Click to Read Sections:
- 1 The Biggest News in December 2023
- 2 US Politics and Culture War
- 3 What Happened with AI and LLM in December 2023?
- 4 International News of December 2023
The Biggest News in December 2023
Tech Layoffs Continue After COVID-19 Hiring Spree
Spotify announced it is cutting 17% of its workforce, about 1,500 employees, even after posting a $70 million Q3 profit. Meta and Microsoft revealed plans to reduce their workforce by as many as 10,000 employees this year. With 27,000 layoffs already this year, Amazon announced it was cutting another 18,000 jobs worldwide, and Google parent company Alphabet will axe 12,000 jobs.
Wastewater Analysis Shows COVID-19 Infections Rising
The JN.1 variant now accounts for half of infections. The Northeast has the highest proportion of variant infections, where it accounts for an estimated 32% of new COVID cases. But the good news is that JN.1 is not as infectious as the Omicron variant outbreak of last year, and the current vaccines provide protection against it. According to USAFacts, as of November 2023, 81% of the US population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Rizz, Authentic, Hallucinate, and AI are Words of the Year
With billions of views of the hashtag “rizz” on TikTok, the Oxford Dictionary named it their word of the year. Rizz is, defined as style, charm, or attractiveness, and the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner. In a year dominated by artificial intelligence and deepfakes, “authentic” is Merriam-Webster’s word for 2023. The Cambridge Dictionary chose “hallucinate” as its word of the year, given ChatGPT’s propensity to fabricate answers when it’s stumped. The Collins Dictionary awarded “AI” the word of the year. Runners up included “deepfake”, “prompt” – as in giving ChatGPT instructions, the “heat dome” responsible for this summer’s record high temperatures, and a fan of Taylor Swift known as a “Swiftie”.
US School Shootings Were Up 8.4% in 2023 and 169% from Pre-COVID Level
Multiple victims from an active shooter inside a school get instant national media attention. However, a recently-compiled database of all K-12 school shootings since 1970 shows that one-on-one gun violence occurring outside or near school grounds is driving the number of students hurt and killed. In fact, of the school shootings with the most victims killed, eight, or 40%, occurred at least 20 years ago.
While there were 8.4% more school shootings in 2023 versus last year, there were 30% more incidents than in 2021, and a 169% increase from 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The quarantine of 2020 kept the number of school shootings at about the same level as the previous two years, but 2021 saw the beginning of the post-COVID explosion.
And the cause of the majority of those shootings was an escalation of a personal dispute, which shows it’s not more armed guards needed but rather teaching non-violent dispute resolution. And AR-15’s weren’t to blame either; it was usually a handgun involved. By the way, the second highest cause of school shootings was accidental discharge of a gun brought to school. Drive-by shootings ranked third, and the fourth most common reason was on-campus suicide.
US Politics and Culture War
George Santos Expelled from Congress
On December 1, the House expelled Long Island, NY Representative George Santos. He was the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress, and the sixth person in history to be expelled from the House. Santos lied about his wealth, credentials, past, parents, and grandparents while stealing from donors and using campaign funds for shopping sprees. He currently faces 23 criminal charges including identity theft, unauthorized charges on donors’ credit cards, and submitting false campaign reports.
Senator Tuberville Releases His Ten-Month Hold on Military Promotions
Other than a few four-star General or Admiral promotions, the Republican Senator from Alabama finally relinquished his hold on the promotions of military personnel over the military using taxpayer money to reimburse expenses for out-of-state abortions. He was admonished for punishing military members over the civilian decision, and faced a change in Senate rules to side-step his hold up.
Trump Barred from Colorado and Maine Ballots but Remains on Wisconsin’s
The Colorado Supreme Court disqualified former President Donald Trump from running for office in the state’s 2024 Republican presidential primary using Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, citing his conduct surrounding the January 6, 2021 deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Maine followed suit a few weeks later but he remains on Wisconsin’s ballot.
Section 3 was crafted in the aftermath of the Civil War to prevent Confederates who had engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, or given aid or comfort to the nation’s enemies, from serving in any state or federal office. Trump has not been found guilty of inciting insurrection – yet, and so the ruling may be appealed to the US Supreme Court citing lack of due process.
