October 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

  • Iraq Takes Control of Awakening Councils (Oct. 1): The Iraqi government takes command of 54,000 mainly Sunni fighters from the U.S., which had been paying the fighters for their support. The fighters, members of awakening councils, turned against al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in 2007 and began siding with the U.S.
  • Russian Peacekeepers Are Killed in South Ossetia (Oct. 3): Two days after European Union observers arrive in Georgia to monitor Russia's pull-out of troops from the troubled region, a car bomb explodes in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, killing seven Russian peacekeepers. (Oct. 8): Complying with the cease-fire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in early August, Russia starts removing troops from buffer zones surrounding the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The withdrawal is observed by 200 European Union members.
  • Anti-government Protests in Thailand Become Deadly (Oct. 7): Two people are killed and more than 400 wounded in fighting between security forces and anti-government protesters. Demonstrators, tyring to prevent the inauguration of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, barricade lawmakers inside the Parliament building.
  • Ukraine's President Dissolves Parliament (Oct. 9): After weeks of political turmoil that saw the collapse of his pro-Western coalition, President Viktor Yushchenko signs an order to dissolve Parliament and calls for new elections. The vote is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2008; it will be the third parliamentary election since Yushchenko took office in 2004.
  • U.S. Revises Estimate of Civilian Deaths in Afghan Raid (Oct. 8): The New York Times reports that an inquiry by the U.S. military found that more than 30 civilians and fewer than 20 militants were killed in an Aug. 22 raid by coalition forces on the western village of Azizabad. The U.S. initially said between five and seven civilians and up to 35 militants died, but the Afghan government said as many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, died in the attack.
  • U.S. Removes North Korea from Terrorism List (Oct. 11): North Korea agrees to give international inspectors access to its nuclear plant at Yonbyon and to continue disabling its plutonium-processing facility. In exchange, the U.S. State Department removes the country from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
  • Sudan Arrests Militia Leader Wanted by The Hague (Oct. 13): Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, who has been named by the International Criminal Court as a suspect in the murder, rape, and displacement of thousands of civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region is arrested by Sudanese police. He is not, however, handed over to the ICC.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Is Reelected (Oct. 14): The Conservative Party, led by Stephen Harper, defeats the Liberal Party in national elections. The Conservatives, however, fail to win a majority in the House of Commons and will form a minority government, the third in four years.
  • Iraq and the U.S. Complete Draft of Security Agreement (Oct. 17): Draft agreement, outlined in the media but not publicly released, calls for all U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, depending on the conditions in Iraq. Plan also gives U.S. military personnel immunity from Iraqi law except for serious premeditated felonies committed outside their "duty status." Iraq will have jurisdiction over private U.S. contractors, however. (Oct. 21): Members of the Iraqi cabinet say they will not approve the agreement without amendments.
  • Taliban Insurgents Engage in Grisly Attack (Oct. 19): Fighters pull as many as 30 men from a bus traveling in Kandahar and behead them. A Taliban spokesman says the passengers were members of the Afghan National Army. The Afghan government denies the claim, saying the men were civilians traveling to Iran to seek work.
  • U.S. Troops Launch an Air Attack into Syria (Oct. 26): American Special Operations Forces kill a leader of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia in a helicopter attack in Syria, near the Iraqi border. U.S. officials say the militant, Abu Ghadiya, has smuggled weapons, money, and fighters into Iraq from Syria.
  • President of Georgia Dismisses Prime Minister (Oct. 27): Mikheil Saaksahvili replaces Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze with Grigol Mgaloblishvili, Georgia's ambassador to Turkey. The move comes about three months after Georgia's war with Russia that devastated Georgia's infrastructure.
  • Fighting Intensifies in Congo (Oct. 27): After capturing the major army base of Rumangaboebel, rebel forces in the northeast part of the country who are loyal to a Tutsi general, Laurent Nkunda, advance toward Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. Angry civilians attack UN peacekeeping troops, frustrated that they were not able to thwart the rebels. About 250,000 civilians have fled their homes since a peace accord fell apart in August. (Oct. 29): The rebels stop outside of Goma and declare a cease-fire.
  • Peaceful Regions of Somalia Rocked by Bombings (Oct. 29): At least 28 people are killed in five suicide-bombings in northern Somalia. Somali officials cast blame on the militant Islamic group Shabab, which has been battling the transitional government. The highest death toll is in Hargeisa, the capital of the breakaway northern region of Somaliland.
  • Petraeus Takes Over as Head of Central Command (Oct. 31): Gen. David Petraeus will oversee military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and other countries.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Senate Approves Nuclear Deal with India (Oct. 1): Votes, 86 to 13, to end the ban on trading nuclear fuel with India. In passing the measure, the Senate ratifies the agreement, which will allow India to buy nuclear fuel on the world market for its reactors as long as it uses the fuel for civilian purposes only. India has agreed to give international inspectors access to its 14 civilian nuclear plants. Eight military facilities, however, will remain outside the purview of inspectors. The ban was imposed by the U.S. in 1974 after India tested a nuclear weapon.
  • Candidates Hold Series of Debates (Oct. 2): Vice presidential candidates, Democrat Joe Biden, senator from Delaware, and Republican Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, clash over the war in Iraq, tax policy, oil and the environment, and the financial crisis that has dominated the news and Washington. Palin displays a folksiness ostensibly meant to appeal to middle America, and Biden politely attacks Palin's characterization of McCain as a maverick. "Go to a kids’ soccer game on Saturday and turn to any parent there on the sideline and ask them, ‘How are you feeling about the economy?’ ” Palin says. “And I’ll betcha you’re going to hear some fear in that parent’s voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in the stock market—did we just take a major hit with those investments." Attacking McCain, Biden says, "He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education—he has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college. He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that generally affects the things that people really talk about." (Oct. 7): The economic crisis dominates the second debate between presidential candidates, Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama. The candidates are somewhat reserved and less combative than had been expected. Obama, however, casts the blame for the crisis on deregulation under the Bush administration, and links McCain to the president. McCain says that Obama favors increased spending and higher taxes. (Oct. 15): In their third and final debate, McCain and Obama spar on domestic issues, including the economy, healthcare, and the environment. By far the most contentious debate, the candidates sharply criticize each other's plans on those issues. When Obama suggests that a McCain presidency would mirror that of President Bush, McCain responds, "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”
  • Federal Judge Orders That Guantánamo Bay Detainees Be Freed (Oct. 7): Judge Ricardo Urbina, of the Federal District Court, orders the Bush administration to release 17 members of the Uighur Muslim minority from western China, saying they have never posed a threat to the U.S., nor have they fought against the U.S. They have been held at Guantánamo Bay since 2002. (Oct. 8): A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issues a temporary stay of Judge Urbina's order so the appeals court can review a Justice Department request for a longer stay of the order.
  • Connecticut Legalizes Gay Marriage (Oct. 10): The state's Supreme Court rules that a state law that limits marriage to heterosexual couples and a civil union law that protects gay couples violate equal protection rights guaranteed by the constitution. Connecticut is the third state in the U.S., behind Massachusetts and California, to legalize gay marriage.
  • Investigation Concludes That Palin Abused Power (Oct. 10): An investigation by Alaska's legislature finds that Sarah Palin, the state's governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act when she used her office in an attempt to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired.
  • Bush Administration Memorandum Asserts Federal Money Can Fund Groups That Discriminate Based on Faith (Oct. 18): The New York Times reports that a 2007 Justice Department legal opinion concluded that under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, federal entities subject to anti-discrimination law can give money to groups that hire only people of a certain faith.
  • Powell Endorses Obama (Oct. 19): Former secretary of state Colin Powell, a Republican, calls Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama a "transformational figure." He expresses regret that the endorsement came at the expense of his personal friend, Republican nominee John McCain. "It isn't easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press. But I firmly believe that at this point in America's history, we need a president that will not just continue, even with a new face and with the changes and with some maverick aspects, who will not just continue basically the policies that we have been following in recent years."
  • Alaska Senator Is Convicted of Violating Ethics Laws (Oct. 27): A jury finds Republican Ted Stevens guilty of seven felony charges for lying on financial disclosure forms and failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts from the VECO Corporation, one of the state's biggest oil-field contractors. He says he will continue with his reelection campaign. He has served in the Senate for 40 years.

