news·10 min read

Bye, 2020

Woman stands in front of sign that says "Move On 2020" in Times Square.
Getty Images
Dec 31, 2020

Oh, 2020. Not all years are good but you were especially crappy. Our Google searches went from 'best places to travel on a budget' to 'how many plants is too many plants?' We all baked bread. Everything was cake. We made margs with Martha Stewart, cosmos with Ina Garten, and negronis with Stanley Tucci. No one remembers jeans. Or the UFO videos. Or life before TikTok. We all clapped, and marched, and Zoomed, and tie-dyed. Taylor Swift got woodsy. Zendaya won an Emmy. Emily said 'oui oui.' "Schitt's Creek" was simply the best. So were J-Lo and ShakiraHarry Styles got Vogue. The Kardashians went rogue. Hilaria Baldwin is just living her life. And we all finally know how to properly wash our hands. But in an unprecedented year of nonstop doomscrolling, three topics dominated the news cycle. Let's get into it all...

COVID-19…as in, what flipped the world upside down. A pneumonia-like illness that began infecting people in China quickly spread around the world. And within months, countries issued lockdowns and travel restrictions to curb the virus's spread. The WHO named it COVID-19 and declared a global pandemic. Schools closed and many went remote, supply chains became disrupted, and economies took a dive. Health care facilities worked amid a global shortage of PPE, and the pandemic set off a vaccine race. 'Social distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask' became the mantra of the year as COVID-19 reached every continent (even Antarctica). Less than a year in, some nations have started distributing vaccines (hi, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) for a virus that's infected more than 82 million people worldwide and has claimed over 1.8 million lives. And another vaccine just got approved in the UK (hi, AstraZeneca). China's also officially approved its first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine.

Racial justice…as in, Americans fought against systemic racism. We remembered Ahmaud ArberyBreonna TaylorRayshard BrooksGeorge Floyd, and many other Black Americans disproportionately killed by police violence. Because their lives mattered. Because Black lives matter. So hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life protested in the streets, started initiatives, and showed support on social media. But some protests turned violent, dozens of cities imposed curfews, businesses boarded up their storefronts, and officers fired tear gas at crowds and rubber bullets. President Trump called protesters "thugs." And the country's never seemed more divided. Lawmakers introduced legislation to reform the police. So did Trump. Others called to defund the police. But the onus also falls on all Americans as individuals to learn, speak up, and become an ally.

Election…as in we hired a president. And fired the current one. But it doesn't look like he got the memo. Like everything else, COVID-19 shook up the election. Conventions moved online. States said 'yes' to mail-in voting. One mess we couldn't blame on the pandemic: Iowa's caucuses. In the end, America turned out in record numbers. They did it in person and by mail, despite more than one snafu with the USPS. They also showed up to help with poll worker shortages. And the result was the "most secure" election in the country's history. There was a red miragedebate with plexiglassFour Seasons Total Landscaping, and The Fly. After days of waiting for results – and Steve Kornacki's pants – the media called the election for Biden. Trump couldn't (and still can't) believe it. Baseless accusations of fraud went nowhere in the courts. The Electoral College gave Biden the green light to move into the White House. Next up: Georgia's Jan 5 runoff will determine who controls the Senate. Biden's on track to be the country's oldest ever president. And VP-elect Kamala Harris will be the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American to fill the role in the country's history.

Impeachment…The third trial of its kind in US history ended with President Trump acquitted of abusing power and obstructing Congress. The House's impeachment vote was so 2019. But the Republican-majority Senate picked things up early this year and said 'not guilty.' The White House said the trial ended in Trump's "full vindication and exoneration." Democrats – and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) – said 'not so much.'

Harvey Weinstein...The Hollywood producer was sentenced to 23 years in prison after he was found guilty of third-degree rape and first-degree criminal sexual act. It came after reporters for The New York Times and The New Yorker revealed years of allegations of sexual misconduct against him. The accusations against Weinstein helped fuel the #MeToo movement. Now, Weinstein faces another 11 sexual assault counts in California.

