January 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

  • Hundreds Die in Tribal Violence in Kenya (Jan. 1-4): After incumbent president Mwai Kibaki is declared the winner in the presidential election over opposition candidate Raila Odinga, who had a wide lead in preliminary results, about 50 Kikuyu who sought refuge in a church in Kiambaa die when a mob of mostly Luo burn down the church. Odinga is Luo, and Kibaki is Kikuyu. Nearly 500 people die in fighting across the country. (Jan. 8): Odinga refuses Kibaki's invitation to discuss the political crisis after Kibaki appoints his cabinet, which does not include any members of Odinga's Orange Democratic Party. (Jan. 29): Melitus Mugabe Were, a member of Parliament representing the Orange Democratic Movement who worked to mend the ethnic strife in Kenya and help the poor, is dragged from his car, shot, and killed. Members of the opposition said the killing was a political assassination. The ethnic violence that has dragged on for a month since President Mwai Kibaki was narrowly re-elected in a race deemed tainted by international observers, has spun out of control throughout the country. (Jan. 31): A second member of the Orange Democratic Movement, David Kimutai Too, is shot and killed by a police officer. His supporters say his death was a political assassination. The police, however, call it a "crime of passion," saying the police officer who shot Too was upset that Too was traveling with his girlfriend.
  • Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens in Baghdad (Jan. 1): In the worst attack in Iraq in months, a suicide bomber kills 30 people at a home where mourners were paying their respects to the family of a man killed in a car bomb. The Iraqi military blames the attack on al-Qaeda in Iraq.
  • Pakistani Government Postpones Elections (Jan 1): In the wake of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for Jan. 8, are postponed until February 18.
  • U.S. Attorney General Opens Investigation into Destroyed Tapes (Jan. 2): Michael Mukasey orders a formal criminal investigation into the destruction in 2005 of CIA videotapes of the interrogation of two al-Qaeda suspects. The tapes, from 2002, reportedly included agency operatives using harsh interrogation techniques. Federal prosecutor John Durham is chosen to head the inquiry.
  • President of Georgia Is Reelected (Jan. 6): Mikheil Saakashvili wins 52% of the vote over his nearest challenger, Levan Gachechiladze, who tallies 27%. Saakashvili called for early elections in November 2007, after massive protests during which demonstrators accused him of abusing power and stifling dissent.
  • War Crimes Trial of Former President of Liberia Reopens (Jan. 7): The trial of Charles Taylor, who's charged with crimes against humanity for supporting rebel troops in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war that claimed the lives of about 300,000 people in the 1990s, resumes at the Hague.
  • Insurgents Kill Several U.S. Soldiers in Iraq (Jan. 9): Six soldiers die in Diyala Province when they enter a home that had been booby-trapped.
  • U.S. Drops Dozens of Bombs Near Baghdad (Jan. 10): Air attacks, in which about 40,000 pounds of bombs are dropped, target insurgents linked to al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia on the outskirts of southern Baghdad.
  • Suicide Bomber Targets Police in Pakistan (Jan. 10): Attacker blows himself up outside a courthouse in Lahore, where a rally of opposition lawyers was set to occur. About 25 people, mostly police officers, are killed.
  • Iraqi Parliament Passes Law to Allow Some Baathists to Resume Jobs (Jan. 12): Measure creates a new committee to determine if lower-level Baathists, former members of Saddam Hussein's party, are eligible to be reinstated to their government jobs. It also will pay pensions to many former Baathists who will not be permitted to return to their positions. Most Baathists lost their posts after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. If passed by the presidential council, it would be the first major benchmark of political progress reached by the Iraqi government. The law, called the Justice and Accountability Law, was criticized for being vague and confusing, and its many loopholes may exclude more Baathists from government jobs than it allows.
  • Israeli Strike Kills Several Palestinians in Gaza (Jan. 15): As many as 20 Palestinians, many member of Hamas, die in the attack. The Israeli operation was in retaliation to the firing of Qassam rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli towns by Palestinian militants. (Jan. 18): Israel closes all border crossings into the Gaza Strip in response to the Palestinian attacks. Aid and fuel shipments are affected by the border closing. (Jan. 22): Facing criticism for shutting off fuel deliveries to Gaza, Israel resumes oil shipments.
