There was a government shutdown, a super blue blood moon, historic midterm elections and a very American addition to the British royal family. Take a look back at the eventful year of 2018 with a review of the most important events in politics, culture, science and the environment.
Memorable Images of 2018
Immigration crisis: In President Donald Trump’s second year in office, the issue of immigration became an even bigger flashpoint for controversy. In January, the federal government briefly shut down over the fate of an Obama-era program deferring deportation for immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.
Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy against illegal border crossers, U.S. authorities separated some 2,300 children from their parents, provoking widespread international outrage until Trump ended the family separation policy by executive order in June. And in November, his administration deployed nearly 6,000 active-duty military troops to the Mexico border to meet the arrival of a large caravan of migrants from Central America.
Trump’s legal troubles: The investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election handed down dozens of indictments, including charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for cyber-attacks against Democratic officials.
Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, and Michael Cohen, the longtime aide who acted as Trump’s legal “fixer” in the case involving an alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, made plea deals to cooperate with the investigation. For his part, Trump continued to denounce Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” and his firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions increased speculation that he might be trying to shut the whole thing down.
Supreme Court battle: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick to replace longtime swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy and create a solid conservative majority on the nation’s highest court, faced a fierce confirmation battle after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers.
Amid the #MeToo movement and a renewed focus on sexual misconduct, the nomination fight galvanized supporters on both sides, and brought up memories of Anita Hill’s accusations against Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991. After both Ford and Kavanaugh testified, and after an five-day FBI investigation into the allegations, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 50-48 to confirm Kavanaugh. It was the narrowest margin in history for a Supreme Court justice.
Midterm elections reshuffle Congress: In November, U.S. voters turned out in record numbers for a midterm election. Democrats took back control of the House of Representatives after eight years, flipping 43 seats from red to blue (three seats went the other way). Republicans retained a majority in the Senate, with a net gain of two seats.
A united Korea?: All eyes turned toward the Korean peninsula in 2018, and not just during the Winter Olympics, which were held there in February. After decades of estrangement, the leaders of North Korea and South Korea met in an historic summit in April, agreeing to an official end to the Korean War and pledging to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons. And after trading barbs about nuclear war on Twitter, President Trump and Kim Jong Un appeared to make up. Their summit in Singapore in June marked the first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader.
Ongoing conflict in Syria: The long-running civil war in Syria continued, involving forces of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, opposition rebels and ISIS, among others. In April, in response to a suspected chemical attack on the rebel stronghold of Douma that killed dozens of civilians, U.S. and other Western forces launched air strikes against government targets. As of mid-2018, more than 5.6 million Syrians had fled the country’s violence, according to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees.
Europe and beyond: Angela Merkel was sworn in for her fourth term as German chancellor, but announced she would be stepping aside when it ends. In less democratic news, Vladimir Putin won election to a new six-year term as Russia’s president, and China changed its constitution to remove presidential term limits, effectively allowing leader Xi Jinping to remain “president for life.”
Meghan Markle joined the British royal family: On May 19, the biracial, divorced American actress Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, becoming a real-life princess (officially, the Duchess of Sussex). In October, the royal couple announced they were expecting their first child.
#MeToo saw some justice served: Former Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein turned himself in at a New York City police station in May to face rape and sexual assault charges. Dozens of women have come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual misconduct over a period of decades. A Pennsylvania judge sentenced Bill Cosby to three to 10 years in prison after his conviction for aggravated indecent assault of Andrea Costand, the only one of more than 60 women who accused Cosby of sexual misconduct to see her case lead to criminal charges.
Two retail icons went bankrupt: Founded as a mail-order watch business in 1886, Sears filed for bankruptcy this year, marking the end of an era for many Americans who remember paging through its massive catalog. And after declaring bankruptcy late last year, the former toy giant Toys “R” Us shuttered all of its stores after more than 65 years in business.
Facebook woes: A data mining scandal involving Cambridge Analytica and the sale of data from some 50 million users, a Congressional grilling for founder Mark Zuckerberg and losing $119 billion in value in a single day all spelled a terrible year for the world’s leading social network. In other tech giant news, Apple became the first American publicly traded company to reach $1 trillion in value, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon became the world’s richest man.