Ghislaine Maxwell...Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend and longtime associate was arrested at her New Hampshire hideout after months on the run. Maxwell's accused of helping Epstein run a sex trafficking ring and is facing federal charges of recruiting and grooming underage girls. She's pleaded not guilty, and her trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Federal executions...10 people have been executed since July, when the Justice Dept put a federal prisoner to death for the first time in nearly 20 years. The death penalty has long been a topic of debate in the US (especially after a botched execution in 2014) but AG William Barr's allowed them to resume after laying out a new federal lethal injection protocol.

ICE came under fire…after a whistleblower accused a Georgia detention center of performing a "high rate" of hysterectomies (when part or all of the uterus is removed) on immigrant women. The hospital that works with the detention center said 'interesting, our records don't really show that.' But more than 40 immigrant women have joined a class-action lawsuit alleging they were subjected to nonconsensual or unnecessary procedures. And that they faced retaliation for speaking out about it. The Justice and Homeland Security Depts are investigating. And ICE said it's fully cooperating in the current federal investigation.

The Abraham Accords…the peace agreements signed by Israel and four countries: the UAEBahrainSudan, and Morocco. The White House helped bring them to the table and hosted the signing ceremony. The historic agreements were the first wave of deals with Israel since Egypt (1982) and Jordan (1994). President Trump says the door's open for more Middle Eastern countries to follow suit.

Qasem of Iran's most powerful leaders was killed by a US airstrike at the very beginning of the year. The US said he was planning "imminent" attacks on Americans, so it had to be done. But the move dialed up US-Iran tensions to the brink of war. A day after Soleimani's death, Iran struck back, injuring dozens of US troops in Iraq. Days later, Iran also said it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people on board. Both countries cooled things off but talk about an intense start to 2020.

Hong Kong...the territory's seen pro-democracy protests since last year over the city's relationship with China. Over the summer, China passed a national security law that lets police crack down on Hong Kong protesters. Soon after, Hong Kong police arrested hundreds of people protesting the legislation. And the Trump admin said it no longer considered the territory independent from China. The UK stepped in and offered millions of Hong Kongers a path to citizenship. And then HK's pro-democracy lawmakers resigned in protest after four colleagues were expelled for allegedly being unpatriotic.

Things that happened abroad…

The UK and the EU finally finished playing 'Deal or No Deal.' Poland saw weeks of protests after a court ruled in favor of enhanced abortion restrictions. Argentina went the opposite way, and became the largest Latin American country to legalize abortion. Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free. France had multiple terror attacks, which renewed talks of free speech. Two ex-Green Berets reportedly tried to overthrow Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro. Months later, UN investigators accused Maduro of committing crimes against humanity. China's also been accused of crimes against humanity: a new report found that authorities reportedly forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of Muslim minority women. Kosovo's president was indicted for war crimes and resigned. Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't going anywhere. Neither is Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko. But that's not all. Lebanon's Prime Minister said 'au revoir' and dissolved his entire cabinet amid protests over the deadly port explosion in Beirut that killed over 200 people. Japan said 'thanks' to its longest running PM, Shinzo Abe, and 'hello' to Yoshihide SugaTensions were high between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Peru had three presidents...within one week. And Iran mourned its nuclear scientist's death.

Things that happened at home...

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the US – and with it, tens of millions of Americans' jobs were lost. Americans were encouraged to stay home. Masks made an appearance...and never left. The gov said 'here's about $1,200' and an unemployment bonus. The unemployment rate hit a record high of 14.7% in April. And many Americans struggled with rent, their mortgage, and paying everyday bills. Over the summer, unemployment started to decrease little by little – bringing it down to 6.7% in November. But still a long way compared to January's 3.6% before the pandemic. In December, the FDA OK'd its first COVID-19 vaccine...and another one soon after that. Earlier this month, President Trump signed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package days after Congress had approved it. And Americans are hoping to go back to normalcy in 2021, but experts say an economic comeback may have to wait until late Q2 or Q3 of 2021. Another thing that will have to wait: the census. After months of back and forth on the deadline, turns out the Census Bureau couldn't keep up. Now, for the first time since Congress agreed to the Dec 31 deadline, the data that determines everything from House seat numbers to federal funding for schools won't be tallied on time.

