March 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

  • Colombian Forces Kill Rebel Leader in Ecuador (March 1): Colombian troops cross into Ecuadorean territory and kill FARC's Raúl Reyes and 23 other rebels. In response, Venezuela and Ecuador break off diplomatic relations with Colombia and send troops to the Colombian border.
  • Fighting Between Israel and Hamas Continues (March 2): More than 100 Palestinians are killed in five days as members of Hamas and the Israeli military trade rocket fire. The violence intensifies after Hamas begins to launch longer-range rockets at Israel and as the fighting enters the West Bank. In response to the mounting civilian deaths, Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas suspends peace talks with Israel.
  • Putin's Choice for President Is Easily Elected (March 2): As expected, Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin who has never held elected office, wins the presidential election in a landslide. Putin will remain in a position of power, serving as Medvedev's prime minister.
  • Security Council Imposes Third Round of Sanctions on Iran (March 3): Resolution, the third since December 2006, punishing Iran for refusing to stop uranium enrichment allows inspections of cargo leaving and entering Iran that officials suspect is carrying banned materials, expands monitoring of financial institutions, and bans the travel and freezes the assets of people and businesses involved in Iran's nuclear program.
  • Eight Students Killed at Jerusalem Seminary (March 6): A Palestinian gunman from East Jerusalem fires hundreds of rounds of automatic weapons fire at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, killing eight students. The attack is the most deadly on Israeli citizens in two years.
  • Pakistani Leaders Agree to Limit Musharraf's Power (March 9): The two political parties that dominated February's parliamentary elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N, agree that once the new Parliament is seated, they will reinstate the Supreme Court justices President Pervez Musharraf ousted in late 2007 and pass legislation voiding the law that Musharraf passed legalizing the firings. The Supreme Court, once reinstated, could reverse the ruling that legitimized Musharraf's controversial reelection as president when he was still the military chief.
  • China Cracks Down on Protests by Monks in Tibet (March 10): Some 400 Buddhist monks participate in a protest march in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to commemorate the failed uprising of 1959, that resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India. (March 14): The protests, the largest in two decades, turn violent, with ethnic Tibetans reportedly attacking Chinese citizens and vandalizing public and private property. Chinese police use force to suppress the demonstrations. Tibetan leaders say that more than 100 Tibetans are killed, but Chinese officials say there are only 16 fatalities and deny that police had used lethal force. The demonstrations and violence spill into Gansu, Qinghai, and Sichuan Provinces in western China. Chinese officials accuse the Dalai Lama of masterminding the protests, a charge the spiritual leader denies.
  • Body of Iraqi Archbishop Is Found (March 13): Paulos Faraj Rahho, who led Mosul's Chaldean Catholic Church, had been kidnapped in February. His remains were recovered in Mosul.
  • Bush Acknowledges Toll of War on Anniversary of War (March 19): On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, President Bush insists that the outcome will be worth the sacrifice, yet he admits the cost of war had exceeded expectations in money and loss of life. "Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it," he said. "The answers are clear to me. Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight that America can and must win."
  • Taiwan Elects New President (March 22): Ma Ying-jeou, of the Nationalist Party, prevails over Frank Hsieh, of the Democratic Progressive Party, 58.4% to 41.6%. Ma favors closer ties to mainland China.
  • Pakistan Leader Nominates a Prime Minister (March 22): Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party, selects Yousaf Raza Gillani, who served as speaker of Parliament in the 1990s under Benazir Bhutto, as prime minister. (March 24): On the same day that Parliament approves Gillani as prime minister, he releases the Supreme Court justices that President Pervez Musharraf ousted and detained in late 2007. (March 31): Musharraf swears in the new cabinet, which is comprised of his political opponents.
  • U.S. Suffers 4,000th Death in Iraq (March 23): A roadside bomb in Baghdad kills four U.S. soldiers, bringing the death toll of American troops to 4,000. President Bush said of the losses, "I have vowed in the past, and I will vow so long as I'm president, to make sure that those lives were not lost in vain, that, in fact, there is an outcome that will merit the sacrifice."
