August 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

  • Policemen Are Killed in Terrorist Attack in China (Aug. 4): Chinese officials say two members of the East Turkestan Independence Movement, a Muslim group based in western China, drive a truck into a group of police officers who were jogging, then throw explosives and stab them. Sixteen police officers die and another 16 are wounded. The attack raises concerns about the upcoming Summer Games.
  • Military Officers Stage a Coup in Mauritania (Aug. 6): The top four military leaders depose Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar and President Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheik Abdallahi in a bloodless coup. Some of the same military leaders were involved in the 2005 coup that brought Abdallahi to power. In recent months, the country's legislature has criticized Abdallahi's handling of rising food prices and accused the government of corruption.
  • Iraqi Parliament Fails to Pass Election Law (Aug. 6): The failure to pass the law will likely force the postponement of provisional elections that were scheduled for October. Hopes dim that provincial elections will be held in 2008. The elections are seen as vital to moving Iraqi's rival ethnic groups toward reconciliation. Kurds dominate the city, which also has a large population of Turkmens and Arabs, and have resisted any attempts to dilute their control through a power-sharing plan.
  • Suspect Convicted in First Military Trial at Guantánamo (Aug. 6): Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was Osama bin Laden's driver, is convicted of providing material support for terrorism. He's acquitted, however, of the more serious charge of conspiracy. It is the first military trial held at Guantánamo. (Aug. 7): Hamdan is sentenced to 66 months in prison, of which he has already served 61 He may, however, spend more time in jail, as the Bush administration has the authority to imprison detainees during the war on terror.
  • Violence Breaks Out in Breakaway Region in Georgia (Aug. 7): Fighting breaks out after Georgian soldiers attack South Ossetia, a breakaway enclave in Georgia that won de facto independence in the early 1990s. Separatists in South Ossetia retaliate, and about a dozen troops and civilians die in the battles. Fighting between the two sides has been sporadic since Mikheil Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in 2004 and sought to resume control over the region. (Aug. 8): Russia enters the fray, with troops and tanks pouring into South Ossetia to support the region. (Aug. 9 and 10): Russia intensifies its involvement, moving troops into Abkhazia, another breakaway region, and launching airstrikes at Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. In addition, Russian airstrikes in Gori, Georgia, kill about 1,500 civilians. The fighting prompts thousands of people in South Ossetia to flee their homes. (Aug. 11): Russian troops enter Georgian territory and briefly take control of a military base in Senaki. (Aug. 12): Russian president Medvedev orders an end to military action in Georgia, although sporadic fighting continues. Saakashvili also says he will withdraw Georgian troops. Leaders of EU nations, the United States, and NATO have warned Russia to end the conflict in Georgia. (Aug. 13): France brokers a deal between Russia and Georgia that calls on both sides to end the fighting and use of force, open routes in the battle areas for the flow of humanitarian aid, and withdraw troops to the positions they held before the conflict. Later in the day, President Bush sends U.S. troops on a humanitarian mission to Georgia. He also warns Russia that if it doesn't observe the cease-fire, the country risks its standing in "the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century." In addition, Russian tanks occupy Gori, a strategic town 40 miles from Tbilisi, and hundreds of Russian soldiers cross the border into South Ossetia. (Aug. 14): Poland, after months of stalling, agrees to allow the United States to install an antimissile system on its soil. The move by Poland is seen as a strategic one intended to defend itself from the threat of a similar incursion by Russia and to establish closer ties with the West. Russia says that Poland now risks retaliation. (Aug. 16): Russian president Dmitri Medvedev signs a revised cease-fire, but Russian troops remain in Georgia. Georgia demands that a provision in the original agreement be amended to allow only those Russian peacekeepers who were in Georgia before the hostilities began to remain. The deal is tentative at best. (Aug. 19): Russian troops slowly begin to withdraw from Georgia. (Aug. 20): U.S. Secretary of State Condelezza Rice and Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski sign a deal in Warsaw for an American missile-defense base in Poland. Rice stresses that the missile system, which is scheduled to be in operation by 2012, is "defensive and aimed at no one." (Aug. 26): Russian president Medvedev unilaterally recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent regions. The U.S. and its allies denounce the decision. (Aug. 29): Russia and Georgia sever diplomatic ties from each other. It is the first time Russia has cut off formal relations with one of its former republics, which gained independence in 1991.
  • Pakistan Government Seeks to Impeach Musharraf (Aug. 7): The governing coalition, led by Asif Ali Zardari, of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, says it will "immediately initiate impeachment proceedings" against President Pervez Musharraf on charges of violating the constitution and misconduct. The charges stem from his actions in November 2007, when he suspended the country's constitution and fired Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the other judges on the supreme court. (Aug. 18): Musharraf resigns as president. "Not a single charge can be proved against me," he says, adding that he was stepping down to put the country's interests above "personal bravado." Muhammad Mian Soomro, the chairman of the senate, is named acting president. (Aug. 25): Nawaz Sharif withdraws his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, from the governing coalition, saying he could no longer work with Asif Ali Zardari. He says Zardari went back on pledges to restore Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to his role as chief justice of the supreme court and to work with Sharif to select a presidential candidate. Instead, Zardari says he will run.