Things that worried climate experts…

Billions of desert locusts swarmed East Africa, destroying crops and threatening entire economies. And people said climate change could be to blame. A record number of hurricanes hit the US this year, so many that forecasters ran out of namesGovernors (and scientists) pointed to climate change as a reason for worsening wildfires, like the ones in California, Washington, and Oregon which destroyed millions of acres and killed dozens. Wildfires also broke out in the Amazon rainforest, Argentina, and Greece. And the ones from 2019 continued into this year in Australia. There were hundreds of earthquakes in Puerto Rico this year, and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Turkey and Greece, killing dozens.

RBG…Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87 of complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. Throughout her nearly 30 years serving on the bench, she championed women's rights, pushed for everyone's right to vote, supported the rights of those with disabilities and the right to access health care, and voted in favor of same-sex marriage. She also became known for her notorious nicknamefancy collars, and inspiring workout videos. Justice Ginsburg became the first woman ever to lie in state in the US Capitol. And was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Her death set off a contentious battle over her replacement on the high court.

Amy Coney Barrett...The Senate confirmed Judge Barrett to fill the seat left open after Justice Ginsburg's death. The approval came following an extremely divisive confirmation battle, which Democrats decried as a "sham" for taking place so close to the general election. And shifted the Supreme Court to a 6-3 conservative majority. Justice Barrett's the youngest justice on the court and also the first mother of school-aged kids to serve on the Supreme Court.

People we'll miss…

Kobe BryantB SmithAhmaud ArberyJoe CoulombeBreonna TaylorKenny RogersRev. Joseph LoweryBill WithersEllis MarsalisLinda TrippIrrfan KhanDon ShulaJerry StillerFred WillardDaniel PrudeGeorge FloydBonnie PointerCarl ReinerNick CorderoNaya RiveraKelly PrestonGrant ImaharaRep. John LewisRegis PhilbinOlivia de HavillandHerman CainRobert TrumpChadwick BosemanJustice Ruth Bader GinsburgJonathan PriceEddie Van HalenWalter Wallace JrSean ConneryAlex TrebekCharley PrideAndre Hill. And the more than 342,000 lives lost in the US to COVID-19.

Things that had CEOs busy…

Space Force launched its first satellite. And Elon Musk said 'I see your satellite and raise you a spaceflight.' With astronauts Doug Herley and Bob Behnken on board. Not soaring to new heights? The airline industry. TikTok had all the drama: facing threats over whether it could stay in the US, forming a new company with Oracle and Walmart, and onboarding a new CEO...twice. Disney said 'hi' to a new chief after longtime Disney CEO Bob Iger passed on the pixie dust to Bob Chapek. Feeling nostalgic? So were other Americans who spent quarantine streaming since there were So. Many. Options. Speaking of…

Things we binged..."Tiger King." "I May Destroy You." "Little Fires Everywhere." "High Fidelity." "Normal People." "Unorthodox." "Down to Earth with Zac Efron." "Woke." "Love Is Blind." "Love on the Spectrum." "Too Hot to Handle." "Selling Sunset." "The Crown." "Indian Matchmaking." "The Outsider." "Insecure." "The Queen's Gambit." "The Undoing." "The Vow." "The Boys." "Bridgerton." "Parasite." "Mulan." "Emma." "Palm Springs." "Da 5 Bloods." "Hamilton." "Antebellum." "Enola Holmes." "I'm Thinking of Ending Things." "Happiest Season." "The Devil All the Time." "Becoming." "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."

Jump around for...The Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV win. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics saying 'see ya next year.' The NBA bubble at Disney WorldNovak Djokovic's racket at the US Open. College sports' rebound. Major pro sports leagues' fight for racial justice. Naomi Osaka's US Open win and powerful message. Tadej Pogacar's très historic Tour de France win. The Los Angeles Lakers' 17th NBA championship. And the Dodgers' first World Series win since 1988.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle...the world collectively spilled their tea when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they were stepping down as "senior" members of the royal family. But who needs royalty, when you have Netflix and Spotify.

"Murder hornets"…yet another thing no one saw coming. But the buzz was real.

Monoliths...the biggest disappearing and appearing act since Houdini. Is it aliens, a work of art, or the mystery we didn't need (or maybe we did) in a year of unknowns?

Goodbye, 2020. We want to forgive you and we want to forget you.

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