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2022 year in review: Roe vs. Wade, War in Ukraine, losing Queen Elizabeth II

 UPI News logo: MainLogo UPI News 12/5/2022 Matt Bernardini

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- From abortion rights to war in Ukraine, the past year has seen Americans and the world face several historic events.

A new party regained control of part of the U.S. government, mass shootings continued at a record pace, and the first Black woman was appointed to the Supreme Court

Here is a recap of some of the most important events of 2022.

Abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court sent shockwaves throughout the nation in June as justices voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which returned the issue of abortion rights back to the states. Conservative states have moved quickly to restrict access or even outlaw the procedure entirely.

Some 14 U.S. states lack abortion services after the closing of 66 clinics, according to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on reproductive rights.

The report found that 66 of 79 clinics in 15 states have been forced to stop offering abortion care over laws mandating either complete bans or bans after six weeks gestation.

The other 13 clinics were all in Georgia, which bans abortions after six weeks, leaving 14 states without providers: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The clinic closures leave 29% of American women of reproductive age without access to abortion care in their home states. The analysis cited anecdotal evidence indicating providers in other states are facing an overload of cases.

Biden has called on Congress to codify the right to abortion in federal legislation.

The decision also followed a rare leak of a draft opinion in May that led to protests outside justices' homes and prompted an investigation into the source of the leak.

Gun violence

This year has seen a record level of mass shootings, as the United States averages nearly two a day.

The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as four or more people being shot or killed, not including the shooter. So far there have been more than 600 this year. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed this year as a result of gun violence as mass shootings have permeated all areas of life, from schools to grocery stores to holiday celebrations.

Perhaps the most infamous massacre occurred in May when a gunman opened fire at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, leaving 19 students and at least two adults dead. The police have faced heavy criticism for their inaction while the shooting happened.

A report by a Texas House Committee found that 376 law enforcement officers -- a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo -- descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene that lasted for more than an hour. The group was devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the gunman.

Some of the mass shootings have been racially motivated. Just a few days before the shooting in Uvalde, an 18-year-old White man, identified as Payton Gendron, fatally shot 10 people in a Buffalo grocery store. In July, Gendron was indicted on 27 counts of federal hate crimes. Authorities said Gendron had posted a manifesto online that allegedly made numerous racist and anti-immigration remarks.

War in Ukraine

In February, Russia launched the first invasion of another country in Europe since World War II, as it rolled into neighboring Ukraine. Russia thought it could conquer the country in a short time. However, Ukraine has outperformed expectations. The country has even retaken key cities like Kherson, after Russia conquered them early in the war.

The United Nations has investigated and concluded that Russian troops have raped and tortured children in Ukraine, carried out a large number of executions and committed other war crimes.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry reported their findings after visiting 27 towns and settlements and interviewing more than 150 victims and witnesses. The commission also said they are investigating deaths in 16 towns.

"Based on the evidence gathered by the commission, it has concluded that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine," Erik Mose, chairman of the three-member commission, told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Witnesses also told the investigators they were forcibly transported to Russia and held for weeks in prisons and subjected to various forms of torture. This is a subject of the ongoing investigations.

Some Western leaders have warned that the war could last years and have urged allies to continue to give Ukraine support.

U.S. inflation

No event has affected American consumers more than inflation. Consumer prices reached a 40-year high this summer, with the year-over-year increase hitting 9.1%.

In June, gas prices reached $5 a gallon, although there are signs that gas prices and other expenses are beginning to come down slightly.

The consumer price index "delivered another shock, and as painful as June's higher number is, equally as bad is the broadening sources of inflation," Robert Frick, a corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told CNBC in July.

In October, the Consumer Price Index grew by 7.7%, the lowest increase since January.

The index measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services, excluding volatile food and fuel prices. The CPI is also a key tool used to measure inflation.

"That's obviously still very high," Andrew Hunter, a senior economist at Capital Economics, told NBC. "But at least it's a move in the right direction."

Jan. 6 hearings

Over the summer, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol held a series of televised hearings that displayed their findings and ultimately voted unanimously to subpoena former President Donald Trump.

In summarizing their investigations, Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said the facts were clear that Trump orchestrated a multi-part plan to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of only two Republicans on the panel and its vice chair, said the evidence showed Trump was at the center of this plot.

"The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of Jan. 6 was one man: Donald Trump, who many others followed," Cheney said. "None of this would have happened without him. He was personally and substantially involved in all of it."

One of the biggest hearings occurred on July 21, when the committee heard testimony from multiple former White House officials who said Trump was unmoved for hours by the many pleas from aides, lawmakers, friends and family members to intervene during the Capitol attack.

Sarah Matthews and Matthew Pottinger, two former White House aides, said they argued with colleagues and Trump that he should condemn the violence.

Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone also told the committee in private testimony that Trump was alone in refusing to take further action to send the rioters home.

"I can't think of anybody on that day who didn't want people to get out of the Capitol ... particularly once the violence started," Cipollone said.

Anti-LGBTQ legislation

LGBTQ rights have come under attack in conservatice states, with several restricting access to gender-affirming care for transgender people and banning discussion of gender and sexuality in classrooms.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has tried to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their transgender children. However, in June, Travis County District Judge Jan Soifer issued a temporary restraining order against the investigations.

