Spy Balloons, Earthquakes, and Train Derailments: A Look Back at February’s Biggest Stories

February may be the shortest month, but February 2023 had no shortage of major news stories.


February may be the shortest month, but February 2023 had no shortage of major news stories. From the Chinese spy balloon saga to devastating earthquakes to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, here’s the biggest stories from February.

  1. With Tech and Military Bases, the US & Allies Are Working to Counter Growing Threat from China (February 1)
  • The month began with the Biden administration announcing a series of new actions to counter the rising threat of China including joint U.S.-Japan-Netherlands export controls on chip-making equipment, closer ties with the Philippines and crackdowns on U.S. sales to Huawei.
  • Update: South Korea’s newly announced plan to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work for Japanese companies during Japanese colonial rule was quickly hailed as a new sign of closer ties between Japan and South Korea. This plan is yet another signal that old regional rivalries are fading in the face of the regional threat of the Chinese Communist Party.
  1. A Feisty Biden is Heckled by House Republicans at a Rowdy State of the Union (February 8)
  • President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address to Congress was a rowdy 73-minute stemwinder largely focused on domestic issues, punctuated by heckling and jeers from House Republicans.
  • Update: Biden’s lively address helped quiet whispers within the Democratic Party that the octogenarian commander-in-chief should not seek reelection – for a time. As the Associated Press reported on March 5, just 37 percent of Democrats want Biden to seek reelection.
  1. Time is Running Out for Earthquake Survivors in Turkey and Syria (February 9)
  • Twin earthquakes devastated Turkey and Syria at the beginning of February, leaving thousands of people dead in the wake of the horrific disaster.
  • Update: The death toll from the earthquakes has climbed to 53,000 people, with 45,000 fatalities confirmed in Turkey and an additional 8,400 in Syria. The ancient city of Antakya – once Roman Antioch – was “obliterated” in the disaster.
  1. Inflation Crisis: Fallout from Spy Balloon Incident Contributes to Rising Tensions Between US and China (Feb. 5); Fourth Aerial Object Shot Down Over Lake Huron, Leaving More Questions than Answers (Feb. 13)
  • U.S.-China relations have been further strained by the spy balloon incident, while the Biden administration is under fire from Republicans for allowing the balloon to fly across the continental United States before shooting it down. The U.S. shot down a third unidentified aerial object on Sunday, marking the fourth shootdown in North America since a Chinese spy balloon was shot down on Feb. 8.
  • Update: Days after the fourth shootdown, the U.S. called off the search for the unidentified aerial objects shot down over Alaska and the Great Lakes. We may never know what the U.S. shot down during those trigger-happy days in February.
  1. Dianne Feinstein’s Retirement Kicks Off a Democratic Free-For-All for California Senate (Feb. 15)
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Senate’s oldest member and the longest-serving woman in Senate history, announced she would not seek reelection in 2024, kicking off a Democratic free-for-all in deep-blue California.
  • Update: Three House Democrats – Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee – have jumped in the race to succeed Feinstein. The Senate election in populous, solidly Democratic California appears set to be a high-spending contest between three flavors of progressive Democrats.
  1. Nikki Haley Announces 2024 Presidential Campaign Centered on Generational Change (Feb. 16)
  • Nikki Haley launched her 2024 presidential campaign with a speech in South Carolina centered on generational change away from the “faded names of the past.”
  • Update: Haley’s call for mental competency tests for politicians over 75 (read: Trump and Biden) earned her nascent campaign media attention and a rebuke from First Lady Jill Biden. Haley’s campaign also benefitted from misogynistic criticism from CNN anchor Don Lemon in the days after she announced.
  1. Founder James O’Keefe Removed as Project Veritas CEO by Board of Directors (Feb. 20)
  • James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, a conservative investigative nonprofit known for hidden camera stings, announced he had been removed as CEO by the group’s board in a video posted online Monday.
  • Update: O’Keefe made a public appearance at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference. O’Keefe framed his ouster as a penalty for his “unique, often-criticized brand of journalism” and used his address to focus on his latest investigation into Pfizer.
  1. Biden Visits Kyiv Ahead of War’s One-Year Anniversary, Pledges ‘Unwavering Support’ (Feb. 21)
  • President Joe Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv, pledging America’s “unwavering support” for Ukraine in a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky. “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden stated at a joint press conference with Zelensky at Mariinsky Palace. “And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
  • Update: As the war enters year two, Ukraine and Russia are locked in a war of attrition along the main front in eastern Ukraine. The battle for Bakhmut continues to rage as time of reporting.
  1. The Censoring of Roald Dahl (Feb. 22)
  • The estate of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl decided to censor his popular children’s books by making hundreds of changes to his works related to “gender, race, and physical appearance.”
  • Update: Despite criticism from across the literary world and even the U.K. Prime Minister, the estate plans to go forward with the rewritten books. Owners of Roald Dahl e-books have reported that their eBooks have been automatically updated without permission and replaced with the censored versions.
  1. Pete Buttigieg Pays a Belated Visit to East Palestine Three Weeks After Train Derailment (Feb. 24)
  • Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine on Thursday, three weeks after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and spilled toxic chemicals near the northeast Ohio town.
  • Update: Cleanup continues in East Palestine. Norfolk Southern recently announced it would pay to relocate residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania during the cleanup process. Meanwhile, The Hill reported Buttigieg’s cabinet gig has become a “political nightmare” for the ambitious ex-mayor of Indiana’s fourth largest city.

11. Scott Adams Says Too Much: ‘Dilbert’ Comic Strip Dropped by Hundreds of Newspapers After Creator’s Remarks About Race (Feb. 27)

  • The long-running Dilbert comic strip, famous for poking fun at office culture, was dropped by its distributor and hundreds of U.S. newspapers after creator Scott Adams made remarks about race that many outlets from left, right, and center described as racist.
  • Update: “I shook the box intentionally. I did not realize how hard I shook it,” Adams told the Washington Post days after the controversy. Adams refused to apologize for his comments.

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© Dominic Moore, 2023