  • Iraqi Troops Attack Militants in Basra (March 25): About 30,000 Iraqi troops and police, with air support from the U.S. and British military, attempt to oust Shiite militias, primarily the Mahdi Army led by radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, that control Basra and its lucrative ports in southern Iraq. Sadr declared a cease-fire in August 2007, but has allowed his forces to fight in self defense. (March 29): The Mahdi Army maintains control over much of Basra, despite the assault by Iraqi troops. The operation, ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, is criticized for being poorly planned and executed. Fighting spills into the Sadr city section of Baghdad. (March 31): After negotiations with Iraqi officials, Moktada al-Sadr orders his militia to end military action in exchange for amnesty for his supporters, the release from prison of his followers who have not been convicted of crimes, and the government's help in returning to their homes Sadrists who fled fighting. The compromise is seen as a defeat to Maliki, who is criticized for poorly organizing the invasion. In addition, more than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers either refused to participate in the operation or deserted their posts.
  • Zimbabwe Votes in Presidential Election (March 29): President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, faces his toughest challenge yet from Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Zimbabwe has been in economic collapse since 1980, with an inflation rate of more than 100,000%.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • McCain Secures Nomination (March 4): After primary wins in Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont, John McCain has enough delegates to become the Republican presidential nominee. Mike Huckabee drops out of the race.
  • Bush Vetoes Bill That Would Ban Severe Interrogation Techniques (March 8): President, saying intelligence officials must have "all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," vetoes legislation that would have outlawed 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.
  • U.S. Admiral Who Clashed with Bush Administration Retires (March 11): William Fallon, the commander of American troops in the Middle East, announces his retirement after a year in the position. He had stressed diplomacy over confrontation with Iran.
  • Obama Gives Pivotal Speech on Race (March 18): In a nearly 40-minute speech, Sen. Barack Obama denounces the provocative remarks on race made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., but explains that the complexities of race in America have fueled anger and resentment among many African Americans. "For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away, nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years,” Obama said. “That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends, but it does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table." He continued, "Did I ever hear him [Wright] make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely — just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed. The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society,” Obama said. “It’s that he spoke as if our society was static, as if no progress has been made.”
  • Detroit Mayor Indicted (March 24): Kwame Kilpatrick, who was elected in 2005 at age 31, is indicted on eight felony charges, including perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and misconduct in office. The charges stem from a past affair with his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty.
  • HUD Secretary Announces His Resignation (March 31): Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson says he will resign as of April 18. Federal investigators are looking into accusations that he steered housing contracts to friends.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • New York Governor Admits Involvement in Prostitution Ring (March 10): Eliot Spitzer, the former attorney general of New York who prosecuted a prostitution ring in Staten Island and was a crusader against white-collar crime, is pressured to resign after the New York Times reports that he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute in a Washington hotel. (March 12): Spitzer announces his resignation as governor of New York. Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson will replace him. (March 17): David Paterson, the former lieutenant governor of New York, is sworn in as governor, replacing Spitzer.
  • EPA Modifies Smog Standards (March 12): The Environmental Protection Agency tightens the smog standards, which are stated in average concentrations of ozone at ground level over an eight-hour period. The new standard is reduced to 75 from the current 84.
  • Government Intervenes to Avert Financial Crises (March 11): Federal Reserves outlines a $200 billion loan program that lets the country's biggest banks borrow Treasury securities at discount rates and post mortgage-backed securities as collateral. (March 13): The White House announces a plan to ease credit crisis. It includes provisions that require states to tighten rules for mortgage brokers and calls on lenders to make full disclosure of payment terms to buyers. Critics say the plan is too weak to have much effect. (March 16): The Federal Reserve approves a $30 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase so it can take over Bear Stearns, which is on the verge of collapse. The Fed had hoped the acquisition would avert a financial panic. Bear Stearns sells for one-tenth of its market price. (March 18): The Federal Reserve cuts short-term interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point.
  • Several Are Killed in Crane Collapse (March 15): Seven people die and dozens are wounded when a construction crane collapses in Manhattan and destroys a town house and damages other buildings.
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