Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 In Review: Top 10 News Stories Of The Year

10. Radovan Karadzic Extradited To The Hague
He was barely recognizable when the world first glimpsed Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic after more than a decade on the run. Ten days later, on July 31, a clean-shaven Karadzic appeared before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where he faces charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.Eventually, the man known as the "Butcher of Bosnia" chose to defend himself, refused to enter pleas, and a tribunal judge entered pleas of not guilty to all charges on his behalf.

9. China Hosts Summer OlympicsAthletes and spectators loved the spectacular opening ceremonies and the memorable architecture of many of its sporting venues, while criticizing Beijing's air pollution.U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals, while Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set world records in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4-by-100-meter relay -- the first man to do so in one Olympics.The Games marked the first time that China had hosted an Olympics. Nevertheless, the Beijing Games are going to be a tough act to follow for 2012 host London.

8. Food Prices Rise, Pushing Millions Into HungerAccording to the UN, rising food prices around the world have plunged an additional 75 million people below the hunger threshold, bringing the estimated number of undernourished people worldwide to almost 1 billion.The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization says high food prices reversed what had been positive trends toward achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people suffering from hunger worldwide by 2015. The organization says that goal "is now even more remoteEconomist Jeffrey Sachs called it "the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years."In Haiti, people were reduced to eating patties made of mud, oil, and sugar. “It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” 24-year-old Olwich Louis Jeune told "The New York Times."

7. Growing Violence, Resurgence Of Taliban In AfghanistanThere are already about 65,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, with more than 30,000 of those coming from the United States. So it says a lot that the United States is pledging to send even more soldiers to the war-torn country, which has witnessed a surge in violence to levels not seen since a U.S.-led toppling of the former Taliban regime.

6. Terrorist Attacks In Mumbai, IndiaOn November 26, 10 terrorists staged coordinated attacks across India's largest city, Mumbai. Arriving by speed boat, and armed with automatic weapons and grenades, the men took over a number of Mumbai landmarks, including two luxury hotels.Indian security forces battled the terrorists for three days. In the end, more than 160 people were killed, including some 30 foreign nationals.Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a Pakistani-based militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba.

5. Russia's Change In LeadershipOn March 2, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's first deputy prime minister and outgoing President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, was elected in a landslide to become Russia's next leader.As for Putin, he was shortly appointed as the country's prime minister and is believed to still wield considerable influence over most aspects of Russian life.In November, Russia's parliament began the process of passing constitutional amendments that extend the presidential term from four to six years.

4. Kosovo Declares IndependenceOn February 17, Kosovo became the world's newest state, as it unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia. Kosovo's independence has so far been recognized by more than 50 UN member states, including the United States, much of Europe, and Japan.On December 9, the European Union launched its EULEX mission, aimed at bringing order and stability to the fledgling state.

3. Russia-Georgia WarWho started it, and when?Those questions about the brief but bloody August war between Russia and Georgia over the self-declared republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are still being debated in the international community.Russia says Georgia began an unprovoked assault on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on the evening of August 7. Russia responded by sending troops and tanks into South Ossetia and far into Georgia proper. Georgia says it was only responding to frequent attacks on ethnic Georgian villages by pro-Moscow separatists.What's not in dispute is the impact of the fighting.

2. Barack Obama Elected 44th U.S. PresidentAs "Time" magazine said in awarding Obama its "Person of the Year" honors, "He has come to dominate the public sphere so completely that it beggars belief to recall that half the people in America had never heard of him two years ago."Much of the rest of the world was even less familiar with the politician with the "funny name," although he was drawing considerably more attention by July 2008.On November 4, voters in the United States convincingly backed the first-term senator from Illinois in his bid for the White House, making him the country's first African-American to be elected president.Now comes the hard part -- ending the war in Iraq, as he has promised to do; ramping up the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan; and confronting the financial crisis that has devastated large sections of the U.S. -- and global -- economy.

Which bring us to the No. 1 story of 2008, as voted by RFE/RL editors, correspondents, and broadcasters.

1. Global Financial CrisisIt's being called the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And like the Great Depression, the 2008 version began in the United States, but soon spread around the world.Beginning with the subprime mortgage crisis of September, the situation soon escalated with the bankruptcy of the large investment bank Lehman Brothers. More banks failed. World stock markets plunged. Panic selling ensued. Companies collapsed or laid off workers -- more than 500,000 jobs were lost in the United States in November alone.The former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, put the unfolding drama into perspective in September when he called it a "once-in-a-century type of financial crisis."Iceland's banking system collapsed in October, forcing it to ask for help from the International Monetary Fund. Other countries, such as Hungary, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Pakistan, also sought assistance from the IMF.Leaders from 20 of the world's rich and developing economies met in Washington in mid-November to discuss a unified response. Calls were made for a dramatic overhaul of the world's financial architecture.There are now fears for the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, one of the backbones of American industry.The Fed's key interest rate stands practically at zero, effectively eliminating it as a tool of monetary policy.In the United States alone, it's estimated that the government's bailout effort has cost $8.5 trillion...and counting, as President Obama plans to enact his own rescue plan once he takes office on January 20.

And the author of this blog would like to put in the
Nargis Cyclone disaster to Myanmar
Earthquake in China

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