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2023 News of the Year

Indictments, divisions, and destruction: All-too-familiar storylines—and a few surprises—marked this year’s biggest events

Clockwise from top left: King Charles III: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images; Maui: Mario Tama / Getty Images; Migrants: Eric Gay / AP; Affirmative Action: Jose Luis Magana / AP; Titan submersible: OceanGate Expeditions; Taylor Swift: Casey Flanigan / imageSpace / Sipa USA via AP; Covenant School: Wade Payne / AP; New York City Wildfire Smoke: David Dee Delgado / Getty Images

2023 News of the Year
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The news can often surprise us, but as the writer of Ecclesiastes declared, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” That proved true in 2023, with events that served as new chapters for familiar stories. 

Surprising: Republicans in Congress wrangled over reelecting their House speaker, then later deposed him, replacing him with a little-known legislator. Familiar: The political fight for the future of the party, a battle that began in 2016.

Surprising: A slate of Republican candidates willing to challenge Donald Trump for the presidential nomination, despite the former president’s consistent domination in the polls. Familiar: Trump’s ability to keep himself as the political center of attention. Even Trump’s historic legal troubles—as the first former president to be indicted on criminal charges—welled up from the annals of 2020. 

And the surprise October Hamas attack on Israel, the biggest global news story of the year, is steeped in a sadly familiar history of animosity going back thousands of years. 

Other big news perpetuated existing trends: The surge of migrants across the southern border. The push for LGBTQ acceptance. Dramatic improvements in artificial intelligence.

Read on for our selection of 2023 stories worth remembering. And as you do, see if you can discern the wisdom in the Biblical writer’s words.


Mary Altaffer/AP

Arraigned and indicted

Former President Donald Trump made history this year when he became the first current or former Oval Office occupant to be indicted on criminal charges.

In March, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg fulfilled a campaign promise to indict Trump on allegations he paid hush money to women claiming to have had extramarital affairs with the former president. Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business documents. The trial is scheduled to start in March.

In June, the Department of Justice released a bombshell report that FBI agents uncovered hundreds of boxes of top-secret or highly classified documents during a raid on Trump’s Florida resort home. Prosecutors claim Trump conspired with personal staff to hide the papers from even his own lawyers. A recording reveals Trump showing military plans to a reporter. Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with 37 criminal counts ranging from obstruction of justice to false statements and perjury. Trump again pleaded not guilty. That trial is scheduled to start in May.

A third indictment landed in early August when Smith issued four more counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in a Washington, D.C., court for Trump’s alleged attempt to overturn the 2020 election. According to the indictment, top level aides and advisers told Trump they could not find “outcome-determinative” election fraud, but he still urged state officials to pursue lawsuits to change the results. The indictment also outlines a broad scheme between Trump and six co-conspirators to target seven swing states with election fraud claims. The plan would have sent alternate electors to Congress claiming Trump won, even though the claim conflicted with the tally of ballots. Judge Tanya Chutkan set the trial for March 4, the day before Super Tuesday.

Also in August, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged Trump with 13 felony counts, including racketeering, for allegedly interfering in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. This was the most far-reaching indictment, implicating not only Trump but also 18 co-conspirators. Three of them—attorneys Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro, and Jenna Ellis—accepted plea deals in October. Willis plans to begin the trial sometime in August 2024.

Presidential problem

In January, FBI agents found boxes of classified documents in one of President Joe Biden’s Delaware homes, a month after finding others in his former office at a Washington think tank. The contents have not been disclosed, but investigators said some papers dated as far back as his terms in the U.S. Senate. Biden said he didn’t know he still had the papers and would cooperate with investigators and the National Archives. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Special Counsel Robert Hur to oversee the investigation. Hur interviewed Biden in October but has yet to release his final report. The House Oversight Committee launched its own investigation.

Jeff Chiu/AP


In March, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed when its portfolio—much of it long-term government securities—sank in value. Interest rate hikes at the Federal Reserve, along with investor worry about digital assets like crypto­currency, forced the bank to burn through its cash reserves when customers began making withdrawals. Because it dealt primarily with tech startups, SVB built its business on investment-reliant companies. With investments slowing, SVB’s customers had no choice but to withdraw their savings. Regulators seized the bank’s assets when it became apparent it couldn’t fulfill the withdrawal requests. SVB’s collapse—and that of Signature Bank and First Republic Bank soon after—renewed debate about banking regulation.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Andrew Harnik/AP

McCarthy gets the gavel

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California led Republicans as House minority leader during Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as speaker, playing a key role in fundraising and consolidating opposition to Democratic legislative policies. When the GOP ­narrowly recaptured a majority in the House in January, McCarthy believed it was his turn to wield the gavel. But it quickly became apparent not all Republicans agreed. Through 15 rounds of votes, McCarthy struggled to unify members who demanded more say in the party’s decision-making. McCarthy finally secured the needed votes—but not before making power concessions that would later plague him.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson Jose Luis Magana/AP

McCarthy out, Johnson in

Republican frustrations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a boiling point in October when he negotiated a short-term omnibus spending agreement with the White House—one that would temporarily extend current spending levels to avoid a government shutdown. To some conservative Republicans, that was an unacceptable compromise. At the outset of his speakership, McCarthy promised he would cut spending, eliminate omnibus bills, and increase individual congressional input. In the eyes of his critics, the short-term bill broke all three pledges. Led by Matt Gaetz of Florida, eight Republicans successfully toppled McCarthy. The controversial vote led to a nearly monthlong struggle to find a new leader—one who would unify moderates and conservatives. In the waning hours of Oct. 25, after 11 candidates and multiple failed votes, the party settled on Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Johnson, then vice chair for the Republican Conference, assumed the speakership the next day, becoming one of the most junior speakers in American history.

