In other noteworthy elections, Sinn Fein got the most votes at the polls in Ireland but came second in terms of seats. The country got its first-ever coalition government between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. In Bolivia’s twice-postponed election Luis Arce won the presidency. He is from the left but is viewed as a technocrat.
There was talk of war in the Gulf region after America assassinated Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s foremost general, in a drone strike at Baghdad’s airport in January. Five days later a Ukrainian airliner crashed after taking off from Tehran airport, killing all 176 people on board. Iran’s armed forces later admitted that they had mistaken the plane for a missile and shot it down.
Parts of central Beirut were destroyed by a huge explosion, killing 200 people and injuring 6,500. A fire at the port ignited 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored and neglected for seven years. The blast, felt 240km away in Cyprus, led to the resignation of the Lebanese government.
NASA launched astronauts into space from American soil for the first time since the end of the shuttle programme in 2011. It used a SpaceX capsule, a first for a private company putting humans into orbit. China sent a spacecraft to the Moon to collect rocks, which hasn’t been done since the 1970s.
“Parasite”, a South Korean comedy thriller, was the surprise winner at the Oscars. It beat the bookies’ favourite, “1917”, to scoop best picture, the first foreign-language film to do so.
The film industry was hit hard by lockdowns, as cinema closures postponed the release of many blockbusters until 2021. Some went straight to streaming. Disney+, the studio’s streaming service, ended the year with 87m subscribers. It wasn’t expecting to reach that number until 2024; it now thinks it may have 260m users in four years’ time. Disney reorganised its content delivery around streaming.
Africa was declared free from wild polio. The disease is now found only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is no cure, but there is a vaccine.