World population beyond 8 billion on New Year’s Day

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 29th December 2023

The world population grew by 75 million people over the past year and on New Year’s Day it will stand at more than 8 billion people, according to figures released by the US Census Bureau on Thursday. The worldwide growth rate in the past year was just under one per cent. At the start of 2024, 4.3 births and two deaths are expected worldwide every second, according to the Census Bureau figures. The top five most populous countries in the world are: China, with a population of 1,444,216,107; India: 1,393,409,038; the United States:  332,915,073; Indonesia: 284,986,087; and Pakistan, with a population of 233,500,636.

World population will, therefore, continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a much slower rate compared to the recent past. World population has doubled (100 per cent increase) in 40 years from 1959 (3 billion) to 1999 (6 billion). It is now estimated that it will increase by 50 per cent in the subsequent 40 years, to reach 9 billion by 2037. The latest world population projections indicate that world population will reach 9 billion in 2037, 10 billion persons in 2057, and 10.4 billion in 2100.

2023 produced the hottest 12 months in 125,000 years

Severe weather conditions brought turmoil across the world, impacting small towns and major cities, as storms, heatwaves, floods, and droughts claimed many lives and destroyed communities. Humans have just lived through what will go down as the hottest year in recorded history as the planet experienced heating at an unprecedented pace. Throughout 2023, records for the warmest temperatures around the world were broken one after the other. Hotter-than-normal temperatures could soon become the norm if fossil fuel extraction does not significantly decrease before 2030 – the next big deadline for many countries to meet their climate goals, according to climate scientists. Emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to keep global warming to no more than 1.5OC since Industrial Revolution temperatures – the threshold outlined in the 2015 UN Paris Agreement. “Climate change is here,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters during a news conference in July, amid scorching temperatures all over the planet. “It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning.”

Charles to “abdicate after peace deal” between William, Harry

King Charles III, who has forgiven Sarah Ferguson and also allowed his younger brother Prince Andrew to join the Royal Family during the Christmas walk, has seemingly made up his mind to give another chance to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to return to the royal fold. The 75-year-old monarch, according to an insider, will forgive the Duke and Duchess of Sussex before handing over the reign to his eldest son, 41-year-old Prince William, who’s heir apparent to the throne. “The monarch wants to bring Harry back to the family,” the sources have claimed. They added: “The King is trying his best to bring the entire family on the same page during his reign.  “If he succeeds in his mission to make peace between Harry and William, he will soon abdicate.” On the other hand, a royal expert has claimed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would have to say “sorry” to bury the hatchet with the Royal Family.

Maine also blocks Trump from primary ballot

Maine’s Secretary of State has barred Donald Trump from competing in the Republican primary there, finding that he engaged in insurrection when his supporters stormed the US Capitol on 6th January 2021, and should be disqualified as a candidate for the Presidency. The decision by Shenna Bellows came nine days after the highest court in Colorado reached a similar conclusion. But it was the first time an election official has sought to remove Trump as a candidate.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected an attempt to disqualify Trump from the 2024 ballot, according to a court document. The ruling in Michigan starkly contrasts a decision handed down last week by the Colorado Supreme Court that disqualified the former President from serving as President and removed him from the Colorado primary ballot, with a 4–3 majority of judges. However, some analysts have suggested that the US Supreme Court would overturn the ruling as Trump hasn’t been charged with either rebellion or insurrection in any jurisdiction. Activists have asked state election officials across the country to remove Trump from their states’ primary ballots.

Hong Kong activist Tony Chung asks for political asylum in UK

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Tony Chung, the youngest person to be jailed under China’s national security law, is in the UK, where he has requested political asylum. In 2021, Chung, then 20, became the youngest person to be jailed under the Security Law after pleading guilty to “secession” and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. According to the Washington Post, he was released early for good behaviour. The activist said he “arrived safely in the UK and formally applied for political asylum upon entry”, according to a statement published on Facebook this morning, Friday, but dated 27th December. Beijing imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, after months of violent pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.

Photo: TONY CHUNG/FACEBOOK

Venezuela protests UK’s sending of warship to Guyana

The Venezuelan government has described the visit of HMS Trent, a British patrol ship, to Guyana as “an act of hostile provocation” and said that in response it would begin its own military exercises in the Atlantic. HMS Trent is due in Guyana in the next few days as a show of support for the former British colony amid tensions with Venezuela, its neighbour, over a historic border dispute. President Maduro of Venezuela said his armed forces would initiate military exercises codenamed ‘Domingo Antonio Sifontes 2023’, which will include the deployment of combat jets, anti-aircraft defence systems, and naval warships.

“Maritime alliance is part of the coalition of evil” – Hezbollah,

Hezbollah defined the US-led Western maritime alliance, “created to protect Israel’s interests in the Red Sea” and international trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, as a “coalition of evil”. To a crowd of followers in Lebanon, the number two of the pro-Iranian armed party, Sheikh Naim Qassem, said: “It is necessary to form a common front against the coalition of evil represented by America, Israel, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Germany with the good coalition of anti-Israeli resistance forces in Palestine, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, and Iraq.”

