April 2009 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of April 2009.
- Charges Against Ted Stevens Dropped (Apr. 1): The Justice Department moves to drop all charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens was convicted of seven felony counts of ethics violations shortly before the Nov. 2008 election, which he narrowly lost. The Justice Department accused the case's prosecutors of misconduct during the investigation and asked for the charges to be dismissed.
- Rod Blagojevich Indicted on 16 Felony Counts of Corruption (Apr. 2): Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois charged with attempting to sell President Obama's vacated senate seat to the highest bidder, is indicted on 19 charges, 16 of them felonies.
- Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Law Banning Gay Marriage (Apr. 3):. The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejects a state law banning same-sex marriage. Six gay couples had filed a lawsuit against Polk County, Iowa. In 21 days, county recorders will be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Iowa will be the third state to allow same-sex marriages, after Massachusetts and Connecticut. California recently passed a similar measure, only to have a constitutional amendment disallowing same-sex marriage approved by voters in Nov. 2008. (Apr. 27): Same-sex couples are granted marriage licenses for the first time in Iowa. Despite concerns by local officials about angry protests, the mood proved lowkey in much of the state. By the end of the day, more than 200 couples applied for marriage licenses.
- At Least 14 Dead in New York Hostage Situation (Apr. 3): At least 14 people, including the gunman, are dead and more are injured after a man opens fire at an immigration services building in Binghamton, N.Y. He later killed himself. At one point, two people were taken from the building in plastic handcuffs, but it is unknown whether they are under arrest. About 40 people were trapped inside the building for several hours. (Apr. 4): The gunman, identified as Vietnamese immigrant Jiverly Wong, 41, was recently laid off from his job, and living on unemployment benefits.
- Three Pittsburgh Policeman Killed on Duty (Apr. 4): Two police officers in Pittsburgh, Penn. were shot to death after responding to a domestic disturbance call between a mother and son. A third policeman, arriving to help the first two officers, was also killed. The shooter, Richard Poplawski, is charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide, for the 8 police officers shot at and one injured at the scene.
- North Carolina Wins N.C.A.A. Men's Basketball Championship (Apr. 6): In the N.C.A.A. men's basketball tournament final, the North Carolina Tar Heels cruise to victory against the Michigan State Spartans. The final score is 89–72.
- Vermont Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage (Apr. 7): Vermont becomes the fourth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, just days after Iowa becomes the third. The legislature votes to override Governor Jim Douglas's veto of a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry, nine years after the state became the first in the nation to allow civil unions. Vermont is the first state legislature to legalize the practice; the other three U.S. states' approval of same-sex marriage came from the courts. Vermont will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in September.
- Connecticut Beats Louisville for N.C.A.A. Women's Basketball Championship (Apr. 7): In the final game of the women's N.C.A.A. basketball tournament, Connecticut beats Louisville 76–54. The University of Connecticut was undefeated for the season. This is their sixth national title.
- Somali Pirates Hijack American Ship, Take Captain Hostage (Apr. 8): For the first time, an American vessel is hijacked by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa. Pirates take the ship's captain, Richard Phillips, hostage. The ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying food and other aid products for the World Food Program. (Apr. 12): U.S. Navy SEAL snipers, positioned on the fantail of the destroyer Bainbridge, kill three pirates and free Capt. Richard Phillips, ending the five-day ordeal in the Indian Ocean.
- Ángel Cabrera Wins Masters Tournament (Apr. 12): Argentina's Ángel Cabrera wins the Masters golf tournament in a three-way playoff against Chad Campbell of Texas and Kenny Perry of Kentucky. Cabrera's final score was a 12-under-par total of 276.
- Obama Loosens Restrictions on Travel to Cuba (Apr. 13): President Obama announces that Cuban-Americans will no longer be restricted from visiting and sending money home to family. American companies will also be able to provide telephone services to Cuba. The original embargo will remain in effect until Congress votes otherwise.
- U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu Outbreak (Apr. 26): After confirming 20 cases of swine flu in the United States, including eight in New York City, the U.S. declares the outbreak a public health emergency. None of the cases in the U.S. have resulted in death; only one person has been hospitalized. Several schools across the nation have been closed in an attempt to isolate those who are infected. The strain of the virus is milder than the one found in Mexico. (Apr. 27): The European Union's health commissioner warns against nonessential travel to the U.S. and Mexico, due to the possibility of contracting and spreading swine flu. Mexico is believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak, with confirmed cases in the U.S., Canada, Spain, France, and New Zealand. (Apr. 29): The swine flu in the U.S. has claimed its first victim, a 22-month-old Mexican child visiting Texas with family. There are currently 91 cases of swine flu in the U.S., spread across 10 states.
- Senator Specter Will Run as Democrat in 2010 (Apr. 28): Senator Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) announces he will run as a Democrat in the 2010 elections. A Republic senator for 29 years, Specter is known for his moderate views, often breaking from the party line. His shift to the opposing party could create a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate; with 58 Democratic senators currently in Congress, and Al Franken's expected victory in Minnesota pending, Spector would become the 60th member of the Senate voting with Democrats.
- Justice Souter Stepping Down from Supreme Court (Apr. 30): After 19 years, Justice David H. Souter is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court when the current term ends in June. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush, a Republican, in 1990, Souter began his term with moderate political leanings, but turned more liberal-minded as years passed. This will be the first Supreme Court pick for President Obama.