May 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. Missile Kills Top Militia Leader in Somalia (May 1): American officials say Aden Hashi Ayro, leader of Shabab, an Islamic militant group with ties to al-Qaeda, was killed in a missile attack. U.S. intelligence officers had been tracking him for several weeks.
  • Pakistan Leaders Agree to Reinstate Judges (May 2): Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announces that on May 12, 2008, the Supreme Court justices who were dismissed in November 2007 by President Pervez Musharraf will resume their positions. (May 12): The agreement falls apart when the junior member of the governing coalition, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, says it is withdrawing from the cabinet because the senior coalition partner, the Pakistan Peoples Party, insists on retaining the judges who replaced those who were dismissed. In addition, the two parties disagree on how to reinstate the justices. Sharif wants the judges immediately reinstated by executive order; Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party prefers it be done through Parliament, a process that may be protracted.
  • Zimbabwe Announces Presidential Election Results (May 2): More than a month after the election, officials announce that opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, defeated President Robert Mugabe, 47.9% to 43.2%. A runoff election is necessary because neither candidate won more than 50%. (May 16): The election commission sets a runoff between Tsvangirai and Mugabe for June 27.
  • New President of Russia Is Sworn In (May 7): Dmitri Medvedev succeeds Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia. Although he's a Putin loyalist, Medvedev is said to be moderate and pro-Western. (May 8): Parliament elects Putin, head of the United Russia party, as prime minister.
  • New Prime Minister of Ireland Is Elected (May 7): The Dáil, Ireland's parliament, votes 88 to 76, to elect former finance minister Brian Cowen as prime minister.
  • Hezbollah and Government Supporters Battle in Beirut (May 7): Members of Hezbollah, a Shiite militia backed by Iran, block city streets to support a labor union strike and to fight against supporters of the pro-Western government in Lebanon. (May 9): Hezbollah takes control of large swaths of western Beirut, forces a government-supported television station off the air, and burns the offices of a newspaper loyal to the government. The government accuses Hezbollah of staging an "armed coup." The fighting is mainly sectarian, with Shiites fighting against Sunnis. (May 14): In an attempt to end the violence and the threat of a civil war, the government rescinds plans to shut down a telecommunications network run by Hezbollah and backs off attempts to dismiss a Hezbollah-backed head of airport security. In return, Hezbollah agrees to dismantle roadblocks that have paralyzed Beirut's airport. The decisions are seen as a major victory for Hezbollah. (May 21): After several days of negotiations, Hezbollah and the government reach a deal that ends the violence in Beirut and calls on Parliament to move toward electing Gen. Michel Suleiman, the commander of Lebanon’s army, president; the formation of a new cabinet, which gives Hezbollah and other members of the opposition veto power; and a discussion of a new electoral law. (May 25): Lebanon's Parliament elects Gen. Michel Suleiman as president, filling the position that had been vacant since November. Suleiman, the consensus candidate, is considered neutral.
  • North Korea Discloses Information on Plutonium Program (May 8): North Korea gives U.S. officials about 18,000 pages of documents detailing its efforts in 1990, 2003, and 2005 to reprocess plutonium for nuclear weapons. However, officials do not hand over information on North Korea's uranium program and its efforts to sell nuclear material.
  • State Department Renews Deal with Controversial Contractor (May 9): Blackwater Worldwide, the company whose guards killed 17 civilians in 2007, will continue to provide security for U.S. diplomats for another year. "We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq," says Patrick Kennedy, an undersecretary of state.
  • Sudanese Rebels Attempt to Attack Capital (May 10): In an unusually bold move, about 3,000 members of the Justice and Equality Movement move to within a few miles of Khartoum before being repulsed by government troops. It was the first time that the conflict in Darfur has threatened to spill over into Khartoum.
  • Iraqi Government and Shiite Militia Reach Cease-Fire (May 10): Government and militia led by Moktada al-Sadr agree to end the fighting in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. As part of the deal, the government will assume control over Sadr City and the rebels who didn't actively participate in the battles, which killed hundreds of people, will avoid arrest. Iran helped to broker the truce. The cease-fire, however, does not immediately stem the violence in Sadr City. (May 20): Iraqi troops move into Sadr City, meeting very little resistance from the Mahdi Army.
