- 1. World rings in 2023
- 2. Russia continues intense bombardment of Kyiv
- 3. Idaho quadruple homicide suspect expected to waive extradition hearing
- 4. North Korea promises 'exponential increase' in nuclear weapon arsenal
- 5. Croatia becomes a fully-integrated member of the EU
- 6. Illinois Supreme Court issues last-minute stay on the abolition of cash bail
- 7. Pope Francis prepares to preside over Pope Benedict's funeral
- 8. Discrimination complaints at U.S. schools doubled in 2022
- 9. NYPD officers attacked near Times Square New Year's Eve celebrations
- 10. 2023 political priorities include inflation, health care, and climate rights
1. World rings in 2023
Country by country, the world welcomed 2023 early Sunday morning — and bid goodbye to a year marked by war, economic uncertainties, and COVID variants. Many cities were celebrating New Year's in full force for the first time since the pandemic, with more than 100,000 gathering on the Embankment of the Thames in London for a firework show that paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, while an estimated million people braved the rain for the New Year's Eve party in New York's Times Square. "I just wish everyone a lot of prosperity, peace, and love," Tina Wright, a reveler visiting New York City from the Phoenix area, told the Los Angeles Times. "And let's just get things moving in the world right now."
2. Russia continues intense bombardment of Kyiv
Kyiv rang in 2023 to the sound of air raid sirens as Russia's intense bombardment of the capital carried over from Saturday into the new year. A curfew of 7 p.m. to midnight prevented public celebrations across Ukraine, though some in Kyiv "shouted from their balconies, 'Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!,'" Reuters witnessed. On Sunday, Ukrainian officials confirmed Russia had launched 31 missiles and 12 air strikes across the country in the preceding 24 hours. In a New Year's Eve address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told his people, "We fight and will continue to fight … I want to say to all of you: Ukrainians, you are incredible! See what we have done and what we are doing!" Russian leader Vladimir Putin likewise delivered an address to his people from the Kremlin, telling them "moral, historical rightness is on our side."
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3. Idaho quadruple homicide suspect expected to waive extradition hearing
The 28-year-old criminology student arrested early Friday in Pennsylvania in connection with the murder of four University of Idaho students plans to waive his extradition hearing, his attorney said. "Because of obviously the attention of this case, I assume Idaho is prepared and ready to transport him back already," Monroe County Chief Public Defender Jason LaBar said, also telling the media that the suspect, Bryan Kohberger, is "eager to be exonerated of these charges." The police chief of Moscow, Idaho — where the November killings took place — said he does not expect there to be additional arrests related to the case, which had long appeared to baffle authorities. "We believe we have our guy, the one that committed these murders," Moscow Police Chief James Fry told ABC News. Notably, "the probable cause affidavit, which details the reasons for Kohberger's arrest, is sealed and cannot be released until he returns to Idaho," ABC News adds.
4. North Korea promises 'exponential increase' in nuclear weapon arsenal
In a New Year's Eve address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described South Korea as its "undoubted enemy," cited threats from the U.S., and vowed an "exponential increase" in Pyongyang's nuclear weapon arsenal. Kim said the recent joint military drills between South Korea and the U.S. highlight "the importance and necessity of a mass-producing of tactical nuclear weapons," and called for his nation to "overwhelmingly beef up" its military capabilities. South Korea's Defense Ministry responded to Kim's threats by calling his comments "provocative language that seriously harms peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula." On Saturday, North Korea also said it tested a number of nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles, followed by another test on Sunday.
5. Croatia becomes a fully-integrated member of the EU
On Sunday, Croatia adopted the euro and removed dozens of border checkpoints to become the 27th nation to join Europe's passport-free Schengen zone. Though Croatia joined the EU 10 years ago, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković helped urge along the economic management reforms needed for the Balkan nation of 4 million to officially join the eurozone. Speaking during the celebrations, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the new euro coin imprinted with a pine marten, from which Croatia's former currency, the kuna, derives its name, as "a symbol of the successful union between your national identity and your European destiny" and said the euro "brings macroeconomic stability and credibility." Some, however, are critical of the nation's switch: "We will cry for our kuna, prices will soar," one pensioner in Zagreb told Al Jazeera.
