December 2002

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • Opposition Movement Declares Strike in Venezuela (Dec. 2): Foes of President Hugo Chávez launch nationwide strike against government and call for a referendum on the president.
  • Sharon Conditionally Endorses Palestinian State (Dec. 4): Israeli prime minister accepts U.S. peace plan that includes a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as long as Yasir Arafat is removed from power.
  • Iraq Hands Over Weapons Report (Dec. 7): Delivers to the United Nations a 12,000-page document. Iraqi officials say it confirms that the country neither possesses weapons of mass destruction nor programs to create them. U.S. says it will review documents before taking further action.
  • Missiles Found on North Korean Ship (Dec. 9): Vessel, which was not displaying a flag or other identification, stopped by Spanish warships in Gulf of Aden. Search reveals 15 Scud missiles. (Dec. 11): U.S. Navy releases ship bound for Yemen, which had purchased missiles from North Korea.
  • U.S. Urges Early Elections in Venezuela (Dec. 13): Bush administration recommends beleaguered country hold presidential elections before those scheduled for 2006. Venezuela has been paralyzed by a general strike since Dec. 2. Oil production down 70%. Similar strike briefly forced President Hugo Chavez from power in April.
  • European Union to Admit Ten Members (Dec. 13): Expansion, set for May 2004, will increase membership to 25 countries and 450 million people. New members, mostly former Communist countries, are: Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta.
  • Iraq Cited for False Statements in Declaration (Dec. 19): U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell says Iraq in “material breach” of Security Council resolution because of omissions and inconsistencies in weapons declaration.
  • South Korea Elects New President (Dec. 19): Roh Moo Hyun wins in a tight race. Roh, the candidate of the ruling party, favors engaging North Korea.
  • Palestinians Postpone Elections (Dec. 22): Leaders say presidential election cannot be held with movement in West Bank restricted by Israeli troops. Yasir Arafat faced no opposition in race.
  • North Korea Removes Monitors from Nuclear Devices (Dec. 21): Withdraws surveillance equipment from reactor. Next day, pulls off seals protecting stockpile of plutonium. U.S. officials say country could produce about five nuclear weapons within six months. (Dec. 27): Announces plans to expel United Nations weapons inspectors from country and restart a nuclear fuel lab.
  • Suicide Bombers Strike Government Offices in Chechnya (Dec. 27): Blow up pro-Russian government headquarters. At least 90 die in blasts. Worst attack in Chechnya in three years.
  • Kenya Elects New President (Dec. 27): Opposition leader Mwai Kibaki prevails over ruling-party candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president. Kibaki takes 63% of the vote to Kenyatta's 20%.
  • FBI Seeks Illegal Immigrants (Dec. 29): Bureau believes men of Middle Eastern descent entered U.S. illegally around Christmas.
  • Americans Attacked in Yemen (Dec. 30): Three killed and one shot at Baptist missionary hospital in Jibla. Not clear if assailant, Abed Abdul-Razak, linked to al-Qaeda.


