December 2008 Current Events

Here are the key news events of the month organized into three categories: World News, U.S. News, and Business, Society, and Science News.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • India Says Pakistan Was Behind Terrorist Attack (Dec. 1): Indian officials say Pakistani militants carried out the brazen attack on several landmarks in Mumbai that killed 173 people. The accusation further strains an already tense relationship between the two countries. Indian and U.S. officials say they believe the militant Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba was involved. (Dec. 2): U.S. officials concur with India's accusation that Pakistani militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the attack in Mumbai. (Dec. 7): Pakistani troops raid a camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and arrest several militants, including Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the man officials suspect of organizing the attack. (Dec. 11): Pakistan officials detain Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the found of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and place him under house arrest.
  • Court Ruling Disbands Governing Party in Thailand (Dec. 2): The Constitutional Court rules that the governing People Power engaged in fraud during the 2007 elections. The decision forces Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from power and bans party members from politics for five years. The protesters ends their weeklong blockade of Suvarnaabhumi Intnerantional Airport. (Dec. 15): Parliament elects Abhisit Vejjajiva, the head of the Democrat Party, as prime minister.
  • Presidential Council Approves Iraqi Security Agreement (Dec. 4): The Presidencial Council, made up of Iraq's president and two vice presidents, gives final approval to the status of forces agreement that will govern the U.S. presence in Iraq through 2011.
  • Canada's Prime Minister Shuts Down Parliament (Dec. 4): Just seven weeks into his second term, Stephen Harper, in an attempt to stall a no-confidence vote, suspends Parliament until Janury 26, 2009. The move follows the formation of an alliance of three opposition parties, the centrist Liberals, the socialist New Democrats (NDP), and the separatist Bloc Québécois, which will have enough seats to oust Harper's Conservative Party.
  • Blackwater Security Guards Are Charged (Dec. 8): Five employees of Blackwater Worldwide are charged with 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. They were involved in the September 2007 shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. The incident strained the relationship between the governments of Iraq and the U.S.
  • Organizers of Sept. 11 Attacks Say They Will Plead Guilty (Dec. 8): Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected of being the mastermind of the attacks, and four codefendents tell the military judge at Guantanamo Bay that they want to confess to all charges of murder and war crimes. The judge, Col. Stephen Henley, tells prosecutors that they must report back on whether the suspects can be sentenced to death without being found guilty by a military jury.
  • Suicide Bomber Targets Meeting to Bridge Sectarian Divide (Dec. 11): Nearly 50 people are killed in the bombing at a restaurant in northern Iraq, where Kurdish leaders and members of the Sunni Awakening Councils were meeting to discuss ways to reduce tension in Kirkuk between Arabs and Kurds.
  • Former President of Taiwan Is Indicted (Dec. 12): Chen Shui-bian, who lost a reelection bid in March, is indicted on charges of corruption and money laundering. He is accused of pocketing millions in campaign funds. Several members of his family are also charged.
  • President of Somalia Fires Prime Minister (Dec. 14): President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed dismisses Nur Hassan Hussein, saying Hussein had "failed to accomplish his duties." It is not clear, however, if Yusuf has the authority to make such a move. (Dec. 15): Parliament passes, 143-20, a confidence vote in the government of Hussein. (Dec. 16): Despite the vote, President Yusuf appoints Muhammad Mahmud Guled Gamadhere as prime minister. Parliament balks at the move and overwhelmingly votes to endorse Hussein for a second time.
  • Journalist Throws Shoes at Bush (Dec. 14): At a news conference in Baghdad, a reporter for Al Baghdadia, a Cairo-based satellite television network, hurls his shoes at President Bush and calls him a "dog." The shoes narrowly miss Bush's head.
  • Rwandan Military Officer Found Guilty of Genocide (Dec. 18): A UN court convicts Col Theoneste Bagosora, a Hutu, of genocide for his involvement in the 1994 massacre of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. In 100 days, beginning in April 1994, Hutu rampaged through Rwanda and slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and their moderate Hutu sympathizers.
  • Military Launches a Coup in Guinea After Death of President (Dec. 22): Guinea’s despotic president, Lansana Conte, dies after 24 years in power. (Dec. 24): Junior army leaders launch a coup attempt. (Dec. 26): The coup succeeds. The African Union demands a return to constitutional rule, but Senegal’s president supports the new government, which is led by army captain Moussa Camara.
  • Israel Launches Airstrikes into Gaza (Dec. 28): Days after the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas expired, Hamas begins launching rocket attacks into Israel, which retaliates with airstrikes that killed about 300 people. Israel targets Hamas bases, training camps, and missile storage facilities.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Obama Formally Announces National Security Team and Other Cabinet Members (Dec. 1): President-elect Barack Obama introduces Sen. Hillary Clinton, his rival in the Democratic presidential primary, as his pick for Secretary of State. Other nominees include former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano as secretary of homeland security, and Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant, as national security adviser. Obama also says he will retain Robert M. Gates as secretary of defense. (Dec. 3): Obama announces that Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico, is his choice for Secretary of Commerce. Richardson also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Dec. 7): Obama selects Gen. Eric Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shortly before the U.S. launched the war in Iraq, Shinseki criticized the Pentagon plan for the war for not committing enough troops to the war and for not anticipating ethnic violence. (Dec. 11): Former senator Tom Daschle is named as Obama's choice as secretary of health and human services. (Dec. 13): Obama announces that he has selected Shaun Donovan to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Donovan served as deputy assistant secretary at HUD during the Clinton administration. (Dec. 15): Obama picks Nobel Prize-winner Steven Chu as energy secretary. (Dec. 16): Arne Duncan is nominated as education secretary. (Dec. 17): Tom Vilsack is selected as agriculture secretary and Ken Salazar as interior secretary. (Dec. 19): Obama nominates Hilda Solis as labor secretary and Ray LaHood as transportation secretary.
  • Illinois Governor Accused of Selling Obama's Senate Seat (Dec. 9): In several phone conversations with advisers that were recorded by the FBI since the Nov. 4, 2008, election, Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, plotted ways to benefit financially from his duty to fill Chicago's senate seat that was vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. He is arrested on corruption charges by the FBI, which had been recording his conversations as part of a separate corruption investigation. Obama, along with scores of other politicians, urge Blagojevich to resign. (Dec. 15): The Illinois state legislature votes to begin impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich. (Dec. 30): Blagojevich names Roland Burris, the former attorney general of Illinois, as Obama's successor. The move is widely criticized by several members of the Senate.
  • Congress Considers Bailout Package for Detroit Automakers (Dec. 10): The House votes, 237 to 170, in favor of a $14 billion rescue package that provides emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler. Both companies have said they cannot survive until the end of 2008 without financial assistance. The bill calls on the companies to restructure their businesses and submit to oversight by a car czar. (Dec. 11): Despite pleas from the Bush administration, the Senate fails to muster enough support to vote on the bill, thus killing it. (Dec. 19): President Bush hands the fate of carmakers to president-elect Barack Obama as he announces plans to lend General Motors and Chrysler $17.4 billion to survive the next three months. The loan, which Bush says would come with tough conditions to force the companies to restructure, means the president avoids having two of the country’s best-known manufacturers going bankrupt on his watch. (From the Financial Times.)
  • Bush Unveils $17.4 Billion Rescue of Auto Industry (Dec. 19): George W. Bush on hands the fate of carmakers to president-elect Barack Obama as he announces plans to lend General Motors and Chrysler $17.4bn to survive the next three months. The loan, which Bush says would come with tough conditions to force the companies to restructure, means the president avoids having two of the country’s best-known manufacturers going bankrupt on his watch. (From the Financial Times.)