6. Illinois Supreme Court issues last-minute stay on the abolition of cash bail
Hours before Illinois was poised to abolish the cash bail system in some counties, the state's Supreme Court issued a stay on the Pretrial Fairness Act on Saturday in order to "maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois." The act is a part of the larger criminal justice bill, the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today (SAFE-T) Act, which went into effect on Jan. 1. Slammed by critics like Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau as "the most dangerous law I've ever seen," the 764-page act, signed into law in February 2021, also requires all police departments to use body cameras by 2025, implements new training protocols for law enforcement, and is said by supporters to create "a more equitable criminal justice system," The State Journal-Register writes. After the stay on the Pretrial Fairness Act, the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice urged the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse the decision and "prevent any more Illinoisans from being forced to pay a ransom to free their loved ones from jail while they await trial."
7. Pope Francis prepares to preside over Pope Benedict's funeral
Pope Francis "looked weary and sat with his head bowed as Mass began on the first day of the year," where he proceeded to pray aloud for his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who died Saturday at the age of 95, The Associated Press writes. "Let us unite all together, with one heart and one soul, in giving thanks to God for the gift of this faithful servant of the Gospel and of the church,″ Francis later said in a New Year's address to thousands in St. Peter's Square. Pope Francis will preside over Benedict's simple funeral in the square on Thursday morning — an unusual occurrence, due to Benedict having been the first pope to resign in 600 years. In the spiritual testament published after his death, the late former pope apologized to "anyone I have wronged in any way" and called on the faithful to "stay steady in the faith."
8. Discrimination complaints at U.S. schools doubled in 2022
Nearly 19,000 discrimination complaints were logged by the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022, "more than double the previous year and breaking the record of 16,000 filed in fiscal year 2016," The New York Times reports, calling it evidence of "how the social and political strife roiling the country is reverberating in the nation's schools." Most commonly, the complaints allege discrimination based on disability, race, or sex, and surged during a particularly rocky time for the nation's schools as they were coming out of the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. In one example cited by the Times, the Ottumwa Community School District agreed to reforms after "the district had failed to protect a Black middle school student from 'racial harassment' … including a white student who had knelt on a Gatorade bottle in the Black student's presence and said, 'It can't breathe,' mocking the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020."
9. NYPD officers attacked near Times Square New Year's Eve celebrations
A rookie New York City police officer, who'd only graduated on Friday and was on his first day on the job, was attacked on New Year's Eve near Times Square by a man with a machete, the New York Post reports. The rookie officer was "slashed on the head" and suffered "a large laceration and skull fracture," but is expected to recover, the Post writes. Another officer was also struck on the head during the incident "and suffered a laceration," and is likewise expected to recover. The police shot the 19-year-old suspect during the attack, "striking him in the shoulder," according to sources; he was subsequently arrested. "I want to be clear that the FBI, through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, is working very closely with [NYPD] to determine the nature of this attack," the FBI's Michael Driscoll told the press. Mayor Eric Adams stressed there is no "active threat" to the city.
10. 2023 political priorities include inflation, health care, and climate rights
The economy remains the top bipartisan issue heading into the new year, according to an open-ended poll surveying Americans on their top-five issues for the government to work on in 2023, conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in December. Some 30 percent of Americans say inflation is a high priority — roughly twice the number who said it was last year, though down 40 percent since June — while three-quarters of adults say they are nevertheless not confident in the government to make progress on the problems the country faces. Republicans' top priorities for 2023 also included immigration as a pressing issue, as well as crime, foreign policy issues, energy, health care, and gas prices. About 40 percent of Democrats, meanwhile, said climate change issues are a top priority, followed by gun issues, education, abortion or women's rights, and racism and poverty.
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