News and Events of 2008
- Jan. 1–31: Tribal violence erupts in Kenya after December 2007's presidential election between Raila Odinga, of the Orange Democratic Movement, and incumbent president Mwai Kibaki. More than 800 people die in violence across the country. Preliminary results had Odinga defeating Kibaki, 57% to 39%. In the days after the election, however, Odinga's lead dwindled and Kenya's electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner, 46% to 44%. International observers said the vote was rigged.
- Jan. 6: President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, is reelected, taking 52% of the vote. He had called for early elections in November 2007, after massive protests prompted by accusations that he abused power and stifled dissent.
- Jan. 31: Final report by an Israeli-government-appointed panel, the Winograd Commission, on Israel's 2006 war against the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, calls the operation a "large and serious" failure and criticizes the country's leadership for failing to have an exit strategy in place before the invasion.
- Feb. 10: Three men wearing ski masks steal four pieces of artwork from the Zurich Museum in one of the largest art robberies in history. In broad daylight, the robbers took a Cezanne, a Degas, a van Gogh, and a Monet, with a combined worth of $163 million. Feb. 18: Two of the paintings, the Monet and the van Gogh, are found in perfect condition in the backseat of an unlocked car in Zurich.
- Feb. 17: Kosovo's prime minister Hashim Thaci declares independence from Serbia. Serbian prime minister Vojislav Kostunica says he would never recognize the "false state." International reaction is mixed, with the United States, France, Germany, and Britain indicating that they plan to recognize Kosovo as the world's 195th country.
- Feb. 19: Cuban president Fidel Castro, who temporarily handed power to his brother Raúl in July 2006 when he fell ill, permanently steps down after 49 years in power.
- March 2: Dmitri A. Medvedev, a former aide to Russian president Vladimir Putin, wins the presidential election in a landslide. Putin will remain in a position of power, serving as Medvedev's prime minister.
- March 10: Some 400 Buddhist monks participate in a protest march in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to commemorate 1959's failed uprising against China's invasion and occupation of Tibet. March 14: Violence breaks out, with ethnic Tibetans clashing with Chinese citizens. Chinese police suppress the demonstrations, and Tibetan leaders say that more than 100 Tibetans are killed.
- April 2: Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, says he won 50.3% of the vote in March 29's presidential election, defeating Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1980. April 14: The High Court of Zimbabwe dismisses the opposition's request for the release of election results. The government cracks down on the opposition.
- April 11: In Nepal, millions of voters turn out to elect a 601-seat Constituent Assembly that will write a new constitution. Maoist rebels win 120 out of 240 directly elected seats.
- May 2: More than a month after the presidential election, Zimbabwe officials announce that opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, defeated incumbent Robert Mugabe, 47.9% to 43.2%. A runoff election is necessary because neither candidate won more than 50%.
- May 28: Nepal's newly elected Constituent Assembly votes to dissolve the 239-year-old monarchy and form a republic. King Gyanendra is told he must step down within 15 days.
- June 19: Egypt brokers a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. The agreement is intended to stem the violence in the region.
- June 22: Morgan Tsvangirai, of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democracy and Change, who was to face incumbent president Robert Mugabe in a runoff election, withdraws from the race, saying he could not subject his supporters to violence and intimidation. June 27: Mugabe wins the second round of the election, with about 85% of the vote.
- July 2: After being held for nearly six years by Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels in Colombia, 15 hostages, including three U.S. military contractors and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, are freed by commandos who infiltrated FARC's leadership.
- July 14: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, formally charges Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, with genocide for planning and executing the decimation of Darfur's three main ethnic tribes: the Fur, the Masalit, and the Zaghawa.
- July 21: Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb president during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, is arrested outside Belgrade and charged with genocide, persecution, deportation, and other crimes against non-Serb civilians. Karadzic orchestrated the massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica. July 30: Karadzic is transferred to The Hague to await trial.
- Aug. 7: Fighting breaks out after Georgian soldiers attack South Ossetia, a breakaway enclave in Georgia that won de facto independence in the early 1990s. Separatists in South Ossetia retaliate. Aug. 8: Russia enters the fray, with troops and tanks pouring into South Ossetia to support the region. Aug. 9 and 10: Russia intensifies its involvement, moving troops into Abkhazia, another breakaway region, and launching airstrikes at Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Aug. 13: France brokers a deal between Russia and Georgia. President George Bush sends U.S. troops on a humanitarian mission to Georgia. He warns Russia that if it doesn't observe the cease-fire, the country risks its standing in "the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century." Aug. 29: Russia and Georgia sever diplomatic ties from each other. It is the first time Russia has cut off formal relations with one of its former republics, which gained independence in 1991.
- Aug. 7: Pakistan's governing coalition, led by Asif Ali Zardari, of the Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, begins impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf on charges of violating the constitution and misconduct. Aug. 18: Musharraf resigns as president.