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden Julio Cortez/AP

Hunter Biden’s legal woes

IRS whistleblowers testified before Congress in July that the Department of Justice mismanaged its five-year investigation into Hunter Biden’s business dealings and failed to bring charges against the president’s son in a timely manner. Biden’s anticipated plea deal for tax and firearm charges crumbled a week later when a federal judge raised concerns about its unusual protections. Special Counsel David Weiss brought three new charges against Biden in September for lying on a gun purchase form that required him to disclose drug use. Biden pleaded not guilty to all charges and in December ignored a congressional subpoena to testify behind closed doors.

Victor Joly/Abaca/Sipa USA via AP

TikTok trouble

The activity of TikTok’s 150 million U.S. users could provide a unique window into the lives of Americans for its Chinese parent company, Byte Dance, and Beijing intelligence agents. Congress believed that posed enough of a national security risk to try to shut down the popular social media platform. But legislative attempts to ban TikTok outright ran into the Berman Amendments. That Cold War–era component of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act protects First Amendment principles internationally. Since then, many states have attempted to restrict the app with limited success.

Jack Teixeira is taken into custody

Jack Teixeira is taken into custody WCVB-TV via AP

Leak plugged

FBI agents raided a Massachusetts home in April to stop the online leak of dozens of highly confidential military documents. Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, pleaded not guilty to six counts of willful retention and transmission of national defense information, each of which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He also was charged with one count of violating the Espionage Act. Justice Department prosecutors allege Teixeira shared copies of top-secret documents with friends over a gaming chat platform. His work in the intelligence wing as an IT specialist gave him access to the documents, which ­contained information on spy networks in Ukraine, Israel, and South Korea.

Left to right: Tennessee Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson

Left to right: Tennessee Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP

Out of order

Tennessee politics sparked national controversy in April when House Republicans expelled two Democrats from the state legislature for disruptive behavior following the Covenant School shooting. Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis broke House rules by speaking at the podium out of turn and using a bullhorn to rally gun control advocates in the gallery. Nearly all House Republicans voted to expel Pearson and Jones, while Johnson avoided expulsion by one vote. Republicans have a supermajority in the chamber, holding 75 of 99 seats. Democrats claimed the ousting was politically and racially motivated. Tennessee lawmakers had expelled members only three times before. Officials in the legislators’ districts reinstated Jones and Pearson a week later.

Left to right: Former Gov. Nikki Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy

Left to right: Former Gov. Nikki Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Primary pressure mounts

A packed GOP primary field dwindled from 15 to six over the course of 2023. The top contenders attempted to raise their profiles during four televised debates, but none could come close to the front-runner—former President Donald Trump. He skipped all four debates, but his absence didn’t hurt him in the polls. By mid-December, Trump was 50 points ahead of his nearest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. After announcing his candidacy in May, DeSantis struggled to gain traction, while Trump enjoyed a boost in support each time he faced a new indictment. Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and ambassador to the UN, cemented her status as DeSantis’ top rival for the GOP nomination. In November, she pulled ahead of both Trump and DeSantis in New Hampshire polls. According to hypothetical queries, Haley could beat President Joe Biden by 10 points in the general election next year. During each of the four primary debates, she argued over foreign policy with fellow primary challenger Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who, like DeSantis, says he can take on woke culture. Ramaswamy insists he is a Trump-like outsider who is not “bought and paid for.” Polls show that regardless of party, most voters don’t want a 2020 presidential rematch. But other polls show they’ll likely get one anyway.

Santos expelled

On the first day of December, the House of Representatives voted to expel Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., ­following the results of a damaging House Ethics Committee report. Claims of Santos’ misconduct emerged almost as soon as he secured his seat in November 2022: that he’d lied about his background, abused donors’ trust, and used campaign funds for personal gain. The Ethics Committee report confirmed many of those allegations in greater detail. Although Santos survived two previous expulsion votes, enough of his colleagues had tired of his bad behavior. He is the sixth member and the only Republican in U.S. history to be expelled from the U.S. House of Representatives.


John Amis/AP

Tragedy at Covenant

On March 27, a 28-year-old woman gunned her way inside the Covenant School, a Christian elementary campus on the grounds of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville. The shooter, who appeared to have identified as a man, killed three students and three adult staffers before Nashville police shot and killed her. Although the attacker once attended the school, her motives remain unclear. According to court filings, the shooter left behind at least 20 journals, a suicide note, and a memoir. But officials have not made them public. Photos of three journal pages leaked online showed the shooter’s desire for a “high death count” and disdain for her victims’ “white privilege.”

