Joe Biden’s first year in office started (much) better than it’s ending. Here’s what went well … and what didn’t.  Then: Take a dive in a frigid fjord.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden is ending his first year in office on a decidedly sour note. The coronavirus pandemic that he promised to crush is once again raging out of control; inflation is dampening the economic recovery; and the combination of the two has Biden’s approval ratings upside down. To top it off, Senator Joe Manchin dumped a heaping of West Virginia coal in the president’s Christmas stocking by coming out against his signature Build Back Better plan, dooming its chances of passing without a major rewrite.

Yet for all of Biden’s recent struggles, he accomplished quite a lot in 2021. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan sent $1,400 stimulus checks to millions, and its monthly payments to families have been hailed as a transformative anti-poverty program. Congress’s enactment last month of the president’s bipartisan infrastructure package represents the biggest investment in the nation’s public works in a generation.

Here’s a rundown of the president’s first-year highs and lows.

The highs

The lows

If Biden had a tough job this year, the stakes will be even higher in 2022, when his party’s slim majorities will be on the line.

An Orca whale swims underwater.

What to read if … you or a loved one tested positive for a breakthrough COVID infection:

The science writer and editor Yasmin Tayag explains what to do next.

What to read if … you’re looking for fresh entertainment to close out the year:

Our culture team rounded up the best books, best TV, and best movies of 2021. Happy reading and watching.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Swim with orcas (virtually, of course).

A break from the news:

The future of work is a 60-year career.

3-Down six letters: Garment for a hacker, in a movie trope

Try your hand at our daily mini crossword, available on our site, which gets more challenging through the week.

Thanks for reading. This email was written by Russell Berman, with help from Caroline Mimbs Nyce.

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