War/Conflict: Russia-Ukraine Tensions
Russia continues to gather forces at the border of Ukraine as tensions build. Although the United States has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, increasing threats from Russia seem to have forced a change of tactics. President Joe Biden announced on Friday that he would be sending troops to NATO countries in the Baltics and Eastern Europe in the near future. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine criticized this decision, claiming that it would provoke needless panic. According to “The New York Times,” a recent Pentagon report says Russia has now acquired enough military force to invade the entirety of Ukraine.
Health: New Covid-19 Variant
A new Covid-19 subvariant known as omicron BA.2 has begun to spread around the world. According to Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern, BA.2 is around 1 percent to 3 percent more contagious than the first omicron variant. In Denmark, the variant causes over 50 percent of cases and has lengthened the surge in cases started by omicron BA.1. Scientists believe that, although it is not currently prevalent in the United States, it will rapidly spread over the next month.
Natural Disasters: Northeast Winter Storm
A powerful nor’easter caused enormous snowstorms, hurricane-level winds, and coastal flooding as one of the worst winter storms of the Northeast hit this past weekend. Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed due to weather concerns and many areas faced power outages due to wires downed by the extreme weather. Over 19 million people were under winter weather alerts as many areas were left with record breaking amounts of snowfall, including over two feet of snow in Massachusetts.
Sports: 2022 Australian Open
The 2022 Australian Open, the first of four annual Grand Slam tennis events, took place this past weekend in Melbourne. Ashleigh Barty beat Danielle Collins and became the first Australian to win the women’s singles in almost fifty years. In the men’s singles, Rafael Nadal won for the second time in thirteen years, breaking the Open Era record for longest span between two Grand Slam titles and becoming the fourth man to win every Grand Slam twice.
Politics: Supreme Court Nomination
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire last week, leaving President Biden to face one of the most monumental decisions of his presidency. “The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” said Biden. However, he may not be able to nominate a candidate at all if Republicans are able to retake the Senate beforehand.
Politics: North Korean Missile
North Korea launched its most powerful ballistic missile test in the last five years on Sunday, violating 2017 U.N. resolutions and sparking tensions with surrounding countries. Moon Jae-in, the President of South Korea, warned that North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on ballistic missile and nuclear tests may be coming to an end. Ballistic missile tests in North Korea have been occurring with increasing frequency over the past months, with three launched in the past week alone. The United States proposed new U.N. sanctions on North Korea following the tests, but were vetoed by Beijing and Moscow.