January 2003

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • Britain Arrests Terror Suspects (Jan. 5): Six arrested when police find traces of the toxic agent ricin in a London apartment. (Jan. 14): Three more arrested in Manchester. (Jan. 21): Seven more arrested in raid on a London mosque. Authorities believe suspects were planning to poison food supply of British troops.
  • Suicide Bombers Strike Tel Aviv (Jan. 5): Two attackers blow themselves up seconds apart in crowded downtown area, killing 22 other people and injuring more than 100. Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade claims responsibility.
  • Venezuela Plans to Split Oil Company (Jan. 6): Move would divide state-owned oil company, Pdvsa, into two entities and eliminate many executives whom President Hugo Chávez accuses of masterminding the national strike against his government.
  • Britain Calls Up Reservists (Jan. 7): About 1,500 recruits to prepare for deployment to Persian Gulf in case of U.S.-led war against Iraq. Much smaller mobilization than expected.
  • North Korea Withdraws from Arms Treaty (Jan. 9): Rejects Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. (Jan. 10) North Korean representatives meet with New Mexico governor Bill Richardson to discuss crisis.
  • U.S. Deploys Troops to Persian Gulf (Jan. 10): Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld dispatches about 62,000 troops in 24 hours. Brings total troops deployed to gulf to nearly 80,000.
  • Mexican Foreign Minister Resigns (Jan. 10): Jorge Castañeda steps down, expressing frustration that U.S. and Mexico failed to reach an accord on migration.
  • U.S. Signals Willingness to Engage North Korea (Jan. 13): James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in Seoul, says U.S. will consider discussing with North Korea its nuclear weapons program.
  • Empty Warheads Found in Iraq (Jan. 16): UN weapons inspectors discover 11 empty chemical warheads in southern Iraq, which claims they were listed in weapons declaration. (Jan. 19): Iraq tells weapons inspectors it has found four other empty chemical warheads.
  • Hearing Begins for U.S. Air Force Pilots (Jan. 14:) Maj. William Umbach and Maj. Harry Schmidt face potential court-martial on charges including involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault for dropping a 500-pound bomb on a Canadian squad in Afghanistan in April 2002. Four Canadian soldiers died and eight were wounded.
  • France Says It Does Not Support Immediate War in Iraq (Jan. 20): Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin announces country may use veto power in Security Council to thwart U.S. push for resolution justifying early action against Iraq. Germany signals similar reluctance. Both countries recommend giving weapons inspections more time.
  • Libya to Chair UN Human Rights Commission (Jan. 20): U.S., Canada, and Guatemala vote against move, citing Libya's own poor human-rights record.
  • Two Americans Shot in Kuwait (Jan. 21): Michael Rene Pouliot, a civilian contractor for the government, killed in ambush. Other man, David Caraway, a software engineer, wounded.
  • Carter Urges Compromise in Venezuela (Jan. 21): In an attempt to end seven-week general strike, former president recommends either reducing presidential term to four years from six or holding a referendum on leadership of President Hugo Chávez.
  • North Korea Says It Has No Plans for Nuclear Weapons (Jan. 22): In cabinet-level meeting with South Korea, North says in a statement, “Although we have withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, we have no intention of producing nuclear weapons at this stage.”
  • Arms Inspectors Report on Iraq (Jan. 27): Hans Blix, chief chemical and biological weapons inspector, says that Iraq is not fully cooperating with inspectors and has failed to prove it has destroyed its banned weapons. Atomic weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, however, reports that his team did not turn up any evidence that Iraq has resumed production of nuclear weapons.
  • U.S. Troops Battle in Afghanistan (Jan. 28): Heaviest fighting in months as U.S. and allied troops confront rebel warlords loyal to Taliban.
  • Sharon Prevails in Israeli Election (Jan. 29): Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Likud Party resoundingly defeat Labor Party, led by Amram Mitzna. Likud takes 38 seats in the 120-seat parliament, while Labor emerges with 19 seats, losing 6 seats.