The Migrant Crisis on the US – Mexico Border Continues Amid Federal Inaction
Texas saw 250,000 migrant encounters last month, peaking at more than 10,000 a day. Since April 2022, Texas has bused 75,500 migrants to six cities over objections and outcries of human trafficking. Driven by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the initiative has accelerated the movement of migrants and asylum seekers north, strained destination cities’ shelter resources, and prompted their Democratic leaders to dramatically increase pressure on President Biden to help. New York says it’s at a breaking point. Chicago is running out of time and space before a harsh winter sets in. Washington, D.C. says its housing is at capacity. Other cities, like Denver, have declared states of emergency.
Governor Abbott says he will continue sending migrants to other states, and the flow of migrants shows no sign of slowing. Mexican cartels continue smuggling migrants across remote border areas, even as new caravan of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean is headed north from southern Mexico. The crisis prompted President Biden to talk with the Mexican President and the US Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense visited Mexico City seeking measures to alleviate the southern border crisis. They want migrant camps moved south, better control of Mexican railways which migrants use to get to the border, and processing of US visas in Mexico to deter illegal border crossings. And yet there is currently no immigration reform legislation in Congress.
What Happened with AI and LLM in December 2023?
December 2023 brought significant AI news: Israel’s AI-based targeting in Gaza, the New York Times‘ copyright lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, jobs replaced by AI, KISS’s avatars may perform a farewell tour forever, Microsoft’s Copilot integration of GPT-4, Google’s Gemini AI is introduced, Tesla’s Autopilot controversies, and the EU’s groundbreaking AI laws.
International News of December 2023
Israel Says the War in Gaza Will Continue for Months
Israel continued bombarding Gaza, killing civilians and hostages in the process. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. The same source also states that the majority of these casualties were women and children.
- Israel suspended phone and Internet service many times for days on end, while it purports to warn Palestinians and direct them to safer areas with maps and instructions accessible via mobile phones.
- Israel maintains that attacks will continue until all hostages are released, but shot three hostages who were doing their best to surrender. The three men carried a white flag, removed their shirts to show they were unarmed, and called out for help in Hebrew. Israeli soldiers shot them, thinking it might be a Hamas trick.
- Israel forces shot several doctors at a hospital in central Gaza, let a military dog maul a man in a wheelchair, and dug up buried bodies in the hospital courtyard with a bulldozer while looking for tunnels.
- According to The Guardian, the Committee to Protect Journalists has accused the Israeli military of targeting journalists and their families in Gaza. At least 68 journalists and media workers have been killed since October 7th.
- According to TIME, the United Nations General Assembly held an emergency special session on Tuesday, December 13th, 2023, in which all member states were eligible to vote on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. A total of 153 countries voted for a ceasefire, with only 10 member states voting against the resolution, including the United States.
Russia Unleashed the Biggest Wave of Attacks Since Its Invasion of Ukraine
Russia fired more than 100 drones and missiles at cities across Ukraine, testing Ukraine’s missile defense systems, including the US supplied patriot. Russia hit a shopping mall, a maternity hospital, a school, and many apartment buildings killing more than a dozen people. The attack came only days after Ukraine hit a Russian ship in a Crimea port, and the US announced it last round of military aid.
Ukraine Forced to Ration Ammo as US Aid Dries Up
According to a recent article in the Washington Examiner, Ukrainian forces are facing ammunition shortages as they find themselves outgunned by Russia and face a lapse in U.S. military support. The Ukrainian officials and Western observers have reported that they are forced to “save and to ration” ammunition. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has already begun to taper the flow of aid to Ukraine as the funding authorized under previous laws runs low.
The Biden administration unveiled a new package of weapons and equipment as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued a diplomatic tour of Washington, D.C. to make the case for a continuance of the military supplies. The $250 million aid package includes arms and equipment such as air defense munitions, anti-armor munitions, ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems, and more than 15 million rounds of small arms ammunition. But this funding is the last authorized, and any further support must be authorized by congress. However, that support is in peril because Republicans in congress insist conservative border security policies must be paired with any new funding to support Ukraine.