- Aug. 15: Nepal's Constituent Assembly elects Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, as prime minister.
- Aug. 22: As many as 90 Afghan civilians, 60 of them children, die in an airstrike by coalition troops in the western village of Azizabad. It is one of the deadliest airstrikes since the war began in 2001, and the deadliest for civilians. The U.S. military refutes the figures, which were confirmed by the UN.
- Sep. 2: Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej declares a state of emergency when protests between government supporters and the opposition, People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is calling for Samak's resignation, turn violent. Sep. 9: Samak is forced from office when Thailand's Constitutional Court rules that he violated the constitution by being paid to appear on a cooking show. Somchai Wongsawat, the first deputy prime minister, becomes acting prime minister. Sep. 17: Parliament elects Somchai prime minister.
- Sep. 6: Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party and the widower of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, wins 481 out of 702 votes in the two houses of Parliament to become president.
- Sep. 15: In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who defeated Mugabe 48% to 43% in March 2008 elections but boycotted the June runoff election because of voter intimidation, agree to a power-sharing deal. Tsvangirai will serve as prime minister and the opposition will control 16 ministries. The governing party will control 15; Mugabe will continue as president.
- Sep. 20: A truck bomb explodes outside the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing more than 50 people and wounding hundreds. A previously unknown group, Fedayeen Islam, takes responsibility for the attack.
- Sep. 21: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is under investigation for corruption, resigns.
- Sep. 24: Japan's Taro Aso, a conservative and former foreign minister, becomes prime minister, succeeding Yasuo Fukuda, who stepped down amid criticism of his handling of domestic issues.
- 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.
- Nov. 16: Iraq's cabinet passes by a large margin a status of forces agreement that will govern the U.S. presence in Iraq through 2011. The pact calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by Dec. 31, 2011, and the removal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by the summer of 2009. In addition, the agreement gives Iraqi officials increased jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by off-duty Americans who are off base when the crimes occur. Nov. 27: The Iraqi Parliament votes, 149 to 35, to approve the status of forces agreement. Dec. 4: The Presidencial Council, made up of Iraq's president and two vice presidents, gives final approval to the status of forces agreement.
- Nov. 26: More than 170 people are killed and about 300 are wounded in a series of attacks on several landmarks and commercial hubs in Mumbai, India. Indian officials say ten gunmen carried out the attack. It took Indian forces three days to end the siege. Deccan Mujahedeen, a previously unknown group, claims responsibility for the attacks. Pakistan officials deny any involvement in the attacks, but some Indian officials hint that they suspect Pakistani complicity.
- Dec. 2: Thailand's Constitutional Court ruling that the governing People Power engaged in fraud during the 2007 elections forces Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from power and bans party members from politics for five years. Dec. 15: Parliament elects Abhisit Vejjajiva, the head of the Democrat Party, as prime minister.
- Dec. 14: At a news conference in Baghdad, a reporter for Al Baghdadia, a Cairo-based satellite television network, hurls his shoes at President Bush and calls him a "dog." The shoes narrowly miss Bush's head.
- Dec. 22: Guinea's despotic president, Lansana Conte, dies after 24 years in power. Dec. 24: Junior army leaders launch a coup. Army captain Moussa Camara takes over as president of the republic.
- Dec. 28: Days after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas expired, Hamas begins launching rocket attacks into Israel, which retaliates with airstrikes that kill about 300 people. Israel targets Hamas bases, training camps, and missile storage facilities.
- Jan. 3: The presidential primary season begins with Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee.
- Feb. 5: Arizona senator John McCain emerges as the clear front runner among Republicans in the Super Tuesday primary races. On the Democratic side, New York senator Hillary Clinton wins big states such as California and Massachusetts, but Illinois senator Barack Obama takes more states.
- March 4: Sen. John McCain has enough delegates to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
- March 8: President George W. Bush, saying intelligence officials must have "all the tools they need to stop the terrorists," vetoes legislation that would have outlawed 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.
- March 18: Sen. Barack Obama delivers a pivotal speech on race, denouncing the provocative remarks on race made by his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., but explains that the complexities of race in America have fueled anger and resentment among many African Americans.
- March 11: The government begins to intervene in the U.S. financial system to avoid a crisis. The Federal Reserve outlines a $200 billion loan program that lets the country's biggest banks borrow Treasury securities at discounted rates and post mortgage-backed securities as collateral. March 16: The Federal Reserve approves a $30 billion loan to JPMorgan Chase so it can take over Bear Stearns, which is on the verge of collapse.
- May 15: California's Supreme Court rules, 4 to 3, that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
- May 20: Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts who's been in office since 1963, is diagnosed with malignant glioma, a brain tumor.
- June 3: On the final day of the 2008 primary season, Sen. Barack Obama secures 2,154 delegates and becomes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. He's the first black candidate to head a major party ticket in a presidential election. Aug. 28: Obama accepts the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first African American to be selected by a major party as its nominee for president.
