Top News Stories from 2003

World Events

World Statistics

Population: 4.378 billion
population by decade
Nobel Peace Prize: Shirin Ebadi
More World Statistics...
  • U.S. Secretary of State Powell presents Iraq war rationale to UN, citing its WMD as imminent threat to world security (Feb. 5).
  • In State of the Union address, Bush announces that he is ready to attack Iraq even without a UN mandate (Jan. 28). (For an account of the U.S. build-up to war in Iraq, see News of the Nation, 2003.)
  • U.S. and Britain launch war against Iraq (March 19). See also Iraq war timeline.
  • The Bush administration reverses policy, agreeing to transfer power to an interim Iraqi government in early 2004 (Nov. 14).
  • North Korea withdraws from treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (Jan. 10).
  • After Israel retaliates for suicide bombing by killing top member of Hamas, militant Palestinian groups formally withdraw from cease-fire in effect since June 29 (Aug. 24).
  • Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem kills 20 Israelis, including 6 children (Aug. 19).
  • Suicide bombing destroys UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 24, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello (Aug. 19).
  • Libya accepts blame for 1988 bombing of flight over Lockerbie, Scotland; agrees to pay $2.7 billion to the families of the 270 victims (Aug. 15).
  • NATO assumes control of peacekeeping force in Afghanistan (Aug. 11). Background
  • Liberia's autocratic president Charles Taylor forced to leave civil-war ravaged country (Aug. 11). Background
  • Palestinian militant groups announce ceasefire toward Israel (June 29).
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) discovers Iran's concealed nuclear activities and calls for intensified inspections (June 18).
  • Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi again placed under house arrest by military regime (May 30).
  • Terrorists strike in Saudi Arabia, killing 34 at Western compound; Al-Qaeda suspected (May 12).
  • The U.S. declares official end to combat operations in Iraq (May 1).
  • U.S.-backed "road map" for peace proposed for Middle East (April 30). Background
  • First Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, sworn in (April 29).
  • Baghdad falls to U.S. troops (April 9).
  • Nine-week general strike in Venezuela calling for President Chavez's resignation ends in defeat (Feb. 2).
  • Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi announces he will give up weapons program (Dec. 19).
  • Saddam Hussein is captured by American troops (Dec. 13).
  • Paul Martin succeeds Jean Chretien as Canadian prime minister (Dec. 12).
  • Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze resigns after weeks of protests (Nov. 23).
  • Another terrorist attack in Istanbul kills 26 (Nov. 20). Al-Qaeda suspected in both. See suspected al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.
  • Suicide bombers attack two synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 25 (Nov. 15).
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas resigns; "road map" to peace effectively collapses (Sept. 6). Background
  • Ariel Sharon elected Israeli prime minister (Jan. 29).

U.S. Events

U.S. Statistics

President: George W. Bush
Vice President: Richard Cheney
Population: 291 million
More U.S. Statistics...
  • California governor Gray Davis ousted in recall vote; actor Arnold Schwarzenegger elected in his place (Oct. 7).
  • Space shuttle Columbia explodes, killing all 7 astronauts (Feb. 1).
  • Bush signs ten-year, $350-billion tax cut package, the third-largest tax cut in U.S. history (May 28).
  • In one of the most important rulings on the issue of affirmative action in twenty-five years-the Supreme Court decisively upholds the right of affirmative action in higher education (June 23).
  • Investigation into the loss of space shuttle Columbia cites egregious organizational problems at NASA (Aug. 25).
  • Congressional Budget Office predicts federal deficit of $480 billion in 2004 and $5.8 trillion by 2013 (Aug. 26).
  • President Bush signs $87.5 billion emergency package for post-war Iraq reconstruction; this supplements $79 billion approved in April. (Nov. 5).
  • John A. Muhammad, convicted in the 2002 Washington, DC, area shootings, receives death sentence (Nov. 24).
  • President Bush eliminates steel tariffs after WTO says U.S. violated trade laws (Dec. 4).


Federal spending: $2,158 billion
Federal debt $6,783 billion
Consumer Price Index: $184
Unemployment: 6.0 %
Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.37


Super Bowl
Tampa Bay d. Oakland
World Series
Florida d. New York (4-2)
NBA Championship
San Antonio d. New Jersey
Stanley Cup
New Jersey d. Anaheim
Women: Serena Williams d. Venus Williams (4-6, 6-4, 6-2)
Men: Roger Federer d. Mark Philippoussis (7-6 [5], 6-2, 7-6 [3])
Kentucky Derby Champion
Funny Cide
NCAA Basketball Championship
Syracuse d. Kansas
NCAA Football Champions
Louisiana State and So. Calif.