Rebecca Blackwell/AP

Hurricane Idalia strikes

The Category 4 storm made landfall on Aug. 30, the strongest in over a century to hit Florida’s Big Bend area. Idalia was the third hurricane in a year to make landfall in the Sunshine State. Despite fears of widespread destruction, the storm came ashore in a lightly populated area, limiting the damage. Idalia left a $704 million trail of havoc across Florida and Georgia, but that was much less than the $9 billion initially estimated. Insurance claims in Florida topped $216 million, with $447 million in agricultural losses. Officials credited strict building codes for helping houses withstand the wind and storm surge. Two people died in weather-­related traffic incidents in Florida, and another person died in Georgia as the storm moved north.

Thoko Chikondi/AP

Freddy’s fury

The longest-lasting tropical cyclone in history killed more than 1,400 people in February and March when it made landfall twice in southern Africa. Cyclone Freddy formed on Feb. 6 and first made landfall in Madagascar. It then struck Mozambique, traveled back over Madagascar, and looped again toward the mainland. It finally dissipated by March 14. At peak strength, Freddy packed winds equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane. The storm struck during a widespread cholera outbreak in Mozambique and Malawi, and severe flooding worsened the epidemic. Malawi suffered the most damage to its infrastructure. Debris rendered the nation’s hydroelectric power plant inoperable, and the energy company cut power to the entire country to ­prevent further ­equipment damage.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Off the rails

A 2-mile-long freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3, sparking a massive fire and spilling toxic chemicals. Five rail cars that survived the crash contained vinyl chloride, a volatile chemical with the potential to explode. After evacuating the town’s residents, officials conducted a controlled release. They allowed residents to return the next day, saying it was safe. Many people complained of headaches, nausea, and other illnesses, and at least half a dozen filed suit against Norfolk Southern seeking compensation for property damage, economic loss, and exposure to ­hazardous chemicals. The accident raised questions about regulatory loopholes and overall railway safety.

Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP

Maui’s inferno

Flames engulfed Hawaii’s Valley Isle in August after gale-force winds whipped a series of accidental blazes into a firestorm. Wildfires spread at a rate of 60 miles per hour, ravaging over 3,000 acres and destroying more than 2,000 homes and businesses. Thousands of residents fled the burn area. But at least 97 people died after becoming trapped in the flames, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. The blaze largely incinerated the historic city of Lahaina, an epicenter of Maui’s tourism industry. The Pacific Disaster Center estimated the cost of rebuilding at $5.5 billion. A U.S. House investigation into the fire’s cause and an independent probe into the state’s response are ongoing.

Hussein Malla/AP

Double destruction

Two powerful earthquakes devastated large swaths of Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6. A magnitude 7.8 quake struck in the early morning hours, followed by another 7.5 magnitude temblor. Thousands of aftershocks rattled the region in the following weeks, killing about 50,000 people and displacing a million to emergency shelters. Freezing winter temperatures and damaged roads complicated rescue efforts as crews pulled thousands more from the rubble. Turkey sits on a major fault line, but only three quakes above magnitude 6 had hit the region since 1970. On Feb. 20, another 6.3 magnitude quake added to the devastation. The United Nations released $25 million in emergency funds and more than 100 countries aided relief efforts.

Ayman Al-Sahili/Reuters/Redux

Washed away

A two-story wall of water crashed into the Libyan city of Derna on Sept. 11 after heavy storm rains burst two upstream dams. Floodwaters washed away an estimated quarter of the city—submerging entire neighborhoods and killing about 4,000 people. Another estimated 40,000 Libyans lost their homes. The deluge shifted landmines in conflict zones, threatening emergency responders and residents searching for survivors. Workers in hazmat suits scoured the streets in an effort to ward off waterborne diseases. Libya’s top prosecutor jailed at least eight current and former officials for failing to properly maintain the region’s dams.

Yuki Iwamura/AP

Smoke screen

Wildfires raged across Canada in 2023, scorching a record 45 million acres amid unseasonably warm and dry weather. In June, firefighters battled almost 450 blazes—half of which were uncontrolled—from British Columbia to Quebec. The fires spewed thick blankets of smoke across North America and ­triggered air quality alerts from New Hampshire to South Carolina. New York logged its worst air quality ever, temporarily surpassing smog levels in cities like Detroit, Mich., and Delhi, India.


Indi Gregory

Indi Gregory Christian Concern via AP

Baby Indi’s battle

In November, 8-month-old Indi Gregory died in a U.K. hospice after judges ruled for the final time to remove the critically ill infant from life support against the wishes of her parents. Indi spent nearly her entire life in a Nottingham hospital due to a rare mitochondrial disease. Dean Gregory and Claire Staniforth began fighting to continue her treatment in September, when doctors first said it was in Indi’s best interests to halt interventions. Courts repeatedly sided with the hospital. Judges also barred the family from traveling to an Italian hospital that offered specialist treatment, even after the Italian government granted Indi citizenship.

