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And now, for the rest of 2023


(Editor's Note: This Bill O'Neill post is a followup to his midyear summary, posted here on June 16, 2023.)


In September we lost our poster boy for the island life and good times, Jimmy Buffet. Parrot Heads

everywhere remain in mourning.


At year’s end came word that Beijing is stealing U.S. artificial intelligence secrets to power its hacking and spying. Early in the year, you will recall that all the fear was a rogue Chinese balloon flying across our air space.


The world was fixed in mid-June awaiting the fate of five intrepid explorers who were found to have

been killed when their experimental submersible watercraft imploded in the North Atlantic while

dropping 2.5 miles to the Titanic shipwreck on the ocean floor.


During summer “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” broke the box-office bank.  Twitter became X.  Hip-Hop turned 50, as did the Endangered Species Act.  And it quietly came to pass in July that after 127 years, San Francisco-based Anchor Brewing Company – “America’s First Craft Brewery” – ceased bottling the esteemed Anchor Steam label beer.


Artificial intelligence – arguably, the newest and best oxymoron of our times -- became the buzz this year, as analysts and pundits argued the praises or threat of the new technology. The emergence of AI somehow is prescient -- that “artificial” intelligence, no less, would rise from the debris of the Post-Truth Era trumped in and up by the pre-eminent fakery expert of these times.


In school, where intelligence is supposed to blossom, ACT scores fell again – hitting a 30-year low – with an average score of 19.5 out of 36. Nearly 45 percent of students started the school year below grade level in at least one subject, according to a federal survey that shows the ongoing toll of the pandemic.


Cryptocurrency king Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the FTX exchange, was convicted in November of

bilking billions from customers in one of the largest financial fraud cases ever. Proof that making a fast

buck of any variety can still be treacherous to one’s best interests.


Over at the pharmacy this year, diabetes drugs were being so heavily consumed off-label for weight loss

that some diabetics couldn’t fill their prescriptions. Obesity treatment – now, as a chronic health issue --

is changing the practice of medicine.


Meantime, union leaders and workers – actors and writers in Hollywood, at Las Vegas hotels and

casinos, at United Parcel Service, and among the Big 3 automakers -- realized contract gains not seen

before.


Suffering magnified across the globe beyond the effects of global warming and ongoing civil wars. Tolls

of Palestinians killed and displaced were staggering in retribution for the October 7 attack on Israel by

Hamas in the Gaza Territory. No end is in sight for this “Mideast conflict” as the year ends.


Ukraine, no longer with the certainty of U.S. military money and equipment, was deep into its second

year defending itself from Putin’s “strategic military operation.” Wagner Company paramilitary leader

Yevgeny Prigozhin and his commanders paid the price in August for confronting Vladimir Putin in a June

mutiny, as their plane not so mysteriously exploded in the skies over Russia.


Paradise was not left untouched, as a storm-whipped wildfire and fragile electrical grid combined in

August to torch the historic Hawaii capital of Lahaina, leaving 100 dead on the island of Maui.


The epidemic of gun violence reached eastern Europe and the Czech Republic in mid-December, with 14

killed by a lone gunman, a student at Charles University in old town Prague. That came two months

after a similar event in Lewiston, Maine left 18 dead and 13 injured in a mass shooting at a bowling alley

and restaurant.


While New York was taking the Trump Organization to task for fraudulently valuing its business holdings,

the IRS reported that unpaid taxes hit a record $688 billion in 2021, the largest shortfall ever. The

number includes $542 billion due to underreported income. Others didn’t file or pay their tax bills.


A certain taxpayer without a known name had a ticket that finally won $1.765 billion for a lucky

Powerball player and customer of Midway Market & Liquor in Frazier Park, 75 miles north of Los

Angeles.


As November was on the wane, within just a few days we lost Rosalynn Carter (Nov. 19, age 96), Henry

Kissinger (Nov. 29, age 100) and Sandra Day O’Connor (Nov. 30, age 93). Tina Turner, Tony Bennett, my

hero Brooks Robinson, and Matthew Perry also left us.


Thankfully, the GOP finally decided to say good riddance to the impostor New York “Representative”

George Santos on the first day of December. Kevin McCarthy was unceremoniously ousted as Speaker

of the House on October 3 after it had taken him 15 ballots in January to “win” the job.


While mega-entertainer Taylor Swift was everywhere, including Time magazine’s Person of the Year,

her Eras Tour grossed over $1 billion and its companion movie became a blockbuster. At year’s end,

streaming listeners had consumed her songs 26.1 billion times, according to Spotify. And if she didn’t

have enough fame, in September she added the National Football League Nation to her fan base by

making Kansas City Chief Travis Kelce her new tight end.


2023 would be “virtually certain” to go down as the hottest year in recorded history, the World

Meteorological Association reported at COP28, the United Nations Climate Summit in Dubai. The past

nine years have been the warmest time in 174 years of recorded scientific observation.


And finally, a favorite headline from 2023 arrived December 30 on Wonderwall.com:


"Trump brings McDonald's to court and more

of the best pictures from his civil fraud trial"

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