July 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

  • U.S. Agrees to End Immunity for Contractors in Iraq (July 1): Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari says private security contractors, like Blackwater USA, whose employees killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, will no longer be immune from Iraq's laws. The negotiations are part of a security agreement being worked out between the two countries.
  • Violence Is on the Upswing in Afghanistan (July 1): According to the Pentagon and icasualties.org, June 2008 was the deadliest month for U.S. and coalition troops since the American-led invasion began in 2001. There were 45 reported fatalities during this period when coalition trooop numbers reached a high point. (July 7): More than 40 people are killed and about 130 wounded in a suicide bombing outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Four Indian diplomats died in the blast. It is the deadliest suicide bombing since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2001.
  • Hostages Are Freed in Colombia (July 2): After being held for nearly six years by FARC rebels, 15 hostages, including three U.S. military contractors and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, are freed by commandos who infiltrated FARC's leadership.
  • Serbia Forms a New Government (July 7): Parliament approves a new government composed of the Democratic Party, led by President Boris Tadic, and the Socialist Party, formerly led by Slobodan Milosevic. The Democratic Party's Mirko Cvetkovic becomes prime minister and Ivica Dacic, who heads the Socialist Party, will be deputy prime minister and interior minister. The government vows to tame the nationalistic fervor that has raised concern internationally, particularly when Kosovo declared independence in Feb. 2008. Cvetkovic also says Serbia will reach out to the West and join the European Union.
  • Peacekeepers Are Attacked in Sudan (July 8): Seven UN peacekeepers die and 22 are wounded in Darfur when their convoy is ambushed by men in trucks and on horseback.
  • The U.S. and the Czech Republic Sign Deal on Missile Shield (July 8): After lengthy negotiations and much debate, the Czech Republic agrees to allow the United States to deploy on its land an antiballistic missile shield. Russia strongly objects to the accord and views the system as a threat. U.S. officials say the shield is meant to deter an attack from Iran. Czech lawmakers must approve the deal.
  • Iran Test Fires Missiles (July 9): The Revolutionary Guards fire nine long- and medium-range missiles, which could reach parts of Israel. A commander of the Revolutionary Guard says, "The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation." The United States and Israel both condemn the move.
  • Gunmen Attack U.S. Consulate in Turkey (July 9): The gunmen open fire on Turkish security guards outside the consulate. Three police officers and the three assailants are killed in a gun battle.
  • Sanctions on Zimbabwe Fail to Pass (July 11): China and Russia block a U.S.-led effort in the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. (July 25): President Bush expands existing U.S. sanctions against Mugabe, companies in Zimbabwe, and individuals.
  • Negotiators Reach Deal on Verifying North Korean Disarmament (July 12): The U.S., China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and Japan announce that international inspectors will visit North Korea's nuclear facilities to check documents and speak with personnel to confirm that it has shut down its main processing facility at Yongbyon. In return, North Korea will receive financial and energy assistance.
  • Several U.S. Troops Are Killed in Afghanistan (July 13): Nine U.S. soldiers die and at least 15 NATO troops are wounded when Taliban militants boldly attack an American base in Kunar Province, which borders Pakistan. It's the most deadly assault against U.S. troops in three years.
  • International Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Sudanese President (July 14): Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, formally charges Sudan's president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with genocide for planning and executing the decimation of Darfur's three main ethnic tribes: the Fur, the Masalit, and the Zaghawa. Moreno-Ocampo also says Bashir "purposefully targeted civilians" and used "rapes, hunger, and fear" to terrorize civilians. Many observers fear that Bashir will respond to the charges with further violence.
  • Israel and Lebanon Carry Out Prisoner Exchange (July 16): Israel releases five Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kuntar, who killed an Israeli policeman, a man, and his young daughter in 1979. Lebanon, in turn, returns to Israel the bodies of two soldiers who were captured in a 2006 cross-border raid into Israel. The raid, carried out by the militant group Hezbollah, resulted in what is now considered a disastrous invasion of Lebanon.
  • U.S. Envoy Participates in Talks with Iran (July 19): Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, meets with representatives from the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China. Iran, however, does not commit to a proposal that calls on Iran to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for a freeze on further sanctions against Iran. William Burns, the U.S. under-secretary of state for political affairs, attends the meeting and is the highest-ranking member of the Bush administration to meet with a representative from Iran.
  • Sunni Bloc Returns to Iraqi Government (July 19): Parliament approves the nomination of six Sunni ministers to the cabinet. The ministers are all members of Tawafiq, a Sunni political party, who had boycotted Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's government for a year.
  • Government and Opposition Leaders Meet in Zimbabwe (July 21): In a historic meeting, President Robert Mugabe, who recently won a controversial presidential election that was marred by brutal voter intimidation and outright rigging, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the first round of voting and dropped out of the second round amid increasing violence against him and his supporters, agree to end the political violence and engage in talks to form a government of national unity.
  • Serbian Leader Is Arrested After 13-Year Manhunt (July 21): Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb president during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, is charged with genocide, persecution, deportation, and other crimes against non-Serb civilians. Karadzic orchestrated the massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica. He was found outside Belgrade. He altered his appearance and had been openly practicing alternative medicine in Serbia. The arrest will likely bring Serbia closer to joining the European Union. (July 30): Karadzic is transferred to The Hague to await trial. (July 31): Karadzic appears before the war crimes tribunal for the first time.
  • India's Government Survives a Confidence Vote (July 22): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wins the vote, 275 to 256, with 11 members of Parliament abstaining. Singh recently lost the support of Communist parties as he sought to seal a deal that has the U.S. providing India with nuclear technology and fuel for civilian purposes.
