5 Big 2020 Stories Overshadowed by COVID-19
2020 has been quite the year, one that many people will be glad to see the back of. The headlines have been dominated by the ongoing global pandemic, which has seen hundreds of thousands killed and millions infected. When we look back, 2020 is going to be the year of COVID-19 and the subsequent major response to the emerging disease. However, just because there is a pandemic does not mean the world stopped completely.
There were other significant events that were overshadowed by COVID-19, which have already started to fade from the memory banks. Here are five of the biggest stories from 2020 not related to COVID-19.
Qasem Soleimani Assassinated
On January 3rd, 2020, a drone strike conducted by the United States struck and killed Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. The brazen attack sent shockwaves throughout the world and put the United States and Iran on a war footing. Soleimani was killed at Baghdad International Airport as he was, allegedly, on his way to meet with the Iraqi prime minister. The blatant state sponsored assassination, unsurprisingly, rangled the entire country of Iran, putting the region at risk of further violence.
After the attack, the Iranian military was placed in a heightened state of readiness. Tragically, this led to the accidental downing of a civilian aircraft over the skies of Tehran. Military officials claimed the unit fired without authorization, but others think that the plane probably looked like something hostile on the radar. Either way, the mistake was costly and showed the world the dangers of a twitchy military. One hundred seventy-six souls were lost on Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 after it was hit by surface-to-air missiles.
Luckily, tensions died down after that, but for a chaotic week in January, the world held its breath as the two powers considered launching an all out war.
President Trump Acquitted
In the waning days of 2019, President Donald J Trump was impeached by the US House of Representatives. On February 5th, 2020, he was acquitted of all charges and allowed to remain in office. The impeachment of Donald Trump feels like a lifetime ago, but his acquittal was a major event in 2020.
The president was impeached on a mostly partisan vote in the House and then acquitted weeks later along partisan lines in the Senate. The charges were Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress.
Most people will remember the turbulent climax of the Russia investigations as a 2019 affair, but it bled into 2020 and ate up the entire post-Christmas news cycle.
Devastating Beirut Explosion
On August 4th, 2020, a massive explosion ripped through the port city of Beirut in Lebanon, causing untold destruction. The blast was so surprising and so sudden that it led to confusion for days following the event. At first, no one knew if terrorism, an act of war, or an industrial accident were to blame. Over 200 people died, and thousands more were injured. The blast was so powerful it damaged hundreds of buildings in the city, leaving over 300,000 people homeless or jobless.
It was later discovered that the blast was caused by 2,750 tonnes of improperly stored ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is highly volatile and explosive. This cache had been sitting in a warehouse for years and was wrongly handled by local officials. Eventually, the ammonium nitrate caught a spark and detonated, leaving the city devastated.
The people of Beirut will not be quick to forget such a powerful explosion but the rest of the world moved on quickly due to the pandemic.
Most Active Hurricane Season Ever
2020 started off with one of the worst wildfire seasons on record. Millions of acres were scorched in Australia and California leaving entire habitats devastated. Unfortunately, active climate events did not stop there. 2020 also saw the busiest hurricane season on record. According to NOAA, there were 30 named storms and 12 landfalls within the United States, which broke records set by the 2005 season.
There were a whopping nine storms that were assigned Greek letters instead of names because the name list ran out so early in the season. 2020 blew past Wilfred, the last proper name on the list, and made it all the way to Iota before petering out.
The season started busy early, with some of the earliest named storms appearing on record before settling into an unusually active summer period before loading up on the Greek alphabet storms in the fall.
In a post World War II world, it is unusual to see a major ground war that leads to the exchange of territory between two established states. It is much more likely to be a witness to proxy wars, insurgencies, and civil wars that lead to the internal rearrangement of territory within a single state than to see two prominent states duke it out for land. Yet, that is exactly what we saw when Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the troubled region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The conflict saw a new phase of warfare for emerging states that saw the skies dominated by unmanned drones, which left traditional ground forces pinned down and outright destroyed. The drones deployed by Azerbaijan were so effective it led some to claim that conventional armored units were dead.
The war entered into a shaky peace in early November, which is being monitored by Russia. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are former Soviet states. In a normal year, two former Soviet states going at it in a brief, all-out war would have drawn global attention, but like many things this year, it fell by the wayside during the pandemic.