Deadly tourism

Vermont in May became the first state to pass legislation allowing nonresidents to use its assisted suicide laws. Assisted suicide has been legal in Vermont since 2013, but the law permitting physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to people with terminal illnesses was limited to Vermont residents. Oregon stopped enforcing its residency requirement in 2022 but didn’t repeal the law until July 2023.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Ohio backs abortion “right”

Ohio voters on Nov. 7 approved an amendment adding a right to abortion to the state constitution. Ohio’s Issue 1 passed 57 to 43 percent. It was the only abortion-related ballot measure before U.S. voters in 2023 but the seventh to bring a pro-abortion win since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2022 that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a right to abortion. In August, Ohio voters rejected another measure that would have required future constitutional amendments to gain 60 percent of votes instead of a simple majority. Pro-life groups had hoped it would help protect the state from pro-abortion influence.

Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

Thought crime in the U.K.

Police in Birmingham, a city in West Midlands, England, have continued to arrest and ticket pro-lifers for silent prayer outside a local abortion facility. A city order in effect since September 2022 prohibits “engaging in any act of approval or disapproval” related to abortion near the facility and specifies that prayer and counseling are among the prohibited activities. Tensions over the local order ratcheted up as Parliament considered a Public Order Act that would similarly prohibit “influence” within about 500 feet of abortion facilities throughout England and Wales. Parliament approved the order in May, rejecting an amendment that would have clarified silent prayer and consensual conversations are still allowed in the buffer zones. The government has not yet implemented the law, but in December, the High Court ruled in favor of a buffer zone in the city of Bournemouth. The justices said any interference with the rights of pro-life protesters was justified by the “legitimate aim” of protecting women seeking abortions. The pro-life group Christian Concern plans to appeal.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis David Zalubowski/AP

Reversal rewind

On April 14, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a law declaring that promoting and prescribing abortion pill reversal treatments is “unprofessional conduct.” The same day, Roman Catholic healthcare clinic Bella Health and Wellness filed a lawsuit against state officials, claiming the law violated its First Amendment rights to act on religious convictions. The law would have effectively prohibited pro-life medical professionals from giving a natural hormone needed to halt the effects of the abortion pill to women who begin the chemical abortion ­process but regret their decision. A ­federal judge in October ruled in favor of the pro-life clinic, preventing the law from taking effect.


Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Hollywood intermission

For the first time since 1960, when Ronald Reagan was president of the Screen Actors Guild, Hollywood’s writers and actors unions were on strike at the same time. On May 2, the Writers Guild of America went on strike, and the Screen Actors Guild followed suit on July 14. The unions asked the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for minimum wage increases, participation in streaming revenue, and safeguards around the use of artificial intelligence. Talks stalled when the AMPTP argued studios couldn’t offer more because the industry is still recovering from pandemic shutdowns and the expenses associated with the shift to streaming. But after months of no new work coming out of Hollywood, the AMPTP gave ground. The writers settled on Sept. 27 and the actors reached their own deal Nov. 9.

Chris Pizzello/AP


In July, theaters had their best weekend since 2019 thanks to social media’s #Barbenheimer phenomenon. Warner Bros. scheduled Greta Gerwig’s Barbie to open the same weekend as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer to punish Nolan for defecting to Universal. But a detente in the rivalry began when Tom Cruise posted pictures of himself holding tickets to both movies for opening day with the caption, “I love a ­double feature, and it doesn’t get more explosive (or more pink) than one with Oppenheimer and Barbie.” The idea of a double feature went viral, and Barbie and Oppenheimer both outperformed expectations. In a final twist to the rivalry, Barbie became Warner Bros.’ highest-­grossing film ever, surpassing 2008’s The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan.

Wanna bet?

In 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors, “I don’t see the Walt Disney Company, certainly in the near term, getting involved in the business of gambling, in effect, by facilitating gambling in any way.” But this year, with profits languishing, Iger and Disney made an about-face. In August, Disney announced a $2 billion deal with casino owner Penn Entertainment to create ESPN BET, an ESPN-branded gambling app. ESPN’s revenue has taken a hit recently due to higher sports licensing fees and dwindling cable bundles, so Disney started looking for a “strategic partner.” Penn will be responsible for running ESPN BET, but Disney plans to integrate the gambling platform into ESPN’s programming and content. Fox had a similar agreement with the gambling company FanDuel that didn’t prove profitable. These deals don’t have a track record, and ­analysts don’t expect Disney to win big from its bet on gambling.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift Emma McIntyre/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Swift current

Taylor Swift ruled the entertainment world in 2023. When tickets went on sale for the Eras Tour in the fall of 2022, the demand from fans overwhelmed Ticketmaster’s website. That proved only a foretaste of Swift’s dominance. Her tour, which runs through 2024, smashed numerous records, becoming the first to hit the billion-dollar mark. In August, Swift announced an unprecedented deal with AMC Theatres to bring her concert to the silver screen, and the movie became the highest-grossing concert film. In September, U.S. ­newspaper chain Gannett began looking for a reporter to cover Swift full time. Later that month, Taylormania hit new heights when Swift was spotted at an NFL game cheering on her new boyfriend, superstar player Travis Kelce. In December, Time named Swift its Person of the Year.

Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tucker Carlson’s surprise exit

In April, Fox News dismissed Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host, without warning. The media company had just agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $800 million to avoid trial in a defamation lawsuit over its 2020 election coverage, and Fox executives allegedly decided to fire Carlson after objectionable text messages came to light during the litigation process. Carlson had high ratings, but he also courted controversy with his forthright style. After leaving Fox, Carlson relaunched his show on Twitter (now X). In December, he launched a new video streaming service featuring interviews and commentary.


OceanGate Expeditions

Underwater accident

On June 18, all five people on board OceanGate’s Titan submersible died when the craft imploded. They were on their way to explore the Titanic shipwreck. The victims included Stockton Rush, CEO of the Washington-based OceanGate company and the submersible’s pilot. After the accident, OceanGate Expeditions, the related company that led Titan’s dives to the Titanic, suspended all exploration and commercial operations. The Titan Marine Board of Investigation, composed of the U.S. Coast Guard and international partners, ­continues to conduct an investigation that will lead to a public hearing.

Eric Gay/AP

Falling from the sky

Two test flights of SpaceX’s Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, ended in fiery explosions this year. On April 20 the rocket exploded four minutes after blastoff and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, failing in its ­mission to circle the globe. During a second test on Nov. 18, Starship reached an altitude of 90 miles but then self-destructed. SpaceX’s ultimate goal is to produce a spacecraft that can send ­people and cargo to the moon and eventually to Mars.

David J. Phillip/AP

Diet drug feast

The use of diabetic drugs such as Wegovy, Ozempic, and Mounjaro to treat obesity surged in 2023. The Food and Drug Administration previously had approved only Wegovy for weight loss, but this year it also approved Mounjaro, ­marketed as Zepbound. The drugs mimic a hormone, GLP-1, that regulates appetite and creates a feeling of fullness. Although the medications can prove a game changer for ­people with obesity, they are not without drawbacks. To maintain weight loss, people must take them indefinitely. Demand sometimes outstrips supply, even though the drugs are expensive and not always covered by insurance. Although considered safe, like all drugs, they carry side-effect risks.

Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga/Sipa USA via AP

Smart computers

Nov. 30 marked the one-year anniversary of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet. The tech tool’s popularity exploded, and by January the app boasted 100 million active users. Other leading tech companies quickly jumped on board. In February, Google debuted its own AI-powered chatbot, Bard, that responds to users in conversational, personalized replies and connects to other Google tools such as Gmail, Docs, and YouTube. In November, Amazon launched its AI chatbot, Q, which, the company says, can help streamline workers’ duties. Subscribers can use ChatGPT for everything from creating a business plan to help writing a poem. But critics worry about the potential for harmful uses such as weaponizing infor­mation, generating misinformation, developing more efficient cyberattacks, and helping students cheat.


Leon Neal/Getty Images

Hamas attacks Israel, Israel strikes back

In an attack now known in Israel as Black Saturday, hundreds of Hamas ­terrorists assaulted towns in southern Israel on Oct. 7, slaughtering over 1,200 people and taking roughly 200 more as hostages. Simultaneously, Hamas fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The brazen attacks stunned Israelis, who called it the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. After warning Palestinian civilians to move to the south of Gaza, Israel quickly began heavy airstrikes on the enclave. Ground operations, which began Oct. 28, aimed to recover the hostages and destroy Hamas. The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said Israel’s actions killed over 14,000 people in Gaza, but the figure did not distinguish between combatants and civilians and could not be independently verified.


False religion

Kenyan authorities in April detained Paul Mackenzie, founder of Good News International Ministries, after initially uncovering more than 100 bodies on his 800-acre property near the eastern coastal town of Malindi. Mackenzie had asked his followers to starve to death to meet Jesus. After excavating more mass graves on the land, authorities said the death toll topped 400 people. The starvation plan required children to die first, before women and men. In November, a senior magistrate in Malindi found Mackenzie guilty of operating a TV studio and distributing films without a proper license. He remains behind bars, awaiting formal charges for the deaths. The case fueled calls for better regulation of churches in the majority-Christian country.

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Xi’s power play

Chinese President Xi Jinping began a historic third term as ­president in March. The National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-­stamp parliament, unanimously backed his uncontested run. Xi is now China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, founder of the communist state. No other Chinese leader has held the head of state position for more than 10 years. Xi became president in 2013 and began working to extend his time in office when he abolished term limits in 2018. In October 2022, parliament appointed him for five more years as general secretary of the Communist Party. He was also appointed chairman of the Central Military Commission, the party’s military wing.

Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images

Driven out

After nine months of blockading the Lachin Corridor, Azerbaijan moved troops into Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 19 and quickly took control of the ­ethnically Armenian enclave ­surrounded by Azerbaijan. Despite Azerbaijani assurances that Nagorno-Karabakh citizens could remain safely in the region, nearly all the 120,000 ethnic Armenians in the area quickly fled, leaving the capital city of Stepanakert virtually deserted. Citizens of the onetime semi-­autonomous region pointed to past atrocities and the belligerent rhetoric of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev as reasons to fear for their safety. Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia proper say Azerbaijan and Turkey have joined forces to chip away at Armenian territory and erase the heritage of the Christian nation.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

Still going ballistic

North Korea continued its missile testing in 2023 after a record number of launches the previous year. On Jan. 1, it launched a short-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. In March, it launched a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, the largest in its arsenal. On May 31, North Korea attempted to launch a reconnaissance satellite, but it plunged into the sea shortly after takeoff. A second attempt in August failed after a rocket booster malfunction. But on Nov. 21, North Korea announced it successfully sent a reconnaissance satellite into orbit. Analysts believe it achieved that goal with the help of Russian scientists. State media also claimed scientists suc­cessfully tested new solid-fuel engines designed for use on intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Pension protests

Waves of weekend protests erupted in France throughout the first half of 2023 after French President Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced controversial plans to overhaul the nation’s pension system. Planes stayed on the ground, trains came to a halt, and trash piled up on the streets of Paris as labor unions organized rolling strikes to accompany the weekly protests. In March, with the National Assembly deeply divided on the issue, the government used a special procedure to pass the bill without a final vote. Macron survived a subsequent no-confidence vote in June. The new law that went into effect in September gradually raises the retirement age from 62 to 64 over a seven-year period.

Department of Defense via AP

Not a bird or a plane

Late in January, a Chinese balloon floated into American airspace near the southern tip of Alaska. China’s Foreign Ministry said the balloon was a Chinese airship that deviated from its intended path while collecting weather data, but it raised alarm over Chinese efforts to spy on Americans. The balloon crossed northern Idaho and flew over Montana near the Malmstrom Air Force Base, home to several nuclear missile silos. Residents in Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina reported sightings. On Feb. 4, an F-22 stealth fighter shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Two days later, China ­identified a high-altitude balloon spotted over Latin America as another of its airships purportedly conducting weather research.

King Charles III

King Charles III Jonathan Brady/Pool via AP

Charles in charge

King Charles III was crowned May 6 in an elaborate service in Westminster Abbey, site of British coronations since 1066. More than 2,000 guests attended the coronation, and 18 million viewers in the United Kingdom alone watched the live television broadcast. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led the service, which included a promise from King Charles to uphold Anglicanism as the state religion. In becoming king, the 74-year-old monarch also became head of the Church of England, a position dating to Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church in 1534. The St. Edward’s Crown, weighing nearly 5 pounds and commissioned for the previous King Charles—in 1661—was last worn at the coronation of the king’s late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.

Jungle rescue

Colombian soldiers rescued four indigenous children on June 9 after they spent 40 days alone in the dense Amazon rainforest. The children, aged between 1 and 13, went missing after a single-engine propeller plane crashed in the forest on May 1. Their mother, the pilot, and a guide died in the accident. The Colombian army deployed about 150 soldiers with dogs to search for the children. Volunteers from indigenous tribes also helped. Soldiers eventually found the children 3 miles from the crash site. Indigenous leaders said the children, who were from the Huitoto tribe, survived on some leftover cassava flour and foraged fruits and seeds. One leader said they used what they learned from their grandmother, a respected indigenous elder, to survive.

Emilio Morenatti/AP

Dragging on

War in Ukraine slogged on as it entered its second year in February. Western nations continued to send military and financial aid despite threats of waning political support. Military leaders acknowledge the situation is at a stalemate, with Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive regaining only a sliver of land. Russia still occupies one-fifth of the country. In late November, Russia launched the heaviest drone attack on Kyiv since the start of the war, raising fears that demoralized Ukrainians will demand peace at any price. About half the refugees who fled the country during the war’s first months have returned to Ukraine.


Jose Luis Magana/AP

No racial preference

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 29 that affirmative action policies in higher education are unconstitutional. The nonprofit advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014 over policies it argued gave ­preference to some races while discriminating against others. While the justices said colleges cannot consider students’ race as a factor in admissions, they can take into account students’ experiences with race, through things like personal essays.