Photo: Hussein Malla/AP Photo

Hamas delegation due in Cairo to discuss Egyptian ceasefire plan

A delegation of Hamas officials is scheduled to travel to Cairo today, Friday, to give its “observations” about an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire that would end the war in Gaza, a Hamas official told the AFP news agency. According to the report, the plan was put last week to officials of Hamas and Islamic Jihad when leaders of both groups visited the Egyptian capital. Sources close to Hamas say Cairo’s three-stage plan provides for renewable pauses, a staggered release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and ultimately a ceasefire to end the war sparked by the deadly 7th October attack on Israel, AFP reported. It also provides for a Palestinian government of technocrats after talks involving “all Palestinian factions”, which would be responsible for governing and rebuilding in post-war Gaza.

Photo: AP

“Death toll in Gaza rises to 21,320” – Hamas

The death toll in Gaza has risen to 21,320 since Israel began hitting the Strip in October. Hamas’ Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said 55,603 people were injured in the same period.

Hundreds demonstrate in Tel Aviv against the war in Gaza

Hundreds of people participated yesterday evening in Tel Aviv in a protest against the war in Gaza. The participants, led by the ‘Standing Together’ group, called for an end to the fighting, the release of the abductees held by Hamas, and the end of the occupation. “The pictures of the wide-eyed children, the sightless ones who have returned from captivity, or those who are still imprisoned in dark tunnels. And next to them, those orphans from Khan Yunis, Gaza, Deir al-Balah, and the other cities of the Gaza Strip, haunt me,” said a leading member of ‘Standing Together’, Jadir Hani. “The cycle of bloodshed can end. But it depends on what we do. We must not lose hope. We must not surrender to hatred.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of young Israelis from communities adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip demonstrated on Thursday night outside the Knesset, calling for the release of the dozens of hostages being held by Hamas. The rally came at the end of a five-day march from ‘Hostages Square’ in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Ukrainian grain ship hits Russian mine

A civilian cargo ship struck a Russian mine in the Black Sea near Ukraine’s Danube ports on Thursday, officials and analysts said, in an incident that underscored the dangers faced by those exporting Ukrainian grain during the war. The Panama-flagged vessel struck the floating mine during stormy weather as it went to pick up grain, according to Ukraine’s Southern Defence Forces, adding that churning seas often increase the risk from mines. Two sailors were reportedly injured. Russia’s attempts to control the flow of critically-important grain through Ukrainian ports have been a key part of its war strategy.

Photo: Press service of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

Mexico says US agrees to keep border crossings open

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said yesterday that visiting US officials had agreed to keep legal border crossings open, following discussions aimed at addressing surging migration. Lopez Obrador met for more than two hours with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top US officials. “There’s more and more movement on the border, on the bridges, and that’s why we must be careful so that the crossings are not closed. That agreement was reached,” Lopez Obrador told reporters.

Teen killed in shark attack off Australia’s coast

A 15-year-old boy was killed by a shark attack in the waters off Australia’s south coast. Police said the body was pulled from the water after the attack, near Ethel Beach in the Innes National Park on the Yorke Peninsula – an area which is a popular spot for surfing. Police said the teenager may have been swimming between 100 and 130 feet from shore. The attack follows the death in May of a 46-year-old mauled by a shark at Walkers Rocks Beach on Eyre Peninsula. A 55-year-old Australian was killed by a shark in late October.

Stowaway in landing gear of Algeria flight to Paris

A man believed to be in his 20s was discovered yesterday hidden in the landing gear compartment of a commercial aircraft that flew into Paris from Algeria with severe hypothermia but alive, French authorities said. The man was found during technical checks after the Air Algerie flight from Oran, Algeria, landed at Paris’s Orly airport in mid-morning. He had no ID on him, and was taken to hospital in a life-threatening condition. Commercial aircraft cruise at 30,000 to 40,000 feet altitude where temperatures typically drop to around -50°C, and a lack of oxygen makes survival unlikely for anyone travelling in a landing gear compartment, which is neither heated nor pressurised.

L’Oréal heiress becomes the first woman with a $100 billion fortune

Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, the heiress to the L’Oréal beauty empire, has become the first woman in the world to be worth over $100 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bettencourt Meyers’ fortune crossed the $100 billion mark thanks to a rise in L’Oréal S.A. stock, which hit a record high on Thursday, after which her net worth reached $100.1 billion. The 70-year-old and her family hold a stake of about 35% in L’Oréal, which makes them the largest shareholders in the company founded by her grandfather in 1909. Bettencourt Meyers inherited tens of billions of dollars, as well as assets such as mansions, when her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, died in 2017. The two had been embroiled in a family feud over her inheritance.

Sydney Council tells residents: freeze Christmas food waste

A local council in Sydney, Australia, has told residents to put Christmas food waste in the freezer before putting it in the bin on collection day. The Inner West Council posted a video on social media advising residents to chuck prawns and waste in the freezer to stop smells from the bin. The council’s advice was not well-received by ratepayers, who have been voicing their dissatisfaction with the new waste collection schedule since it was implemented last October. The change to a fortnightly collection was intended to reduce environmental impact and costs, but it has instead led to a surge in complaints from residents who are struggling to manage their waste effectively. Green waste bins for organic waste are still being picked up weekly, but the Council has offered to do an extra bin collection if residents call and ask for it.

Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Main photo: DSD

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