Entertainment Awards

Academy Award, Best Picture: Chicago, Martin Richards, producer
Nobel Prize for Literature: J. M. Coetzee (South Africa)
Record of the Year: “Don’t Know Why,” Norah Jones
Album of the Year: Come Away with Me, Norah Jones
Song of the Year: “Don’t Know Why” Jesse Harris, songwriter (Norah Jones)
Miss America: Erika Harold, Urbana, IL
More Entertainment Awards...


  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth installment in the wildly popular series, hit the shelves in June and rocketed up the best-seller lists.
  • Johnny Depp earned a surprise Oscar nomination for his Keith Richards-inspired, swaggering swashbuckler in Pirates of the Caribbean, a Disney special effects extravaganza based on a theme park ride.
  • The Pixar team released another animated treasure with Finding Nemo, a fish-out-of-water tale about pair of clown fish who brave dark waters and menacing aquatic creatures to be reunited. The film grossed more than $340 million.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America cracked down on people who illegally swapped more than 1,000 songs over the Internet, filing lawsuits against hundreds of people, including a 12-year-old girl. Apple Computer, however, made downloading both affordable and easy with its iTune Music Store. It allows fans to download tunes for 99 cents each.
  • Big-budget sequels lured fans into the megaplexes. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King not only dominated the 2003 box office, but it also led the way in Oscar nominations. The Matrix fans were treated to two sequels: Matrix: Reloaded and Revolutions.
  • See 2003 People in the news for biographies of entertainers and newsmakers.
  • Norah Jones dominated the Grammy Awards, picking up five trophies, including those for Best Record ("Don’t Know Why"), Best Album (Come Away With Me), and Best New Artist.
  • In its second season, American Idol proved to be as popular as low-carb diets. Although Ruben Studdard was crowned America’s second Idol, runner-up Clay Aiken went on to win the hearts of pop fans.


  • Lost in Translation
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • Finding Nemo
  • Mystic River
  • Cold Mountain
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • Freaky Friday
  • House of Sand and Fog
  • Seabiscuit


  • Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé
  • Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast
  • Justified, Justin Timberlake
  • Some Devil, Dave Matthews
  • Elephant, The White Stripes
  • The Wind, Warren Zevon
  • On and On, Jack Johnson
  • Hail to the Thief, Radiohead
  • Greendale, Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  • Room on Fire, The Strokes


  • Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton
  • The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
  • Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, Al Franken
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling


Nobel Prizes in Science

Chemistry: Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon (both U.S.) for studies on channels in cell walls.
Physics: Alexei A. Abrikosov (Russia, U.S.), Anthony J. Leggett (UK, U.S.), and Vitaly L. Ginzburg (Russia), for theories about superconductivity.
Physiology or Medicine: Paul C. Lauterbur (U.S.) and Sir Peter Mansfield (UK) for discoveries leading to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
More Nobel Prizes in 1998...
  • Three fossilized skulls discovered near the Ethiopian village of Herto in 1997 have now been identified as the oldest known remains of modern humans. Assigned to a new human subspecies called Homo sapiens idaltu (idaltu means elder in the Afar language of Ethiopia), the skulls are estimated to be about 160,000 years old—a good 50,000 years older than any previously discovered Homo sapiens (announcement made: June 11).
  • For a detailed account of the science discoveries of 2003, see "Roundup of Recent Discoveries, 2003."
  • Scientists uncover the fossil of a new species of flying dinosaur in northeastern China thought to have existed 120 million years ago. It is the first dinosaur ever found with four wings. The Chinese team that found the dinosaur has named it Microraptor gui, after Chinese paleontologist Gu Zhiwei (Jan. 22).
  • Scientists publish the first comprehensive analysis of the genetic code of the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome provides just 78 genes out of the estimated 30,000 in human DNA and makes few important contributions beyond determining gender (females have two X chromosomes; males have an X and a Y chromosome). Once the size of the X chromosome, which contains about 1,000 genes, the Y chromosome has been rapidly decaying over the course of human evolution, dwindling to a mere tenth of its former self (June 19).
  • The Hubble telescope has detected the oldest known planet—and it appears to have been formed billions of years earlier than astronomers thought possible. Nicknamed Methuselah after the aged biblical patriarch, the planet is an astonishing 12.7 billion years old (July 10).
  • A joint NASA-Princeton University satellite, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), produced a high-resolution map that captured the oldest light in the universe. It provides some of the most important cosmological discoveries in years. The age of the universe has now been accurately determined as 13.7 billion years old and the birth of stars has been pinpointed to just 200 million years after the Big Bang. The WMAP image also revealed the contents of the universe: only 4% is made up of atoms, or the physical universe as we know it. The remainder is made up of poorly understood substances: dark energy (73%) and dark matter (23%). These findings are consistent with the Big Bang and inflation theories, which assert that the universe materialized in a “big bang” and immediately began cooling and expanding (Feb. 11) .


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