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The Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by Yemen's Houthis last month, is seen off the coast of al-Salif, Yemen, December 5, 2023.

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Hard Numbers: Migrant boat capsizes off Yemen coast, US banana giant found liable for murders, EU stocks up on bird flu vaccines, “Pink slime” crisis in America

49: At least 49 people are confirmed dead, and 140 are missing after a boat carrying migrants sank off the coast of Yemen. The vessel was carrying roughly 260 people, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, to Yemen, where they would have continued the treacherous onward journey to the wealthy Gulf kingdoms in search of work. Despite being wracked by a brutal, decade-long civil war, Yemen is a major immigration route, with some 380,000 migrants in the country right now.
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A US-Canada border crossing and monument.

Reuters

The United States has another border crisis – with Canada

Former Republican nominee hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was mocked for his proposal during one GOP debate to build border walls with Mexico and Canada.

The problems at the southern border are well-documented. In January, US Border Patrol reported 124,200 encounters with migrants trying to enter the country illegally – and that is a 50% drop from previous months. It is an issue that may cost Joe Biden the election: A Pew Research poll suggested 80% of those surveyed think he is doing a bad job at handling the migrant influx.

Less well-known is that northern border states like Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire are reporting their highest rates of illegal migration in years. Canada is seen as a stepping stone to the US by human smuggling organizations – and it has the added benefit of no border walls or razor wire.

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GZERO 2023 music playlist

It was a bumpy year, so bump and groove your way into the New Year with our 2023 playlist! We scoured the charts from Buenos Aires to Beijing for songs that captured the zeitgeist, from Ice Spice to Fela Kuti — and make you wanna boogie.



Playlist tracks

Inflation - “Expensive shit” by Fela Kuti

French protests – “Paris is a bitch” by Biga*Ranx

West African coups - “Soldier Take Over” by Yellowman

Milei elected - “Desesperada” by Sara Hebe

European migration - “Desaparecido” by Manu Chao

Politics in general - “Liar’s Dub” by Max Romeo

Climate change failure - “Sogno otro mundo” by Apres la classe and Manu Chao

Struggle between Mexico government and drug cartels - “La People” by Peso Pluma

Nigerian election - “I Told Them” by Burna Boy

Xi Jinping wins historic third term as Chinese president - “Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat

25th anniversary of Good Friday agreement - “Jackie Down the Line” by Fontaines DC

War in Ukraine - “Heart of Steel” by Tvorchi

Power Barbie - “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice

George Santos - “Banned in DC” by Bad Brains

UAW/SAG strikes - “Never Cross a Picket Line” by Billy Bragg

China economic weakness - “Made in China” by Higher Brothers and Famous Dex

Ukraine - “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush

Rise of AI - “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1” by The Flaming Lips

Colombia’s new drug policy – “Don’t Sniff Coke” by Pato Banton

US telling on India for killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar – “Exposing me Remix” by FBG Duck

Elon Musk unravels – “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies

Chinese spy balloon – “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell

Biden-Xi meeting – "Bad Idea Right" by Olivia Rodrigo

The Black Sea grain deal – "Is It Over Now? (Taylor's Version) by Taylor Swift

Biden runs for president (again) – “Never Gonna Give You Up” – By Rick Astley

Putin survives Prigozhin revolt -- "Houdini" by Dua Lipa

Putin to Lukashenko – “Lil Boo Thang” by Paul Russell

North Korea fires more missiles for attention – “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling

2023's biggest winners and losers in global politics

THE WINNERS

Putin

To be fair, things aren’t great for Vladimir Putin – NATO is still stronger, and his economy is weaker than it’d be if he hadn’t invaded Ukraine. But from a low bar, 2023 was a clear winner for the Russian strongman. Ukraine’s vaunted counteroffensive failed to impress, Western attempts to cap the price of Russian oil faltered, and even an insurrection by his warlord-in-chief only seemed to make him stronger. Putin heads into 2024 happily watching the US Congress squabble over further aid for Ukraine, and who knows, next Christmas might just come early for the Kremlin if Donald Trump can win the US election in November.

