For many reasons, 2019 was historic. The U.S. House impeached the president for the third time in history. The most diverse slate of Democrats ever vied to be their party’s nominee for the White House. Britain pushed to extricate itself from the European Union three years after voters chose to leave. While not the hottest year ever, the impact of global warming rippled worldwide. And little noticed in the fray: The U.S. saw more mass killings than it has in decades.
In the final weeks of 2019, President Donald Trump was impeached by the House in a vote split along party lines. He’s accused of abusing his power by enlisting Ukraine to investigate a political rival ahead of the 2020 election. Republicans stood by their party’s leader, who has frequently tested the bounds of civic norms. Trump called process a “witch hunt,” a “hoax” and a “sham.”
DIVERSE SLATE OF DEMOCRATS
Four years after the exit of the country’s first black president and a narrow loss by the first woman to be a major political party’s presidential nominee, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary season has featured the most diverse slate of candidates in its history. There are a record number of women and people of color trying to become America’s next leader. The diversity of the Democratic primary reflects both the demographic shifts in the country and the party’s multicultural electorate, though polling has consistently shown the race’s four frontrunners are all white and mostly older and male.
HEAT ON HIGH
While 2019 won’t end up as the absolute hottest on record and Arctic sea ice has shrunk slightly less than in the past, it will go down in many indicators as a year where Earth flirted with record warmth and record melting. Smaller monthly and daily records were set here and there. When the extent of Arctic sea ice hit its annual summer low mark, 2019’s minimum was 1.6 million square miles (4.15 million square kilometers) —tying it for second lowest. The April, July and October Arctic monthly levels did hit record lows. July’s global average of 62.1 degrees was the hottest month on record, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Records go back to 1880.
The number of mass killings carried out in the United States in 2019 is one of the biggest ever. A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University shows that 2019 had the most mass killings since at least the 1970s. In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator. The killings included a trio of massacres in August in El Paso and Odessa, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. More than 210 people were slain in mass killings in 2019.
MIGRANT CHILDREN DETAINED
Six children died in Border Patrol custody as agents made a record number of child apprehensions in 2019 amid a surge of Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S. In all, over 76,000 minors who traveled to the U.S. without a parent were apprehended in the government’s fiscal year, which began in October 2018 and ended Sept. 30. And that’s excluding the tens of thousands of children who came to the U.S. with their parents. Such migrants are counted as one family unit and not individuals, so it’s hard to know exactly how many children the Border Patrol detained this year. The number of unaccompanied minors dropped off as summer ended, and only 3,321 were apprehended in November, compared with the height of the crisis in May, when 11,475 children were taken in.
The British election in December brought momentous political change. The Conservative Party led by incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a substantial majority in Parliament in an endorsement of his pro-Brexit policy. Johnson campaigned on a three-word pledge — “Get Brexit done” — that won over voters tired of more than three years of parliamentary haggling that had brought the country no closer to leaving the European Union. The main opposition Labour Party suffered from a muddled Brexit message. Johnson’s party was able to win districts that traditionally have been won by Labour, which had its worst showing since 1935. As a result, the newly elected Parliament approved Johnson’s Brexit deal before Christmas, clearing the way for Britain to leave the EU at the end of January.
Throughout 2019, courts wrestled with a legal solution to the opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. The problem is complex and the litigation is unwieldy, with more than 2,700 lawsuits, mostly from state and local governments, filed against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma alone. Amid the legal wrangling, data was released showing that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills were shipped to U.S. pharmacies from 2006 to 2012. Johnson & Johnson became the first company to stand trial in the U.S. for a role in the crisis. An Oklahoma judge ordered the company to pay the state $465 million. Other companies settled to avoid trials.
FEMALE ATHLETES FIGHT BACK
Whether as a team or on their own, women across the globe fought for gender equality in sports. The women on the national soccer team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging gender discrimination in pay. Track and field stars banded together to push back against sponsors who slashed pay when they became pregnant. And Norway soccer phenom Ada Hegerberg refused to rejoin Norway’s national team for last summer’s World Cup as she pushes for support for her team in her home country.
DYING AT HOME
“It’s a good thing,” says Dr. Haider Warraich, lead author of a study that finds more Americans are dying at home rather than in hospitals for the first time since the early 1900s. The trend reflects more hospice care and progress toward the kind of end that most people say they want. Warraich and Duke University graduate student Sarah Cross used government health statistics on deaths from natural causes, rather than accidents or homicides, from 2003 through 2017. The number that occurred in hospitals fell from 40% to 30% over that period, and in nursing homes, from 24% to 21%. Deaths in homes rose, from 24% to 31%. Some assisted living centers may have been counted as homes; researchers had no way to tell.
Investments around the world were all winners in 2019 as central banks unleashed more stimulus efforts to bolster the global economy against the damage created by Trump’s trade war. Not only did U.S. stocks rise, so did high-quality bonds, low-quality bonds and foreign stocks. Among the few losers: junk bonds with the very lowest credit ratings.