  • Bolivian President Survives Recall Referendum (Aug. 10): Evo Morales wins 63.5% of the vote, which was an attempt by Podemos, an opposition party, to remove him from office. Morales has garnered criticism from some lowland provinces for his policies, including the acceptance of financing from Venezuela.
  • Al-Qaeda Increases Its Strength and Threat (Aug.12 ): Ted Gistaro, the U.S. government's senior terrorism analyst, says that by forging closer ties to Pakistani militants, al-Qaeda is more capable of launching an attack in the United States than it was a year ago. The Pakistani militants have given al-Qaeda leaders safe haven in remote areas to train recruits.
  • Several Lebanese Soldiers Are Killed in Bombing (Aug. 13): A bomb left on the street explodes and tears through a bus carrying Lebanese troops, killing 15 people, nine of them soldiers. No one claims responsibility for the attack, but some think the bombing may be in retaliation for the army's 2007 fighting against an al-Qaeda linked Islamist group in Tripoli.
  • Shiite Pilgrims Are Targeted in Several Attacks (Aug. 14-16): About two dozen worshippers are killed in three separate attacks as they make their way toward Karbala to celebrate the birthday of 9th-century imam Muhammad al-Mahdi. Iraqi officials blame al-Qaeda in Iraq for the attacks.
  • Nepal Elects Maoist Prime Minister (Aug. 15): Nepal's Constituent Assembly elects Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, over Sher Bahadur Deuba, a member of the Nepali Congress Party who served as prime minister three times. In a compromise, the Maoists say they will not hold posts in the party’s armed faction and will return private property it seized from opponents.
  • Taliban Launches Major Attack in Afghanistan (Aug. 18 and 19): As many as 15 suicide bombers backed by about 30 militants attack a U.S. military base, Camp Salerno, in the eastern province of Khost. Fighting between U.S. troops and members of the Taliban rages overnight. No U.S. troops are killed. In another brazen attack, 10 French paratroopers are killed and more than 20 are wounded in an ambush by about 100 militants about 30 miles east of Kabul.
  • Dozens Die in Blasts in Algeria (Aug. 19): At least 43 people are killed when a suicide bomber drives an explosives-laden car into a police academy in Issers, a town in northern Algeria. (Aug. 20): Car bombs explode at a military command and a hotel in Bouira, killing a dozen people. No group takes responsibility for either attack, Algerian officials say they suspect Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is behind the bombings.
  • Taliban Launches Double Suicide Bombing in Pakistan (Aug. 21): More than 60 people are killed in a twin suicide bombing at the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, a complex of 16 buildings in the town of Wah that employs 20,000. The Taliban says the attack is in retaliation for the military's recent campaign against militants in the region of Bajaur.
  • Iraq and the U.S. Agrees on Timeframe for Troop Pullout (Aug. 22): The U.S. says it will withdraw combat troops from Iraqi cities by June 2009, followed by the removal of all combat troops by the end of 2011 as long as Iraq is stable and secure. The draft deal is part of a security pact that governs U.S. involvement in Iraq.
  • Coalition Airstrike Kills Dozens of Civilians in Afghanistan (Aug. 22): As many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, die in an attack in the western village of Azizabad. It is one of the deadliest airstrikes since the war began in 2001, and the deadliest for civilians. The U.S. military refutes the figures, which were confirmed by the UN, claiming that the airstrike was in response to an attack by militants and killed five civilians and as many as 25 members of the Taliban.
  • Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Elected Speaker of Parliament (Aug. 25): Lovemore Moyo, of the Movement for Democratic Change, is elected to the powerful post of speaker of parliament, 110 to 98, prevailing over the candidate of President Robert Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF.
  • North Korea Announces It Has Stopped Disabling Nuclear Reactor (Aug. 26): The country says that it will also resume work at the complex in Yongbyon unless the United States removes North Korea from its list of nations sponsoring terrorism. The U.S. says that North Korea will remain on the list until it gives inspectors access to locations suspected of being nuclear sites.
  • China and Iraq Sign Oil Contract (Aug. 28): As part of the $3 billion deal, the China National Petroleum Corporation will provide Iraq with technical advisers, workers, and equipment to develop the Ahdab oil field. If approved by Iraq's cabinet, it will be the first foreign oil contract implemented by Iraq since 2003. China will not share in profits derived from production of oil from the field.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Edwards Admits to Having an Affair (Aug. 8): Former senator John Edwards, a Democrat from North Carolina who ran for president in 2004 and dropped out of the 2008 race in January, says he had an affair in 2006 with Rielle Hunter, a videographer who worked on his campaign. He denies, however, that he is the father of her child, who was born in February 2008. For months, the tabloid newspapers had been reporting the affair.
