'21-'22 News Year in Review
Jeremy Young '24
There have been some crazy news stories this year, from wars ending in Afghanistan, to wars starting in Ukraine, this past school year has been unparalleled in terms of the news. At the same time, there have been fewer political news stories since it wasn’t a presidential election or midterm year, though there was an important election in France just in the past few weeks. 2022 has also had some news that has been monumental with stories that have caught the attention of the nation and the world. From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the potential overturn of Roe vs Wade, and even the local news of the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial ongoing. If you haven’t been keeping up with your news this past school year and want to know what has happened and how it will continue to affect our world for years to come, this is the article for you.
This seems like a decade ago at this point, but if you remember, at the beginning of this year the news covered the U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The process of withdrawal and takeover are well known but it seems that many people stopped paying attention to the country after the Taliban took over. Because of the lack of aid from the U.S. paired with drought, Afghanistan is in a world of trouble. Afghanistan has reached a crisis point in terms of their economy and food supplies. According to Scott Worden, Director, Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs for the United States Institute of Peace, “Afghanistan is now facing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The Afghan economy has no cash to pay salaries or buy food. Western aid has been suspended because the Taliban government includes designated terrorists. And millions of Afghans face acute malnutrition and starvation in the coming months. The Taliban lack capacity to manage these monumental challenges, but there is no clear alternative to their rule.” Afghanistan was already in a hole economically before the Taliban took over, and now things have become much worse for Afghans. Already millions of refugees have fled from Afghanistan mostly from the urban areas that had a very different atmosphere from the rural areas. The Afghanistan refugee crisis has gone somewhat under the radar because of what is going on in Ukraine, but 240,000 people have been internally displaced according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with 500,000 leaving the country since May 2021. This isn’t even to mention the human right’s violations in the last year. Despite promises from the Taliban that they wouldn’t do anything to constrict the rights of women, the Taliban have violated this on numerous occasions, made most evident by the recent rule ordering women to be completely covered wearing a burqa whenever they leave the house. It will be interesting to see where this story goes as it doesn’t seem like the situation in Afghanistan can get any worse, or if there will be any attempt at overthrowing the Taliban as Afghans continue to suffer under their regime.
Texas Abortion Ban
Abortion has been all over the news these last few months beginning with the Texas Abortion Law, called the most restrictive abortion law in the country by many. While the Texas Abortion Law is now less impactful because of recent events that we will get to later, looking back on it now, the Texas Abortion Law was a telltale sign of the legislature to come in terms of abortion and abortion access. The Texas Abortion Law is also known as the Heartbeat Act as it banned abortions once a heartbeat was detected, which usually comes at about six weeks into the pregnancy. While the bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott in May 2021, it was challenged by lower courts and went into effect on September 1st 2021. While many states have made attempts to restrict abortion access, what makes the Heartbeat Act so different is that it is enforced by private citizens. According to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, “Essentially, the law allows any private citizen to bring a civil lawsuit against any individual who “performs or induces” an abortion, or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” an abortion, including the payment for or reimbursing the costs for an abortion. Individuals who prevail in their lawsuit will be awarded “statutory damages in an amount of not less than $10,000.” It is interesting to see the effects of this law as it may soon be a law replicated all over the country. According to NPR, in banning medication used to induce an abortion, the law also banned the two medications recommended for patients after an early pregnancy loss, misoprostol and mifepristone.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The biggest international news story of the year has easily been the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. The invasion began on February 24, 2022 and to the surprise of the world, Ukraine hasn’t just survived, but has held their ground for the most part as Russia pulls its troops out of Kyiv and looks to regroup. Russia has also shocked the world for the countless war crimes they have committed. There have been too many atrocities towards civilians to count, but they include most recently the killing of over 400 civilians in the town of Bucha and the forced digging of mass graves. War crimes extend to Kyiv and the areas surrounding the capital where according to the Human Right’s Watch, “These include a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022. Soldiers were also implicated in looting civilian property, including food, clothing, and firewood. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes.” Civilian executions have become commonplace with more accounts than could possibly be written about; as according to the UN High Council, there have been over 1,000 bodies recovered in the Kyiv region. These actions have not gone unnoticed by the international community as on May 12, the U.N. The Human Rights Council began the steps to an investigation into possible Russian war crimes against Ukrainians. The U.S, NATO, and U.K. called out Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal and Russia has been completely blacklisted from the international community. Countries in the region that were formerly part of Russia under the Soviet Union have taken this a step further: as of May 12, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have both joined Estonia and Latvia in declaring that Russia is responsible for genocide against the Ukrainian people, designating Russia as responsible for terrorism. The longer the war drags on, Russia appears an increasingly backwards state that will never be able to make people forget what has happened or sweep it under the rug.
Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp
The defamation case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has caught the attention of the media as Johnny Depp tries to clear his name after being canceled because of an op-ed Heard published by The Washington Post in 2018 detailing supposed domestic violence. Since then, Depp has been dropped from high caliber projects such as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Harry Potter and the Crimes of Grindelwald. Johnny Depp has sued for defamation for $50 million dollars while Amber Heard has filed a counter sue for $100 million dollars. This case has been highly publicized due to the status of the two people involved, and it also takes place just a few miles away from here in Fairfax, Virginia. The trial has featured some all time moments, from Amber Heard’s lawyer objecting to his own question, to Johnny Depp accusing Amber Heard of defecating in their bed, and finally Amber Heard accidently referencing Kate Moss (Johnny Depp’s ex-girlfriend) allowing for her to potentially testify and offer evidence against some of Heard’s claims. Both sides have taken interesting strategies towards their arguments, “Attorneys for Depp lay out evidence of Heard's alleged abuse, while Heard's lawyers focus on Depp's past drug and alcohol use, text messages and recordings, claiming Depp perpetrated the violence,” according to NBC. Emotions are running high as when asked what the cost of the op-ed Amber Heard wrote, Johnny Depp responded with “Nothing less than everything.” Amber Heard has broken down multiple times when talking about Depp’s substance use and alleged physical abuse. It is interesting to see the reactions to this case on social media as Johnny Depp has seen widespread support whereas Amber Heard has faced criticism. This is quite the opposite reaction from when the op-ed was first published in The Washington Post. According to a Twitter poll sent out by Clay Travis asking who do you believe in the Depp-Heard case, 60% responded with believing Depp with only 1% saying they believed Heard with the other 35% saying both sounded awful. In fact, the case has gotten so bad for Amber Heard, that she recently fired her crisis public relations firm because of the bad press she was getting after Depp’s testimony. While the verdict has yet to be decided, most people have already made up their minds, and it will be interesting to see what will happen with Amber Heard and if she will face similar treatment to what Depp faced in 2018.
Roe vs Wade
Now to the biggest national news story of the year: in an unprecedented turn of events, a draft of a decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked by the Supreme Court. It is important to mention that this isn’t the final opinion and is only a draft and has not been decided yet. As soon as the draft opinion was leaked to Politico on May 3, the abortion-rights community became up in arms over the idea. Roe vs Wade has arguably been the most controversial law in America since its inception in 1973. People immediately started asking how this would play out on a state to state level. According to CNN, “If Roe v. Wade were overturned, 22 states have laws to restrict abortion access. Sixteen states plus DC have laws that protect abortion access without Roe v. Wade.” Some states have already taken steps to making themselves safe havens for abortion where those from states with restricting laws could go to. While most states have made it clear which side they are on, states such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Alaska don’t have legislature in place about abortion if Roe vs Wade is overturned. With that being said, the majority of these states, especially Kansas and North Carolina will most likely be on the restrictive side as they had some legislature prior to Roe vs Wade. While this was a bombshell story, it is likely to take months for the actual decision to play out in the Supreme Court. For more about the bombshell Roe vs Wade decision, make sure to check out the op/ed from Lucy Palma in the April/May Issue.
There had to be at least one election in this article. The French presidential election lasted from April 10th to the 24th and was an incredibly memorable one. The election pitted incumbent President Emmanuel Macron against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. For Macron, this was an election much closer than many expected. According to the Organization for World Peace, “Le Pen beat out the other candidates in the first round of the elections that occurred on April 10th, running as a member of the far-right, conservative French nationalist party called the National Rally (RN). Meanwhile, Macron ran as a member of the center-left political party La République en Marche, which he founded when he first got elected as president back in the 2017 elections. His campaign (and his presidency overall) was focused on Pro-Europeanism, continuing France’s position as an active member of NATO, and liberal/left-leaning policies overall.” Le Pen’s campaign was run off of the ideas of anti-immigration, and pulling out of global organizations such as the EU and NATO. Le Pen tried to brand herself as for the working class French, which seemed to have worked as according to the Guardian, “The gap between them is first of all generational, since Emmanuel Macron attracted 70% of the votes of the over-65s and 68% among 18- to 24-year-old voters. These two groups share a common trait: neither has a significant active presence in the labor market.” This divide was seen as Macron won 74% of the votes from business executives and those highly qualified, while Le Pen won 58% among working class voters. There was a major divide between those with advanced education levels as those with a higher degree in education voted for Macron in much higher numbers while those who didn’t were the majority towards Le Pen. France is very different from most other countries in terms of the education level, as the majority of French have a baccalaureate. Those without a baccalaureate or with any minor level of education are confined to less skilled work, meaning they are the lowest paid and least valued. Following these trends, Macron won big in major cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes with around 80%, while Le Pen won rural areas, small towns, and declining former industrial areas. This election showed a growing socioeconomic divide in France as well as the continuing rise of the far-right in Europe and their ability to gain mainstream influence.
While it is nice to look back on the news stories of the last few months, it is even more important to think about how these stories will continue to play out today and tomorrow. Many of the news stories over the last year follow some similar trends; the increased limitations to abortion and abortion access, the growing rise of the far-right both nationally and internationally, and a new chapter of major world power’s involvement overseas with the U.S. drawing out of Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It will be interesting to see if these trends can continue as abortion will be up for vote in the coming months in the Supreme Court, Russia has been forced to regroup and draw back but still seems keen on taking Ukraine, and the midterm elections in November will be an indicator on where the country is now as well as American’s opinions on issues like involvement in Ukraine and abortion.