Wikinews' overview of the year 2008

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What would you tell your grandchildren about 2008 if they asked you about it in, let's say, 20 years' time? If the answer to a quiz question was 2008, what would the question be? The year that markets collapsed, or perhaps the year that Obama became US president? Or the year Heath Ledger died?

Let's take a look at some of the important stories of 2008. Links to the original Wikinews articles are in all the titles.

2008: the stories


January 1: Cyprus and Malta adopt the euro

Maltese €1 coin

On the first day of 2008, at midnight, the Republic of Cyprus and the Republic of Malta, both small island states in the Mediterranean and former British colonies, adopted the euro as their official currency, less than four years after their accession to the European Union. Because Cyprus and Malta are in different time zones, Cyprus adopted the euro one hour before Malta did. In both countries the euro was welcomed with outdoor celebrations, including a fireworks display in the Maltese capital of Valletta.

January 21: World stocks plunge on fears on US recession

Stock prices dropped sharply in Europe and Asia on January 21, with fears of economic problems in the United States causing some of the biggest single-day losses in recent years.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 5.5 percent - its biggest fall since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Losses of between three and seven percent were recorded in India, China, Britain, France, Germany and Canada.

Although larger losses occurred later in the year, these falls were seen to be unusually large at the time.


February 1: Chad military clashes with rebels in N'djamena

Violence between Rebels and the Chadian military started in Chad on February 1 as rebel groups continued to advance on N'djamena, the capital of Chad. IRIN reported that the government of Chad responded to the move by the rebel groups by placing tanks across N'djamena.

February 2: French President marries model girlfriend

French radio station RTL announced that President Nicolas Sarkozy married his Italian girlfriend Carla Bruni at the Élysée Palace. Sarkozy was the first French President of the French Fifth Republic to marry during his office, after already becoming the first one to divorce.

February 6: Many killed in tornadoes across southern U.S.

NOAA storm report for February 5. Red dots indicate locations of Tornadoes

Tornadoes were reported across the southern United States, with some sources saying as many as 48 have died. At least 69 tornadoes were reported to have taken place in just two days, most of which took place on the same day as US citizens were voting in caucuses and primaries on a day known as super Tuesday.

February 11: Rebels shoot East Timor president

José Ramos-Horta, President of East Timor, was shot by rebel soldiers in an attack on his home near the capital of Dili. As a result of the attack he underwent treatment at the Royal Darwin Hospital's intensive care unit in Darwin, Australia.

February 17: Over 80 Afghans killed by bombing in Kandahār

Witnesses reported that at least 80 people have died in a bombing in Afghanistan. The bombing took place in the Kandahar city area of the country, with early reports saying that took place in the Western areas of the city, which is in the South of Afghanistan. The Indonesia based news agency Antara News reported that the bombing took place during a dog fighting match.

February 17: Kosovo declares independence from Serbia

At 15:00 GMT today, Kosovo announced its independence from Serbia. Prime Minister Hashim Thaçi declared that Kosovo would become a democratic country and would respect the rights of all its communities. It is expected that several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and most members of the European Union, will recognise its independence on Monday. Serbia and Russia are against an independent Kosovo. Approximately 10% of Kosovars are of Serbian descent, the majority is Albanian.

February 19: Fidel Castro resigns as Cuban president

File:Fidel Castro 102006.jpg

Fidel Castro in October 2006.
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Fidel Castro, who was the Cuban president who seized power in a 1959 revolution, stated in a quote in Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma that when the National Assembly of Cuba meets on February 24 he "will not aspire to or accept... the positions of President of Council of State and Commander in Chief."


March 2: Armenian President Kocharyan declares state of emergency

Armenian president Robert Kocharyan declared a state of emergency in Armenia after policemen used tear gas and firearms to disperse protests over alleged fraud in last month's presidential election. At least eight persons were left dead in clashes between police and opposition.

March 3: Medvedev becomes Russian president-elect

Dmitry Medvedev, age 42, has won the presidential election in Russia and is expected to take office on May 7, 2008, replacing Vladimir Putin who has served two 4-year presidential terms since 2000. Medvedev has repeatedly promised to continue the political course of the current Russian government.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, human rights activist Vladimir Bukovsky, reformer Boris Nemtsov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were all prohibited from taking part in the election for various technicalities. The Russian media have focused heavily on Medvedev while giving little attention to the opposition candidates.

