma, who set the world record for running 104 consecutive marathons in the same number of days (!). As if this was not awe-inspiring enough, she is a survivor of a rare type of bone cancer, which forced her to amputate her left leg 20 years ago. Her runs, completed with a prosthetic leg, have all been documented on social media, raising more than 88000$ for non-profit organisation Amputee Blade Runners.

May started off on an innovative note, as the Thai government announced on the 8th that it would be giving out one million cannabis plants to households, following new legislation allowing the growth of the recreational drug at home. Two days later, Apple ended its production of the iconic music player iPod, which has been around for 21 years. On the 11th, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was a longtime TV correspondent for the channel, was shot dead by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Her reporting focused on the situation in Palestine, and she was an important voice for the millions of Palestinians who are forced to live their lives under Israeli occupation. In Sri Lanka, the country's economic crisis reached its height on the 16th, as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced that petrol reserves would only last one more day, in addition to there not being any money left to pay 1.4 million civil servants. Towards the end of the month, on the 26th, Swedish pop group ABBA launched their new virtual concert concept, ABBA Voyage, featuring computer generated images of the band's four members, along with live musicians and visual light effects.

In June, a new study, published on the 7th, revealed what is now considered to be the world's largest plant: Shark Bay sea grass, off the coast of Western Australia, covering an area of almost 200 square kilometers. It has been able to achieve its impressive size through the use of cloning, which has been ongoing for a whopping 4500 years. Six days later, Blake Lemoine, an engineer at Google, claimed that one of its AI Systems, known as LaMDA, was likely to have a sentient mind. This was not well-received by the company, which resorted to placing him on leave. To me, the thought of AI actually being sentient is both extremely interesting and very worrying. While I am not sure whether LaMDA really meets the requirements for being called a sentient being, why not read this interview and be the judge of that yourself? Speaking of judging, it would seem like this was finally the time for Denmark and Canada to make the decision to bury their hatchets surrounding the small uninhabited Hans Island in the Arctic. The two countries have apparently been fighting over this seemingly meaningless piece of land for 50 years, in what has become known as the Whiskey War, named thus because of their efforts to lay claim on the island by taking turns buying each other's whiskey there. Described as the friendliest war in history, the dispute was settled on the 14th, dividing the island in half between them. Continuing on this political note, Colombia elected its first leftist president on the 19th, as former member of the so called M-19 guerilla movement Gustavo Petro won the presidential election. Five days later, one of the largest blows to women's rights in recent times was dealt by the Supreme Court of the United States, which voted 6-3 in favour of overturning Roe v. Wade, a court ruling that has enshrined the right to abortion constitutionally since 1973. The overturning of this landmark decision has paved the way for individual states to restrict abortion as they please, with Oklahoma immediately introducing the country's strictest laws prohibiting abortion from fertilisation and allowing people to sue those who help women end their pregnancies.

On the 1st of July, Germany and Nigeria signed an agreement in which the former pledged to return more than 1000 artefacts known as Benin Bronzes to the latter. These, and numerous other treasures, were looted during British colonial expeditions more than 120 years ago, and have been kept in museums across Europe since. A week later, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a campaign speech in the city of Nara. Throughout July and August, major heatwaves swept across Europe, killing at least 53000 people, and causing large wildfires, travel disruptions, and record-high temperatures all over the continent. On the 27th, the discovery of a huge pink diamond, named the Lulo Rose, was announced in Angola. Standing at a massive 170 carats, it is thought to be the largest pink diamond discovered in 300 years. The month finished off with a football bonanza, as England, the hosts of this year's Women's Euros, won the championships by beating Germany 2-1 in front of the biggest crowd ever at the Wembley Stadion in London.

