What Happened In October 2023?


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The Biggest News of the Month

On October 7, Hamas Launched a Surprise Attack on Israel Prompting a Massive Retaliation

bulldozer breaks through the Gaza wall as fighters run through the gap

On October 7, Hamas launched a devastating surprise attack against Israel, killing 1,400 and taking more than 200 hostages. The assault employed drones, rockets, and ground forces storming into southern Israel. Occurring on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war, the operation caught Israel off-guard. Israel retaliated by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza, laying siege to the strip, and mobilizing 300,000 reserve soldiers. Israel’s Prime Minister vowed to eliminate Hamas, while the U.S. deployed an aircraft carrier group to the region. As of October 28, the conflict had resulted in nearly 8,700 deaths on both sides.

Read more about the Hamas and Israel war.


Three Weeks After Kevin McCarthy was Ousted as Speaker of the House, a Radical, Right-Wing Election Denier is Chosen

For the first time in history, the Speaker of the House was removed. The move was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and supported by seven other members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” of far right-wing Representatives after McCarthy made concessions with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown. Gaetz was the reason it took 15 votes to elect McCarthy as Speaker in the first place. Other candidates for the position emerged, only to be shot down for being too moderate. In the end, a Southern Baptist abortion and gay-rights opponent who still denies the results of the 2020 election was elected to fill the role.

Read more about the Speaker of the House story below.


Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift are the Most Popular People in America

travis kelce and taylor swift

As a tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis Kelce has two Super Bowl rings on his fingers, and now Taylor Swift on his arm. Taylor Swift is shown on TV during football games more than instant replays, cheering along side Travis and his Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles Center brother Jason’s mother – the First Lady of Football. During game breaks, Travis can be seen in countless commercials pitching State Farm insurance, Bud Light, Experian, Nike, DIRECTV, Pfizer, and Capital One. And when not in commercials, Travis and Jason‘s lives are chronicled in an Amazon documentary. Since Taylor Swift became his girlfriend and luxury box cheerleader, Travis‘s jersey sales rocketed to third best selling in the NFL in late September, driven by “Swifties” – girls aged 12 – 17. The demographic also increased the football game viewership by 8%.

But the extra attention isn’t always welcome. Travis was criticized for attending the first game of the World Series in Texas and then losing to the Denver Broncos. Some saying his attendance was a distraction. Others blame the Chiefs’ loss on the absence of Taylor Swift, saying the team has a perfect winning record when she’s in the stadium. In addition to football games, fans can see Swift in theaters in her concert film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour”. The movie, a box office hit generating $200 million so far, is a 45-minute chronicle of her hit tour which is the first concert series to gross a billion dollars.


Who Are the Most Popular Players in the NFL?

football players reaching for their jerseys.

According to NFL jersey sales, Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Micah Parsons is #1. Parsons is on track to be the defensive player of the year, and he also returns the fans’ affection on social media. The bump Travis Kelsey got from Swifties in September didn’t carry over into October though, as his jersey sales didn’t make the top ten.

  1. Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys
  2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
  3. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Christian McCaffrey, San Francisco 49ers
  5. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
  6. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
  7. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
  8. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
  9. Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys
  10. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings


Joran van der Sloot Confesses to 2005 Murder of Natalie Holloway But Won’t Be Charged

Van der Sloot confessed to the Aruba murder of Natalie Holloway 18 years ago as part of a plea deal with US authorities. Van der Sloot will serve 20 years for attempted extortion of Holloway’s family, but the 12 year statute of limitations for murder in Aruba has long passed. He tried to extort $250,000.00 from the Holloway family in return for revealing the details of her murder, and stands convicted of extortion and attempted wire fraud. As part of the plea deal, van der Sloot admitted he bludgeoned Natalie with a cinder block on an Aruba beach when she resisted his sexual advances and kneed him in the groin. He then dragged her body into the sea, and she was never seen again. He was also convicted of murdering another girl in Peru.


Arrest Made for the 1996 Murder of Tupac Shakur

man reading an autobiography in prison

On the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur was in a BMW driven by Death Row Records founder “Suge” Knight. They were stopped at a red light near the Las Vegas Strip when a white Cadillac pulled up next to them and a backseat passenger opened fire, shooting Tupac several times. He died a week later at the age of 25. Tupac died young, but was one of the most influential rappers in the business. The lyrics to his hit song “All Eyez on Me” foretold his death: “Live the life of a thug nigga, until the day I die.”