  • Israel and Syria Announce Peace Talks (May 21): For the first time in eight years, Israel and Syria return to t the bargaining table to try to negotiate a peace deal. Syria hopes to regain control over the Golan Heights, which was taken by Israel in 1967; Israel wants to distance Syria from Iran and diminish some of the influence Iran holds in the Middle East.
  • Nepal Nears Final Transition Away from Monarchy (May 28): The newly elected Constituent Assembly votes to dissolve the 239-year-old monarchy and form a republic. King Gyanendra is told he must step down within 15 days.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Congress Passes Law Banning Bias Based on Genes (May 1): The House votes, 414 to 1, in favor of legislation that forbids health insurers and employers from discriminating against people based on their genetic information. The Senate had passed the same bill, 95 to 5.
  • Democrats Pick Up Seats in Congress (May 3): Democrat Don Cazayoux wins a seat in the House of Representatives that had been held by Republicans for more than 30 years. (May 13): Travis Childers, a conservative Democrat from Mississippi, wins a House seat in a district long considered a Republican stronghold.
  • House Passes Farm Bill (May 14): Approves, 318 to 106, a $307 billion bill that increases subsidies to farmers and expands by $10.3 billion nutrition programs, including food stamps. President Bush says he will veto the bill, calling the subsidies bloated. (May 21): President Bush vetoes the bill. The House then votes, 316 to 108, to override the veto. (May 22): The Senate also overrides Bush' veto, 82 to 13, and the bill becomes law.
  • California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gay Marriage (May 15): In the 4 to 3 ruling, state's highest court says that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. When the ruling goes into effect in June 2008, California will be the second state, behind Massachusetts, to legalize same-sex marriages. It was later publicized that on May 14, New York governor David Paterson issued a directive ordering all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
  • Kennedy Diagnosed with a Brain Tumor (May 20): Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts who's been in office since 1963, is diagnosed with a malignant glioma.
  • Democratic Party Officials Reach Compromise on Florida and Michigan Delegates (May 31): The rules committee of the Democratic National Committee votes to seat all of the delegates from Florida and Michigan but only allot them a half vote each at the Democratic National Convention. The two states were stripped of their delegates because they held presidential primaries earlier than permitted by the DNC. Hillary Clinton gains 24 delegates more than Barack Obama.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Storms Cause Wide Damage and Death in Arkansas (May 2): At least seven people are killed, more than a dozen are injured, and about 350 homes and businesses are badly damaged or destroyed in tornadoes and storms in Arkansas.
  • Microsoft Withdraws Bid for Yahoo (May 3): After Yahoo rejects Microsoft's offer of $33 per share, or about $47.5 billion, up from $29.40 a share, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer announces the company has rescinded its offer.
  • Cyclone Devastates Myanmar (May 3): Cyclone Nargis ravages the Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon, killing 78,000 people and leaving up to a million homeless. About 28,000 people are reported missing and are feared dead. Most of the death and destruction are caused by a 12-foot high tidal wave that formed during the storm. (May 10): The ruling military junta goes ahead with a constitutional referendum intended to cement its grip on power.
  • Tornadoes Strike in Midwest and South (May 11): More than 20 people die and hundreds more are injured when tornadoes hit Missouri, Oklahoma, and Georgia. Racine, a town about 170 miles south of Kansas City, Missouri saw the most damage, leaving about 9,000 people without electricity for over three days.
  • Earthquake Kills Thousands in China (May 12): As many as 68,000 people are killed and thousands injured when an estimated 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces in western China. Nearly 900 students are trapped when Juyuan Middle School in the Sichuan Province collapses. Several other schools collapse. It is China's worst natural disaster in three decades. (May 19): Nearly 160 rescue workers are killed in landslides caused by rain and floods. (May 27): Authorities begin evacuating residents who are threatened by the potential flooding of "quake lakes," which formed when landslides blocked several rivers. As many as 1.3 million people may have to be relocated.
  • Polar Bear Designated as Threatened (May 14): Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announces that the polar bear has been listed as threatened, thus protected by the Endangered Species Act. The Interior Department includes provisions, however, that allow oil exploration to continue in the Arctic, somewhat watering down the protection.
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