Here are the key news events of the month organized into three categories: World News, U.S. News, and Business, Society, and Science News.
- Putin's Party Dominates Parliamentary Elections (Dec. 2): United Russia takes 64.1% of the vote, far ahead of the Communist Party of Russia, which wins 11.6%. Opposition parties complain that the election was rigged, and European monitors say the vote wasn't fair. Many believe Putin used his sway over the media to stifle the opposition and campaign for United Russia, making the election a referendum on his popularity.
- Venezuela Rejects Referendum (Dec. 2): Voters, 51% to 49%, reject referendum put forward by President Hugo Chávez that proposed 69 amendments to the constitution, including the abolishment of presidential term limits, removal of the Central Bank's autonomy, which would have given Chávez new power to build a socialist economy, and others that enjoyed wide support, including reducing the work day to six hours and offering pensions to street vendors and housewives.
- Intelligence Report Concludes Iran Has Halted Weapons Program (Dec. 3): A National Intelligence Estimate compiled by the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community says "with high confidence" that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The report contradicts one written in 2005 that stated Iran was determined to continue developing such weapons. (Dec. 4): Despite the report, President Bush says Iran remains a threat and can not be trusted to pursue enriching uranium for civilian use. "Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said. "What’s to say they couldn't’ start another covert nuclear weapons program?"
- CIA Destroyed Interrogation Tapes (Dec. 6): New York Times reports that in 2005 the CIA destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two al-Qaeda suspects. The tapes reportedly included agency operatives using harsh interrogation techniques. The tapes, the paper said, were not given to members of the Sept. 11 commission, which had requested such evidence, or to the defense team of terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA director Michael Hayden said the tapes, if released, posed a "serious security risk" and could have jeopardized the safety of CIA officials and their families.
- Putin Names His Choice for Successor (Dec. 10): Russian president Vladmir Putin endorses Dmitri Medvedev in March 2008's presidential election. A Putin loyalist who is said to be moderate and pro-Western, Medvedev serves as a first deputy prime minister and the chairman of Gazprom, the country's oil monopoly. He has never worked in intelligence or security agencies, unlike Putin and many members of his administration. (Dec. 11): Medvedev says he will name Putin as prime minister if elected president.
- Car Bombs Explode in Algiers (Dec. 11): As many as 60 people are killed in two suicide attacks near United Nations offices and government buildings in the capital of Algeria. The bombings occur within minutes of each other. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, formerly called the Salafist Group for Preaching, claims responsibility. It's the worst attack in the Algeria in more than 10 years.
- City in Southern Iraq Hit By Bombs (Dec. 12): In the worst violence in months, nearly 30 people are killed and 150 wounded when three car bombs explode in Amara. Local officials had recently assumed control of security.
- European Union Votes to Adopt New Treaty (Dec. 13): Treaty, if ratified by all 27 members, would have the president of the EU in office for two-and-a-half years rather than the current six-month term, and allows most decisions to be reached with a majority vote instead of unanimity, as is currently required.
- Musharraf Ends Emergency Rule (Dec. 14): Pakistani president also restores the Constitution, but he also issues several executive orders and constitutional amendments that preclude any legal challenges related to his actions during and after emergency rule was established and bars the judges who he fired from resuming their positions. "Today I am feeling very happy that all the promises that I have made to the people, to the country, have been fulfilled," he said.
- Turkey Attacks Kurdish Targets in Iraq (Dec. 16): With the help of the U.S. military, Turkish fighter jets bomb areas in Dohuk Province in northern Iraq, targeting the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militant group. At least one civilian is reported to have died in the attack.
- Britain Transfers Control of Basra to Iraqis (Dec. 16): Iraqi government takes military control of Basra, the last region that was still under British control.
- Russia Delivers Nuclear Fuel to Iran (Dec. 17): Russia says Iran has promised to use the enriched-uranium fuel rods for a power plant at Bushehr. The International Atomic Energy Agency will monitor and control the fuel.
- African National Congress Selects New Leader (Dec. 18): Delegates choose Jacob Zuma as their leader, ousting South African president Thabo Mbeki, who had been in control of the party for the last ten years. With the victory, Zuma is poised to become president when Mbeki's term expires in 2009. Zuma was acquitted of rape charges in 2006 and faces corruption charges.
- Conservative Politician Wins Presidential Election in South Korea (Dec. 19): Lee Myung-bak, of the opposition Grand National Party, wins 48.7% of the vote. Chung Dong-yong, who was endorsed by outgoing president Roh Moo-hyun, takes 26.1%. Lee has been dogged by allegations of ethical improprieties, and the National Assembly voted two days before the election to reopen an investigation into whether he manipulated the stock of an investment company.
- Dozens Die in Suicide Bombing at Pakistan Mosque (Dec. 21): About 50 people die in an assassination attempt on Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Pakistan's former interior minister, during a celebration of Id al-Adha at a mosque in the northwest part of the country.
- Backers of Ousted Prime Minister Win Parliamentary Elections in Thailand (Dec. 23): People Power Party, which supports former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, takes 233 out of 480 seats in parliamentary elections, a clear rebuke to the military, which ousted Thaksin in a coup in 2006.
