From wars and indictments to concerts and championships, with only a few weeks left in 2023, Scripps News looks back at the biggest stories of the year — ones that could shape the U.S. and world for years to come.
Jan. 2, 2023 - Bills safety Damar Hamlin revived on field
Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during the first quarter of a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field; he was given CPR on the field and a defibrillator was used to restart his heart.
He spent days on a ventilator to help him breathe. When he woke up, doctors said the first thing he asked was whether the team won the game.
Hamlin has made a full recovery and since rejoined the Bills, albeit in a more limited role this season.
Jan. 7, 2023 - Kevin McCarthy elected House speaker
A new Congress is seated and Republicans take the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in four years. This time, however, they struggled to select a new speaker as Leader Kevin McCarthy faced steep opposition from members of the Freedom Caucus. The California congressman survived 15 votes, had to make a number of concessions to members — which ultimately led to his demise months later — and openly argued with fellow Republicans on the House floor before finally being elected.
Feb. 3, 2023 - Norfolk Southern train derails in East Palestine, Ohio
Days after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in the small town in Eastern Ohio, residents were told to urgently evacuate the town. Officials were concerned that chemicals inside derailed rail cars would explode.
Ultimately, officials released a mixture of chemicals from the rail cars into the air, which widely prompted environmental concerns.
Feb. 4, 2023 - U.S. shoots down Chinese spy balloon
The U.S. military shot down a high-altitude object the size of three school buses officials believe China used to surveil the U.S. Officials began tracking the object days earlier after it drifted over the airspace of Montana. White House officials said shooting down the balloon over the U.S. posed too much of a threat to those on the ground.
Despite the belief that the object had limited spying capability, the incident caused tensions between the U.S. and China to increase. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned diplomatic trip to Beijing.
March 3, 2023 - Alex Murdaugh sentenced to life in prison
Prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh received consecutive life sentences after a jury convicted him of murdering his wife and son. Prosecutors alleged that Murdaugh killed his family to gain sympathy for the financial issues he faced. Murdaugh maintained his innocence at his sentencing. He later pleaded guilty to financial crimes.
March 12, 2023 - Regional banks fail, prompting federal intervention
Regulators seized Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, resulting in two of the three largest bank failures in U.S. history. The bank failures prompted additional uncertainty among regional banks, prompting First Republic also to crumble later in the year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation formed bridge banks that assumed the deposits and liabilities of the failed banks. The FDIC insures deposits of up to $250,000. Had the FDIC not taken action, those with more than $250,000 were at risk of losing their accounts.
March 17, 2023 - Taylor Swift begins massive The Eras Tour
The much-anticipated The Eras Tour got underway in March, months after fans of Taylor Swift overwhelmed Ticketmaster's servers, prompting complaints about how tickets were distributed. Although many fans did not make it into the show, thousands still showed up outside of stadiums just to hear Swift's three-and-a-half-hour performance from a distance.
Her stop in Los Angeles was turned into a film, which topped box office charts in October. She also has since announced 2024 tour dates in the U.S. and internationally.
March 30, 2023 - Donald Trump becomes first former president indicted for a crime
Former President Donald Trump became the first former president indicted for a crime, as a grand jury in Manhattan voted to charge him with 34 counts of falsifying business records. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said Trump falsified business records to cover up "hush money" payments to help his 2016 election campaign.
Among the allegations, Bragg claimed Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair with Trump, which Trump denies. Bragg says Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments and wrote them off as legal fees. March 30 would not be the last time Trump would be charged with a crime.
Citing how writers are paid for streaming programs and concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in scripts, the Writers Guild of America began a monthslong strike in May. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, citing similar concerns, also went on strike during the summer.
Collectively, writers and actors caused most scripted TV and movie productions to shut down. The result has been a major reduction in scripted TV shows on network TV during the fall lineup. Movie studios have also been forced to delay releasing a number of blockbuster films. Both strikes came to an end this fall.