March 17: HMAS Sydney found

The final resting place of HMAS Sydney was found off Steep Point, Western Australia, 67 years after she was sunk by the Kormoran with the loss of all 645 crew.

March 19: Pakistan's parliament elects first female speaker

The National Assembly of Pakistan elected Fahmida Mirza of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as its first female speaker, weeks after the general elections which ousted President Pervez Musharraf's party and gave the PPP the most seats in Parliament.

March 30: Zimbabwe opposition claims early victory in election

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), released premature election results on March 30, which claimed a large victory for their presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai against incumbent Robert Mugabe.


April 6: Protests surround London Olympic torch relay

Around 25 arrests have been made by Metropolitan Police officers, during the 31 mile Olympic Torch relay in London, England. Demonstrators attempted to extinguish the flame using a fire extinguisher, and grab the torch from the hands of TV presenter Konnie Huq in Ladbroke Grove.

The next day, the Olympic torch went out three times while traveling through Paris, France. Olympic officials claim that this came as a result of actions by Pro-Tibetan protesters. It has been reported that the torch was extinguished, then put on a bus to keep it safe. The torch was extinguished one time by a Chinese official when the torch was in the hands of David Douillet, and one time due to technical problems.

April 27: Austrian man kept daughter prisoner in cellar for 24 years

Police in the Lower Austrian town of Amstetten have arrested a 73 year old man who is alleged to have kept his daughter, now aged 42, locked in the cellar of his house in Amstetten since 29th August 1984.

The man, identified by police as Josef Fritzl, is alleged to have started sexually abusing his daughter, named as Elisabeth Fritzl, when she was eleven years old, and to have subsequently fathered seven children by her. Rosemarie F. is said to have been unaware of her husbands' activities. The news has shocked Austria, recalling the case of Natascha Kampusch who was kidnapped aged 10, and escaped after being held in a "dungeon" for eight years in 2006.


May 12: Large earthquake hits central China

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) a magnitude 7.92 earthquake struck eastern Sichuan Province in China. The USGS first reported the quake to be a magnitude 7.8 which hit at 6:28:00 UTC. Officials stated that at least 10,000 may have been killed and local reports indicate over 10,000 injured.

May 16: Official Myanmar death toll increases to 78,000

Cyclone Nargis

On May 16, state run television in Myanmar reported that the death toll from the recent cyclone increased dramatically to 77,738. In addition to that, 55,917 people were still officially missing.

May 29: Monarchy abolished in Nepal

The Nepalese Constituent Assembly, elected on April 10, voted to abolish its country's monarchy, with a large majority supporting the vote in parliament.


June 3: Barack Obama effectively clinches Democratic nomination

Barack Obama has achieved enough Democratic Party delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination to become the Presidential candidate to face Republican Senator John McCain in the November 2008 United States elections. Obama will be the first black candidate ever to stand for the United States presidency with the backing of a major political party.

June 10: Plane crashes in Khartoum

A plane arriving in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, burst into flames after veering off the runway during a thunderstorm. Around 100 passengers and crew were feared dead after the incident, although the final death toll was significantly lower .


July 4: Íngrid Betancourt returns to France

Freed hostage Íngrid Betancourt arrived in France today, two days after being rescued from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who had kept her captive in the Colombian jungle for more than six years.

"It's a completely hostile environment with dangerous animals," Betancourt said. "The most dangerous, of course, is man. Those men who were behind me with huge rifles, pushing me, telling me to walk, telling me to walk more quickly." She called on Sarkozy to continue working toward freeing the hostages who were left behind.

July 29: Alaska senator Ted Stevens indicted in corruption scandal

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has been indicted by federal grand jury on seven criminal counts for making false statements in his Senate financial disclosure forms. The longest-serving Republican in the Senate, Stevens is the highest-profile politician ensnared in the corruption scandal surrounding VECO Corporation and its executives' attempts to influence politics.


August 7: NFL: Brett Favre traded to the New York Jets

Brett Favre with the Jets.

Brett Favre, the National Football League's all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, victories, and consecutive games started for a quarterback was traded to the New York Jets for a conditional draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Favre, 38, had previously announced his retirement from the NFL in March but was reinstated after he voiced his intentions to return to play for the 2008 NFL season. Favre had previously played for the Green Bay Packers from 1992 to 2007. In 2008, Favre entered his 18th season in the NFL.

