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2021: A look at some of the biggest stories of the year

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2021 has been a year that many people would rather forget than remember, but for others it was the year that was

Many of us went into 2021 full of hope and ambition. Coming off the back of 2020 – the year when COVID was born – there was hope that a global vaccine rollout would allow people to get on with their lives and do the things we love.

But, as the world learnt about the different strains of COVID-19, and we began to see how rapidly a single variant such as Delta spread like wildfire, it became evident to us that 2021 was pretty much 2020, part two.

Besides the fact that the pandemic was dominating the headlines around the world, there were plenty of other big events that will be remembered.

COVID continues to dominate much of the world / Image: File

January 6 Capitol Riots

On January 6, 2021, as Congress convened to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory, hundreds of protesters who were in Washington DC for the “Save America” rally violently breached the U.S. Capitol building – storming it in protest.

Rioters made it as far as the Senate Chamber, killing one Capitol police officer, and injuring more than 140 others.

The insurrectionists, comprised largely of pro-Trump supporters, caused roughly $1.5 million in damages, according to The Washington Post.

At the time, then-President Donald Trump took to social media to claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, after losing to Joe Biden.

Rather than encouraging a peaceful transfer of power—a fundamental tenet of American democracy – President Donald Trump stoked the flames of insurrection with rhetoric about the election being fraudulent, stolen, and called on supporters to take action.

Those actions quickly saw Trump blocked off social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, which many say he used as a platform to ‘incite the January 6 violence.’

Since the riot, ongoing investigations remain, as well as a Congressional Committee Hearing, which heard evidence provided by close allies of former President Donald Trump.

On January 13, with one week remaining in his term, 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 so far.

Hundreds took to the Capitol on Jan 6 / Image: File

President Joe Biden’s Inauguration

The inauguration of President Joe Biden on January 20 marked a transition of power, following the 2020 U.S. election.

The transition of power changed the political rhetoric from “America First” to “America is Back.”

Former US President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s victory of 306 electoral votes. That’s when his supporters – with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud – used as a rallying cry for the Capitol insurrection one week prior.

Vice President Kamala Harris makes history

Biden’s inauguration was historic, not only because a transition of power was achieved despite efforts to subvert this democratic norm, but also because Kamala Harris became the first woman and first person of African-American and South Asian descent to serve in the role of vice-president of the United States.

Myanmar coup

Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military seized control on 1 February.

Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party had been among those detained.

Hundreds of people, including children, have since been killed as violent protest against the military junta poured onto the streets.

The military is now back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency.

It seized control on 1 February following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide.

The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud.

The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.

The coup took place as a new session of Parliament was set to open.

Suu Kyi has since been jailed after being convicted with multiple offences.

People stand on a barricade during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar March 27, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Supply chains halt as the EverGiven ship gets stuck

In March, a massive cargo ship carrying more than 18,000 containers of consumer goods, got suck in the Suez Canal after over-turning.

For a long six days, the EverGiven ship blocked the passage of more than 400 other ships, stalling an already-tenuous global supply chain.

Analysts have estimated that the ripple effect was 60-day shipping delays for roughly $60 billion worth of products.

Many experts say that the costly error shone a light on the outdated infrastructure of freight shipping.

A short time after the ship was freed, it was seized by the Suez Canal Authority and held for more than 100 days as compensation negotiations ensued.

The sum demanded by the Canal Authority was initially $900 million, but that total figure was later lowered to $550 million.

EverGiven’s owners as well as its insurers, and Egyptian authorities reached a settlement on July 7, the terms of which were not disclosed.

The ship was suck for almost a week / Image: File

COVID vaccines rollout across the world

By May 1st – a year-and-a-half into the COVID pandemic – much of the world was beginning to receive shipments of the COVID vaccine by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Nations like the United States, Israel, UK and much of Europe began administering jabs, as the rollout quickly began the ticket back to normality.

The technology behind the vaccine was highly praised. Both Pfizer and Moderna use a novel mRNA technology to create their vaccines, while AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses more traditional, pre-existing information-delivery technology.

It was a milestone in the pandemic that many met with hope, relief, and, for some, hesitancy.

With the introduction of the COVID jabs, reported cases slowly began to decline as well as the hospitalisation and death rate across many parts of the world.

Mary Lou Russler receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine during a community vaccination event in Martinsburg, West Virginia, U.S., March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The billionaire space race

Who could forget the billionaire space race – an event which made history and looked to the future of space travel.

Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson all jockeyed for headlines relating to private space travel and astro tourism this year.

On July 11, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson became the first civilian aboard his own rocket ship to reach space.

Mr Branson reached an altitude of 53 miles above ground.

Tokyo Olympics

Who could forget the biggest sporting event of the year.

After being postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics finally went ahead in Japan in July through to August.

It was a revolution in the way people consumed the Games – with more viewers streaming the event than ever before – some even reporting more eyes on mobile than TV free-to-air screens.

Spectators weren’t allowed to attend the Games in-person due to COVID.