In August, we move on with some more science news, as researchers at Yale University managed to revive cells of recently dead pig in an experiment conducted on the 3rd. This breakthrough could have major implications for organ transplants and those suffering from strokes, at the same time as it raises considerable ethical questions over the definitions of life and death. Two days later, the world moved one step closer in the direction of realising the long-time science fiction obsession with flying cars, as Volkswagen launched its first prototype of such a vehicle, nicknamed Flying Tiger. On the 15th, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products, including sanitary pads and tampons, free for everyone. Four days later, drought across Europe uncovered so called “hunger stones” in rivers that warned of famine, including the Děčín stone from 1417, which text reads “ if you see me, then weep”. On the 22nd, schools in the Philippines finally re-opened again after being closed ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

On the 7th of September, researchers announced the discovery of a 31000-year-old skeleton with an amputated leg, thought to be the earliest evidence of surgery yet. The following day, the death of Queen Elizabeth II sent shockwaves through the United Kingdom and much of the rest of the world, as her passing truly marked the end of an era. At the age of 96, she was the longest-reigning British monarch, having been on the throne for 70 years. On the 25th, same-sex marriage was legalised in Cuba, following a national referendum in which more than 66% of the electorate voted in favour of the proposal. On the 26th, NASA completed its first ever “planetary defence test”, by purposely flying a spacecraft into an asteroid. The mission was aimed at preparing us to fight against future asteroids that could turn out to pose a threat to Earth. On the same day, explosions were recorded in the Baltic, prompting accusations of Russian sabotage as leaks appeared on two of the so called Nord Stream pipelines, which deliver gas from Russia to Europe. The incident further raised tensions in the area, which have been high ever since Russia's invasion of Ukraine seven months earlier.

In October, British politics made headlines as Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned on the 20th, after holding office for just 45 days. She was forced to leave after her economic proposals, featuring major tax cuts, were widely condemned across the board. She was succeeded by Rishi Sunak on the 25th, who thus became the country's first prime minister of colour. Three days later, South African tech entrepreneur Elon Musk finally completed his acquisition of Twitter for 44 billion dollars. After the takeover, he has already made major changes, including the dissolving of the board of directors and layoffs of a large part of the company's staff. In Sweden, engineers produced the world's first female crash dummy on the 28th, enabling vehicles to be crash tested holistically, rather than simply to ensure the safety of male drivers and passengers. On the following day, a large crowd crush occurred in the South Korean capital of Seoul, in which at least 158 people were killed and another 197 injured amidst Halloween celebrations. On the last day of the month, American singer Taylor Swift became the first artist in history to claim all the top ten spots on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, all of them being tracks from her latest album titled Midnights.

November started off on a positive note, as the government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities reached an agreement to end fighting on the 2nd, following peace talks held in South Africa. The war had then been going on for two years, killing thousands on both sides. On the 15th, the world's population reached 8 billion, following the fastest growth in population ever. On the 27th, the world's largest volcano, Mauna Loa, located in Hawaii, erupted fot the first time in almost 40 years. Two days later, the Singaporean parliament finally repealed the law known as Section 377A, which dates back to the British colonial era, decriminalising gay sex, which could previously be punished with up to two years in prison. On the last day of the month, UNESCO announced a number of new additions to its list of Intangitable Cultural Heritage, including the French baguette, camel-calling oral traditions in the Middle East, as well as Chinese tea practices.

On the 7th of December, China surprisingly abandoned its zero-tolerance policies against covid-19, following mass protests in cities across the country. As restrictions have suddenly eased, millions have been infected, due to vaccination rates being considerably low. In New Zealand, the parliament passed the world's first ban on tobacco on the 13th, completely outlawing smoking for those born after 2009, meaning they will never be able to legally buy cigarettes during their lifetimes. On the same day, important developments were made as researchers managed to create viable fusion energy for the first time, meaning that output was greater than input. Fusion energy, which is based on the fusion of hydrogen atoms similar to the process that occurs in the sun, is held by many to be a key component in securing the world's growing need for clean energy, as the battle to combat climate change intensifies. During the United Nations Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal, Canada, 190 countries pledged to protect 30% of the world's land and oceans by 2030 in order to stop the steep decline in biodiversity that has been going on for decades. On the same day, the so called January 6 committee of the United States House of Representatives voted to refer criminal charges to the Department of Justice for the actions of former President Donald Trump in connection with the 2020 election and the 2021 storming of the Capitol.

As we now reach the end of both this article and the year 2022, I hope you have had a good year, in spite of all the things that are going on right now. With crises following each other, the outlook for the coming year does seem rather bleak. Nevertheless, we have no way of knowing for sure what the next year will bring, so there is no reason to be miserable just yet. Here is to a better 2023: Happy New Year!

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Atencia wrote on 27-12 21:42:
Atencia wrote:
wondering where 2022 went? then i suggest giving this article by @BloomCissi a read! 

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