Bryan Olin Dozier/NurPhoto via AP

Bills come due

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 on June 30 that the Biden administration’s student loan debt forgiveness plan amounted to executive overreach. The plan would have forgiven up to $10,000 in college debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 or households earning less than $250,000. The White House said 43 million borrowers would receive some debt relief under the plan, with just under half seeing their debt erased. The court majority argued Congress alone holds the authority to address debt forgiveness. A pandemic-era pause on student loan repayments—extended by both former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden—expired this fall, with payments due ­beginning in October.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta

California Attorney General Rob Bonta Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

California vs. parents

California Attorney General Rob Bonta sued the Chino Valley Unified School District in August, claiming a parental notification policy violates state law and students’ privacy rights. District officials in July began requiring teachers to inform parents if their children ask to be referred to by names and pronouns that do not match their biological sex. Days after Bonta filed suit, a judge issued a temporary restraining order, blocking the policy.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Textbook battle

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in September barring school districts from rejecting books over content about racial diversity, gender ideology, or sexuality. In a video he posted to social media, Newsom called recent efforts to remove objectionable content from libraries a “banning binge.” The law authorized State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to fine any districts he deemed in defiance. The California School Boards Association said the law gave Thurmond too much power and left schools with no ability to investigate allegations. In May, Newsom submitted a public records request for communication between textbook publishers and Florida education officials, arguing publishers of textbooks used in both states might change content to meet Florida standards.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP

Florida’s education rules

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in January that public high schools could not offer the College Board’s pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course. DeSantis argued some material in the college-level course referred to races as inherently privileged or oppressed while other content included queer studies and intersectionality. The College Board moved some of the material to an optional section in February, but then said it would reassess its changes after LGBTQ activists protested. In April, education officials expanded the Parental Rights in Education Act to protect students in kindergarten through 12th grade from material related to sexual orientation or gender identity.


Samuel Reed

Asbury outpouring

A Feb. 8 chapel service at Asbury University turned into 16 days of continuous worship when a small group of students decided to keep singing and praying in Hughes Auditorium. In the first few hours, most of the school’s 1,600 students joined the ­service, and in the days that followed, thousands of outsiders did, too. News of the event spread rapidly, and eventually around 50,000 people converged on the Wilmore, Ky., campus to join in. The school, started by Wesleyan Methodists, has encouraged —and been the site of—several student-­led revivals. The most recent happened in the 1970s. Asbury leaders labeled February’s event an “out­pouring,” saying it should only be called a revival if it causes lasting transformation.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby Leon Neal/Getty Images

Unbiblical blessings

The Church of England voted Feb. 9 to allow its clergy to bless same-sex unions. Delegates at the General Synod passed the proposal 250-181 after eight hours of fierce debate. Conservative delegates narrowly succeeded in keeping the church’s traditional definition of marriage unchanged. The synod also agreed to reconsider the denomination’s ban on same-sex marriages for clergy. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby co-signed a statement celebrating the denomination’s intention to “publicly, unreservedly, and joyfully welcome same-sex couples in church.” Following the decision, archbishops representing 10 of the 42 provinces in the global Anglican Communion rejected Welby’s leadership.

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via AP

Book burning

Iraq expelled Sweden’s ambassador and the Taliban blocked Swedish organizations from operating in Afghanistan after two anti-Islam protests in Stockholm. Swedish authorities allowed the protesters, including Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, to burn a copy of Islam’s holy book outside a mosque on June 28. Momika later protested again by publicly stomping on a Quran on July 20, triggering the Iraqi prime minister’s decision that day to end diplomatic relations with Sweden. Iraqi protesters also stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad and started a fire there. Sweden’s constitution protects most actions taken during an approved protest as free speech. Neighboring Denmark banned Quran burnings in December.

Chris O’Meara/AP

Methodists on the move

About 6,600 of the United Methodist Church’s estimated 30,000 congregations in the United States have left the denomination since 2022 over its increasingly permissive stance on marriage and sexuality. Most congregations exited using an official disaffiliation process that allowed them to retain their property. That avenue expires Dec. 31, 2023. Other congregations are still mired in legal battles or have lost their properties, depending on whether state laws favor local churches when interpreting the denomination’s trust clause. At least 3,800 congregations, just over half of those leaving the UMC, have joined a new conservative denomination, the Global Methodist Church.


Eric Gay/AP

Illegal crossings skyrocket

In an effort to discourage illegal crossings at the southern border, the Biden administration announced a new temporary entry program for four Central and South American countries in January and began scheduling asylum appointments with the CBP One mobile app at ports of entry. In May, President Joe Biden sent troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to prepare for the end of the pandemic no-entry policy, Title 42. Instead of the anticipated surge, crossings fell immediately after the policy ended, but illegal entries climbed again in July. Eagle Pass, Texas, declared a state of emergency in September as thousands of immigrants overwhelmed the town. Illegal crossings topped 2 million for the second year in a row. A record number of immigrant families crossed the border in fiscal year 2023.

Jordan James/WREG via AP

Beaten to death

Five Memphis, Tenn., police officers beat Tyre Nichols, a black, 29-year-old FedEx worker, for three minutes during a traffic stop on Jan. 10. Nichols was hospitalized in critical condition and died from his wounds three days later. The Memphis Police Department fired the officers, who are also black, and disbanded the special unit called SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods). The department assigned the unit of about 40 officers to crime hot spots in 2021 in a crackdown on city violence. A state court charged the officers with various felonies, including second-degree murder. A federal grand jury, meanwhile, indicted the men on civil rights charges. That case is set to go to trial in May 2024. One of the officers pleaded guilty to two felony charges in federal court.

