Top News Stories from 2009

World Events

World Statistics

Population: 4.378 billion
population by decade
Nobel Peace Prize: Barack Obama (U.S) for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"
More World Statistics...
  • Feb. 7: The worst wildfires in Australia's history kill at least 181 people in the state of Victoria, injure more than a hundred, and destroy more than 900 homes.
  • March 3: A group of 12 gunmen in Pakistan attack the national cricket team of Sri Lanka and their police escorts. Six policemen are killed in the attack, as well as two bystanders.
  • March 4: The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al Bashir, charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur region.
  • June 30: As a signal of the United States' diminishing role in Iraq, and in compliance with the status of forces agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, U.S. troops complete their withdrawal from Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, and transfer the responsibility of securing the cities to Iraqi troops. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki names June 30 "National Sovereignty Day" and declares a public holiday.
  • March 17: Madagascar's president Marc Ravalomanana resigns after a bitter, three-month-long power struggle with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. Ravalomanana hands power over to the military, which in turn transfers control to Andry Rajoelina.
  • Oct. 2:Rio de Janeiro, Brazil wins the bid for the 2016 Olympics and will be the first South American city to host the Games. Rio beat Tokyo, Madrid, and Chicago, Ill.
  • Dec. 5: An Italian jury convicts Amanda Knox, an American student, of murdering her former roommate, English student Meredith Kercher, in 2007. Knox and Kercher were exchange students in Italy at the time. Knox's then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, was also convicted. They received prison sentences of 26 and 25 years, respectively.
  • April 1: Sweden becomes the fifth European country to legalize same-sex marriage. The other countries with the same rights are The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Spain.
  • July 6: Rioting in Urumqi, China between two ethnic groups—Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese—kills at least 156 people.
  • Oct. 25: Two suicide bombings in Baghdad, Iraq kill at least 155 people and wound 500 others. These are the deadliest attacks in the country since 2007, and raise the question of the safety of Iraq.
  • Dec. 18: President Barack Obama announces that the U.S., China, India, Brazil, and South Africa have reached an agreement to combat global warming. The accord that will set up a system for monitoring pollution reduction, require richer nations to give billions of dollars to poorer nations more greatly affected by climate change, and set a goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2050.
  • Aug. 4: The government of North Korea pardons two imprisoned American journalists after former President Bill Clinton visits the country and its president, Kim Jong-il. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested in March and sentenced in June to 12 years in prison for "illegal entry" into the country.
  • Oct. 30: The U.S. brokers an agreement between ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya and self-appointed leader of the country, Roberto Micheletti, that left Zelaya's reinstatement up to a congressional vote, called for the establishment of a government of national unity and a truth commission, and required Zelaya to abandon a referendum on constitutional reform. Nov. 19: Micheletti agrees to temporarily cede power to his cabinet ministers while awaiting presidential election day, scheduled for November 29. (Nov. 29): Conservative candidate Porfirio Lobo wins the presidential election, beating his main opponent, Elvín Santos, by a wide margin.
  • April 26: H1N1 (swine flu) has killed as many as 103 people in Mexico, most likely the epicenter of the worldwide outbreak. April 29: At least 150 in Mexico are dead from H1N1.
  • May 1: For the first time in 341 years, a woman is appointed as poet laureate of the United Kingdom. Carol Ann Duffy, 53, will take over the post from current poet laureate Andrew Motion.
  • Jan. 3: After more than a week of intense air strikes, Israeli troops crossed the border into Gaza, launching a ground war against the militant Palestinian group, Hamas. More than 430 Palestinians and 4 Israelis have been killed since the fighting began Dec. 27, 2008. Jan. 17: Israel announces unilateral cease-fire in Gaza. Hamas says it will continue to fight as long as Israeli troops remain in the area. Jan. 18: Hamas announces cease-fire in response to Israel's promise of peace.
  • Aug. 5: Controversial president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his second term amid a crisis in Iran sparked by the June election that was widely condemned as rigged in Ahmadinejad's favor. The vote set off protests that resulted in mass arrests of opposition figures, journalists, and lawyers.