  • Leading Arkansas Democrat Is Killed (Aug. 13): Bill Gwatney, the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party, is murdered in his Little Rock office.
  • Obama Picks Biden as Running Mate (Aug. 23): In a text message delivered to his supporters at 3 a.m., presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama announces that he has selected Delaware senator Joe Biden as his pick for vice president. Biden himself ran for president in 1988 and in 2008. He brings to the ticket years of foreign policy experience, which Obama lacks.
  • The Democratic National Convention Opens in Denver (Aug. 25): Michelle Obama, the wife of Sen. Barack Obama, delivers a speech about family, values, a solid work ethic, and her working-class background. By all accounts, the speech is successful in portraying her as a wife and mother rather than a high-powered lawyer. Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, received a rousing ovation throughout his speech. "I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and elect Barack Obama president of the United States," he says. (Aug. 26): In her speech to the convention, Sen. Hillary Clinton attempts to unify the Democratic Party, calling on her supporters to rally behind Obama. "Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose,” she says. “And you haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership. No way, no how, no McCain.” (Aug. 27): Sen. Barack Obama is formally elected the Democratic presidential nominee. In a symbolic move, Sen. Hillary Clinton moves to end the roll call and nominate Obama by acclamation. Before the nomination, President Bill Clinton addresses the convention and strongly endorses Obama's run for the presidency. "I say to you: Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world,” the former president says. “Barack Obama is ready to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.” Vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden, also speaks at the convention, recalling his working-class background and delivering barbs at the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain. (Aug. 28): Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first African American to be selected by a major party as its nominee for president. He delivers an impassioned speech that attacks John McCain on several fronts, including national security and his support for many of the policies of the Bush administration, and outlines his plans for the economy, the environment, and health care. Calling McCain out of touch with the economic woes of working-class America, Obama says, "It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care. It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.” Obama gives his acceptance speech to some 83,000 people at Invesco Field rather than the convention hall in Denver.
    Carol M. Highsmith photo
    Barack Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith
  • Census Bureau Releases Data on Income and Health Insurance (Aug. 26): The number of uninsured dropped from about 47 million people in 2006 to 45.7 million in 2007. As a percent of the population, this translates to a drop to 15.3% in 2007, from 15.8% in 2006. However, the number of people covered under private plans declined from 67.9% in 2006 to 67.5% in 2007, and the number of those with government-sponsored coverage increased to 27.8%, up from 2006's figure of 27%. Median income increased by 1.3% in 2007 to $50,233, and the poverty rate remained at 12.5%.
  • McCain Chooses Outsider as Running Mate (Aug. 29): The day after Sen. Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for president, Republican John McCain names Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his pick for vice president. The selection comes as a surprise and is an apparent attempt to woo women voters and those who are concerned that a McCain administration will be a continuation of the Bush years.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Several Climbers Die on K2 (Aug. 1): Eleven mountain climbers are killed when a large mass of ice breaks and causes an avalanche on the world's second-highest mountain, in northern Pakistan. It is the deadliest climbing accident on K2 since 1986.
  • Dozens Are Killed in a Stampede in India (Aug. 3): Nearly 150 people, many children, die when rumors of a landslide cause pilgrims to stampede during a festival celebrating the Hindu mother goddess at Naina Devi temple in northern India.
  • The Summer Games Open with a Spectacular Ceremony and Tragedy (Aug. 8): The Games open in Beijing with 14,000 performers and 91,000 spectators in the National Stadium. Dancing, music, and fireworks entertain 840 million television viewers worldwide. A Chinese man stabs an American couple midday on the second floor of an ancient tower in Beijing, killing the husband and injuring the wife. The victim, Todd Bachman, was the father-in-law of Hugh McCutcheon, the head indoor men's volleyball coach. (Aug. 13): U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps wins his 11th career gold medal, becoming the first athlete in Olympic history to do so. (Aug. 17): Michael Phelps wins his eighth gold medal, breaking the record set by Mark Spitz in the 1972 Games. Phelps also sets the record for the most golds in a single Olympics.
  • New Orleans Residents Prepare for Hurricane (Aug. 30): One day after the third anniversary of the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin orders residents to begin leaving the city as Hurricane Gustav makes its way toward Louisiana. (Aug. 31): As many as two million people comply with Mayor Nagin's order and leave New Orleans in one of the biggest evacuations in U.S. history.
  • Flood Devastates Part of India (Aug. 28): A dam breach in Nepal causes the Kosi River in the state of Bihar to flood. At least 75 people die, more than two million are displaced, and some 500,000 are stranded.
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