  • Palestinian Militants Break Through Border Fence (Jan. 23): After members of Hamas destroy parts of a wall that separates the Gaza Strip from Egypt, tens of thousands of Palestinians pass into Egypt to buy food and supplies that are either unavailable in Gaza or are exorbitantly priced.
  • Italy's Government Collapses (Jan. 24): Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigns after losing a confidence vote in the senate. He survived one a day earlier in the lower house.
  • U.S. Strike Kills al-Qaeda Leader (Jan. 31): The United States announces that Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior commander of al-Qaeda who recruited and trained operatives, was killed in a missile strike in northwest Pakistan.
  • Report on Israeli Offensive in Lebanon Finds Failures (Jan. 31): Final report by an Israeli-government-appointed panel, the Winograd Commission, on Israel's 2006 war against the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, calls the operation a "large and serious" failure and criticizes the country's leadership for failing to have an exit strategy in place before the invasion. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is spared somewhat, as the commission says that in ordering the invasion, he was acting in "the interest of the state of Israel."

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • California Sues EPA (Jan. 2): State challenges the December 2007 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency that said 17 states, including California, do not have the authority to implement their own standards for emissions of greenhouse gases by cars and trucks. The states had sought to impose tougher restrictions than those in place under federal law.
  • Presidential Primaries Begin (Jan. 3): Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee are victorious in the Iowa caucuses, the first races of the presidential primary season. On the Democratic side, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton place second and third, respectively. Republicans Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson trail behind Huckabee. (Jan. 8): Democrat Hillary Clinton finishes first in the New Hampshire primary, ahead of Barack Obama and John Edwards. On the Republican side, John McCain leads the pack, ahead of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
  • Jindal Becomes Governor of Louisiana (Jan. 15): Republican Bobby Jindal takes office as governor of Louisiana, becoming the first elected Indian-American governor of the United States. At age 36, he's also the youngest governor in the nation.
  • Bush Proposes $145 Billion Stimulus Package (Jan. 18): Responding to a crisis in the housing market and rising oil prices, president says a combination of tax cuts for individuals and businesses will "provide a shot in the arm" to the economy. His plan, which is vague, is intended to stimulate spending. (Jan. 24): The Bush administration and the House hash out a $146 billion stimulus package that gives rebates of $300-$600 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and to couples with incomes up to $150,000. Familes will be eligible for up to $300 in rebates for each child. Businesses were also given incentives in the form of expanded deductions. Democrats had sought, but did not get, an increase in food stamp aid and extended unemployment benefits. (Jan. 29): The House votes, 385 to 35, in favor of the stimulus plan.
  • Padilla Is Sentenced (Jan. 22): Jose Padilla, who was arrested in Chicago in 2002 and accused of plotting to explode a dirty bomb in the United States, is sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in jail. In August 2007, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit terror overseas and giving material support to al-Qaeda. The government had held him as an enemy combatant until 2006, when he was transferred to the civilian justice system and charged with another set of crimes. It was these charges that resulted in the conviction.
  • Bush Delivers Last State of the Union (Jan. 28): President concedes that there is uncertainty with the economy, says that even with progress in Iraq a tough battle lay ahead, and asks Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, pass legislation on electronic surveillance, and reduces by one half the cost of earmarks that are attached to legislation.
  • Edwards and Giuliani Drop Out of Race (Jan. 30): John Edwards and Rudolph Giuliani, who both fail to win a primary or caucus, both drop out of the presidential race after the Flordia primary.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Tornadoes Ravage Midsection of the U.S. (Jan. 7-8): A series of winter tornadoes caused by record-breaking temperatures kill at least six people, including two children, destroy houses, and flood roads in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
  • Markets Plunge Around the World (Jan. 21): Responding to fears that the U.S. is headed for an imminent recession, stock markets fall drastically in Frankfurt, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Paris, London, and other major cities in Europe and Asia.
  • Federal Reserve Slashes Interest Rates (Jan. 22): In response to the plunge in markets around the world, the Federal Reserve bank cuts interest rates by .75%, the largest single-day reduction in the bank's history.
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