Gender-affirming care is recommended by all major medical associations to treat gender dysphoria, the distress someone can feel when their gender identity does not align with their biological sex. Gender dysphoria can be exacerbated as a child approaches puberty, so doctors often prescribe reversible puberty blockers and, sometimes, hormone therapy. More than half of all transgender youth report considering suicide, but the rates are much lower for those who are able to access gender-affirming healthcare.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 32 trans people have been violently killed in 2022 alone and 300 were killed since 2013.

"For 10 years, we at HRC have tracked fatal violence against trans and gender non-conforming people, with the goal of memorializing their lives and uplifting their stories to bring this epidemic of violence to an end. Each and every one of the at least 300 people killed since 2013 was a person with a full, rich life that did not deserve to be cut short," said Shoshana Goldberg, the director of public education and research for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

In June, Florida passed the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or identity in primary grade levels.

While the law does not actually bar use of the word "gay," it requires teachers to reveal to parents if their children have "come out" -- or revealed -- to them that they are LGBTQ, as well as barring classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity with children younger than third grade.

It also bars education on either topic "in a manner that that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

Republican lawmakers in Florida who support the law insist it is meant to strengthen parental rights over education.

But many parents, teachers, administrators and students say that while the law purports to be about parent's rights, it actually singles out LGBTQ+ students and teachers, taking away their rights in classrooms.

Midterm elections

November's midterm elections will shift the balance of power in Congress as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in January. Republicans will have 220 House seats, while Democrats will have 213. The winners for two other seats have yet to be called.

Democrats, however, performed better than expected in House races and narrowly retained the Senate by flipping a seat in Pennsylvania. They hold the advantage 50-49, with a runoff in Georgia set for Tuesday.

"While the press and the pundits predicted a giant red wave, it didn't happen," President Joe Biden told reporters last month at the White House.

When the Democrats take over the House minority next month, they will have a new leader. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York makes history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party's caucus.

The 52-year-old Jeffries was elected in a unanimous vote, ushering in a generational shift, with Nancy Pelosi, 82, of California standing down from seeking a new leadership post.

"This is a moment of transition," Jeffries told a small group of reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday night. "We stand on the shoulders of giants, but are also looking forward to being able to do what's necessary at this moment to advance the issues."

Ketanji Brown Jackson

In June, Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. Jackson, 51, was sworn in following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who ascended to the high court in 1994 and announced his resignation earlier this year.

Jackson was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for about a year before ascending to the Supreme Court. Previously, she was a public defender and was Biden's first Supreme Court nominee. Biden had promised during his campaign for president in 2020 that he would nominate a Black woman to the court.

The Senate narrowly confirmed Jackson in April by a 53-47 vote. Most Republicans argued that her track record as a judge showed she is weak on crime -- an assessment that the American Bar Association rejected -- and some like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., opposed her because they supported a different candidate for the post.

In November, Jackson wrote her first opinion in a dissent alongside Justice Sonia Sotomayor, objecting to the Supreme Court's decision to reject an appeal from Davel Chinn, the death row inmate who was convicted of a 1989 murder in Dayton, Ohio.

Climate change

Several reports found that the world was still not doing enough to combat climate change, which contributed to longer droughts and stronger storms over the past year.

A study by the World Weather Attribution Initiative found that climate change exasperated global drought, fires and heat waves this year. One of the hottest European summers on record had far-reaching impacts on agriculture and food security and caused an increased risk of fire in 2022, the study found.

The United Nations has repeatedly said that nations need to do more to combat climate change.

"The downward trend in emissions expected by 2030 shows that nations have made some progress this year," Simon Stiell, executive secretary of U.N. Climate Change, said in a statement. "But the science is clear and so are our climate goals under the Paris Agreement. We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5-degrees Celsius world. To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years."

The United States also dealt with a historic hurricane season, even though it started out relatively quiet. While it's not unusual to have lulls in the season, the long stint of no named storms leading up to the peak was enough to make the top of the list of seasonal highlights for many AccuWeather forecasters.

For only the third time on record -- and the first time in 25 years -- there were no named storms during the month of August. The other years where this occurred were 1961 and 1997.

Then came September. Hurricane Ian slammed into Lee County, Fla., and at least 62 people died, according to the Nov. 16 update from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. In Florida as a whole, Ian killed at least 139 people.

The total damage and economic loss from the storm was estimated to be between $180 billion and $210 billion, according to AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers.

"The damage done by Ian to many Floridian communities was absolutely catastrophic," Gilbert said. "Even residents that avoided the worst of Ian's wrath still had to deal with some impacts as a result of the powerful storm."

Queen Elizabeth II

In September, Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch in British history, died at her Balmoral estate in Scotland at age 96. Her son, Charles, has ascended the thrown as King Charles III.

From Harry S. Truman to Biden, Elizabeth saw 14 U.S. presidents come and go during her reign.

Elizabeth liked reading mysteries, working on crossword puzzles and watching soaps and wrestling on television. A horse enthusiast, she would often go for a ride around the grounds of one of her country homes and enjoyed attending races. And, of course, she was a dog lover, owning some 30 corgis during her life, as many as five at a time.

"The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of great sadness for me and all members of my family," Charles said. "We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt through the country, the reals, and the commonwealth, and by countless people around the world."

Her death came just a few months after she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee at Buckingham Palace to honor her 70 years on the throne. While she had been in ailing health and had to cancel several events, she was able to appear in a prerecorded skit that opened the jubilee.

Charles and his son Prince William paid tribute to the monarch in speeches celebrating her "lifetime of service."

 

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