- June 12: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have a right to challenge their detention in federal court.
- June 26: The U.S. Supreme Court rules, 5 to 4, that the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess a gun, but insists that the ruling "is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
- Sep. 4: Sen. John McCain accepts the the Republican presidential nomination.
- Sep. 29: An internal inquiry by the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general and its Office of Professional Responsibility reports "significant evidence that political partisan considerations were an important factor in the removal of several of the U.S. attorneys." (Nine federal prosecutors were fired in 2006.)
- Oct. 1: The U.S. Senate ratifies an agreement that allows India to buy nuclear fuel on the world market for its reactors as long as it uses the fuel for civilian purposes only.
- Oct. 10: Connecticut'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.
- Oct. 27: A jury finds Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) 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 Alaska's biggest oil-field contractors.
- Nov. 4: Democratic senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election against Sen. John McCain, taking 338 electoral votes to McCain's 161. Obama becomes the first African American to be elected president of the United States. Also in the election, Democrats increase their majority in the House and pick up five seats in the Senate.
- Nov. 4: Voters in California narrowly pass a ballot measure, Proposition 8, that overturns the May 15, 2008, California Supreme Court decision that said same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
- Dec. 19: President George W. Bush announces plans to lend General Motors and Chrysler $17.4 billion to survive the next three months.
Median Household Income
(current dollars): $50,303
Consumer Price Index: 215.3
Cost of a first-class stamp: 42 cents
Super BowlNew York Giants defeated New England Patriots, 17-14
World SeriesPhiladelphia Phillies defeated Tampa Bay Rays, 4 games to 1
NBA ChampionshipBoston Celtics defeated Los Angeles Lakers, 4 games to 2
Stanley CupDetroit Red Wings defeated Pittsburgh Penguins, 4 games to 2
WimbledonWomen: Venus Williams defeated Serena Williams 7-5, 6-4
Men: Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 6-7, 9-7
Kentucky Derby ChampionBig Brown
NCAA Basketball ChampionshipKansas Jayhawks defeated the Memphis Tigers, 75-68
NCAA Football ChampionsFlorida Gators defeated Oklahoma Sooners, 24 to 14
- The Appeal, John Grisham
- Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, Jeff Kinney
- Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
- The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
- A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
- The Shack, William P. Young
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel, David Wroblewski
- Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
- Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer
Nobel Prizes in Science
Chemistry: Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Tsien (all U.S.) for the discovery of a glowing jellyfish protein that makes cells, tissues, and organs light up
Physics: Yoichiro Nambu (U.S.) for "the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics" and to Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa (both Japan) for "the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature"
Physiology or Medicine: Harald zur Hausen (Germany) for his discovery that the human papilloma viruses (HPV) causes cervical cancer and to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier (both France) for their discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Feb. 9: The space shuttle Atlantis delivered the Columbus science laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). The $2 billion laboratory has room for three astronauts and ten experimentation racks that can simulate gravity for biotechnical and medical research.
- May 3: Cyclone Nargis ravages Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta and Yangon, killing 78,000 people and leaving up to a million homeless. About 28,000 people are reported missing and are feared dead. Most of the death and destruction are caused by a 12-foot-high tidal wave that formed during the storm.
- May 12: As many as 68,000 people are killed and thousands injured when an estimated 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces in western China. Nearly 900 students are trapped when Juyuan Middle School in the Sichuan Province collapses. Several other schools collapse. It is China's worst natural disaster in three decades.
- May 14: Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced that the polar bear has been listed as threatened, thus protected by the Endangered Species Act. The protection is somewhat watered down since the Interior Department included provisions allowing for continued oil and gas development in polar bear habitats. In 2008, the estimated number of polar bears left in the wild is about 20,000.
- July 8: At their annual meeting, members of the Group of 8, the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, and Russia, set goals to cut in half by 2050 the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the environment.
- Sep. 10: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 17-mile-long looped track located an average of 300 feet beneath the Swiss-French border, accelerated two beams of particles to 1.2 trillion electron volts (TeV) and then smashed them together. The collision earned the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) the distinction of having the world's highest energy particle accelerator, breaking the record of .98 TeV previously held by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron machine.
- Sep. 27: Zhai Zhigang stepped out of the Shenzhou-VII spacecraft and made the first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut. The achievement was an important one in China's quest to build a space station by 2020 and someday land on the Moon.
- Oct. 22: India launches its first unmanned spacecraft for a two-year mission to map a three-dimensional atlas of the Moon and search for natural resources on the lunar surface. This achievement demonstrates India's technological capabilities and willingness to compete with other space faring nations for commercial opportunities.
- Nov. 6: Scientists at the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University report that they have sequenced all the DNA from the cancer cells of a woman who died of leukemia and compared it to her healthy cells. In doing so, the experts found mutations in the cancer cells that may have either caused the cancer or helped it progress. It is the first time scientists have completed such research.