  • Lott Makes Divisive Remark (Dec. 5): At 100th birthday celebration for Strum Thurmond, Mississippi senator says, “I want to say this about my state: When Strum Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Embattled senator makes five apologies for the remark, and other lawmakers call on him to step down as senate majority leader.
  • Treasury Secretary Fired (Dec. 6): President Bush dismisses Paul O'Neill, who has been critical of Bush's tax cuts. Lawrence Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council, also let go.
  • Bush Appoints SEC Chief (Dec. 10): Names William Donaldson, Wall Street insider, to take over troubled Security and Exchange Commission. Donaldson founded and served as the first dean of Yale's School of Management.
  • Bush Sets Smallpox Vaccine Schedule (Dec. 13): About 500,000 military personnel begin receiving vaccinations immediately. As many as 10 million health-care and emergency workers to follow. Bush recommends general public waits a year before getting vaccinated
  • Congressional Panel into Sept. 11 Attacks Critical of Intelligence Agencies (Dec. 11): Joint inquiry finds CIA and FBI failed to comprehend scope of terrorist threat and did not actively pursue potential terrorists who had gained entry into the United States.
  • Kissinger Resigns as Head of Sept. 11 Panel (Dec. 13): Steps down rather than reveal names of clients of his consulting firm. George Mitchell, Kissinger's Democratic counterpart, resigned a day earlier, citing time commitment and unwillingness to severe ties to clients of his law firm who may pose conflict of interest in inquiry.
  • Boston Archbishop Steps Down (Dec. 13): Cardinal Bernard Law resigns before the pope over clergy sex-abuse scandal. Move follows the public release of clergy personnel records that revealed additional cases of sexual abuse by priests and further cover-up by church leadership. Auxiliary Bishop Richard Lennon chosen by pope as Law's interim successor.
  • Gore Decides Against Another Run (Dec. 15): Former vice president announces he won't run for president in 2004. Says another face-off with George Bush would focus on the past rather than the future.
  • Bush Replaces Kissinger on Sept. 11 Panel (Dec. 16): Selects Thomas Kean, former governor of New Jersey, to head independent inquiry of 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.
  • Bush Orders Missile Shield (Dec. 17): Tells Pentagon to produce a modest missile defense system within two years. Ground-based interceptors will be located in Alaska and California.
  • Alaska Governor Gives Daughter Senate Seat (Dec. 20): Frank Murkowski, a Republican, appoints his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, a member of the Alaska House of Representatives, to fill his term, which expires in 2004.
  • Lott Steps Down as Republican Leader (Dec. 20): Clears way for Sen. Bill Frist to run for Senate Majority Leader. (Dec. 23): Frist unanimously elected Republican leader of the Senate.
  • Cloning Claim Greeted with Skepticism (Dec. 27): Spokeswoman for Raëlians, a sect that believes space travelers created humans by cloning, says group has created the first human clone, a 7-pound baby girl. President Bush, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and other leaders condemn the claim, which has not been substantiated.
  • Unemployment Benefits Run Out for Many (Dec. 28): About 750,000 Americans lose unemployment payment because Congress failed to pass legislation to extend benefits.
  • Bush Administration Revises Cost of War in Iraq (Dec. 30): Budget director says cost will range between $50 billion and $60 billion, much less than earlier figure of $200 billion.
  • Nine States Challenge Air Pollution Rules (Dec. 31): Northeastern states file suit against EPA's changes to New Source Review, which would allow older coal-fired plants to be improved without requiring installation of expensive antipollution mechanisms. Suit alleges new rules will lead to an increase in acid rain, smog, and asthma.


  • United Airlines Loan Request Rejected (Dec. 4): Air Transportation Stabilization Board denies plea by world's second-largest carrier for $1.8 billion in loan guarantees. Board said airline's business plan is flawed. Company is losing $8 million a day. (Dec. 9): United files for bankruptcy. Largest airline ever to do so.
  • Scientists Compare Mouse and Human Genome (Dec. 5): First analysis of two complete genomes reveals striking similarities. Scientists hope finding will hasten understanding of genetic diseases.
  • Television Executive to Become First Black Owner of a Professional Sports Team (Dec. 18): Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, to pay $300 million for NBA expansion team, which will operate out of Charlotte, N.C.
  • Wall St. Firms to Pay Huge Fines (Dec. 19): Country's largest and most prestigious brokerage companies, including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, to pay $1 billion to end investigation into whether brokers gave misleading representations and advice on stocks.
  • Record Jackpot Awarded (Dec. 26): Millionaire Andrew J. Whittaker, Jr. of West Virginia claims $314.9 million Powerball prize. Opting for a lump-sum payment, he'll clear about $113.4 million after taxes.
  • Holiday Sales Sluggish (Dec. 27): Growth in November and December sales up only 1.5%.

Sources +