  • Aug. 20: Afghanistan holds provincial and presidential elections. Violence spiked in the days leading up to the elections. More than 30 candidates challenged incumbent President Hamid Karzai, with Abdullah Abdullah as the most formidable contender. Early results put Karzai well ahead of Abdullah, but allegations of widespread and blatant fraud surfaced immediately. Sept. 8: The United Nations-backed commission that is reviewing the presidential election in Afghanistan orders a recount of the votes, citing evidence of fraud. Oct. 31: Abdullah Abdullah withdraws from the second round of Afghanistan's presidential race in Afghanistan in protest of the Karzai administration's refusal to dismiss election officials accused of taking part in the widespread fraud that marred the first round of the election. Results released earlier in October showed that Karzai came up short in garnering 50% of the vote, necessitating a second round of voting. Nov. 20: Karzai is sworn in as the president of Afghanistan, marking the beginning of his second five-year term.
  • Jan. 31: Iraq holds local elections to create provincial councils. More than 14,000 people run for just 440 seats on councils around the country. The elections are notable for their lack of violence and the noticeably diminished role the U.S. played in their implementation.
  • June 1: In the worst aviation disaster since 2001, Air France Flight 447 disappears somewhere off the northeast coast of Brazil with 228 people on board, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
  • Aug. 5: Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, is killed by a C.I.A. drone strike in South Waziristan. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, the terrorist attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan in Sept. 2008, and dozens of other suicide bombings have been attributed to Mehsud.
  • Nov. 5: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announces he will not seek reelection in Jan. 2010's general and presidential elections, citing the protracted impasse between Israelis and Palestinians and the United States' failure to aggressively take steps toward negotiating a settlement.
  • Aug. 20: Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan terrorist convicted of bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 and killed 270 people, is freed from prison on compassionate grounds by Scotland's Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill. He is suffering from terminal prostate cancer and is expected to die within three months.
  • June 8: A court in North Korea convicts American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling of "illegal entry" and sentences them to 12 years in a labor prison. The women were employed by Current TV and were arrested in March while working on a story about North Korean refugees.
  • At least 21 men and women are killed and 22 are missing in a rash of election-related violence in the Philippines. The victims were en route to file candidacy papers for Esmael Mangudadatu, who intends to run for governor of Maguindanao, a province on the island of Mindanao. Family members of Mangudadatu are among the dead. Nov. 25: The number of victims in the Philippines election killings rises to 57. Authorities voice their suspicion of a powerful clan tied to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the current governor of Maguindanao and the prime suspect in the murders, turns himself in.
  • Feb. 1: Johanna Sigurdardottir takes office as Iceland's first female prime minister.
  • Aug. 30: Japan's opposition party, the Democrats, win in a landslide over the ruling Liberal Democrats, who have been in power nearly uninterrupted for a half-century.
  • June 13: Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wins his reelection campaign by a landslide victory with almost 63% of the vote, while main challenger Mir Hussein Moussavi receives just under 34%. Accusations of ballot tampering and fraud leads to wide-scale and deadly protests in Tehran. June 21: The death toll in the Iranian protests reaches at least 17, according to state media. June 22: The Guardian Council, Iran's oversight group, admits to irregularities in the recent presidential election, revealing that votes counted in about 50 cities exceed the number of eligible voters by 3 million. They claim the mistake does not affect the final election result, however. June 30: The Guardian Council of Iran announces that the election of President Ahmadinejad is valid.
  • June 28: Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is ousted by a military coup. Zelaya had faced wide criticism recently for attempting to extend presidential term limits. June 30: Roberto Micheletti, named the interim president by the Honduran Congress, threatens Zelaya with arrest if he returns to the country.