A court ruled in May that Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr could not return to the House floor after the transgender lawmaker was censured after speaking out in support of gender-affirming health care for children. Republican lawmakers claimed Zephyr violated the chamber's rule on decorum. Zephyr upset Republicans in April after saying they would have blood on their hands after they voted to ban gender-affirming care for children.
The World Health Organization declared in May that the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a global health emergency after three years and two months. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the virus killed 20 million people worldwide, but the rate of deaths had declined. The virus is still considered a pandemic, and officials continue to encourage the public to stay up to date on vaccinations as new variants emerge.
The pandemic-era Title 42 put in place by then-President Donald Trump ended in May. It was intended to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the three years it was used, asylum seekers were generally required to wait in Mexico. Homeland Security said it quickly removed several million asylum seekers due to Title 42. If not for the rule, asylum seekers would be allowed to remain in the U.S. until given a court hearing to rule on the merits of their request.
The Biden administration adopted a new rule that presumes those who enter the U.S. illegally are ineligible for asylum and allows for them to be immediately removed if they cannot demonstrate a "reasonable fear of persecution or torture in the country of removal." The plan has drawn immense criticism from conservatives and immigration proponents.
June 7, 2023 - Lionel Messi signs with MLS' Inter Miami
Argentinian soccer superstar Lionel Messi announced in June he would join Inter Miami, after deciding not to return to Paris St. Germain. One month later, he joined the club, bringing record attention to U.S. Major League Soccer.
Ticket prices for Inter Miami have surged. For instance, the Columbus Crew announced 2024 tickets for its home game against Inter Miami would start at $421, which is more than 10 times the normal rate for tickets.
Trump was indicted in federal court on 37 counts related to alleged mishandling of classified documents and blocking efforts to investigate the missing documents. The indictment came after officials raided Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, taking dozens of boxes, some of which allegedly included top-secret documents from his presidency.
June 18, 2023 - Titan submersible goes missing, likely implodes near Titanic
The Titan submersible went missing June 18 and was likely doomed in a "catastrophic implosion." All five people on board the expedition to the Titanic shipwreck died. About four days after the vessel went missing, officials found debris about 1,600 feet from the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. They added the debris was located in an empty area of the ocean floor and was not immediately adjacent to the Titanic shipwreck.
The Coast Guard has since uncovered much of the debris and human remains.
The Federal Reserve increased federal interest rates to 5.25%-5.5% — the highest levels in more than 22 years. Interest rates increased 11 times during a two-year span to help combat inflation, which reached over an annual rate of 9% in June 2022. The Federal Reserve said its goal is to lower the inflation rate to 2%. Despite inflation cooling closer to 3% in recent months, officials have not brought interest rates back down. The result has made borrowing more expensive, especially for those looking to buy a home.
High interest rates typically cause discretionary spending to cool and unemployment to increase. But as of this fall, those events have not occurred.
Aug. 8, 2023 - Wildfires in Hawaii wipe out town, kill 99
Wind and dry conditions fueled a massive wildfire on Maui, killing 99 people and nearly destroying the entire town of Lahaina. Hundreds of buildings were affected by the fires and hundreds of families were displaced.
Some evidence and class-action lawsuits have pointed to Hawaiian Electric power lines as the cause of the catastrophe. Investigators say they are still working to determine the exact cause.
Sept. 6, 2023 - Summer 2023 declared the hottest on record
The World Meteorological Organization released data indicating that June-August 2023 was the hottest three-month period in recorded history across the Earth. July 2023 was the hottest month on record, with August being recorded as the second-hottest month ever. Global temperatures still remain well above normal for this time of year, as 2023 will likely end as the hottest ever recorded.
Sept. 14, 2023 - President Joe Biden's son Hunter charged by federal grand jury
Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden, was indicted by federal prosecutors on three firearm charges in September. Special counsel David Weiss filed the indictment; he was elevated to special counsel after Hunter Biden previously had accepted a plea deal for failing to pay more than $200,000 in taxes on more than $1.5 million in income. That agreement with prosecutors unraveled when the judge in the case raised concerns about the deal.