  • Edwards Enters Presidential Race (Jan. 3): North Carolina senator John Edwards, a Democrat, says he plans to run for president in 2004.
  • Republicans Choose Convention Site (Jan. 6): Select New York City as location for 2004 national convention.
  • 108th Congress Convenes (Jan. 7): Republicans begin new term in control of both houses. Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes House minority leader, the first woman to ever lead a party in Congress. Senate passes bill to extend unemployment benefits.
  • Bush Proposes New Tax Cuts (Jan. 7): Plan eliminates tax on stock dividends, increases child-care tax credit to $1,000 from $600, and increases write-off for small businesses that buy new equipment. Proposal criticized as a boon to the wealthy.
  • Bush Renominates Federal Judge (Jan. 7): Renames Charles Pickering, who was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2002, for a seat on the federal court of appeals.
  • Court Rules for Bush in Combatant Case (Jan. 8): Federal appeals court says wartime president can hold a U.S. citizen deemed an enemy combatant indefinitely, without access to a lawyer.
  • Bush Signs Law to Extend Unemployment Benefits (Jan. 8): Legislation, passed by Congress, extends benefits to about 2.5 million Americans.
  • Illinois Governor Commutes Death Sentences (Jan. 11): Republican governor George Ryan commutes sentences of 167 on death row, calling capital punishment fundamentally flawed.
  • Lieberman Says He's Running for President (Jan. 13): Connecticut senator and former vice presidential candidate announces definite plans to run in 2004.
  • Supreme Court Upholds Copyright Extension (Jan. 15): Votes, 7–2, to lengthen existing copyrights by 20 years, upholding 1998 move by Congress. Decision considered a victory for Hollywood studios.
  • White House Announces Huge Deficits (Jan. 15): Administration expects 2003 deficit to top $200 billion and $300 billion in 2004.
  • Bush Moves Against Racial Preferences (Jan. 16): President's lawyers file a brief with the Supreme Court, contending that the University of Michigan's program to increase the number of minorities enrolled as undergraduates and as law students amounts to a quota system and is unconstitutional.
  • U.S. Begins Developing System to Monitor Germ Attacks (Jan. 22): System will detect when pathogens such as anthrax and smallpox are released into air.
  • Ridge Sworn In as Homeland Security Chief (Jan. 24): Former governor of Pennsylvania becomes nation's first secretary of Homeland Security. Department unites 22 agencies and 170,000 employees.
  • Bush Presents Case for War in Iraq (Jan. 28): In his second State of the Union speech, president says country must be prepared to attack Iraq, preferably with the backing of the United Nations. Bush also asserts that his $674 billion tax-cut package will help to boost economy and vows to make prescription drug coverage part of Medicare.
  • Shoe Bomber Sentenced (Jan. 30): Richard Reid sentenced to life in prison for trying, in December 2001, to blow up a plane with explosives hidden in his shoes.


  • Commuter Plane Crashes in North Carolina (Jan. 8): All 21 aboard die when plane dives into building seconds after takeoff.
  • AOL Chairman Steps Down (Jan. 12): Stephen Case, founder of the online service, resigns amid falling stock prices and dissatisfaction of shareholders. Case had masterminded the 2001 merger of AOL and Time Warner. (Jan. 17): Richard Parsons, chief executive of AOL Time Warner, chosen to succeed Case. (Jan. 29) Ted Turner, vice chairman of media giant, resigns as company announces large fourth-quarter loss and writes down value of America Online by $35 billion.
  • Mexican Earthquake Kills Dozens (Jan. 22): President Vicente Fox declares state of emergency in Colima. Nearly 30 people killed and about 300 injured.
  • Scientists Report Finding of Winged Dinosaur Fossil (Jan. 23): Discovery of four-winged Microraptor gui in China helps to explain evolution of birds and flight.
  • North Carolina Factory Explodes (Jan. 29): Blast at medical-supply plant in Kinston kills 4 and wounds 36.

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