August 8: Russia joins South Ossetian war

The War in South Ossetia escalated as Russian forces were sent into the conflict on the Ossetian side. The President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili announced the mobilization of reserve troops to withstand what he called "a large-scale military aggression" by Russia, and called Russia to stop the "bombardment of Georgian towns." The next day, Saakashvili declared a state of war.

By the end of the month, South Ossetia said it would join North Ossetia-Alania as a federal subject of Russia.

August 8: 2008 Olympic Games officially open

The 2008 Olympic Games commence in the Bird's Nest in Beijing, China with 90,000 in attendance.

Phelps holding one of his Beijing medals
Image: Eric Draper.

August 17: Beijing 2008: Michael Phelps wins eighth gold

American swimmer Michael Phelps, 23, has set a new record for the most gold medals won in one Olympic games by winning his eighth gold medal of the 2008 Olympic games, beating the previous world record of seven that was set by Mark Spitz in the 1972 Olympic Games, which took place in Munich, Germany.

August 20: Over one hundred die in Madrid plane crash

A passenger plane leaving from Madrid - Barajas Airport has crashed during take-off. 153 fatalities and 19 injuries have been reported amongst those who were on the aircraft. Flight JK5022, operated by Spanair, was destined for Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, when it skidded off the end of the runway in good weather at 14:45 local time. An engine of the aircraft is reported to have caught fire during the attempted takeoff.

August 30: Barack Obama accepts US presidential nomination from the Democratic Party

United States presidential candidate Barack Obama accepted the United States Democratic Party's nomination for president Thursday evening at Invesco Field in Denver, Colorado before a crowd estimated to be between 75,000 to 80,000 people.


September 3: Questions raised about McCain's choice of Palin, aides insist "thorough vetting" process

Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Image: Tyler Warren.

Questions were raised on how thoroughly the staff of United States Senator and Presidential nominee John McCain had examined the background of his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin before announcing that he had selected her on August 29. McCain's advisers insisted that Palin was "thoroughly vetted," a process that would have included a review of all financial and legal records as well as a criminal background check.

The questions arose amid controversy that Palin's 17-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol was five months pregnant at the time and how Palin was possibly abusing her powers as Governor of Alaska in the "Troopergate" scandal. McCain was aware of Bristol Palin's pregnancy before he asked her mother to join him on the ticket and reportedly did not see the pregnancy as a detriment to Governor Palin's selection as the vice presidential candidate.

McCain had reportedly met Palin only twice before her selection, and had his first face-to-face interview with her on August 28. McCain offered Palin the vice presidential spot just moments after their meeting concluded. The two appeared at a campaign rally event the following morning in Dayton, Ohio.

September 16: Large particle accelerators to explore the frontiers of physics

A view of the LHC tunnel.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that started preliminary experiments on September 10, 2008 in CERN, Geneva, and the planned International Linear Collider (ILC) will carry out a series of experiments in the future to validate the standard model of particle physics. The model predicts that Higgs boson particles gives mass to all fundamental particles and explains the existence of dark matter, or invisible matter in between galaxies.

The LHC is a 27 kilometer long circular high energy particle accelerator which took more than 20 years and USD $9 billion to build. In the next few weeks the machine will collide opposing beams of protons charged with approximately 7 TeV of energy resulting in cataclysmic conditions that will mimic the beginning of time, a re-creation of the Big Bang.

Later, the Large Hadron Collider was damaged and needed to be shut down for repairs. After that, CERN said that repairs to LHC particle accelerator would cost US$21 million.

September 22: Contaminated baby's milk induces wave of child illness in China

Almost 13,000 children in China have fallen sick in a wave of sickness caused by baby's milk contaminated with melamine. Most of the sickened children are infants two years or younger, and four children have died from the chemical so far.

In the milk incident, melamine was added to make the milk appear richer in protein. It caused an estimated 53,000 to become ill, mostly young children. The chemical can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

The Chinese Health Ministry has stated that most of the tainted milk was produced by Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co.'s infant milk powder and have pulled several dairy products off the shelves of Chinese stores. Sanlu, Mengniu and Yili were among the largest brands recalled, and have been attempting to repair their damaged public image.


October 10: Dow Jones recovers hundreds of points, before losing them in minutes

Following a large fall at the start of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has recovered by hundreds of points, with it climbing over 250 points again before dropping off to down 100 in just minutes.