Hunter Biden's finances have been the subject of calls for the House to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Biden on whether he was involved in his son's business deals during his time as vice president.
Sept. 29, 2023 - Baltimore Catholic Archdiocese files for bankruptcy
The Archdiocese of Baltimore began seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it faces several child sexual abuse lawsuits. In April, a report on the Baltimore Archdiocese by Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown revealed 600 cases of child sex abuse over the past 60 years by 156 current or former Catholic clergy, seminarians, deacons, members of Catholic religious orders, teachers at Catholic schools and other employees.
The Baltimore Archdiocese was among several major archdioceses to file for bankruptcy as the Catholic Church continues to deal with the fall out of the sexual abuse scandal.
Sept. 29, 2023 - Sen. Dianne Feinstein, longest-serving woman senator, dies at 90
Sen. Dianne Feinstein died after serving more than 30 years in the Senate. Feinstein was California's senior and longest-serving woman senator, and was known for her independence and dedication to finding practical solutions for both California and the nation. In the Senate, she was among California's first two female senators, the first woman to lead the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the first woman to serve as the Judiciary committee’s top Democrat.
While she had announced in February that she was not going to run for reelection in 2024, she said she would serve out the remainder of her term and continue to fight the epidemic of gun violence.
Hamas launched a surprise terror attack on Israel, targeting members of the Israeli military and civilians, resulting in the death of 1,200 people in Israel. Additionally, Hamas took 248 people hostage, including some Americans.
Days later, Israel said it was conducting a "complete siege" on the Gaza Strip, one of two Palestinian-held areas within Israel. Since then, the two sides have been engaged in a bloody war that has caused a massive humanitarian crisis as many Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. Israel had cut off fuel and other aid to Gaza amid concerns that Hamas would use those supplies to fight against Israel.
In recent days, fighting was paused and Hamas released several dozen hostages in exchange for prisoners being held by Israel.
Oct. 25, 2023 - Gunman kills 19 in Lewiston, Maine, shooting spree
Lewiston, Maine, was the site of the United States' deadliest mass shooting in 2023 when a gunman went on a shooting rampage, killing 19 people and wounding 13. The gunman fired shots at a bowling alley and restaurant before fleeing. He then led police on a multi-day manhunt. Three days after the shootings, the gunman was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Oct. 28, 2023 - 'Friends' star Matthew Perry dead after suspected drowning
Matthew Perry, renowned for portraying Chandler Bing in the popular TV series "Friends," passed away from an apparent drowning. First responders received a call for a cardiac arrest after the 54-year-old actor was found in the hot tub at his Los Angeles residence. His death set off a number of touching tributes from fans and cast members of the beloved television comedy. He was an advocate for those battling addiction and was candid about his own struggles with the disease.
Nov. 7, 2023 - Ohio becomes latest state to enshrine abortion rights
Voters in Ohio agreed to protect access to abortion services with an amendment to the state constitution. It comes as other states plan similar abortion proposals for their 2024 ballots. The issue, as approved, overrides the state's ban on abortions after six weeks into a pregnancy. Doctors will be allowed to perform abortions up until "fetal viability" legally.
Nov. 14, 2023 - Xi, Biden meet in hopes of easing tensions
Following an increase in tensions early in 2023 due to the spy balloon incident, President Biden met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in hopes of reopening lines of communication between the two nations. Both sides hoped the meeting would help ease tensions between the nations. The two leaders met face-to-face at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in California.
But one meeting was not enough to erase decades of tensions between the two nations. President Biden called Xi Jinping a "dictator," which prompted a rebuke from Beijing.
Nov. 19, 2023 - Former first lady Rosalynn Carter dies at 96
Former U.S. first lady Eleanor Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96, two days after it was announced that she had entered home hospice care. Carter died peacefully in Plains, Georgia, surrounded by her family. The former first lady served her time in the White House from 1977 until 1981, when her husband, former President Jimmy Carter, served as the 39th president of the United States. Rosalynn Carter was known for being an advocate for those suffering from mental health issues, and she joined her husband for numerous Habitat for Humanity projects over the years.
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