World | Nation | Business/Science/Society

  • Senate Passes Bailout Plan (Oct. 1): Two days after the House of Representatives rejected a similar deal, the Senate votes, 74 to 25, in favor of a "sweetened" plan. In addition to the provisions in the $700 billion measure rejected by the House, which gives the Treasury unprecedented authority to buy a wide range of troubled financial assets, limits executive pay, gives the government an equity stake in companies that participate in the plan, and gives the federal government the ability to recoup losses from the financial industry after five years, the Senate plan increases from $100,000 to $250,000 the amount of bank deposits covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and extends $150 billion in tax breaks to individuals and companies. (Oct. 3): The House of Representatives, reversing an earlier vote, approves the bailout package, 263 to 171. President Bush signs the measure into law. Included in the package is a provision that requires employers and group health plans to provide equal insurance coverage for mental health care as for physical care. (Oct. 6): On the first day of trading since the bailout bill was signed into law, stock markets in America, Europe, and Asia experience their steepest declines in two decades. The Financial Times Stock Exchange Index suffers its biggest one-day drop (in terms of points), and Russia's stock market plummets by almost 20%. (Oct. 8): Tokyo's benchmark index falls 9.4% and Hong Kong's dips by 8.2%. (Oct. 9): In the most active day in New York Stock Exchange history, investors sell off stocks in a panic, and the Dow closes below 9,000 for the first time in five years. In addition, the Icelandic stock exchange suspends trading, and the government nationalizes three major banks. (Oct. 10): The Bush administration begins to reconsider the priorities of the $700 billion bailout package, shifting focus toward recapitalizing banks. (Oct. 11): The finance ministers from the Group of 7 industrialized nations meet in Washington to formulate a coordinated plan to stem the escalating financial crisis. They agree to protect the deposits of citizens and to prevent the failure of additional financial companies. (Oct. 14): The Bush administration announces plans to invest $250 billion in nine of the largest U.S. banks as part of its continued effort to control the financial crisis. The move is part of the $700 billion bailout package.
  • Economy Suffers Huge Job Losses in September (Oct. 3): The Labor Department reports that 159,000 jobs were lost in September, the most in five years.
  • Earthquake Causes Devastation in Pakistan(Oct. 29): A 6.5 magnitude earthquake hits Baluchistan, one of the country's poorest regions. At least 200 people are killed and more than 15,000 are left homeless.
  • Economy Shrinks for First Time in Years (Oct. 30): The gross domestic product drops 0.3%. It's the first decrease in the GDP in 17 years.
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