Top News Stories from 2004

World Events

World Statistics

Population: 4.378 billion
population by decade
Nobel Peace Prize: Wangari Maathai (Kenya)
More World Statistics...
  • A. Q. Khan, founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, admits he sold nuclear-weapons designs to other countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Libya (Feb. 4).
  • Armed rebels in Haiti force President Aristide to resign and flee the country (Feb. 29).
  • Spain's governing Popular Party loses election to opposition Socialists. Outcome seen as a reaction to terrorist attacks days before and Popular Party's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq (March 14).
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formally admits 7 new countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (March 29).
  • Israeli prime minister Sharon announces plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza Strip (April 12).
  • Greek Cypriots reject UN reunification plan with Turkish Cypriots (April 24).
  • Sudan rebels (SPLA) and government reach accord to end 21-year civil war. However, separate war in western Darfur region between Arab militias and black Africans continues unabated (May 26).
  • U.S. troops launch offensive in Falluja in response to killing and mutilation on March 31 of four U.S. civilian contractors. (April 5–May 1).
  • U.S. hands over power to Iraqi interim government; Iyad Allawi becomes prime minister (June 28).
  • Security Council demands Sudanese government disarm militias in Darfur that are massacring civilians (July 30).
  • Summer Olympics take place in Athens, Greece (Aug. 13–29).
  • Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez survives recall referendum (Aug. 16).
  • Chechen terrorists take about 1,200 schoolchildren and others hostage in Beslan, Russia; 340 people die when militant detonate explosives (Sept. 1–3).
  • UN Atomic Energy Agency tells Iran to stop enriching uranium; a nascent nuclear weapons program suspected (Sept. 18).
  • About 380 tons of explosives reported missing in Iraq (Oct. 25).
  • Yasir Arafat dies in Paris (Nov. 11).
  • U.S. troops launch attack on Falluja, stronghold of the Iraqi insurgency (Nov. 8).
  • Ukraine presidential election declared fraudulent (Nov. 21).
  • Hamid Karzai inaugurated as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president (Dec. 7).
  • Massive protests by supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko's lead to a new Ukrainian election; Yushchenko eventually declared prime minister (Dec. 26).
  • Enormous tsunami devastates Asia; 200,000 killed (Dec. 26).
  • Spain is rocked by terrorist attacks, killing more than 200. Al Qaeda takes responsibility (March 11).
  • About one third of Iran’s Parliament steps down to protest hard-line Guardian Council’s banning of more than 2,000 reformists from running in parliamentary elections (Feb. 1).

U.S. Events

U.S. Statistics

President: George Bush
Vice President: Richard Cheney
Population: 294 million
More U.S. Statistics...
  • Bush proposes ambitious space program that includes flights to the Moon, Mars, and beyond (Jan. 14).
  • John Kerry secures Democratic nomination after winning nine out of ten primaries and caucuses (March 2).
  • U.S. media release graphic photos of American soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Images spark outrage around the world (April 30).
  • Gay marriages begin in Massachusetts, the first state in the country to legalize such unions (May 17).
  • Senate Intelligence Committee reports that intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was "overstated" and flawed (July 5).
  • Democratic National Convention in Boston nominates John Kerry for president (July 26–29).
  • Pentagon-sponsored Schlesinger report rejects idea that Abu Ghraib prison abuse was work of a few aberrant soldiers, and asserts there were "fundamental failures throughout all levels of command" (Aug. 24).
  • Republican Convention in New York renominates President Bush (Aug. 30–Sept. 2).
  • Florida hit by hurricanes Bonnie (Aug. 12) and Charley (Aug. 13).
  • Congress extends tax cuts due to expire at the end of 2005 (Sept. 23).
  • Hurricane Ivan ravages U.S. south (Sept. 15). Hurricane Jeanne hits Florida (Sept. 26).
  • George W. Bush is reelected president, defeats John Kerry (Nov. 2).
  • Sept. 11 commission harshly criticizes government’s handling of terrorist attacks (July 22).
  • U.S.’s final report on Iraq’s weapons finds no WMDs (Sept. 16).


Super Bowl
New England d. Carolina
World Series
Boston d. St. Louis (4–0)
NBA Championship
Detroit d. Los Angeles
Stanley Cup
Tampa Bay d. Calgary
Women: Maria Sharapova d. Serena Williams (6–1, 6–4)
Men: Roger Federer d. Andy Roddick (4–6, 7–5, 7–6 [7–3], 6–4)
Kentucky Derby Champion
Smarty Jones
NCAA Basketball Championship
Connecticut d. Georgia Tech
NCAA Football Champions
Southern California 2004 Summer Olympics


Entertainment Awards

Academy Award, Best Picture: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson, and Fran Walsh, producers
Nobel Prize for Literature: Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
Record of the Year: "Clocks," Coldplay
Album of the Year: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast
Song of the Year: "Dance with My Father," Richard Marx, Luther Vandross, songwriters (Luther Vandross)
Miss America: Ericka Dunlap, Orlando, FL
More Entertainment Awards...