National nightmare: Mass shootings at high schools in Florida and Texas, a bar in Southern California, and a synagogue in Pittsburgh, among many other places, fueled the ongoing debate about gun control and Second Amendment rights—and reinforced the presence of gun violence as a horrifying reality of American life. On March 24, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. and at sites across the country to call for tighter gun laws.
Troubled history confronted: 2018 saw the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial and museum in Montgomery, Alabama commemorates the United States' own history of slavery, lynching and Jim Crow laws.
Science and the Environment
Super Blue Blood Moon: Three lunar events coincided early in 2018 producing a rare “super blue blood moon” for the first time since 1866. The night of January 30-31 saw a total lunar eclipse (also called a “blood moon,” due to the reddish color of the moon while in Earth’s shadow) as well as a “blue moon,” or the second full moon of the month. Not only that—the moon was also at the closest point to Earth in its orbit, making it a “supermoon.”
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Hurricane damage control: The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season opened in early September with the arrival of Florence, a Category 4 hurricane that battered the Carolinas and Virginia for days, resulting in some 51 fatalities. October brought Hurricane Michael, which killed 46 people across Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico continued to struggle from the devastating effects of last year’s Hurricane Maria. In August, the Puerto Rican government revised the official death toll from 64 to 2,975, although some experts estimated it could be as high as 4,600.
Mission to the sun: In August, NASA launched the $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, its long-awaited first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere, the corona. After zooming by the planet Venus, the spacecraft got its first up-close-and-personal (or at least from 3.83 million miles away, by far the closest of any mission in history) look at the sun in early November. Parker will make 24 similar approaches over the next seven years.
Wildfires ravaged California: 2018 marked the most destructive fire season ever for California, with massive wildfires ravaging hundreds of thousands of acres in both the northern and southern parts of the state. In November, at least 90 people died as the Camp Fire destroyed the northern California town of Paradise, becoming the deadliest fire in the state’s history.
Dismal news on climate: In not-unrelated news, a major report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that Earth will warm by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040, with dire consequences—including extreme heat, increased flooding, wildfires. drought, food shortages and poverty. Adding to the grim prognosis, a report by numerous U.S. federal government agencies released in November argued climate change will reduce the U.S. economy by 10 percent by 2100, including a $141 billion cost from heat-related deaths.
“Timeline: Immigrant children separated from families at the border,” USA Today, updated July 25, 2018
“Trump Is Expected To Extend U.S. Troops' Deployment To Mexico Border Into January,” NPR, November 28, 2018
“‘Mueller knows a lot': Manafort and Cohen moves put Trump in line of fire,” Guardian, December 1, 2018
“Kavanaugh Is Sworn In After Close Confirmation Vote in Senate,” New York Times, October 6, 2018
“The 2018 Elections Saw Record Midterm Turnout,” Time, November 13, 2018
“What’s Happening in Syria”, BBC, April 16, 2018
Syrian War Fast Facts, CNN, May 3, 2018
“In pictures: President Trump meets Kim Jong Un,” CNN, June 2018
“China's Xi allowed to remain 'president for life' as term limits removed,” BBC, March 11, 2018
“Harvey Weinstein surrenders to NYC police, is charged with rape,” NBC News, May 25, 2018
“Facebook just had the worst day in stock market history,” CNN Money, July 26, 2018
“Apple hangs onto its historic $1 trillion market cap,” CNBC, August 2, 2018“
Jeff Bezos Becomes the Richest Man in Modern History, Topping $150 Billion,” Bloomberg, July 16, 2018
“The Super Blue Blood Moon Wednesday Is Something the US Hasn't Seen Since 1866,” Space.com, January 30, 2018
“Puerto Rico increases Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975,” BBC, August 29, 2018
“NASA Solar Probe Flies By Venus on Its Way to 'Touch' the Sun,” Space.com, October 3, 2018
“Stanford experts reflect on the most destructive fire season in California history,” Stanford News Service, November 29, 2018
“Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040,” New York Times, October 7, 2018
“Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country,’” The Washington Post, November 23, 2018