2024: Celebrations and Challenges on the Horizon

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The world’s population – now over eight billion – begins the new year with hopes of ending the high cost of living and global conflict.

In New York, thousands of onlookers attended the traditional descent of the famous crystal ball in Times Square, all lit up, while merchants sold vuvuzelas and hats stamped 2024. The police, deployed in the center of Manhattan, towed suspicious cars, set up a steel barrier to screen the crowd and monitored pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

In a television appearance before the New York celebrations, Democratic President Joe Biden expressed optimism for the US economy, recalled his taste for chocolate chip ice cream, praised his country’s resilience and announced the “return” of the American people.

Hours earlier, in Sydney, the self-proclaimed “New Year’s Eve capital of the world”, more than a million revelers invaded the harbor foreshore, with municipal authorities and police warning that all vantage points were occupied. The population gathered at all the city’s emblematic sites, despite an unusually humid climate, to admire Sydney Bay, the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House under the multicolored fireworks.

The pyrotechnics also lit up the skies of Auckland, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta and even Rio de Janeiro.

More than a million people gathered on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. A fireworks display above the Arc de Triomphe at midnight was the high point of the celebration, placed under the sign of the Olympic Games with numerous activities evoking the sporting event that the city will host next summer .

Surprise abdication in Denmark

In Denmark, during her traditional televised New Year’s speech, Queen Margrethe II, aged 83 and holder of the longevity record for a monarch in Europe, created a surprise by announcing her upcoming abdication in favor of her son, Prince Frederik.

Bars and restaurants on one of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv, Israel, were celebrating the New Year when sirens sounded, announcing rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at the city and its surroundings as well. than in southern Israel.

The attack on southern Israel took place at midnight (10 p.m. GMT) and that on Tel Aviv at 12:01 a.m. (10:01 p.m. GMT), according to AFP journalists. “I was terrified, it was the first time I saw missiles, it’s terrifying, this is the life we live, it’s crazy,” Gabriel Zemelman, 26, told AFP in front of a bar in Tel Aviv.

The year 2023 will be marked by the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israeli soil on October 7 – and by Israel’s relentless reprisals. The United Nations estimates that nearly two million Gaza residents have been displaced since the start of the siege imposed by Israel, or around 85% of the population.

“It was a dark year full of tragedy,” said Abed Akkawi, who fled the city with his wife and three children. This 37-year-old man, who now lives in a United Nations camp in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, says he lost his brother but he clings to meager hopes for 2024.

In Rio de Janeiro, thousands of people celebrated the New Year on Copacabana beach with fireworks and music with a symphony orchestra and performances by local pop, funk and samba stars . Over the past 12 months, the world has been overcome by the pink wave of “Barbie mania,” experienced an unprecedented proliferation of artificial intelligence tools and the world’s first entire eye transplant.

“Ravage” the Russian forces
India has become the most populous country in the world, taking the title from China. It was also the first country to land a spacecraft in the unexplored South Pole region of the Moon. The year 2023 was also the hottest year since records began in 1880, with a series of climate disasters hitting the planet, from Pakistan to the Horn of Africa to the Amazon basin.

In Ukraine, where the Russian invasion is approaching its second anniversary, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised in his New Year’s greetings on Sunday to “ravage” the Russian forces that invaded his country. “Next year, the enemy will suffer the ravages of our domestic production,” said Mr. Zelensky, assuring that Ukraine would have one million drones in its arsenal by 2024.

Some in Vladimir Putin’s Russia are tired of the conflict. “In the New Year, I would like the war to end, there to be a new president and a return to normal life,” says Zoya Karpova, a 55-year-old theater designer and resident of Moscow.

Russia ‘will never back down’

But Vladimir Putin remained defiant during his New Year’s Eve speech, vowing that Russia “will never back down”, praising front-line troops. He is the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin, and his name will once again appear on the ballot in March’s elections.

Few believe in the vote being completely free and fair, or expect him to lose. In Rome, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of conflicts around the world, citing the Ukrainians, the Palestinians and the Israelis, the people of Sudan and the “Rohingya martyrs” in Burma.

“At the end of the year, have the courage to ask yourself how many lives have been torn apart in armed conflicts, how many deaths,” declared the sovereign pontiff, aged 87, after the Angelus prayer on St. Peter’s Square.

In addition to the Russian elections, more than four billion people in total will be called to the polls, notably in the United Kingdom, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela and of course the States -United, where Joe Biden, 81, and Republican Donald Trump, 77, intend to face each other again next November.

This article is originally published on virgule.lu

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