2021: A look at some of the biggest stories of the year
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and the war of the Republicans
A fortnight ago, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump, was the first to jump into Trump’s pool for the presidency
This week, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, is making waves in the pool. Several others, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and former Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, and another South Carolinian of color, Sen. Tim Scott, are dipping their toes in the water.
Someone had to go first, and Haley is it.
The others know that Trump wants to tear them to pieces — he has already given DeSantis an ugly nickname, “Ron DeSanctimonius” — and they did not want to be first in the firing line.
Haley may be crazy brave. She is already taking incoming from the Make America Great Again (MAGA) crowd for shying away from highlighting her courageous stand as governor on taking the Confederate flag down from the state capitol.
But Haley has done something very important as the 2024 race for the Republican presidential nomination gets underway: She has opened the door to take Trump down.
Haley’s announcements — first on Twitter with her launch video, and then at the rally itself — were loaded with unmistakable criticisms of Trump and his viability to lead the Republican Party back into the White House.
There was this:
“We’re ready, ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past. And we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future.”
“We won’t win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.”
“Mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
And then the Trump-killing argument that Trump is a loser:
“Republicans have lost the popular vote in seven out of the last eight presidential elections. That has to change.”
Yes, Haley is also targeting Joe Biden on the age issue and the baggage of politicians from the 20th century.
But these are direct hits on Trump.
DeSantis is staking out his vision – of himself as the true grandmaster of culture war politics. What he has done in Florida he wants to nationalize in the 2024 presidential campaign: DeSantis pushes the anti-woke buttons on immigration, on abortion, on gay and transgender people, on parental control of schools, of radical left racial books that are in libraries. He punishes bureaucrats who stand in the way of his agenda, and uses state power to wreak economic harm on companies, like Disney, who speak out against the DeSantis program.
DeSantis has shown moxie and cunning in these first steps of his long march to the White House. First, to gather 100 heavy Republican players and funders in a strategy meeting just 5 miles from Trump’s lair at Mar-a-Lago. Then, to launch his new book on the DeSantis story and vison – an instant best-seller. Then to be featured at a gathering of the Club for Growth, conservative corporates and investors who believe in limited government and economic opportunity – and they have refused to support Trump. Haley, Scott and Sununu will also address the Club.
While they meet, Trump will be just outside Washington, addressing CPAC, the largest group of conservative activists in the country. For the past seven years, Trump has been their king and has given the clarion call to his movement.
As of today, in the latest Fox News poll, Trump leads DeSantis 43%-27%.
What will be closely watched is how much DeSantis and the others attack Trump, and how much Trump directly attacks those who are circling.
What must be understood is this:
Those seeking the Republican presidential nomination have to take it from Trump.
He is not going to cede it or walk away from it. The only way to beat Trump is for another Republican to take him down — to defeat him in the upcoming Republican primaries next year. And the Republican who does take him down will be using Nikki Haley’s arguments that Trump should not, must not, be the Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
There is no way around it. Nikki Haley has opened the door for the war of the Republicans.
Trump’s campaign debut was panned – but don’t underestimate his chances
Last weekend, Donald Trump held two events in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his first official forays onto the 2024 presidential battlefield.
The experts panned it.
A lot of the political class is talking about Trump in the past tense, and not the future, briefing out to the media that his rambling, Fidel Castro-like monologues bore his audiences silly, that his obsessions and battles with his political enemies do not have the reach they did in 2016 and during his term in office, that he is immersing himself more deeply in extremist QAnon cult waters, that he faces indictments and trials that will derail his campaign and might even put him in jail.
And more: that Trump wallows in the “stolen” 2020 election, knowing that there was no way he could have lost since he got 12 million more votes than in 2016. Trump never concedes. Six years later, he does not acknowledge that Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016 – and that he won only because she lost in the Electoral College.
The telling critique – the one driving Republicans in private to say that Trump is done (or should be done, or will be done) is that Trump is a loser.
That Trump lost Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2018, bringing back Nancy Pelosi who secured not one, but two impeachments of the president; that he lost the White House in 2020; that he lost control of the Senate in January 2021 when Democrats swept both Georgia Senate seats, giving them control of that chamber; and that Trump-backed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Arizona again cost Republicans control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms. As Vince Lombardi, legendary gridiron coach of Green Bay and Washington, said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Lombardi would say Trump was a loser.
Trump is having none of it, and his iron resolve was on full display for those listening more closely when he gave his orations last weekend.
“Maybe he’s lost his step,” Trump said in evoking the musings of some Republicans. But, “I’m more angry now, and I’m more committed than I ever was.”
The anger is palpable. The Trump 2023 brand joins his anger with the hottest culture war buttons he can press. Immigration, the open wound that is the southern border, the wall he will finish, the rapists and criminals who are flooding in and that he will keep out tomorrow. Immigration is his lead-off weapon.
Then promises of energy independence and oil forever. Utter hostility to electric vehicles and wind energy – especially if the windmills are offshore. No transgender women in sports. No way they are tolerated. A purge of woke content from school curricula, schoolbooks, school libraries, and school boards. Parents empowered to fire the principal of the schools their children attend; Trump says the parents can vote them out of their jobs.
Trump never goes far into the culture wars without conjuring up Hunter Biden, the president’s son.
Trump cannot get enough of Hunter’s laptop and the criminality of the Bidens, their business dealings and their money. We can barely follow all the Trump twists and turns in this tale, but there is no mistake that Trump wants Hunter nailed and his father to bear the consequences.
Reprising his role as Commander-in-Chief, Trump said, in case we have not been paying attention, that we are on the brink on World War III. That Ukraine would not have happened if he had been president. That we could have a peace deal “in 24 hours.” Trump wants to call Putin and knows Putin will be waiting for that call.
Trump’s great loyalist, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, was on the podium with Trump and put it this way after the event. “How many times have you heard we like Trump’s policies but we want somebody new? There are no Trump policies without Donald Trump.”
That’s the message Trump delivered to his base last weekend. And that’s how Trump intends to win.
Buried in Trump’s massive monologue was the core of what could be a winning message. “My mission is to secure a middle-class lifestyle for everyone. I did it before and I will do it again. And we will be respected in the world once again.”
Three powerful sentences which, coupled with the red meat of his anger and rage, mean that Trump is very much alive and kicking.
Leading athletes and medical experts push for medicinal cannabis in sport
Leading lawmakers, medical experts and athletes are pushing for therapeutic use of medicinal cannabis for chronic pain and injury
Basketball star Brittney Griner is one of the leading players of her generation. She jumped into the spotlight for serving a sentence for possession of cannabis oil in Russia.
It begs the question whether medicinal cannabis and athletes are a good mix. Well, many lawmakers, health experts and athletes around the world want to break down the stigmas associated with its use.
Many want to use Griner’s ordeal as motivation to change cannabis laws and therapeutic use exemptions in sports.
Mark Brayshaw, Managing Director of Levin Health has spoken closely with Dr. Peter Brukner who is a world-renowned Australian sports medicine clinician and researcher.
Brukner believes athletes should be able to compete in their field with medicinal cannabis because it doesn’t enhance their performance.
Brayshaw believes there are higher risks for athletes becoming addicted to anti-inflammatory and opioids. As opposed to any risks associated with taking medicinal cannabis.
He explains it enables athletes to function in a healthy way, pain free.
Overall, there is hope Griner’s case will break down stigma surrounding natural medicines and athletes.
In Australia, there are tens of thousands of new applications for medicinal cannabis every month.
There are also growing calls for countries to adopt therapeutic use exemptions in sport, including in the Australian Football League.
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