  • The number of songs and albums downloaded from the Internet continues at break-neck speed. Apple's iTunes sells its 200,000,000th song. According to Nielsen SoundScan, music fans bought 5.5 million digital albums and 140 million digital songs.
  • Sequels fared very well at the box office, with Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 taking the two top spots. Meet the Fockers landed at No. 4, while Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban came in at No. 6.
  • Paris Hilton managed to make headlines at every turn, from starring in Fox's The Simple Life with Nicole Richie to starting her own clothing and perfume line.
  • American Idol remained one of the top-rated shows on television. Judging by the number of reality shows up and down the dial, viewers still want their entertainment to be "real."
  • See 2004 People in the news for biographies of entertainers and newsmakers.
  • Martha Stewart, diva of domesticity, was sentenced to five months in prison in July after being found guilty on four counts of obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators. She began serving her sentence in October. She was also fined $30,000. The charges stem from her December 2001 sale of 3,928 shares of the biotech stock ImClone. She made the trade the day before the FDA announced it had declined to review ImClone's new cancer drug-news that sent shares tumbling.
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, the phenomenally popular search engine, became instant billionaires when the company went public in August.
  • Dan Rather found himself at the center of a media storm in September, when he and his network, CBS, admitted that they could not definitively prove the authenticity of documents they used in a 60 Minutes segment, which suggested President Bush received preferential treatment when he joined the National Guard and later when he served in it. He announced in December that he would step down in early 2005.
  • Michael Moore gained an impassioned following with the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary harshly critical of President Bush, his administration, the war in Iraq, and Bush's handling of the war on terrorism. The film won the Palme d'Or (the top prize) at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. In its opening weekend in late June, Fahrenheit 9/11 took in nearly $22 million at the box office to become the highest-grossing documentary of all time.

  • Mel Gibson garnered intense buzz for his incendiary film, The Passion of the Christ, months before its February release. The film, in Latin and Aramaic with English subtitles, depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus's life in explicitly violent detail. Many derided the film as anti-Semitic, saying it cast blame on the Jews for Jesus Christ's crucifixion. A number of evangelical Christian and Catholic groups, however, praised the film for its portrayal of Jesus Christ's sacrifice. It ended up the third-highest grossing film of the year, taking in $370,274,604 in 2004.

  • Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake created an enormous scandal when Timberlake ripped the bodice of Jackson's costume during the halftime show of February's Super Bowl XXXVIII, exposing her right breast, which was pierced and adorned with a brooch. Timberlake promptly apologized for the "wardrobe malfunction." The Federal Communications Commission fined CBS, which broadcast the Super Bowl, $550,000 for the incident.
  • Linda Ronstadt was ejected from Las Vegas's Aladdin Hotel in July after she dedicated the song "Desperado" to Michael Moore and encouraged the audience to see his new film, Fahrenheit 9/11.


  • The Aviator
  • Collateral
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Friday Night Lights
  • The Incredibles
  • Kinsey
  • Maria Full of Grace
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Sideways
  • Spider-Man 2


  • Confessions, Usher
  • Feels Like Home, Norah Jones
  • Encore, Eminem
  • When the Sun Goes Down, Kenny Chesney
  • Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson
  • Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw
  • Songs About Jane, Maroon 5
  • Fallen, Evancescence
  • Autobiography, Ashlee Simpson
  • Now That's What I Call Music 16, Various Artists


  • Gilead: A Novel, Marilynne Robinson
  • The Plot Against America, Philip Roth
  • Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
  • The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
  • The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
  • Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul, Tony Hendra
  • Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, Richard Clarke
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel, Susanna Clarke
  • I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe
  • Crossing California, Adam Langer


Nobel Prizes in Science

Chemistry: Aaron Ciechanover (Israel), Avram Hershko (Israel), and Irwin Rose (U.S.)
Physics: David J. Gross, H. David Politzer, and Frank Wilczek (all U.S.)
Physiology or Medicine: Richard Axel and Linda Buck (both U.S.)
More Nobel Prizes in 1998...
  • Feb. 1: Scientists created two new chemical elements, named Ununtrium (Element 113) and Ununpentium (Element 115).
  • Feb. 12: Scientists in South Korea announced they had created 30 human embryos by cloning and had removed embryonic stem cells from them.
  • March 2: NASA announced it detected signs that water had once covered a small crater on Mars. More.
  • March 15: Astronomers confirmed the discovery of the most distant object ever identified in our solar system, a planetoid names Sedna. It is the largest object discovered since Pluto in 1930. More.
  • June 21: Michael Melvil pilots SpaceShipOne into space, becoming the first person to do so in a privately developed aircraft.
  • July 21: Cosmologist Stephen Hawking reverses himself on his Black Hole theory and concludes that information can in fact be retrieved from black holes. More.
  • Oct. 28: Australian and Indonesian archaeologists have unearthed skeletons of tiny people who are being called Homo floresiensis. These 3-foot-tall people had very long arms, heads the size of grapefruit, and are believed to have disappeared only 13,000 years ago, or perhaps even more recently.
  • Nov. 2: 69% of Californians vote in favor of a referendum to fund embryonic stem cell research, making the state the first to approve stem cell research.
  • More on Science Discoveries, 2004.


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