- Bhutto Killed in Suicide Attack (Dec. 27): Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto dies at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. President Pervez Musharraf blames al Qaeda for the attack, which kills 23 other people. Bhutto's supporters, however, accuse Musharraf's government of being involved in the bombing. Rioting throughout the country follows the attack. (Dec. 30): The Pakistan People's Party selects Bhutto's eldest son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, as its chairman to succeed his mother.
- Disputed Kenyan Election Sparks Deadly Tribal Violence (Dec. 27): Preliminary results have opposition candidate Raila Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement, defeating incumbent Mwai Kibaki, 57% to 39%, in Kenya's presidential election. In addition, several of Kibaki's closest allies, including the vice president, lose their seats in Parliament. Odinga, a champion of the poor, had promised to eliminate corruption and tribalism. (Dec. 30): Odinga's lead diminishes, and Kenya's election commission declares Kibaki the winner, 46% to 44%. Violence breaks out among members of the Luo and Kikuyu tribes. Odinga is Luo, and Kibaki is Kikuyu. International observers say the vote was rigged.
- Attacks in Iraq Fall Significantly (Dec. 29): Gen. David Petraeus reports that car bombs and suicide attacks dropped by 60% since June 2007. He also says that al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains the greatest threat to Iraq's security.
- Teen Birth Rate Increases (Dec. 5): The birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 rose to 3% in 2006, the first increase since 1991. The report leads several family-planning advocates to question the effectiveness of President Bush's $176 million abstinence-only sex education program.
- Bush Administration and Lenders Reach Deal for Subprime Borrowers (Dec. 6): Mortgage lenders agree to freeze rates for up to five years for people who are up to date on their subprime loans that are due to increase 30% or more when the introductory rates expire. However, only a very small percentage of the some two million people facing the sharp increases qualify for the relief, prompting many Democrats to criticize the deal as too weak.
- Congress Passes Energy Legislation (Dec. 6): House votes, 235 to 181, in favor of ambitious package that requires passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. to have fuel economy standards of 35 mpg by 2020, a 40% increase over the current standard. Measure also calls for an increase in the production of ethanol and other biofuels to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, up from the current 5 billion; calls on electric utilities to obtain 15% of their power from alternate sources; and imposes $21 billion in new taxes on oil companies. (Dec. 13): The Senate approves, 86 to 8, legislation calling for the higher fuel efficiency standards and the increase in biofuel production that passed in the House, but strips from the package the tax increase and requirement that utilities obtain power from alternate sources of energy. (Dec. 18): The House passes, 314 to 100, the same legislation passed by the Senate. (Dec. 19): President Bush signs the bill into law.
- Congressional Committee Votes to Ban Severe Interrogation Techniques (Dec. 6): The Senate and House intelligence committees vote to outlaw 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. (Dec. 13): House votes, 222 to 199, in favor of the legislation.
- Senate Approves Tax Relief for Middle Class (Dec. 6): Votes, 88 to 5, to change the tax law to prevent millions of Americans from having to pay the alternative minimum tax. There is no provision to offset the tax cut, which was sought by Democrats. (Dec. 19): The House passes a one-year reprieve of the tax.
- Sentencing Commission Retroactively Changes Guidelines for Crack Cocaine (Dec. 11): Votes unanimously to lower sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine. Sentences have been lighter for offenses related to cocaine in powder form than for crack, and black people have disproportionately been affected by the tougher sentences than whites.
- Bush Vetoes Children's Healthcare Bill for Second Time (Dec. 12): President says the legislation that would have increased the funding of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to $60 billion from $35 billion to provide health insurance to more than 10 million children was identical to the one he vetoed in October.
- FCC Changes Media Rules (Dec. 18): Federal Communications Commission passes new rules that say a cable television company can control no more than 30% of the market and allows newspaper companies to also own radio and television stations in large cities.
- Congress Sends Bush Budget (Dec. 19): House approves a $556 billion spending bill, which the Senate endorsed a day earlier. Package includes an additional $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($460 billion had already been authorized) and funds such programs as health care for the poor and elderly, law enforcement, food stamps, foreign aid, and border security. Democrats fail again to tie spending for the Iraq war to a troop withdrawal. (Dec. 26): President Bush signs the spending bill.
- Gunman Opens Fire at Omaha Mall (Dec. 5): Robert Hawkins, 19, of Bellevue, Nebraska, kills eight people before turning the gun on himself at the Von Maur department store in the Westroads Mall in Omaha. Five people are also wounded.
- Report on Steroids Rocks Professional Baseball (Dec. 13): Document, the result of a thorough, far-reaching investigation led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell, accuses 89 current and former Major League Baseball players of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Players include Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, and Eric Gagne.
- U.S. Resists Pressure at Climate Change Conference (Dec. 15): At the end of a two-week conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia, delegates from 187 countries agree to formulate a follow-up to the Kytoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The U.S. concedes that a new agreement is necessary, but refuses to make a firm commitment to reduce emissions.
- EPA Says States Can't Set Own Emissions Standards (Dec. 19): Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson declares that 17 states, including California, do not have the authority to implement their own standards. The states had sought to impose tougher restrictions than those in place under federal law.