The first and only arrest in the 27 year-old murder case was made thanks to the tell-all memoir “Compton Street Legend” by Duane “Keffe D” Davis, in which Davis implicated himself as a passenger in the car who handed a pistol to his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson. Anderson and others brawled with Tupac and his entourage in a casino only hours earlier. Of the four people in the white Cadillac, Davis is the only one still alive.


Lewiston, Maine Mass Shooting Kills 18, Wounds 13 More, and Shuts Down Portland Area

A certified firearms instructor and US Army Reserves member, Robert Card, committed a mass shooting in Lewiston, ME, killing 18 and injuring 13. He attacked two locations before evading authorities for two days, later found dead from self-inflicted injuries. Authorities had prior knowledge of Card’s threats but failed to apprehend him. He had been denied a suppressor due to mental health concerns. The incident reignited debates on gun control, with emphasis on Maine’s lack of stringent laws. Card had a history of mental health issues, highlighting Maine’s underfunded and understaffed mental health services.

Read more about the Lewiston mass shooting.


UAW Reaches Tentative Agreements with All Three Auto Makers, Ending Strike of 45,000 Workers

autoworkers and executives review a contract

About 45,000 UAW workers at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis were on strike, seeking annual pay raises of more than 40% over a four-year contract, a shorter workweek, improved pensions for retirees, better health care, cost-of-living adjustments and an end to wage tiers.

The strike expanded to all 38 parts and distribution centers at General Motors Co. and Stellantis; Ford Motor Co.’s Kentucky Assembly Plant in Louisville and assembly plant in Chicago; and GM’s Lansing Delta Township assembly plant. Late in the month, UAW members went on strike at the Arlington, Texas GM assembly plant where profitable full-size SUVs are made.

The strike has caused layoffs at assembly plants and supplier companies, and GM says it is losing $200 million per week. Lost wages of striking workers and those laid off because of the strike are nearing a half billion dollars. The automakers had offered record contracts with pay increases of around 20% as well as bonuses and other improved benefits, but are short of the union’s demands.

By the end of the month, the union announced a framework agreement with Ford, followed a few days later by a deal with Stellantis, which makes Ram, Dodge and Chrysler vehicles. GM was the last automaker to reach a tentative deal with the union. Ford and the union reached a tentative agreement with pay raises totaling 25% over the next four years, improvement of retirement, benefits, and other concessions. Deals with GM and Stellantis are said to be similar. All three deals still have to be voted on by more than 146,000 UAW members, but workers will return to their jobs before their leadership votes on November 3.


Racing Balloon Shot Down by Texas Redneck Explodes After Crashing Into Power Line

balloon explodes

A Polish team competing in the Gordon Bennet gas balloon long-distance race drew rapid gunfire over a rural area just outside Dallas, and tried to land to avoid the bullets. Narrowly avoiding an electric substation, the hydrogen gas balloon contacted a power line and exploded. The pilots escaped with help from passers-by, but with serious injuries. The balloons compete to travel the farthest, with most aloft for more than 50 hours. In the past, balloonists have been arrested upon touching down, and in 1995 pilots were killed when they were shot down in Belarus.


75,000 Kaiser Permanente Healthcare Workers Go On Strike

In the largest strike of health-care workers in U.S. history, union healthcare workers for the nonprofit Kaiser Permanente went on strike October 4 at hospitals and medical offices in California, Colorado, Oregon, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Washington state. The nurses, emergency room technicians, radiologists, X-ray technicians, respiratory therapists, medical assistants, pharmacists and hundreds of other workers demanded higher pay, better benefits, and higher staffing levels. By law, they could only strike for three days, returning to work without a compromise from management.


Google Antitrust Case Could Change the Internet Experience Forever

google gives bags of money to apple

The antitrust trial against Google, the most significant in decades, examines its exclusive deals to dominate search engine use, as testified by Microsoft’s CEO. Google’s CEO defended these partnerships, especially with Apple, as integral to their success. Despite options, Google’s search engine remains predominant, assisted by paid ad strategies, which are a major revenue source. The outcome of the trial could force profound changes in search engine choice, advertising, and potentially lead to Google’s breakup.

