Obama, Economy, War, Swine Flu, Iran Election Crack Alamanac's Top 10 News Topics of 2009
Here are The World Almanac and Book of Facts Top Ten News Topics of 2009:
1. Obama Presidency Begins. With the U.S. at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and facing its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Barack Obama swearing in as the nation's 44th president Jan. 20 in Washington, DC.heralded a major political as well as cultural shift, with Obama becoming the nation's first black president. Pres. Obama assembled a cabinet that included Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, his principal 2008 Democratic campaign rival; Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, a Bush administration holdover; Eric Holder Jr., the first African American attorney general; and Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner. Later, Obama filled his first Supreme Court vacancy when Associate Justice David Souter stepped down in late June. Sonia Sotomayor, an experienced prosecutor and litigator with a long judicial record, was confirmed Aug. 6 by the Senate, becoming the first Hispanic to join the court.
The list continues after the jump . . .
2. Recession in U.S. Ends, but Jobless Rate Rises. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 bil stimulus measure that became law Feb. 17, was the largest legislative piece of the year-long effort to revive the ailing U.S. economy. Federal programs eased credit markets, aided first-time home buyers, and helped some mortgage holders avert foreclosure. Two of Detroit's "Big 3" automakers, General Motors and Chrysler, were restructured through government-managed bankruptcies, and "cash for clunkers" tax credits subsidized trade-ins of gas-guzzling vehicles. Results were mixed. The economy emerged from recession as indicated by the U.S. gross domestic product, which grew at an annual rate of 3.5% during July-Sept., and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which closed above the 10,000 mark Oct. 14 for the first time in a year. But the annual U.S. budget deficit soared to a record $1.4 tril, and employers continued to slash jobs. The unemployment rate rose to 10.2% in Oct., and 17.5% of Americans were either unemployed or underemployed.
3. Pullout from Iraq, Buildup in Afghanistan. The U.S. military withdrew from Iraq's cities and towns June 30, and America's coalition partners removed their last remaining combat forces in July, but around 130,000 U.S. troops remained in bases on Iraqi soil. Insurgents exploited security gaps, launching bloody attacks Aug. 19 and Oct. 25 against the government of Prime Min. Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. Pres. Obama announced Feb. 17 that the U.S. would raise its troop strength in Afghanistan by 17,000, for a projected total of 68,000. Seven months later, with coalition and civilian casualties mounting, U.S. commanders requested another 40,000 or more troops. Afghanistan held a presidential election Aug. 20, but international monitors found the balloting riddled with fraud. A runoff election was scheduled Nov. 7 between incumbent Pres. Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Min. Abdullah Abdullah, but the challenger pulled out, saying a fair vote could not be held. Meanwhile, militants stepped up activities in neighboring Pakistan, where the government launched major offensives to dislodge the Taliban and al-Qaeda from the Swat Valley and South Waziristan.
4. U.S. Launches Diplomatic Outreach. Emphasizing collective diplomacy over unilateral action, the Obama administration shifted U.S. foreign policy. Obama ordered the closure of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, barred the use of torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorist detainees, encouraged negotiations on nuclear disarmament and global warming, and made conciliatory gestures toward Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In a major speech June 4 at Cairo University in Egypt, Pres. Obama called for "a new beginning" in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Obama had been in office less than 9 months when the Norwegian Nobel Committee Oct. 9 surprised the world (and outraged some of Obama's U.S. critics) by awarding him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
5. Protests Follow Iran Election. Iran's Islamic regime faced its most serious crisis in decades following elections June 12. Defying expectations of a close result, official tallies gave Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a landslide win over former Prime Min. Mir Hussein Moussavi, a conservative reformer. Protests by hundreds of thousands of Iranians in Tehran and other cities were crushed by police and paramilitary groups. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran continued to pursue its nuclear program. Accused Sept. 25 of building a secret uranium enrichment facility near Qom, Iran agreed Oct. 1 to open the facility to international inspection.
Photo by Christopher Victorio
6. Democrats Push Agenda; Conservatives Push Back. In control of the White House and both houses of Congress, Democrats acted on an agenda that included challenging workplace pay discrimination, expanding national service programs, and regulating tobacco products and greenhouse gases. Republicans and their conservative allies denounced the growth of federal power and deficit spending. They held anti-tax "tea party" protests Apr. 15, disrupted town hall meetings convened by some lawmakers in Aug., and organized a protest march Sept. 12 in Washington, DC. During months of rancorous debate over health insurance reform, they blasted legislation backed by Democrats as a dangerous "government takeover" of the U.S. health care system.
7. Global Swine Flu Pandemic. An outbreak of swine flu--officially called influenza A (H1N1)--triggered worldwide alerts by public health authorities. The World Health Organization (WHO) June 11 raised its H1N1 pandemic warning to the highest level. In late Oct., WHO reported more than 440,000 confirmed H1N1 cases and at least 5,700 deaths. Between Aug. 30 and Oct. 31, U.S. authorities said 17,838 Americans had been hospitalized with H1N1, and 672 had died from it. Pres. Obama declared the outbreak a national emergency Oct. 24, giving hospitals greater latitude in dealing with an influx of new patients. Because of manufacturing delays, deliveries of swine flu vaccine in the U.S. were behind schedule.
8. Worldwide Economic Picture Brightens. Countries around the world battled a severe recession through economic stimulus programs and international financial reforms. In a series of summit meetings the Group of 20 (G-20), which includes developed nations and emerging economies such as China and India, agreed on ways to strengthen oversight of multinational financial institutions, boost resources for emergency lending by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and ensure that national policies promoted international economic stability. On Oct. 1 the IMF forecasted that world economic activity would increase about 3.1 percent in 2010.
9. North Korea Policy Shifts. Responding to UN condemnation of its Apr. 5 rocket launch over the Pacific, North Korea said Apr. 14 that it would restart its nuclear weapons program. In late May the nation carried out an underground nuclear test and test-fired several short-range missiles, drawing an immediate UN rebuke. North Korea's tone changed, however, after a visit Aug. 4-5 by former U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton, who succeeded in winning the release of 2 American journalists who had been held by North Korea since Mar. 17. Following the Clinton mission, North Korea made several conciliatory gestures toward South Korea, including an easing of restrictions on family visits and commercial traffic.
10. Israelis Elect Netanyahu After Gaza War. A truce Jan. 18 ended a 3-week Israeli assault against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The offensive, which also killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, sought to halt years of Hamas rocket attacks against southern Israel. Elections in Israel Feb. 10 brought former Prime Min. Benjamin Netanyahu back to power, heading a government dominated by his conservative Likud bloc and another right-wing party, Yisrael Beitenu. Former Labor Prime Min. Ehud Barak retained the defense post from which, as a member of the previous government, he had overseen the Gaza war. A UN panel concluded Sept. 15 that both Hamas and Israel had committed war crimes.
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