Felons get the right to vote

In March, Minnesota granted an estimated 55,000 felons the right to vote while they’re on parole or probation. Nearly half of the states now allow felons to vote once they’re out of prison. Lawmakers in Nebraska, New Mexico, and Kentucky debated similar measures this year. As of 2022, an estimated 4.6 million Americans cannot vote due to laws that bar former felons from the electoral process. Eleven states disenfranchise felons indefinitely for ­certain crimes or require an additional waiting period, a governor’s pardon, or other additional actions. Only in Maine, Vermont, and the District of Columbia do people retain their right to vote even if convicted of a felony.

Teun Voeten/Sipa USA via AP

Fatal highs

Drug overdoses remained at record highs in 2023, only slightly above the previous year’s numbers but about 50 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels. According to preliminary data released in September, over 111,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period that ended in April 2023. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl contributed to more than half those deaths. Drug dealers often lace counterfeit prescription pills with the potent opioid, unbeknownst to their customers. A drug not even approved for human use, the veterinary tranquilizer xylazine, also contributed to the death toll. In response to the grim statistics, Joe Biden became the first president to endorse harm reduction, a controversial strategy focused on making illicit drug consumption safer.

Ted Soqui/SIPA USA via AP

Encampment battles

As the homelessness crisis worsened along the West Coast, some liberal cities began cracking down on public camping. But local leaders in cities including San Francisco and Phoenix hit legal roadblocks during efforts to move people inside. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers several Western states, ruled in two cases that cities must provide sufficient shelter beds before enforcing criminal penalties for public camping. In August, a bipartisan ­coalition of Democratic governors, Republican lawmakers, advocacy groups, and law enforcement organi­zations asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the precedent.

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

New York overwhelmed

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began busing asylum-seekers from the U.S.-Mexico border to New York City in August 2022. Since then, more than 120,000 illegal immigrants have streamed into the Big Apple, overwhelming city shelters and straining resources. Mayor Eric Adams called for state and federal aid and urged the federal government to speed up the work authorization process for migrants. Once a proud “sanctuary city” proponent, Adams challenged the “right to shelter” mandate that requires the city to provide a bed for everyone who wants one. Hundreds of New Yorkers called for an end to the immigrant influx at a Staten Island protest in August. Cities across the country raced winter temperatures to move asylum-­seekers into shelters.


Mark J. Terrill/AP

No dodging controversy

Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers ­alienated a sizable portion of their fan base on June 16 by honoring the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with a Community Hero award during the team’s annual Pride Night. The Sisters are drag queens who dress like nuns and perform simulated sex acts ­mocking Christians and their values. Thousands of Christian and Catholic fans voiced their outrage at the team’s decision by protesting outside Dodger Stadium before the game. The Dodgers tried to make up for it by hosting a Faith and Family Day later in the season, but that wasn’t enough to win back some longtime supporters. (Ironically, the only major league team that did not host a Pride-themed game in 2023, the Texas Rangers, won the World Series.)

Former assistant football coach Joe Kennedy

Former assistant football coach Joe Kennedy Ed Komenda/AP

Praying coach takes a knee

Joe Kennedy, the onetime assistant football coach for Washington state’s Bremerton High School who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2022 allowing him to pray at the 50-yard line after games, made his long-awaited return to the sideline in September. The Bremerton School District, which fired Kennedy in 2015, had to reinstate him due to the court ruling. His return lasted one game: On the Monday immediately following Bremerton High’s season-opening win on Sept. 1, Kennedy resigned, saying he wanted to focus on advocacy work from outside the school system. He and his wife Denise had relocated to Florida to care for an ailing family member and are now traveling around the country to ­promote religious liberty.

Angel Reese (left) of the LSU Tigers

Angel Reese (left) of the LSU Tigers Tony Gutierrez/AP

Women take center stage

For once, women were the focus of March Madness: The NCAA’s Division I women’s basketball tournament drew record-high TV ratings in 2023 after struggling for years to gain a wider audience. (Viewership of the men’s tournament, meanwhile, sharply declined.) University of Iowa guard Caitlin Clark and Louisiana State forward Angel Reese were the tournament’s stars: Clark scored 41 points in Iowa’s takedown of No. 1-ranked South Carolina in the semifinals before burying a record eight 3-pointers in the championship game. Reese posted her NCAA-record 34th double-double of the ­season in the final, leading LSU past Clark’s Hawkeyes to claim the Tigers’ first title.

Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

NHL checks its pride

After several players refused for religious reasons to wear rainbow-themed warmup jerseys for their teams’ Pride nights, the National Hockey League banned themed warm­up jerseys altogether. Defenseman Ivan Provorov—then with the Philadelphia Flyers, now a Columbus (Ohio) Blue Jacket—started the trend in January, citing his Russian Orthodox faith. Others followed suit in March, prompting NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to consider the perspective of Christian players. The move drew criticism from league MVP Connor McDavid and You Can Play, a driving force behind many of the NHL’s pro-LGBTQ initiatives.


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