The year began under the threat of chaos. While Russian troops amassed at Ukraine’s borders, financial markets began to waver under pressures that had built from the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. But would 2022 turn out to be all bad news? These are some of the top stories from around the nation and world.
Red wave never materializes
The U.S. midterm elections broke from the historical pattern of the president’s party taking a drubbing. It was a particularly unpredictable campaign season with major issues pulling voters in different directions. Inflation was high. The Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion. And the democratic process itself was challenged by a number of Republican candidates who ran on spreading Donald Trump’s fraud claims about the 2020 election. In the end, the election deniers lost nearly all the major swing-state races while the Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate and Republicans only gained a narrow majority in the House.
Trump never far from spotlight
Shortly after the midterm elections, former President Donald Trump announced his intention to seek another four-year term in the White House. But his path there was complicated by legal headwinds, culminating in a massive report from the House committee investigation the insurgency at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The committee found a “multi-part conspiracy” orchestrated by Trump and his closest allies, all with the aim of overturning his 2020 election defeat, and recommended the Justice Department charge Trump with four crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the United States. Trump’s troubles didn’t stop there, as he also faces a federal investigation into his handling of classified documents, 100 of which were taken by the FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in an August raid.
War comes back to Europe
This was the year war returned to Europe, and few facets of life were left untouched. Russia’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine unleashed misery on millions of Ukrainians, shattered Europe’s sense of security, ripped up the geopolitical map and rocked the global economy. But Russia’s pre-dawn attack on Feb. 24 also confounded the near-universal expectation that Russian forces would quickly prevail. Ukraine put up fierce resistance — bolstered by weapons, ammunition and training from the U.S. and other allies — and pushed back Russian troops. Still as winter again takes hold, barrages of missiles keep raining over Ukraine’s infrastructure and civilian areas in a war that shows no sign of ending.
Griner comes home; Whelan doesn’t
The recent return of Brittney Griner to the United States in a dramatic prisoner swap with Russia marked the culmination of a 10-month ordeal that captivated world attention, a saga that landed at the intersection of sports, politics, race and gender identity — and wartime diplomacy. The WNBA all-star’s arrest on drug-related charges at a Moscow airport in February days into the Ukraine war elevated her profile in ways neither she nor her supporters would have ever hoped for, making her by far the most high-profile American to be jailed abroad. But while Griner is back in the United States, Michigan’s Paul Whelan was left behind, marking his fourth year in Russian detention. Griner, thankful to be home has asked her supporters to advocate for Whelan.
Inflation bites everyone, everywhere
Investors found few, if any, places to safely put their money in 2022, as central banks in the U.S. and around the globe raised interest rates for the first time in years to fight surging inflation, stoking fear of a global recession. Uncertainty about how far the Federal Reserve and other central banks would go in the fight against inflation sparked a return of volatility. Large swings in stocks were common on Wall Street as the Fed raised its key interest rate seven times and signaled more hikes to come. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s strict COVID-19 policies also roiled the global economy as well as markets in Asia, Europe and the United States. Michiganians, like all Americans, felt the effects, paying higher prices on everything from clothing to cars as rising consumer demand ran head on into supply chain shortages. Energy costs and gas prices were especially a concern. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February in part led prices to surge to more than $5.22 a gallon this summer, according to AAA. Prices have since declined to under $3 a gallon for regular unleaded.
Mass shootings refuse to go away
Mass shootings have become part of every year’s news, and 2022 was no exception. In May, a man targeted Black shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people and injuring three, in one of the deadliest racial massacres in recent U.S. history. Just days later, 19 elementary school children and two adults were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde County, Texas. Americans watched in horror as gunmen also targeted parades, department stores and a gay nightclub.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign ends
Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8 after a 70-year reign over the United Kingdom. She left behind generations of subjects — many of whom had never known any other monarch. The death and funeral, and the ascent of King Charles III, played out over more than a week. In that time, everything about the queen and the royal family was discussed. That included her role in society, the role of the monarchy, the crown’s uneasy legacy of colonialism. By the time the funeral ended, Britain had moved into a new era.
Taylor Swift unleashes ticket chaos
Pop mega star Taylor Swift returned to the charts in a massive way in 2022. Her “Midnights” album became Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day, helping the singer become the first artist to occupy all top 10 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The album also whetted the appetite for her much-awaited “Eras Tour,” coming years after her “Lover Fest” world tour was canceled amid the COVID pandemic. And the internet couldn’t handle it. Millions of eager fans crowd a presale for her the new tour, resulting in crashes and endless waits. Ticketmaster then canceled the general sale, citing insufficient stock. Politicians took notice of the resulting uproar, and multiple state attorneys general announced investigations of Ticketmaster’s practices.
Musk takes over Twitter
Seldom one to hold back, business magnate Elon Musk in April began his purchase of social media juggernaut Twitter, leading to untold — and still unfolding — changes. It was an on-again-off-again acquisition, only ending when the Tesla founder in October walked into the Twitter offices carrying a sink as if to say “let that sink in.” Layoffs followed, and the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” revoked long-standing bans on people including former President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, several journalists who had been reporting on Musk’s takeover were kicked off the platform. But his changes were not all well received, leading the world’s richest man to poll Twitter users on whether he should stay on as CEO. The answer was “no.”
Onslaught of natural disasters
The year 2022 will be remembered across the U.S. for its devastating flooding and storms — and also for its extreme heat waves and droughts. By October, the U.S. had already seen 15 disasters causing more than $1 billion in damage each, well above the average. The year started and ended with widespread severe winter storms from Texas to Maine. Then, March set the record for the most reported tornadoes in the month — 233. During a period of five weeks over the summer, five 1,000-year rainfall events occurred in St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, southern Illinois, California’s Death Valley and Dallas, causing devastating and sometimes deadly flash floods. A historic flood in Montana, brought on by heavy rain and melting snow, forced large areas of Yellowstone National Park to be evacuated. In the fall, hurricanes Ian and Fiona deluged Florida and Puerto Rico with over 2 feet of rain in areas and deadly, destructive storm surge. Ian became one of the most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history.
The slap heard around the world
Was it real? Or staged? Very real, it turned out. Will Smith’s slapping of Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards after the comedian told a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, reverberated through the entertainment industry and the nation. It also led to Smith being banned from the Oscars for a decade. The incident touched off multiple conversations about race, celebrity and authenticity. Smith apologized, and eventually released an apology video as well.