How might one choose among the headlines of 2022 from Philadelphia, its environs, and the world at large?
Start with topics that merely raised an eyebrow: the slow ebbing of Covid hysteria, the fast march of wokeism, and the shaky condition of, ahem, national leadership.
But then a “review” gives too little attention to assaults in the street and transgressions amid federal spending, and runs out of space altogether to note such world-shaking events as war in Europe and nuclear fusion in a laboratory, to say nothing of the wild ride of the Phillies into the Series.
But read on if you like.
Masks on and off
- The Public Health Department in Philadelphia rescinded a city-wide indoor-mask mandate on March 2, rescinded the rescission on April 18, and then rescinded the rescission of the rescission on April 21.
- California hosted the Super Bowl for a cheering, booing, singing, coughing, spitting, and otherwise aerosol-exhaling but almost entirely unmasked crowd of 70,000 under the roof of SciFi Stadium in greater Los Angeles; the next day, kids in California were again barred from school unless they masked up.
Dollars and cents
- The cost of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner was estimated to have risen 20 percent from 2021.
- Redfin, a national real-estate brokerage, calculated that homebuyers in 2022 had to earn $107,281 annually to afford mortgage payments on “the typical American home,” up 46% from a year earlier, mostly because of higher mortgage rates.
Dollars and sense?
- The federal debt surpassed $30 trillion.
- Estimates of outright fraud in Covid-spending programs zoomed past $100 billion.
- Republican members of Congress campaigned against profligate Democrat spending, then returned from the midterm elections to defeat a motion that would have repealed the GOP’s party rule permitting earmarks (a.k.a. “pork”).
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- Carjackings (including unsuccessful attempts) in Philadelphia surpassed 1,000 by late September, compared to 866 throughout the entirety of 2021, 409 in 2020, and 224 in 2019.
- Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw remarked that what was happening in Philadelphia and other cities was “not normal.”
Leaders of the free world
- The president of the United States credited himself for narrowly securing enough votes for a student loan bailout; no one in Washington could recall any such vote.
- The vice president of the United States, after meeting with the prime minister of Jamaica, orated thus: “For Jamaica, one of the issues that has been presented as an issue that is economic in the way of its impact has been the pandemic. So to that end, we are announcing today also that we will assist Jamaica in Covid recovery by assisting in terms of the recovery efforts in Jamaica that have been essential to, I believe, what is necessary to strengthen not only the issue of public health but also the economy.”
- A former and would-be president of the United States asked whether his loss in an election shouldn’t allow for “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
- The Lower Merion School District in the Main Line suburbs canceled its traditional Halloween parade, noting concerns about inclusion, safety, and the disappointment students might feel if their parents were unable to attend.
- Stanford University, as part of its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative, provided a list of words to be kept off its websites: crazy, insane, gray beard, guru, gentlemen, ladies, you guys, abort, user, American, immigrant, survivor, thug, victim, master (adj), master (v), convict, prisoner, no can do, war room, etc., etc., etc.
Saving the planet
- Aileen Getty, heiress of the oil baron J. Paul Getty, applauded members of a group called Just Stop Oil after they demonstrated their environmental virtue by throwing soup at a (glass-protected) Van Gogh painting at the National Gallery in London.
Life is hard
- Martha’s Vineyard, the Massachusetts island retreat for the rich and famous, reported that the arrival of some 50 migrants from Texas had put such a strain on local resources that a “humanitarian crisis” resulted within a day.
Word purge + Life is hard
- Stanford provided the following comment on why “trigger warning” should be avoided and “content warning” used in its place: “The phrase may cause stress about what’s to follow. Additionally, one can never know what may or may not trigger a particular person.”
Saving the planet + Life is hard
- Emily Drabinski, while successfully campaigning for election as the president of the American Library Association, remarked: “Floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other consequences of climate change threaten libraries, library workers, and library publics around the world.”