Read more about the Google antitrust case.


AI Deep Fakes, Policy, and Advancements in October 2023

October 2023 in AI and LLM news saw concerns over deep fake misuse, regulatory moves in the U.S. and China, AI impacts on jobs and labor markets, and advancements in chatbot functionalities.

AI and LLM in the news

Read more about AI and LLM advances in October, 2023.


What Happened with the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in October 2023?

Russia and Ukraine soldiers on a battlefield map

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, claimed that Russian forces had lost at least a brigade’s worth of troops attempting to advance on Ukraine’s eastern town of Avdiivka. Russia began a renewed push to encircle the embattled town in mid-October, trying to overwhelm Ukrainian positions with constant barrages of artillery and waves of troops and fighting vehicles. Meanwhile, Russian forces have heavily shelled the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson.

Illegal smuggling of electronics to Russia

Three people were arrested in New York City on charges of illegally smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of restricted US electronics to Russia to aid the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive

Ukraine has been on the counteroffensive since June to try to retake occupied land in the south and east, including the town of Bakhmut.

US Support for Ukraine Waning in Congress

The US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, warned that Russia would succeed in Ukraine unless American support continues. Austin said, “I can guarantee that without our support Putin will be successful,” Austin said during a Senate hearing on President Joe Biden’s request for $106bn to fund plans for Ukraine, Israel and American border security. “If we pull the rug out from under them now, Putin will only get stronger and he will be successful in doing what he wants to do,” Austin added, sitting next to US secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

Mitch McConnell has offered a strong endorsement of the White House’s $106 billion aid proposal to Israel and Ukraine, saying he and the president were essentially “in the same place” on the issue. McConnell, the powerful Republican leader in the Senate, has rebuffed some of his GOP colleagues in the Senate who have called for a package separating assistance for the two countries, saying it would be “a mistake”.

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine is a Drone War

Ukraine is using and losing 10,000 drones every month, making the supply of the lethal weapons an issue. Most of the drones used by Ukraine come from China, but since China banned exporting drones to both Russia and Ukraine last month, replacements take longer to source through middlemen in other countries.

US Abrams Tanks Arrive in Ukraine Amid Suspension of New Aid

Ousted Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy suspended new aid to Ukraine in negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. The United States has sent more than $75 billion in aid to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Despite Concerns About Direct Confrontation with Russia, Ukraine Using Longer Range Missiles

Ukraine is using an alphabet soup of US-supplied missiles including HARM, ATACMS, GMLRS, and HIMARS launchers. Ukraine also has UK-provided Storm Shadow guided missiles with a range of 155 miles. These longer-range guided missiles were used to strike Russian airfields in eastern Ukraine, but so far Ukraine has shown restraint and not hit targets inside Russia.


Healthcare News from October, 2023

Rise in Syphilis Cases and Shortage of Antibiotic Treatment Causing STI Crisis

The United States is facing a steep rise in syphilis cases. From 2017 to 2021, reported cases of syphilis increased about 74%, and congenital syphilis — when a mother passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy — increased more than 203%. Plus, state and federal health authorities had to ration Bicillin, the preferred antibiotic treatment for syphilis while infections soared. Pfizer is the only manufacturer of the drug, and while it is increasing production, it may not catch up to demand until 2024.

New COVID-19 Vaccine Targets XBB Variant in October 2023

In October 2023, the CDC updated COVID-19 vaccines, like Moderna and Pfizer, for the XBB variant, an Omicron offshoot. This reformulation addresses current strains and discontinues older vaccine versions. Amid debates over vaccine safety and effectiveness, vaccination rates have dropped, with only 4.5% of Americans receiving the updated shot. Texas legislation prohibits private vaccine mandates, contrasting with San Francisco’s stricter measures. Novavax’s updated vaccine, milder in side effects, offers a 50% reduction in COVID-19 contraction risk for four months.

Read more about the new COVID-19 vaccine


US Politics and Culture War

Kevin McCarthy Removed as Speaker of the House Because He Prevented a Government Shutdown

house of representatives is removed from office.

For the first time in American history, the House of Representatives voted to remove the Speaker of the House. Republicans ousted him because he negotiated a deal with Democrats for a continuing resolution to fund the government another 45 days. Eight Republicans voted against McCarthy and sided with 208 Democrats to pass the motion to vacate the speakership on October 3.