U.S. Events

U.S. Statistics

President: Barack Obama
Vice President: Joe Biden
Population: 310 million
Life expectancy: 78.1 years
More U.S. Statistics...
  • May 26: The California Supreme Court upholds the ban on same-sex marriage, solidifying the vote made by California residents last November. The 18,000 same-sex couples who were married before the ban went to effect are still legally married, however.
  • March 2: Insurance giant American International Group reports a $61.7 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2008. A.I.G. lost $99.3 billion in 2008. The federal government, which has already provided the company with a $60 billion loan, will be giving A.I.G. an additional $30 billion, making it the largest company loan the government has provided during the bailout. March 14: A.I.G. announces they will pay top executives more than $165 million in bonuses, despite having received $170 billion in bailout funds from the U.S. government. The company claims the bonuses were promised in contracts and are no longer negotiable. Nearly 80% of A.I.G. is now owned by the federal government. March 16: President Obama has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to pursue all "legal avenues" in order to block the bonuses to A.I.G. executives.
  • March 6: Unemployment in the U.S., which has been steadily growing for several months, reaches 8.1% in February 2009. This is the highest rate since 1983.
  • March 12: Bernard Madoff, who has admitted to operating a massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded his many clients out of billions of dollars over the past 20 years, pleads guilty to 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft. The judge revoked bail and remanded the financial swindler due to his relatively high flight risk.
  • April 30: Justice David H. Souter announces he is retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court when the current term ends in June. He was appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. This will be the first Supreme Court pick for President Obama.
  • June 4: In a speech during a visit to Cairo, Egypt, President Obama calls for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world," asking for new alliances based on mutual respect and common interests.
  • April 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.
  • Jan. 15: After allegedly striking a flock of geese, US Airways Flight 1549, en route from La Guardia Airport, New York City, to Charlotte, N.C., is forced to land in the Hudson River. All 150 passengers and 5 crew members survived. The pilot, Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, was hailed as the "Hero of the Hudson" for his quick thinking and deft landing of the plane.
  • June 18: The Supreme Court rules in a 5–4 decision that prisoners have no right to a DNA test to prove their innocence long after they are convicted of a crime. The Court claims that most states already have laws in effect concerning DNA testing, so a federal law is unnecessary.
  • July 3: Sarah Palin, the first-term Republican governor of Alaska and former vice-presidential candidate, announces her resignation. Palin cites a desire to spend more time with her family and a lack of interest in running for reelection in 2010. Lt. Gov, Sean Parnell will take over for her.
  • Nov. 3: Maine voters overturn a law allowing same-sex marriage, which had been instated by the state governor in May 2009. Maine is the 31st state to block same-sex marriage through a public referendum.
  • The U.S. Labor Department reports that January 2009 saw 598,000 jobs lost, the highest number since December 1974.
  • Oct. 21: The Obama administration orders pay cuts for the top-paid employees at those firms that received the most stimulus money. The top 25 earners at seven of the companies that received the most taxpayer money will have compensation cut up to 50%.
  • Jan. 20: Hundreds of thousands of people watched in front of the Capitol as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are sworn into office. Obama makes history as the first African-American president.
  • June 25: Michael Jackson, lifelong musician, pop singer, and superstar, dies at age 50. He is found unconscious in his home, then rushed to a Los Angeles hospital where he is pronounced dead.
  • Aug. 6: The Senate approves, 68 to 31, the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. She's the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and the third woman to serve on the Court.
  • Nov. 5: A shooting at the Fort Hood army post in Texas kills 13 and injures 29. Ten of those killed are military personnel, while one is a civilian. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is the alleged shooter. He was shot four times by an officer on the scene, but he survived the attack. Nov. 12: Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder; he will be tried in military court.
