November 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. Airstrike in Afghanistan Hits a Wedding (Nov. 3): Afghan officials say 40 civilians are killed and nearly 30 wounded in an attack in Kandahar, a southern province. During a press conference, President Hamid Karzai urges U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to take measures to halt civilian casualties and instead target terrorist training centers.
- Russian President Sends a Warning to Obama (Nov. 5): The day after Sen. Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev delivers a speech in Moscow in which he says he will deploy short-range missiles near Poland that could reach NATO countries if the U.S. installs a missile-defense system in Europe.
- African Leaders and UN Officials Hold Emergency Meeting on Fighting in Congo (Nov. 7): As a cease-fire between the government and rebels, led by Laurent Nkunda, seems on the brink of collapse, leaders from several African nations and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the UN meet in Nairobi. They sign an agreement calling for an immediate end to the fighting and say that if UN troops fail to protect civilians, then African peacekeepers would take over.
- Iraq's Religious Minorities Receive Fewer Council Seats Than Recommended (Nov. 8): President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents approve a bill that guarantees six seats on provincial councils to religious minorities, including Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans, and Shabaks. The UN had suggested that the groups be given 12 seats on the 440-seat council.
- Bali Bombers Are Executed (Nov. 9): Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Imam Samudra, and Mukhlas, also known as Ali Ghufron, are executed by firing squad for their role in the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, mostly tourists. Islamist extremists launch protests and threaten to retaliate for the executions.
- China Announces Enormous Stimulus Package (Nov. 9): China's State Council says it will spend about $586 billion, or about 7% of its GDP, over the next two years on infrastructure projects, including new airports, subways, low-income housing, and rail systems.
- Dozens Are Killed in Blasts in Baghdad (Nov. 10): At least 28 people die and more than 60 are injured when three bombs explode minutes apart in a neighborhood in northern Baghdad during the morning commute. Officials suspect the explosions are linked to al-Qaeda.
- Taiwan's Former President Is Arrested (Nov. 11): Chen Shui-bian, who lost a reelection bid in March, is arrested and charged with corruption and money laundering. Chen, who has long asserted that Taiwan and China are separate countries, denies the allegations and claims he is being persecuted to appease China.
- Iraq's Cabinet Approves Security Deal (Nov. 16): After nearly a year of negotiations with the U.S., the Iraqi cabinet passes by a large margin a status of forces agreement that will govern the U.S. presence in Iraq through 2011. The pact calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by Dec. 31, 2011, and the removal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by the summer of 2009. In addition, the agreement gives Iraqi officials increased jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by off-duty Americans who are off base when the crimes occur. Iraq's Parliament must also approve the agreement. (Nov. 27): The Iraqi Parliament votes, 149 to 35, to approve the status of forces agreement.
- Pirates Hijack Oil Tanker (Nov. 18): The Saudi oil tanker, anchored about 480 miles off the coast of Somalia, is loaded with some two million barrels of oil, worth about $100 million. It is the first time pirates have seized an oil tanker. Piracy in the area has been occurring with increased frequency in 2008.
- Protesters Shut Down Airport in Bangkok (Nov. 25): Antigovernment demonstrators, who have been protesting since August, shut down the Suvarnabhumi airport. The protesters, called People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom they call a proxy for exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and are seeking to change the governing and electoral process that has empowered the rural majority, who PAD members say are “ill educated,” at the expense of the elite. (Nov. 26): Thailand's army chief, General Anupong Paochinda, urges Somchai to resign and call new elections. Somchai refuses to heed Anupong's advice. (Nov. 27): Prime Minister Somchai declares a state of emergency and authorizes the police and military to evict the protesters.
- Terrorists Launch Brazen Attack in Mumbai (Nov. 26): More than 170 people are killed and about 300 are wounded in a series of attacks on several of Mumbai's landmarks and commercial hubs that are popular with foreign tourists, including two five-star hotels, a hospital, a train station, and a cinema. Indian officials say ten gunmen carried out the attack that was stunning in its brutality and duration; it took Indian forces three days to end the siege. India's police and security forces were ill-prepared for such an attack, which many inside India are calling their own September 11. In fact, Indian sharpshooters were not equipped with telescopic sights, and therefore withheld firing out of fear of killing hostages. Deccan Mujahedeen, a previously unknown group, claims responsibility for the attacks. Pakistan officials deny any involvement in the attacks, but some Indian officials hint that they suspect Pakistani complicity. India has been hit by an increasing number of terrorist attacks throughout 2008.