  • Iraqi President Vetoes Election Law (July 23): President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, vetoes legislation, passed by Parliament, that governs upcoming provincial elections. Kurdish legislators had boycotted the vote in Parliament in a dispute over the status of the northern city of Kirkuk, which they claim should be part of the Kurdish enclave.
  • Two Bombs Explode in Istanbul (July 27): At least 15 people die and more than 100 are wounded in a double bombing in a crowded neighborhood in Turkey's largest city. Terrorism is suspected.
  • Dozens Die in Ethnic Fighting and Suicide Attacks in Iraq (July 28): As Kurds in Kirkuk protest part of an election law that they fear will dilute their political power in the city, a female suicide bomber kills 17 people and wounds dozens. Kurds blame Turkmen militants for the bombing, and in response began attacking Turkmen. About a dozen people die in the violence. In Baghdad, three females, including two suicide bombers, kill 32 Shiite pilgrims.
  • Israeli Prime Minister to Resign (July 30): Ehud Olmert, who is under investigation for fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, announces he will step down once a new party leader is selected in September.
  • Turkey's Ruling Party Survives Legal Challenge (July 30): Turkey's 11-member Constitutional Court falls one vote short of banning the Justice and Development party for violating the country's secular constitution. The court does rule, however, to reduce by one-half the party's public financing.
  • Wife of Former Thai Leader Is Sentenced to Prison (July 31): Pojaman Shinawatra, the wife of Thailand's former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to three years in jail. Thaksin himself faces corruption charges.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Justice Department Acknowledges Error in Supreme Court Ruling (July 2): The Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that the death penalty is unconstitutional punishment for the crime of child rape. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the ruling was partly based on the fact that child rape is not a capital offense under federal law. However, in 2006 Congress revised the Uniform Code of Military Justice to apply the death penalty to child rape. President Bush signed the law and later issued an executive order adding it to the 2008 Manual for Courts-Martial. The Justice Department said in a statement that it should have made the Supreme Court aware of the law.
  • Senate Votes to Overhaul Wiretapping Bill (July 9): Approves, 69 to 28, legislation to expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law gives legal immunity to the telephone companies that participated in the National Security Agency secret wiretapping program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and broadens the government's ability to eavesdrop on those in the U.S. and abroad it suspects are linked to terrorist activities. (July 10): Bush signs the bill into law.
  • Kennedy Returns to Washington to Vote on Medicare Bill (July 10): Sen. Ted Kennedy, who's undergoing treatment for brain cancer, returns to the Senate to cast a vote to break a Republican filibuster of a measure that would block a 10.6% cut in Medicare fees paid to doctors. (July 15): President Bush vetoes the bill, but Congress easily overrides the veto.
  • Two Decisions Deal Blow to Pollution Regulation (July 11): Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, says the EPA is not obligated to control emissions of heat-trapping gases and to do so would be an "unprecedented expansion" of the agency's power. In addition, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia says that the EPA overstepped its authority in 2005, when it established the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which regulates controls on the amount of air pollutants emitted by industry.
  • Bush Lifts Ban on Offshore Drilling (July 14): President Bush a series of executive orders that placed a moratorium on drilling for gas and oil 3 to 200 miles off the U.S. coastline. The first President Bush signed an executive order in 1990 prohibiting such drilling. The move, however, is largely symbolic since a similar Congressional moratorium remains in effect.
  • Congress Passes Bill to Help Ailing Housing Market (July 23): The House votes, 272 to 152, in favor of legislation that gives the Treasury Department authority to rescue, if necessary, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the country's two largest mortgage companies, helps homeowners avoid foreclosure by allowing them to refinance their mortgages, and provides states $4 billion in block grants to buy foreclosed properties. (July 26): The Senate approves the measure, 72 to 13.
  • Report Finds Justice Department Violated Laws in Hiring (July 28): An internal report by the Justice Department's inspector general and ethics office says Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson, high-level aides to former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, broke Civil Service laws when they considered political viewpoints during the hiring process for nonpolitical positions.
  • Senator Is Indicted on Seven Felony Counts (July 29): Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, is charged with failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from the VECO Corporation, one of the state's biggest oil-field contractors. He denies the allegations.
  • Suspect in Anthrax Case Commits Suicide (July 29): Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at a biodefense research center in Frederick, Maryland, dies from a drug overdose shortly after he was informed that prosecutors were planning to indict him on charges of murder in the string of mail-based anthrax attacks that killed five people in Sep. and Oct. 2001.
  • Judge Rules that Bush's Advisers Must Comply with Subpoenas (July 31): John Bates, a federal judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., rules that former White House counsel, Harriet Miers, and President Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, cannot ignore Congressional subpoenas, which were issued in the inquiry into the firing of several U.S. attorneys. Bush had said they were not compelled to testify because their conversations were protected by executive privilege. "The executive's current claim of absolute immunity from compelled Congressional process for senior presidential aids is without any support in the case law," Bates says in his ruling.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Leaders of World's Richest Nations Agree to Reduce Emissions of Greenhouse Gases (July 8): At their annual meeting, members of the Group of 8, the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and Russia, set goals to cut in half by 2050 the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the environment. Critics say shorter-term goals should have been set.
  • Treasury Department Proposes Rescue Plan for Mortgage Companies (July 13): As tumbling stock prices cause diminished confidence in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, companies that either own or guarantee half the mortgages in the U.S., the U.S Treasury Department puts together a package that would allow the government to invest billions in both companies. Congress must approve the program.
  • Library of Congress Names New Poet Laureate (July 17): Kay Ryan, who has won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts for her philosophical yet humorous poems, succeeds Charles Simic as U.S. Poet Laureate.
  • California Bans Trans Fats in Restaurants (July 25): Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs a law that prohibits the use of hydrogenated oils in the state's 88,000 restaurants. The law goes into effect in 2010.
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