Lamont Marcell Jacobs took out the blue- ribbon event, the 100m Mens Final as well as the high jump having two gold medallists.

It was the first joint-Olympic podium in Athletics since 1912.

Tokyo Olympics
Tokyo Olympics / Image: File

US withdraws from Afghanistan

On August 31 – US President Joe Biden, along with his administration withdrew the last of its troops from Afghanistan, following on with a deal reached by the Trump Administration to end the 20-year war.

The decision copped mixed emotions. Reports state that while the majority of Americans  agree that withdrawal from the country was the right decision, 40% of people believe it was handled poorly.

The withdrawal of the US military saw the Taliban regain control of Afghanistan in just under 10 days – even before American troops had completed their evacuation.

The militant group seized control of Kabul on August 15.

In a White House Statement, President Joe Biden adamantly defended the decision and the withdrawal operation.

Taliban regained control of Afghanistan / Image: File

Violent protests erupt in world’s most locked down city

In September, Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne turned into a city of protest.

Police and demonstrators clashed following an announcement by the Victorian state government that construction workers will be required to have a COVID-19 vaccine in order to continue working.

A protest outside the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) headquarters in Melbourne turned violent.

https://twitter.com/AnthonyLucas30/status/1440517957575004165?s=20

Protesters smashed glass windows, threw projectiles and caused damage to the building, prompting the deployment of riot police.

In particular, the Victorian headquarters of Australia’s major construction union, the CFMEU was vandalised.

The protests went on over multiple days, and saw thousands of police deployed to the city – including officers from the riot squad.

Construction workers protest in Melbourne over vaccine mandate / Image: File

Tennis tournaments in China scrapped amid concern for Peng Shuai

In November, the Women’s Tennis Association announced that it will immediately suspend all tennis tournaments in China as concerns grew for the safety and wellbeing of Peng Shuai.

The tennis star went missing after posting a sexual assault allegation against a top Chinese government official.

FILE PHOTO: A file photo of China’s Peng Shuai serving during a match at the Australian Open on January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

Ghislaine Maxwell trial

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell began her trial after being arrested in 2019 in relation to sexual abuse allegations involving herself and Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, 59, is accused of recruiting and grooming four teenage girls for Epstein to abuse between 1994 and 2004. She has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes.

The federal court jury in Manhattan began deliberations late on Monday December 20 after three weeks of emotional testimony from four accusers.

Maxwell’s lawyers have argued that she is being “scapegoated” for Epstein’s crimes because the globetrotting investor – Maxwell’s former boyfriend and employer – took his own life in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 at the age of 66 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges.

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell / Image: File

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

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“Woman. Life. Freedom,” Iran protests now on the world’s stadium

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Protests are engulfing Iran as a revolution against oppression spills onto the global stage, with the world unable to turn a blind eye

In Iran, protests are engulfing the country as thousands take to the streets in a revolution against oppression. 

Women are cutting their hair and burning their hijabs, demanding some form of change to the strict rules that impact their ultimate freedom.

“Woman. Life. Freedom”

DONNA MILES, WRITEr, & COLUMNIST

From the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the nation’s residents have witnessed their fair share of turmoil.

Many insist that religion, like Islam, is being used as a reason to violate basic human rights in Iran.

Women in the country and around the world, are now lifting the veil on Iran’s corruption.

“What is happening in Iran fills me with both fear and hope… Hope that there might be some meaningful change.”

Donna miles, writer, & Columnist

Pure desperation

For nearly forty years, women in Iran have faced a life of control and oppression. Subject to the strict Islamic Republic rules, bound by religion.

There have been protests in Iran before, but nothing like what we see today.

Women and men are filling the streets of the entire country, in a show of solidarity against the regime, putting their lives on the line.

Footage of Iranian women burning the hijabs and cutting their hair has encapsulated social media.

“People are risking their lives… The regime is very brutal. It significant that this time round that there is international focus and attention on Iran.

One thing is clear…The revolution is taking place, at least in people’s hearts and minds.”

Donna miles, writer, & Columnist

Spilling onto the global stage

The uprising against the regime in Iran and its treatment of women is openly and loudly spilling onto the global stage.

Its voice is so powerful it is even flooding into the sporting arena. In Qatar, Iranian soccer players refused to sing their national anthem before their World Cup game.

Credit: Al Jazeera

While the move from the sporting stars was seen by a global audience, a cloud of fear now looms over the safety and wellbeing of the players returning to their homeland.

“The players have been extremely brave. This is a significant issue for them. Enough to take a political stand to refuse to sing the national anthem.”

DONNA MILES, WRITEr, & COLUMNIST

As history shows us, sport has often been used as an avenue to express a political stance.

At the 1968 Mexico Olympics, U.S. athlete Tommie Smith raised his black-gloved fist, in defiance of racial segregation.

This is perhaps one of the most iconic moments, illustrating the blurred line between politics and sport.