  • Feb. 17: President Obama signs the $787 billion stimulus package into law. The president's hope is that the package will create 3.5 million jobs for Americans in the next two years.
  • April 3: The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejects a state law banning same-sex marriage. April 27: Same-sex couples are granted marriage licenses for the first time in Iowa. Iowa is the third state to allow same-sex marriages, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.
  • Jan. 22: President Obama signs executive orders closing all secret prisons and detention camps run by the CIA, including the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba, and banning coercive interrogation methods.
  • April 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.
  • May 6: Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signs a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The law will not go into effect until summer 2009.
  • June 30: Nearly eight months after the election and a long battle over a recount, the Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Al Franken (Dem.) wins the U.S. senate seat for Minnesota. The final recount gives Franken a 312-vote lead. His rival, Norm Coleman (Rep.) concedes. Franken's win gives the Democrats in the Senate the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority they have been hoping for.
  • Aug. 25: Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, a fixture in the Senate for 46 years, dies of brain cancer at the age of 77. Sep. 24: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick names Paul Kirk, former Democratic National Committee chairman and friend of the late Ted Kennedy, as Kennedy's temporary replacement in the Senate.
  • Nov. 10: John Allen Muhammad, known as the D.C. sniper who killed 10 people in shooting spree in Maryland and Virginia in 2002, is executed in a Virginia prison.
  • April 30: Chrysler files for bankruptcy protection while entering into a partnership agreement with Fiat. It is the first time since 1933 that an American automaker has been forced to restructure under bankruptcy protection.
  • Jan. 31: Michael Steele is selected by the Republican National Committee to be its new chairman. He is the first African-American to hold the position.
  • April 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.
  • May 11: Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is fired and replaced by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says McKiernan brought too conventional an approach to the war and the Pentagon wanted a more innovative leader.
  • Oct. 1: President Obama signs an executive order banning federal workers from texting while driving.
  • Dec. 1: President Obama announces that the U.S. military will be sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, in an attempt to prevent further Taliban insurgencies. The troop surge will begin in Jan. 2010, and will bring the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to 100,000.
  • Jan. 29: President Obama signs his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, an equal-pay act. The law expands workers' rights to sue in pay disputes.
  • June 1: General Motors files for bankruptcy and announces it will close 14 plants in the United States.
  • Feb. 27: President Obama announces his intention to withdraw most American troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. As many as 50,000 troops will remain there for smaller missions and to train Iraqi soldiers.
  • April 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.
  • May 26: President Obama announces his nomination of New York federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.
  • Oct. 19: The federal government announces it will no longer prosecute those who use or sell marijuana for medical reasons, if they are complying with state law.
  • Dec. 25: A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The explosive device that failed to detonate was a mixture of powder and liquid that did not alert security personnel in the airport. The alleged bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. (Dec. 26): Officials charge Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab with trying to blow up the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. The suspect was already on the government's watch list when he attempted the bombing; his father, a respected Nigerian banker, had told the U.S. government that he was worried about his son's increased extremism. (Dec. 28): Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a group based in Yemen, takes responsibility for orchestrating the attack.
  • Jan. 9: Unemployment is at a 16-year high, 7.2%, according to the Labor Department. 524,000 jobs were lost in December 2008, for a total of 2.6 million in 2008.
  • Sept. 9: The Federal Reserve releases a survey that concludes that the economy is showing signs of slow recovery. Credit conditions and retail sales remain down, but other aspects of the economy, such as employer hiring in some markets, are improving.