The House cannot carry out legislative business until a new speaker is elected, which was the second order of business for the interim Speaker Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. His first act as was to evict former Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi from her Capitol building office. Pelosi has been a polarizing figure due to her strong and decisive leadership style, her ability to raise money and pose a serious political threat to Republicans, and in part because she is wealthy and is known for her expensive wardrobe and lavish lifestyle.

House Republicans Have Electile Dysfunction

It took Republicans nearly a week to convene a forum for prospective Speakers, emerging from behind closed doors with a candidate, only to have him withdraw from consideration because he didn’t have enough support from those Republicans who ejected McCarthy.

The next candidate for Speaker was Jim Jordan, who was backed by the far-right Freedom Caucus Representatives. In three rounds of voting, Jordan lost by at least 20 votes, owing to his far right-wing, Trump-supporting antics including leading the effort to overturn the 2020 election, defying a subpoena by the January 6 committee, and leading the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

When Jordan bowed out, at least nine Representatives threw their hats into the ring to become the next Speaker. Tom Emmer briefly came out on top, but was torpedoed by Trump. Emmer signed onto the lawsuit to overturn Trump’s loss but ended up voting to certify Biden’s win after the attack on the Capitol. Trump called Emmer a “RINO” — or Republican In Name Only — on his social media platform, Truth Social, and said Emmer “wasn’t MAGA.”

Mike Johnson, Election Denier and Gay Rights Opponent, is Elected Speaker of the House

Three weeks after McCarthy was ousted, Mike Johnson of Louisiana was elected speaker of the House of Representatives. Johnson took the lead in filing a brief in a lawsuit that sought to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win. He quoted conspiracy theories to explain Trump’s loss, and voted against certifying Biden’s win even after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Johnson collaborated with a group that promoted “conversion therapy” to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians. He also worked as litigator for conservative Christian groups that fiercely opposed gay rights and abortion, as well as a brief tenure in Louisiana as a lawmaker where he pushed legislation that sanctioned discrimination for religious reasons. In a July 2004 column in the Shreveport Times, he wrote about same-sex marriage:

“If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles and others will be next in line to claim equal protection. There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex, or a person to marry his pet.”

Republican Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana in the Shreveport Times


Federal Judge Strikes Down California Ban on Assault Weapons

judge opens gate to a stack of guns

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, a George W. Bush appointee, struck down the 1989 ban, enacted by the California legislature in response to the Stockton school shooting. In his ruling, the judge wrote, “Modern semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 platform rifle are widely owned by law-abiding citizens across the nation. Other than their looks (the State calls them ‘features’ or ‘accessories’) these prohibited rifles are virtually the same as other lawfully possessed rifles.” Benitez stayed his decision for 10 days to allow the California Attorney General time to appeal.

The same judge issued an injunction against a California gun law banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds in September, finding it unconstitutional based on “the text, history, and tradition of the Second Amendment.”

Gavin Newsom Wants to Ride Gun Control to the White House

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who is not currently running for president but often behaves as if he was, in June proposed what he calls the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. Newsom’s amendment has a stated aim to “End America’s Gun Violence Crisis,” and it proposes amending the Constitution to do several things: Raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21, universal background checks, a “reasonable waiting period” for gun purchases, and banning assault weapons.


Trump Watch

Trump is gagged by the judge

Trump Co-defendants Plead Guilty In Georgia Election Interference Cases

The guilty pleas of Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro, Scott Hall, and Jenna Ellis, who were co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, could pose a significant risk to Donald Trump. These individuals were described as “senior participants” in the alleged scheme to overturn the 2020 election. Their guilty pleas could potentially undermine the defense’s arguments, as they were involved in key aspects of the alleged crimes. As part of their plea deals, they agreed to testify truthfully against their co-defendants at any upcoming trials, including Trump. With these guilty pleas, other defendants might feel pressure to pursue deals of their own. It also strengthens the prosecution’s case.

