February 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

  • Dozens Die in Suicide Bombing (Feb. 1): Nearly 100 people die when two women suicide bombers, who are believed to be mentally impaired, attack crowded pet markets in eastern Baghdad. The U.S. military says Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been recruiting female patients at psychiatric hospitals to become suicide bombers.
  • Serbian President Is Reelected (Feb. 3): Incumbent Boris Tadic, a pro-Western leader who favors joining the European Union and closer ties with the U.S., defeats Tomislav Nikolic, of the hardline nationalist Radical Party, in the second round of presidential elections. Tadic takes 50.5% of the vote to Nikolic's 47.7%.
  • Israel Hit By First Suicide Bomb in Over a Year (Feb. 4): The militant groups Hamas and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades claim responsibility for the attack that kills one person in Dimona. A second attacker is shot and killed by police.
  • U.S. Director of National Intelligence Warns of Al Qaeda Threat (Feb. 5): Mike McConnell tells the Senate Intelligence Committee that al-Qaeda has improved its recruiting and training techniques and has produced a new group of Western operatives that could carry out an attack in the U.S.
  • Inquiry Concludes Bhutto Died of a Head Injury (Feb. 7): Scotland Yard investigators report that former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto died of an injury to her skull. They say she hit her head when the force of a suicide bomb tossed her. Bhutto's supporters, however, insist she died of a bullet wound.
  • Bomb Kills Top Hezbollah Leader (Feb. 12): A top Hezbollah military commander, Imad Mugniyah, who is thought to be behind a series of bombings and kidnappings in the 1980s and 1990s, is killed in a car bombing in Damascus, Syria. Mugniyah was one of America's most wanted men with a price tag of $25 million on his head. Hezbollah accuses Israel for arranging his death.
  • Iraqi Parliament Passes Breakthrough Legislation (Feb. 13): Three measures are approved in one package by Parliament. The package includes a law that outlines provincial powers and an election timetable, a 2008 budget, and an amnesty law that will affect thousands of mostly Sunni Arab prisoners. Passage of the measures is considered a major step toward national reconciliation. (Feb. 26): A divided Iraqi Presidency Council vetoes the package.
  • Panamanian Investigators Release Report on Mass Poisoning (Feb. 14): The Panamanian government reports a precise death toll for the 2006 poisoning for the first time. Investigators conclude that at least 174 people were poisoned resulting in 115 deaths. The death toll may be higher, however, since many cases in remote areas of the country were probably not reported.
  • Kosovo Declares Independence (Feb. 17): Three months after negotiations between the European Union, Russia, and Washington on the future of Kosovo end in stalemate, Kosovo's prime minister Hashim Thaci declares independence from Serbia. Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica says he would never recognize the "false state." International reaction is mixed, with the United States, France, Germany, and Britain indicating that they planned to recognize Kosovo as the world's 195th country. Serbia and Russia, however, call the move a violation of international law. (Feb. 18): The United States and several other nations, including Britain, Germany, and France, recognize Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state.
  • Dozens Die in Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan (Feb. 17): About 80 people are killed and nearly 100 injured when a suicide bomber attacks at a crowded dogfight near Kandahar. A local police chief Abdul Hakim Jan is among the dead. It is the worst suicide attack since 2001. The Taliban denies responsibility for the attack, but Afghan officials express skepticism about the claim.
  • Castro Resigns as President of Cuba (Feb. 19): Fidel Castro, who temporarily handed power to his brother Raúl in July 2006 when he fell ill, permanently steps down after 49 years in power. (Feb. 24): Raúl Castro succeeds his brother, Fidel, as president of Cuba. He says that there will be few changes made in governing and that he will consistently consult Fidel when making decisions.
  • Musharraf Suffers Resounding Defeat in Elections (Feb. 18): President Pervez Musharraf's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, which has been in power for five years, loses most of its seats in Parliamentary elections. The opposition Pakistan People's Party, which was led by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto until her assassination in December 2007 and is now headed by her widow, Asif Ali Zardari, wins 80 of the 242 contested seats. The Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, takes 66 seats. Musharraf party's wins 40. His defeat is considered a protest of his attempts to rein in militants, his coziness with President Bush, and his dismissal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. (Feb. 21): The Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N say they will form a coalition government and exclude Musharraf and members of his government.
  • Dozens of Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq Are Killed in Suicide Attack (Feb. 24): At least 52 people, who were headed to the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala to celebrate Arbaeen, are killed in the attack at a rest stop. (Feb. 25): In the second day of attacks against Shiite pilgrims, at least four people are killed by suicide bombers.
  • Fighting in Gaza Intensifies (Feb. 27): An Israeli airstrike into Gaza kills five members of Hamas, which then launched rockets into southern Israel, killing a civilian. Back-and-forth strikes continue throughout the day.