Credit: The New York Times

UN finally calls out Iran

During the Iran protests, footage of authorities using brutal force against protestors sparked global attention and outrage.

Now, the United Nation has called out Iran’s actions.

At its 35th special session, the UN Human Rights Council launched a new investigation. It will independently investigate alleged human rights violations during the protests.

“It will be independently investigated.”

DONNA MILES, WRITEr, & COLUMNIST

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Is Musk flushing Twitter down the drain?

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Elon Musk

Elon Musk has made plenty of changes to Twitter, but will it make or break the social media platform?

When Elon Musk walked into Twitter with a sink you knew things were about to get interesting. 

It’s been a chaotic few weeks of change for the social media platform. Musk quickly showed thousands of employees the door.

Noticeably, he also upended the iconic ‘blue tick’ hierarchy. 

The new boss is adamant in making the platform a place of free speech, often using public Twitter polls to dictate his next move.

It’s not very often you have a billionaire and CEO of a tech giant communicate with people everyday via a tweet thread.

“As far as communicating with people, that is something we haven’t seen. You don’t see Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates out there communicating like this or any other billionaire.”

greg nibler, tech expert

While people have been quick to judge Musk’s changes, he remains one of the most successful businessmen in history.

He lead the charge on flying to space with his SpaceX empire and was ahead of the game in the electric vehicle market.

Perhaps, the changes to the platform are a smart move for the company to succeed, despite the abruptness of them.

Proof is in the pudding because the numbers show Twitter has added 1.6 million daily users this week alone, which is an all-time high.

“It is a reality show on Twitter and people want to see it…
Is that going to turn into profitability, I don’t know.”

Greg nibler, tech expert

Plus World Cup traffic hit almost 20,000 tweets per second today, breaking another record. 

It’s likely Twitter may be more successful in private hands. Financially though, the company has declined, causing widespread concern about its economic stability.

Musk wants to vastly increase the revenue the company makes through subscriptions, but a question mark looms over its ability to triumph.

“The way in which Twitter has lost so much money in value so quickly must also be a concern to people who have lent money to Musk… Wondering has it been a good investment for them.”

KEITH SUTER, international affairs commentator

Suspended accounts debate

Previously, Twitter had banned the accounts of many users, particularly those prone to far-right rhetorics.

Former President Donald Trump’s account had been suspended for nearly a year, alongside conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and controversial Andrew Tate.

Musk asked his followers in a poll if Twitter should “offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts? As Musk says, they haven’t broken the law?”

It all follows a turbulent economic time for the social media giant as it finds its place in the ever changing cyber sphere. 

Whether or not Twitter goes down the drain, remains to be seen. 

But love him or hate him, Musk has created an entertaining platform, with millions flocking to get a taste of what is the Twitter saga.

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Does Donald Trump need Twitter to win in 2024?

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Donald Trump is making a political comeback in 2024, but can he gain relevance without Twitter?

Donald Trump is making his political comeback, and Twitter boss Elon Musk has welcomed the former President back to the platform with open arms.

It was only a matter of weeks after taking over that Musk decided to lift Trump’s nearly year-long suspension.

Many expected Trump to jump at the offer and begin flooding our Twitter feeds again.

However, the former President may not want to return to Twitter, but why?

U.S. Commentator Susan Tehrani believes Trump’s decision to withhold his return to Twitter comes back to money.

“It might have to do with millions of dollars… [If he returns to Twitter] He may stand to lose a lot of money…

If Trump’s company goes public and only for him to go back on Twitter, start Tweeting and devalue Truth Social… He’s going to give his followers a reason to abandon Truth Social.”

Susan Tehrani, u.s. commentator

Twitter was Trump’s favourite app when he was President. He used the platform to drum up support and create buzz. Love him or hate him, Trump undeniably had people right around the world speaking about his latest thought.

In today’s society, people consume news via social media, in particular via Twitter.

With Trump absent from Twitter, it raises question about how he will maintain relevance in social media sphere in the lead up to his 2024 return.

Trump heads his own social media platform ‘Truth Social’, but it has just four million users, opposed to Twitter’s more than 200 million.

“With El on Musk at the helm it encourages a health debate…Then it going to be a place where Donald Trump can once again bypass even the mainstream media…And communicate directly with a wide audience.

Donald Trump would stand winning if he came back on Twitter.”

Susan Tehrani, u.s. commentator

Does Twitter need Trump, more than Trump needs Twitter?

With Musk at the reigns of Twitter, the social media giant is shifting its direction. Musk has made it clear he doesn’t believe in the previous ‘blue tick’ hierarchy, quickly scrapping the process.

He has been vocal about his desire for free speech on the platform. However, many are concerned that the changes may have a negative impact.

Although, change isn’t always a bad thing and perhaps Twitter needed a makeover, to keep up with today’s evolving society and array of opinions.

While Twitter is still popular, Musk’s move to reinstate Donald Trump’s account might have been strategic.

Trump is a bold politician, and regardless of his Twitter status, many are wondering what his next move will be.

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