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December 2007

Dec 3  Australia's new Labor Party government joins most of the rest of the world and signs the Kyoto Protocol – to become effective for Australia in March, 2008. The Kyoto Protocol is designed to reduce greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. President George Bush has remained opposed to the US joining the Kyoto agreement.

Dec 3  In Venezuela a close special election denies President Hugo Chavez constitutional reforms that included allowing him to run for president for life and allowing him to choose mayors and state governors. Among the opponents of the reforms: students, human rights activists and the Catholic Church. The results are 51 to 49 percent. Chavez' present term in office expires in 2012.

Dec 3  The school teacher Gillian Gibbons is returning to the UK, pardoned by Sudan's President al-Bashir after she served eight days of a fifteen-day sentence for naming a teddy bear Muhammad in her classroom. Outraged Muslims who packed the street shouting for her death have been described as not representing majority Sudanese opinion.

Dec 3  In the US, a National Intelligence Estimate states that Iran was "less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005," contradicting its report in May 2005 that said "with high confidence" that Iran was "determined" to build nuclear weapons.

Dec 4  The UN force in the Democratic Republic of Congo increases its support for democracy by moving from logistic to fire-power support against the renegade general Laurent Nkunda.

Dec 8  In recent weeks in the extreme northeast of Pakistan, Pakistan's army is reported to have killed 290 "pro-Taliban" forces and arrested 143. The army is pushing the remaining "pro-Taliban" forces, said to be between 200 and 400 in number, back from the villages they have been harrassing and pursuing them into the mountains.

Dec 10  A BBC poll of 11,344 persons in 14 countries describes 40 percent as saying "it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press's freedom to report news truthfully." People contributing to this number tended to be from India, Singapore and Russia. People in Western Europe and North America were recorded as much stronger in their support for press freedom and truth in reporting.

Dec 12  In the city of Algiers, an al-Qaeda faction has taken responsibility for two bombs that shattered offices of a United Nations refugee agency, described by the faction as "the headquarters of the international infidels' den." The faction says it has struck the "slaves of America and France." Algeria's government describes the death toll at 31. The BBC records disgust among Algerians. Al-Qaeda appears on track in alienating people rather than winning converts.

Dec 14  According to the International Energy Agency, Iraqi oil production has risen above levels before the US-led invasion in 2003.

Dec 16  In Basra Province, British troops turn responsibility for controlling insurgents over to Iraqi troops. Political power is also being transferred to the Iraqis. In a poll of 1,000 province residents, more than 85 percent say that British troops in the province have had a negative effect since 2003, and two-thirds believe that security will improve following the handover of power.

Dec 17  In Bolivia, President Evo Morales wants indigenous peoples – 62 percent of the population – to have greater autonomy and control over their land, correcting what he describes as centuries of discrimination by a corrupt class dominated by those descended from Europeans. With the draft of a new constitution that Morales supports, leaders in Bolivia's more wealthy regions are intensifying their threat to break away from President Morales and the central government into regions with greater autonomy.

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto.

Dec 17  The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization warns that a 40 percent rise in food prices in the past year is creating a crisis in poorer countries. The rising prices are attributed to climate change, rising oil prices and demand for bio-fuels.

Dec 17  Saudi kings routinely pardon select convicts. Following an international outcry, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah pardons the rape victim who was to receive 200 lashes in addition to five years in jail. (See November 15)

Dec 18  A US Pentagon report warns that sustained progress will require political and economic reforms. It describes Iraqi police forces as afflicted by corruption and sectarian divisions and Iraq's army losing up to 17 percent of its troops per year because of high casualty rates and desertion.

Dec 27  In Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto is assassinated. (Recommended reading: "Assassination Aftermath " by Stephen Cohen.)

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