  • Kenyan Government and Opposition Reach Power-Sharing Deal (Feb. 28): Agreement, hashed out over protracted negotiations between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, creates a prime minister position, which will be filled by Odinga. In addition, cabinet positions will be divided between the two rivals.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • McCain Dominates Super Tuesday (Feb. 5): Primaries and caucuses are held in 24 states. Arizona senator John McCain emerges as the clear front runner among Republicans. Hillary Clinton wins big states such as California and Massachusetts, but Barack Obama takes more states. (Feb. 7): Republican Mitt Romney drops out of the race. (Feb. 12): Barack Obama wins Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia by large margins strengthening his lead over Senator Clinton. John McCain wins all three primaries as well, solidifying his position for the Republican nomination over Mike Huckabee.
  • Senate Passes Stimulus Package (Feb. 7): The Senate votes, 81 to 16, in favor of $168 billion package that gives rebates of $300-$600 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and to couples with incomes up to $150,000. Families will be eligible for up to $300 in rebates for each child. Businesses were also given incentives in the form of expanded deductions. The Senate plan expands that passed by the House in January by giving the rebates to 20 million Social Security recipients and 250,000 disabled veterans.
  • Six Guantanamo Detainees Charged (Feb. 11): The former al-Qaeda operations chief, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and five other Guantanamo detainees, who are thought to have played a supporting role in the September 11 attacks, are charged with conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism. If convicted by military tribunals that will hear their cases, they could face the death penalty.
  • Senate Votes to Expand Government's Surveillance Power (Feb. 13): After a year of debate, the Senate votes, 68 to 29, in favor of legislation that extends by six years the law passed in August 2007 that allows the government to eavesdrop on telephone conversations and emails of American citizens and people overseas without a warrant as long as there is a "reasonable belief" that one party is not in the United States and U.S. citizens are not the target of the surveillance. The law also grants immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the government in the eavesdropping. In addition, a secret intelligence court will review select cases after the surveillance is conducted to decide if the rights of Americans were abused. In the past, warrants had to be sought before the wiretapping began. (Feb. 17): The surveillance measure lapses because the House of Representatives breaks for February recess without voting on the law.
  • Senate Votes to Ban Severe Interrogation Techniques (Feb. 13): Approves, 51 to 45, bill to outlaw all methods of interrogation that are banned in the Army Field Manual, which prohibits waterboarding and other harsh techniques that have been used by the CIA.
  • Immigration Smuggling Ring Broken (Feb. 14): Immigration authorities in Phoenix, Arizona, arrest 20 people involved in an illegal immigrant smuggling ring. Officers also detain 210 illegal immigrants and discover 13 houses used as way stations in immigrant trafficking.
  • Nader Announces Candidacy for President (Feb. 24): Consumer advocate Ralph Nader says he will run for president as a third-party candidate. He ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000, and many Democrats say he drew votes away from Al Gore, contributing to the election of George Bush.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Economy Loses Jobs for the First Time in 52 Months (Feb. 1): Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 17,000 jobs were eliminated in January. The figures increase fears of an imminent recession.
  • Microsoft Makes Hostile Bid for Yahoo (Feb. 1): In a move to challenge Google's dominance of search and advertising on the internet, software giant Microsoft offers to buy Yahoo for $44.6 billion.
  • Tornadoes Kill Dozens in the South (Feb. 5): At least 55 people are killed and hundreds more injured after violent tornadoes rip through Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
  • New Module Added to the International Space Station (Feb. 9): The Atlantis delivers the Columbus science laboratory, a $2 billion module that will double the station’s zero-gravity research capacity, and Europe’s most recent contribution to the ISS.
  • Four Art Masterpieces Stolen (Feb. 10): Three men wearing ski masks steal four pieces of artwork from the Zurich Museum in one of the largest art robberies in history. In broad daylight, the robbers took a Cezanne, a Degas, a van Gogh, and a Monet, with a combined worth of $163 million. (Feb. 18): Two of the paintings, the Monet and the van Gogh, are found in perfect condition in the backseat of an unlocked car in Zurich.
  • Writers' Strike Ends (Feb. 12): A tentative three-year deal with production companies is approved, ending the three-month Writers' Guild of America strike that began on Nov. 5, 2007, and cost the entertainment industry over $2 billion.
  • General Motors Suffers Profit Loss (Feb. 12): GM reports a $722 million fourth-quarter loss in 2007 compared to a $920 million profit in the fourth-quarter of 2006. For the whole of 2007, GM lost $38.7 billion, the largest loss in history for an automaker.
  • Wheat Prices Rise (Feb. 13): Due to drought and high demand from abroad, the U.S. wheat supply is the lowest it's been in 30 years. Stockpiles in 2008 are predicted to fall to 312 million bushels from 456 million bushels in 2007.
  • Gunman Kills Six Students in Illinois (Feb. 14): Gunman kills six students and then himself and wounds 15 more when he opens fire on a classroom at Northern Illinois University. The gunman, Stephen P. Kazmierczak, was a former graduate student at the university.
  • Missile Shoots Down Satellite (Feb. 20): A U.S. missile interceptor, launched from a Navy ship, strikes down a dying satellite 130 miles over the Pacific Ocean. The satellite contained 1,000 pounds of frozen toxic fuel that could have been deadly had it landed on its own in a populated area.
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