Trump

Speaking of which, at the top of this year, the twice-impeached Teflon Don looked like he’d be getting fitted for a prison jumpsuit rather than filing campaign papers. But the bevy of state and federal legal cases against him – some of which were hard for non-lawyers to make sense of – only fired up his base. As a result, he’s not only miles ahead of any GOP challengers for the 2024 nomination, some polls also show him outright leading Joe Biden, who has suffered with voters because of perceptions of his age, inflation, a migration crisis at the southern border, and his controversial handling of the Gaza war.

India

This year, India eclipsed China as the world’s most populous country, defended its title as the fastest-growing major economy, and even landed a spacecraft on the moon. At the same time, PM Narendra Modi used his country’s 2023 presidency of the G20 and his deepening ties with the US to position himself as a vitally important diplomatic bridge-builder between the wealthy G7 countries and the developing nations of the so-called Global South. Popular at home, increasingly influential abroad, and with a flag on the moon to boot, Modi – who faces elections in 2024 – has guided his country to a winner of a year.

Nicolás Maduro

It was a feliz 2023 indeed for the strongman of Caracas. Most of the world quietly stopped supporting his erstwhile rival Juan Guaidó (remember him?), and rising global oil prices forced Washington to rethink its financial stranglehold on Caracas, offering oil sanctions relief in exchange only for some spotty promises that Maduro will hold a free and fair presidential election next year (fat chance.) By the end of 2023, an emboldened Maduro was even feeling frisky enough to threaten to invade his neighbor Guyana.

People willing to play Golf in Saudi Arabia

At first, it seemed inconceivable. Surely the whispers about Saudi Arabia offering golfers hundred-million-dollar contracts to defect to the desert were just fairway gossip, right? But Riyadh made it real when the Saudi-backed upstart LIV Golf absorbed the 107-year-old PGA Golf Tour in June. Critics said the Saudis were just “sportswashing” away an awful human rights record, but supporters said it was time to bust the PGA’s stuffy old monopoly. Meanwhile, the greens look even greener as prize money grows, and even the last-place finishers in LIV tournaments can take home $120,000!

THE LOSERS

AI Cassandras

In March, Elon Musk and a group of artificial intelligence leaders published an open letter warning that AI systems posed “profound risks to society and humanity” and called for a “public and verifiable” six-month pause in “the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

It didn’t happen. Increasingly complex and powerful AI systems may indeed pose existential dangers for the human race (alongside their tremendous benefits), but a global pause in any form of technological progress – let alone one this pervasive, powerful, or flat-out entertaining – is impossible to enforce. For the Ancient Greeks, it was Cassandra’s fate to be ignored. But wasn’t it also her destiny to be correct? 2024 will be a huge year for AI.

Benjamin Netanyahu

The wily rightwinger returned to power in Israel late 2022 despite his ongoing legal troubles, but it’s been downhill since. All summer, he faced massive protests over his plan to weaken Israel’s courts. Then, the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust occurred on his watch, prompting fierce domestic criticism of the failures of intelligence and strategy that enabled Hamas to attack on Oct. 7. Israeli society broadly supports Bibi’s stated aims of defanging Hamas and bringing home the hostages (two goals that may in fact be in conflict), but a majority of Israelis still want him to resign.

Migrants on the move

This year the political winds began to shift swiftly against migrants and asylum seekers seeking new lives in the world’s leading economies. In the EU, the number of migrants neared levels not seen since the Syrian refugee crisis in 2016, boosting anti-immigrant politicians and forcing the EU to tighten asylum rules in a long-debated migration policy reform. Meanwhile, in the US, record numbers of undocumented migrants crossed the southern border, empowering Republicans in Congress to hold up funding for Ukraine for tighter border policies. Expect tough talk on migration to play well in the EU Parliament elections next June and the US presidential election in November.

Imran Khan

The hugely popular former Pakistani Prime Minister – who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2022 – went from looking like he might sweep back to power in elections this year to being locked up in prison, forced to use an AI replica to get his message out. He was imprisoned in August on corruption charges that he and his followers say are bogus, and the elections that were supposed to return him to power were postponed until next year. His legal troubles may keep him off the ballot entirely. Still, he remains an immensely potent force in Pakistani politics, making a 2024 comeback impossible to rule out.