October 21: Thousands flee renewed violence in Congo

Thousands of civilians fled their homes on Saturday amid fierce fighting between local militias and Tutsi-dominated rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the U.N. peacekeeping mission there.

Congolese Army Colonel Delphin Kahimbi said that "very violent attacks" had been reported, and that the fighting was between local militia known as Mai-Mai and rebels loyal to renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda. Major P.K. Tiwari, a military spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, said the fighting "started early this morning and ended late this afternoon." Tiwari said it was not clear who had attacked first.


November 5: Barack Obama elected 44th President of the United States

Election results

The 2008 Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, 47, is projected to win at least 349 electoral votes, more than enough to clinch the Presidency of the United States. Obama is the first African American to be elected President in U.S. history. His Republican opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain, is projected to win at least 173 electoral votes. McCain has phoned Obama to concede the election. Obama officially became the President-elect when John McCain issued his concession speech shortly after 9:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

November 14: Eurozone now officially in recession

The Eurozone is now officially in a recession, due to the recently released figures showing that, in the third quarter of 2008, the economy shrunk by 0.2%.

November 17: Somali pirates capture Saudi oil tanker

Pirates have seized control of the Sirius Star, a Saudi-owned oil tanker off the coast of Kenya and are steering her towards Somalia. The oil tanker was carrying over 2 million barrels of oil at the time of her capture, and was on her way to the United States via Cape Town. Reuters claimed that news of the attack raised crude oil prices around the world. The Sirius Star is the largest ship captured by pirates in the area to date. This also sets a record for the farthest from the shore that pirates have struck.

November 24: UN official: Gaza faces humanitarian catastrophe

Although Israel briefly lifted its blockade of crossings in the Gaza Strip today, United Nations (UN) officials warn that a further blockade could lead to dire consequences for some 750,000 Gazans who rely on UN food aid. Israel blockaded the Gaza Strip in early November, preventing access for UN aid workers and journalists.

November 26: Multiple extremist attacks in Mumbai, India kill dozens, injure hundreds

Scores of people have been killed, and many more wounded, in what appear to have been coordinated attacks by gunmen wielding automatic weapons and hand grenades. The attacks began around 10:30 p.m. IST in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.

Police reports indicate at least 80 deaths and a further 900 injured. More conservative estimates place the death toll at 78 with over 200 injured. According to television reports, a little-known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility.

Sites of the attacks have been listed as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, a hospital, a police station and at least three hotels, including Oberoi Trident and Taj Mahal Palace & Tower. The Marriott Hotel in Juhu has been attacked with gunfire, but details are sketchy. A restaurant, Leopold Cafe on Colaba Causeway was also attacked.

November 30: Tourists struggle to escape as Bangkok airport blockades enter sixth day

With dire warnings that the number of stranded tourists in Thailand could rise as high as 300,000, thousands are attempting to leave the country via U-tapao airport in Rayong, around 150 km southeast of the capital Bangkok. The blockade of the two main international airports by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters is now in its sixth day. Tensions continue to rise with a pro-government rally planned for today and police surrounding the main international airport, Suvarnabhumi.


December 14: Iraqi journalist throws shoes at US president George Bush

Bush and al-Maliki shake hands during the press conference, following the signing of the Strategic Framework Agreement.
Image: Eric Draper.

An Iraqi journalist for an Egyptian Newspaper named Muntazer al-Zaidi was tackled by authorities after he threw his shoes at United States president George W. Bush during a press conference on Sunday in Baghdad.

Before throwing his shoes at Bush, the reporter stood up and said, "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!" The words were followed by the reporter's two shoes being thrown at Bush, who had to duck in order to avoid being hit with them.

In Arabic culture, hitting or throwing shoes at someone so the soles hit them is considered a great insult.

December 27: Israeli air strikes hit government compounds in Gaza

Israel has launched over 30 simultaneous missiles strikes on Hamas installations in Gaza City, causing heavy damage and claiming at least 220 lives. The attack was allegedly a retaliation against frequent Palestinian Qassam rocket and mortar fire on Israel's southern communities.

December 28: NFL: Packers defeat Lions 31–21, Lions become first team to finish season with 0-16 record

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 31–21 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Lions made National Football League history not winning a single game in the 2008 NFL season. The Lions became the first franchise to finish a season without a victory since the NFL introduced a 16-game schedule in 1978. The Lions joined the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the modern NFL's only teams to finish a season without a victory or tie.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.