  • Sidney Powell, a former Trump lawyer, pleaded guilty to five charges of conspiracy to interfere with election duties in Georgia. She agreed to testify against other defendants, pay a fine, and write an apology letter to Georgia voters.
  • Kenneth Chesebro, another former Trump lawyer, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. He also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, pay a fine, and perform community service.
  • Scott Hall, a bail bondsman and former Republican poll watcher, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to interfere with election duties in Georgia. He admitted to trying to access sensitive election equipment in Coffee County with Powell. He also agreed to testify against other defendants, pay a fine, and do community service.
  • Jenna Ellis, a third former Trump lawyer, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She admitted to drafting a letter declaring Georgia’s election results illegitimate. She also agreed to testify against other defendants, pay a fine, and do community service.

Michael Cohen Testifies in Trump’s New York Fraud Trial

Michael Cohen is a key witness in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ case alleging Trump, his two adult sons, the Trump Organization and others falsely inflated the values of their assets. Cohen testified that he helped inflate the value of Trump’s assets to “whatever number Trump told us to.” Following Cohen’s testimony, Trump told reporters that Cohen’s testimony should be discredited because he is a proven liar and a felon. Cohen went to jail for his involvement in paying off porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence about an affair with Trump.

Trump is under a gag order by the judge in the case, due to his social media harassments of the judge and courtroom staff. Trump broke the gag order when he called the judge and his law clerk “partisan”, for which he was fined $10,000.


Climate and Catastrophes

The Brazilian Amazon River Runs Dry

Amazon river runs dry

A severe drought has the Brazilian Amazon in an emergency, restricting the movement of people and goods by boat, making it even more difficult for remote communities to access healthcare, and left thousands of people facing water and food shortages. The normal dry season has turned extreme thanks to El Nino, and warming water of the tropical Atlantic, which sends north winds across the Amazon, shredding rain clouds before they get started.

Mississippi River Levels Too Low for Shipping, Saltwater Intrusion Threatens Drinking Water

The low levels are affecting drinking water and shipping traffic up and down the river. Once submerged sand bars have surfaced and shipping has been disrupted. Parts of the Mississippi River basin, including Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, are experiencing extreme drought conditions. Rainfall amounts are also down in the Ohio River watershed, which contributes half of the Mississippi’s flow. Rising sea level is pushing the Gulf of Mexico upriver, and another factor leading to saltwater intruding inland is dredging by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make way for huge cargo ships. The saltwater nearly reached New Orleans, which hurriedly made plans to build a new pipeline.

Louisiana Super Fog Kills Seven People in a 158 Car Pile-Up

fog in Louisiana causes car pile-up crash

Seven people were killed and more than 25 people taken to hospital following the crash on Interstate 55 near New Orleans when a dense fog combined with smoke from smoldering swamp fires causing a 158-car pile-up. Super fog can form when a mixture of smoke and moisture from damp, smoldering vegetation exposed due to drought mixes with cooler air. 

Two Months After the Deadly Fire Destroyed Lahaina, True Sentiments About Tourists Revealed

On one hand, reopening West Maui is necessary to help the over 8,700 people there who lost their jobs due to the fire. But a petition by local organization Lahaina Strong, which has over 15,000 signatures, says Lahaina’s working families are still struggling to find shelter, to provide for their children’s education and to cope with the trauma. Residents who have lost homes and jobs object to seeing tourists enjoying themselves on area beaches, even though tourism drives 80% of the island’s revenues – $5.69 billion last year. The state currently has disaster unemployment benefits available through February 2024 for Maui workers and business owners who lost their jobs or had reduced work hours due to the wildfires.

Acapulco Pounded by Surprise Hurricane Otis

Acapulco hurricane damage

Hurricane Otis rapidly intensified from a tropical storm in the Pacific to a category five hurricane in one day, taking Acapulco by surprise. The computer forecast models predicted heavy rain, but no intensification, and meteorologists were taken off-guard. They say Otis intensified faster than any other storm, and was the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the western coast of Mexico.

The winds shredded palm trees, broke out windows, and tore off roofs in the middle of the night. By morning, cellular towers were felled, electricity lines were down, high-rise buildings and hospitals were severely damaged, and more than 50 people were dead.

Experts say warming ocean temperatures are driving the rapid intensification of storms. When ocean water is at least 80 degrees, a storm can absorb the energy it needs to form a hurricane. Now, the water is warmer not only at the surface but deeper, too. Instead of drawing cooler water to the surface and moderating storms, there’s no stopping a storm from growing stronger, faster.

warming ocean causes worse hurricanes