US GDP (1998 dollars): $14,260 billion
Federal spending: $2,650 billion
Federal debt $12,300 billion
Consumer Price Index: $214.5
Unemployment: 9.3%
Cost of a first-class stamp: 44 cents


Super Bowl
Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Arizona Cardinals, 27-23
World Series
The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2
NBA Championship
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Orlando Magic, 4 games to 1
Stanley Cup
Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Detroit Red Wings, 4 games to 3
Women: Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams 7-6, 6-2
Men: Roger Federer defeated Andy Roddick, 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14
Kentucky Derby Champion
Mine That Bird
NCAA Basketball Championship
North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Michigan State Spartans, 89-72
NCAA Football Champions
Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Texas Longhorns, 37-21


Entertainment Awards

Academy Award, Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Nobel Prize for Literature: The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009 was awarded to Herta Müller "who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed".
Miss America: Katie Stam (Seymour, Indiana)
More Entertainment Awards...


  • Avatar
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • New Moon
  • Up
  • The Hangover
  • Star Trek
  • The Blind Side
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
  • Sherlock Holmes


  • Fearless, Taylor Swift
  • I Am...Sasha Fierce, Beyonce
  • Dark Horse, Nickelback
  • Twilight (soundtrack)
  • Hannah Montana: The Movie (soundtrack)
  • Circus, Britney Spears
  • 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West
  • The Fame, Lady Gaga
  • Relapse, Eminem
  • The E.N.D., The Black Eyed Peas


  • Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Maile Meloy
  • A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
  • Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem
  • Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls
  • A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert
  • The Age of Wonder, Richard Holmes
  • The Good Soldiers, David Finkel
  • LIT:A Memoir, Mary Karr
  • Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, Liaquat Ahamed
  • Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life, Carol Sklenicka


Nobel Prizes in Science

Chemistry: Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (UK), Thomas A. Steitz (U.S.), and Ada E. Yonath (U.S.) for "studies of the structure and function of the ribosome"
Physics: One-half to Charles K. Kao (China) for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication," and one-quarter to both Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith (both U.S.) for "the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit–the CCD sensor)"
Physiology or Medicine: Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak (all U.S) for "the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase"
More Nobel Prizes in 1998...
  • Nov. 13: Scientists find water on the Moon during NASA's Lcross misson. The Lcross satellite, sent to look for water, was comprised of two parts: a satellite meant to crash into a crater near the Moon's south pole, and a spacecraft that measured the findings of that crash. At least 26 gallons of water were found.
  • Feb. 12: A special court rules that vaccinations do not cause autism. The court ruled in a civil case brought by three families seeking compensation from the federal vaccine-injury fund. The families claim their children's autism was brought on as a result of their vaccination against measles, mumps, and rubella, or the M.M.R. vaccine. The judge claims that the families have failed to prove that a link exists between vaccines and autism, and that scientific evidence refutes any connection.
  • May 19: Scientists unveil the fossilized remains of a 47-million-year-old primate, allegedly the ancestor of humans, as well as other modern primates. Nicknamed "Ida" after a scientist's daughter, the fossil is the first discovery of its kind—it is almost completely intact.
  • Nov. 16: According to a new study, researchers now recommend that women wait until age 50 to begin breast cancer screening with mammograms, instead of age 40, as has been recommended in the past. The new guidelines do not apply to women with certain risk factors for breast cancer, such as a family history of the disease. The new recommendations are aimed at preventing unnecessary tests and treatments. The research group, United States Preventive Services Task Force, also encourage doctors to stop instructing patients to perform self-examinations. Nov. 18: The Obama administration, acknowledging the new mammogram guidelines for women between ages 40 and 50, announces that government insurance programs will still cover mammograms for women beginning at age 40.
  • Sept. 24: For the first time, scientists have created a vaccine that seems to reduce the risk of contracting the AIDS virus. Scientists combined two unsuccessful vaccines to create a new version, given to 16,000 volunteers in Thailand. Those given the vaccine during the study reduced their risk of contracting HIV by more than 31 percent.
  • Nov. 20: Changes to the guidelines for Pap smears, the physical exam that checks for cervical cancer, are released, with researchers recommending that women wait until the age of 21, or within three years of becoming sexually active, to begin the tests. Guidelines formerly recommended that women begin the tests at the age of 18. The advice, made by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is meant to reduce unnecessary screenings and potentially harmful treatment.
  • Oct. 1: A fossil skeleton of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, has been discovered. Nicknamed "Ardi," its age is estimated at 4.4 million years, making it older than Lucy (the next-oldest and best-preserved skeleton of a hominid, and 3.2 million years old) and the oldest specimen from the human branch of the primate group categorization. Ardi, an adult female, was four-feet tall, 120 pounds, and walked upright on two legs.
  • Oct. 24: President Obama declares the outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus, also called swine flu, a national emergency. This step will allow hospitals and local governments execute disaster preparation plans and set up alternative treatment locations if they should face a rapid influx of patients sick with the disease.


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