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Dow Plunges Amid Report That Economy Is in Recession (Dec. 1): The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 680 points after the National Bureau of Economic Research announces that the U.S has been in recession since Dec. 2007 and the release of a report indicating that U.S. manufacturing has hit a 26-year low.
  • Unemployment Rate Increases Again (Dec. 5): The Labor Department reports that about 533,000 nonfarm jobs were lost in November, the highest number since 1974. The unemployment rate increases two-tenths of a point to 6.7%. In addition, the department revises the number of jobs lost in September and October, saying an additonal 199,000 positions were eliminated.
  • Fed Cuts Rates to a Record Low Rate (Dec. 16): As part of its continued attempts to control the recession and stabilize the economy, the Federal Reserve slashes interest rates from 1% to .25% to zero and signals it will also pump money into the economy.
  • Trader Arrested in Enormous Fraud (Dec. 11): Bernard Madoff, an investment manager, is charged with defrauding clients of as much as $50 billion in what might be the largest swindle in Wall Street history. Securities and Exchange Commission officials say he ran a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
  • Hedge Funds Gain Access to $200 Billion in Federal Aid (Dec. 19): Hedge funds will be allowed to borrow from the Federal Reserve for the first time under a landmark $200 billion program intended to support consumer credit. The Fed said it would offer low-cost three-year funding to any U.S. company investing in securitised consumer loans under the Term Asset-backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF). This includes hedge funds, which have never been able to borrow from the U.S. central bank before, although the Fed may not permit hedge funds to use offshore vehicles to conduct the transactions. (From the Financial Times.)

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