- Hundreds Are Killed in Clashes in Nigeria (Nov. 28): Fighting between Muslims and Christians breaks out in Jos in a dispute over local elections. At least 400 people are killed, hundreds are wounded, and 7,000 are forced to flee their homes. Rival ethnic and religious groups burn churches and mosques and attack each other.
World | Nation | Business/Science/Society
- Report By Panel in Alaska Supports Palin (Nov. 3): Investigation by an independent counsel for the Alaska Personnel Board concludes that Gov. Sarah Palin did not violate the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act in her attempts to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired. The report contradicts an earlier report by Alaska's legislature, which said she did violate the ethics law.
- Barack Obama Is Elected President (Nov. 4): In an election that is historic on many levels, Democratic senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election against Sen. John McCain, taking 338 electoral votes to McCain's 161. Obama's victory is assured after winning crucial swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. In addition, Indiana and Virginia vote for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964. Obama is the first African American to be elected president of the United States. He will inherit a country facing two wars and an economy in tatters. Sen. John McCain delivers a gracious concession speech that focuses on the historic significance of Obama's win. Democrats increase their majority in the House and pick up five seats in the Senate.
- California Votes to Outlaw Same-Sex Marriage (Nov. 4): Voters narrowly pass a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that overturns the May 15, 2008, California Supreme Court decision that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Many supporters of same-sex marriage blame the results of the vote on an expensive campaign by the Mormon church, which opposes gay marriage.
- Obama Starts to Assemble Administration (Nov. 23): Obama nominates Timothy F. Geithner, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, as treasury secretary. In addition, he selects former treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers as the head of the White House Economic Council.
- Stevens Concedes Senate Race (Nov. 19): Ted Stevens, who in October was found guilty of seven felony charges for lying on financial disclosure forms and failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from an oil field services company, says he has lost the election to Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. The defeat gives Democrats 58 seats in the Senate. Stevens has served in the Senate for 40 years.
- Democrats Choose New Leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (Nov. 20): California congressman Henry Waxman is selected over current chairman of the powerful committee, John Dingell. With Waxman as head of the committee, observers expect swift action on energy and climate legislation. Dingell, who is from Michigan, has been criticized for supporting the auto industry by blocking legislation for more stringent environmental standards.
- Congress Rejects Plea for Bailout by U.S. Automakers (Nov. 20): Democratic lawmakers say that after two days of hearings, leaders from Ford, GM, and Chrysler failed to put forth a strategy that would salvage their flagging businesses. The automakers had sought $25 billion in loans from the government. "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future—until we see the plan, until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money," said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
- Researchers Decode the Genome of a Cancer Patient (Nov. 6): Scientists at the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University report that they have sequenced all the DNA from the cancer cells of a woman who died of leukemia and compared it to her healthy cells. In doing so, the experts found mutations in the cancer cells that may have either caused the cancer or helped it progress. It is the first time scientists have completed such research.
- Economy Stumbles Further (Nov. 7): The Labor Department reports that some 240,000 jobs were lost in October, bringing the unemployment rate to 6.5%, the highest point since 1994.
- Dozens Die When a School in Haiti Collapses (Nov. 7): About 90 people, mostly students, die and at least 150 are injured when a poorly constructed church-run school collapses in Pétionville, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
- Treasury Department Shifts Course on Bailout Package (Nov. 12): Rather than buying troubled mortgage assets from banks and financial institutions as envisioned in the financial bailout package passed in October, the Bush administration says it will instead use part of the $700 billion authorized by Congress to help banks lend to consumers.
- World Leaders Discuss Financial Crisis (Nov. 15): Officials from the Group of 20, which includes wealthy countries and those with emerging economies, meet in Washington and agree to tighten supervision of banks and credit-rating companies and consider controls on executive pay. They do not formulate concrete solutions to the crisis, however.
- Stock Market Tumbles Again (Nov. 19): The Dow Jones falls 5.1%, or 427.47 points, to 7,997.28. It is the first time since 2003 that it has fallen below 8,000. The decline coincides with a report from the Labor Department indicating that the Consumer Price Index fell by one percentage point in October, the steepest one-month drop since the index debuted in 1947.
- Government Rescues Citigroup (Nov. 23): Under the plan, the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. will back up to $306 billion in potential losses incurred by Citigroup from high-risk loans and securities and will inject $20 billion in cash into the troubled company.
- Government Announces Another Plan to Help Economy (Nov. 25): The Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department will finance $800 billion in lending programs. The Fed will spend $600 billion to buy debt guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other government-sponsored mortgage underwriters. The remaining $200 billion, financed by both the Fed and the Treasury, will help consumers secure student loans, car loans, small-business loans, and loans for credit-card debt.