People who opposed coups in Africa

On the heels of coups last year in Mali and Burkina Faso, this year saw governments deposed in both Niger and Gabon. Niger’s democratically-elected government was overthrown by soldiers from the presidential guard in July. Similarly, Gabon military officers seized power in August, unseating the longtime president shortly after he was declared the winner of a contested election. The recent coups come amid a larger trend of increasingly frequent coups in the region – nine over the past three years – which have harmed economic well-being and raised concerns about regional security.

​The very biggest losers: Anyone who didn’t subscribe to the GZERO Daily Newsletter

A no-brainer right here. Anyone who wasn’t getting the Daily in 2023 lost out on the best daily dose of global politics that’s out there – delivered right to your inbox with insight, kindness, and humor. The good news is you can still subscribe – sign up here, and you’ll already be a 2024 winner before the year has even begun!


Scene of the terrorist knife attack near the Bir Hakeim bridge and Quai de Grenelle, where one German tourist was killed, and two others were injured in Paris late Saturday.

Jeremy Paoloni/ABACAPRESS.COM

Hard Numbers: Deadly terror attack in Paris, troubled South China Sea waters, migrants in English Channel, COP28 methane plans, twins for 70-year-old mom

3: A 26-year-old French national who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State attacked three people near the Eiffel Tower in Paris late Saturday, killing a German tourist and leaving two others, including a British man, wounded. President Emmanuel Macron called the incident "a terrorist attack."

135: More than 135 Chinese vessels “swarmed” the Julian Felipe reef off the coast of the Philippines in the South China Sea on Sunday. China and the Philippines have been involved in an increasing number of such incidents, as China aggressively asserts its claim to the sea under its so-called nine-dash line.

190: French authorities rescued 190 migrants off the coast of Calais in northern France over the weekend. The migrants were trying to cross the English Channel on dinghies to reach Britain, but authorities did not specify from which country the migrants had originally come.

30: At this week’s COP28 meeting in the UAE, the Biden administration unveiled final rules aimed at reducing the US oil and gas industry’s release of methane to help in the fight against climate change. Nations attending the summit had to detail how they will cut methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030.

70:A 70-year-old Ugandan woman has become the oldest woman in Africa to give birth. Safina Namukwaya delivered a boy and a girl on Wednesday by cesarean section after conceiving through IVF. Born at 34 weeks' gestation, the babies are healthy and weigh 2 kilograms each. They were Namukwaya’s second delivery in three years, following the birth of a girl in 2020.
Luisa Vieira

The Graphic Truth: Where immigrants to US & Canada come from

When it comes to immigration policies, Canada and the United States often go in opposite directions. Ottawa’s per capita total towers over Washington’s – 1.05 to 0.30 – because it strategically positions immigration as a cornerstone of its economic growth plan. In short, it bolsters the labor force.

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Eritrean asylum seekers clash with police during a demonstration in Tel Aviv.

dpa via Reuters Connect

Eritrean riot fuels Bibi backlash

Over 150 people were injured, eight seriously, during violent clashes between hundreds of Eritrean migrants in Tel Aviv, Israel, over the weekend. Protesters breached police barriers, smashing storefronts, car windows, and an event set-up at the Eritrean embassy. Riot police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and at least 30 officers were injured in battles with demonstrators. Thirty-nine suspects, including some found to be carrying weapons, tear gas, and an electrical stun gun, were arrested.

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NewSouth Bookstore in Montgomery, Ala., displays books that have been banned by some schools, including "Charlotte's Web" and "Captain Underpants."

USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Hard Numbers: Books attacked, Trump trial looms, migrant children drown off Greece, Evergrande crisis deepens, redheads celebrate

21: With the US culture wars raging, requests to remove specific books from library shelves surged last year to the highest level in 21 years, according to the American Library Association. There were more than 1,000 such requests, with books about LGBTQ themes the most targeted.
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