Tuition dollars at work
- Princeton University announced that the 2022–2023 sticker price for room, board, and tuition would run $76,040; the university posted among its course offerings “Black + Queer in Leather: Black Leather/BDSM Material Culture,” the syllabus to include “Fetishism as Cultural Discourse.”
From the mouths of wunderkinder
- Elizabeth Holmes, who once told the New Yorker she had “done something … that has changed people’s lives,” was sentenced to prison following her conviction for defrauding investors in her Theranos blood-testing company.
- Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange and an advocate of “effective altruism,” told the New York Times that playing the video game Storybook Brawl helped him “unwind a bit” after FTX collapsed in a financial scandal.
Masks on and off (cont.)
- A researcher at the University of Texas said he masks up when a device alerts his phone that ventilation in his vicinity has fallen to what he considers a risky level.
- An immunologist at the University of Washington, explaining how she guards against Covid infection while on planes, said she puts on a mask for take-off and then again for landing.
He/She, Him/Her, They
- Rachel Levine, formerly Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania, since elevated to a federal post as Assistant Secretary of Health, was named, as transgendered, one of USA Today’s Women of the Year.
- Students in a Spanish class at Langley (VA) High School were asked to consider their “identidad,” including whether they were a “woman,” a “man,” “transgender” or “post-gender;” other questions concerned whether the students thought themselves “fat,” “person(s) of size” or “thin” and whether they were “marginalized” or “privileged.”
Problem-solving out west
- The city of San Francisco, noting human feces in its streets, secured from the state government $1.7 million to cover whatever may turn out to be the cost of installing a single public toilet.
- The California legislature approved a plan to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035; the operator of California’s power grid, confronted with a heat wave, asked state residents to refrain from charging electric cars from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
City Streets (cont.)
- Wawa closed two convenience stores in Philadelphia’s Center City because of “continued safety and security challenges.”
- Rains PDX, a clothing retailer in Portland, OR, went out of business after suffering fifteen break-ins within two years; the owner posted a farewell note on a door of the closed premises: “Our city is in peril.”
The end is near … or not
- The Atlantic ran a piece titled “Long COVID Could Be a ‘Mass Deterioration Event.’”
- Doctors from Thomas Jefferson University and elsewhere reported in JAMA Network that they had compared symptomatic patients testing positive for Covid infection against those testing negative; three months post-infection, the researchers found no significant difference in clinical status between the two groups, excepting “social participation,” by which measure the Covid-infected did better.
He/She, Him/Her/They (cont.)
- The University of Pennsylvania nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award a transgender swimmer who had won the women’s 500-yard freestyle.
- A Supreme Court nominee, since confirmed, testified that she couldn’t define the word “woman” because she wasn’t a biologist.
- Standardized test scores of Pennsylvania students continued to lag behind pre-pandemic levels.
- The independent journalist Bari Weiss revealed that Twitter had put Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya on a “Trends Blacklist,” curbing his influence; Dr. Bhattacharya had argued against prolonged lockdowns and school closures.
City streets + Masks on and off
- Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw speculated that carjackings in Philadelphia had become easier to carry out because mask-wearing had come to seem ordinary behavior.
A shift at the Gray Lady?
- The New York Times, apropos of Chinese protesters opposing “zero-Covid-policy” lockdowns, editorialized: “Their bravery is a profound affirmation that freedom of expression, dissent and protest are values held by people all over the world;” two years earlier, the paper had headlined a piece about protesting Americans: “The Quiet Hand of Conservative Groups in Anti-Lockdown Protests.”
Leaders of the Free World (cont.)
- The president of the United States, crediting members of Congress who supported a conference about hunger, called on Rep. Jackie Walorski to be acknowledged: “Jackie — are you here?;” the previous month, the White House had issued condolences from the president following the death of Rep. Walorski in a highway accident.
- Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, aged 48, enthused about the vitality of her boss as he approached age 80: “I can’t even keep up with him.”
May the news you encounter in the new year be happy and bright.
Richard Koenig is the author of the Kindle Single No Place To Go, an account of efforts to provide toilets during a cholera epidemic in Ghana.