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December 2008

Dec 1  The recent attacks in Mumbai are believed by experts to have been the work of ten soldiers belonging to the much greater army of Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous), another group with origins in the war against the Russians in Afghanistan. Their objective is political: to end Indian rule in Kashmir, and it includes restoration of Islamic rule in parts of South Asia, Russia and China. They are responsible for the 2006 attack in Mumbai that killed 211. They planned to kill 5,000 in their latest attack in Mumbai, targeting US and British tourists and Jews. They have participated publicly in charity drives, and they collect funds internationally designated for terrorist activities.

Dec 1  In Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, around forty soldiers disgusted at having to wait hours in line at a bank go on a rampage and are joined by civilians, and they loot shops. Police look on in amusement before the rampage is finally quelled. Zimbabwe is suffering a cholera epidemic. People are wondering whether the military support, which makes Mugabe's power possible, is beginning to crumble.

Dec 1  MacroHistory's chart for the US federal government's gross national debt for December 1 shows it at 74 percent of GDP – a very rough estimate.

Dec 3  India's military has been seeking permission to attack the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Righteous) complex near Lahore in Pakistan, not far from India's border. India's government is requesting Pakistan's government to take strong action, including handing to them 20 militants and the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. The complex, known as the Markaz-e-Taiba (Holy Center), has mosques and, it is said, madrassas with more than 3000 students.

Dec 3  The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) calls off its protests and its shutting down airports after a court bans Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat from politics. PAD drew its support from the middle and upper classes. They were opposed by less educated and rural elements who accepted the government's description of events.

Dec 4  A report from Sweden describes a new study indicating that exposure to mobile phone radiation worsens the short-term memory of rats.

Dec 5  The expected decline or demise of Somali piracy is unfolding. Seventeen days ago an Indian ship sank a Somali pirate boat. Today a Danish warship, the HDMS Absalon, part of a NATO task force, destroys a boatload of "suspected" Somali pirates and takes seven of them prisoner.

Dec 6  Some are saying that one of the mistakes that contributed to the Great Depression was the federal government doing too little during the Hoover presidency after the stock market crash. Talk abounds today about not knowing what government action will work. Not expected is government spending that compares with what ended the depression at the beginning of World War II. But President-elect Obama announces his plan to spend on building infrastructure on a scale not seen in the US since the building of the highway system in the 1950s.

Dec 6  Dutch authorities announce details of their plan to close half of Amsterdam's brothels, sex shops and marijuana cafes in an effort to drive organised crime from the city center.

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria

Dec 7  The BBC reports that Thailand's PAD movement, which closed down airports recently, had the kind of support that assured its success: support from the army and entrepreneurs, including, it is believed, two banks, and support of the queen and therefore the monarchy. The opposition Democratic Party now says it has enough parliamentary support to form a government.

Dec 8  Fareed Zakaria in a Washington Post article describes Pakistan's army as the real power in that country, with President Asif Ali Zardari changing to timidity in the face of the army's response to the attack against Mumbai. "Whether the Pakistani military was involved in the Mumbai attacks," Zakaria writes, "remains unclear." He writes of the attackers having been trained by men with titles such as colonel and major and as using communications channels in their operation that are known intelligence services (ISI) channels. A former head of Pakistan's intelligence, General Hamid Gul, told Zakaria in an interview that aired yesterday that Zionists and US "neo-cons" had been the force behind the 9/11 attacks.

Dec 9  Public opinion in Egypt remains hardline. Newspapers and politicians are pressuring their nation's top Muslim cleric, Sheikh Tantawi, to resign. Their grievance: at an interfaith conference in New York in November Shekikh Tantawi shook the hand of Israel's President, Shimon Peres.

Thomas L. Friedman

Tom Friedman

Dec 10  In Greece, a policeman having killed a 15-year-old, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, has left the country in rebellion against its government. Today there is a general strike. In Zimbabwe the economy has collapsed and with dysfunction has come a cholera outbreak with death numbers climbing toward 800. But rather than Zimbabwe being in rebellion and its people defying military authority, they are passively starving or fleeing to a neighboring country.

Dec 10  The columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes of a new "business model" applied to creating mobility that was invented recently in Silicon Valley. He reports that it is being acquired in Denmark and Israel, and no doubt soon elsewhere and that it will make a bailout of Detroit automakers similar to "pouring billions of dollars into improving typewriters on the eve of the birth of the PC and the Internet."

Dec 11  Pakistan puts the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, under house arrest. (See Dec 3.)

Dec 11  Zimbabwe's "President" Mugabe says "I am happy to say our doctors have been assisted by others, and WHO (World Health Organization] and they have now arrested cholera." He adds that there is no more reason to invade Zimbabwe than to invade Britain for its mad cow disease.

Dec 12  In Zimbabwe, Mugabe's Information Minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, describes the cholera outbreak as a "genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British".

Dec 13  India's navy captures 23 pirates in Gulf of Aden.

Dec 14  Andrisson Manyere, an accredited freelance journalist, is abducted from his home in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Dec 15  In Thailand, a vote in parliament, 235 to 198, makes opposition leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the new prime minister – the fifth in a little more than two years. Abhisit is leader of the Democrat Party, a right-of-center and pro-monarchy party. Abhisit speaks against corruption, favors measures described as populist and has been an opponent of military rule, including the military coup in 2006.

Dec 16  Oil prices fall, "by more than $100 a barrel since July," writes the New York Times.

Dec 16  Last month some Republicans were talking about future appeals to the electorate by adhering to principles and maintaining integrity. Today a fellow Republican, Newt Gingrich, complains about a Republican National Committee (RNC) web ad that falsely associates President-elect Obama with the embattled governor of Illinois, Blagojevich. Gingrich accuses the RNC of "engaging in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles." Meanwhile, a Gallup poll indicates that 25 percent of Americans assume that Obama's staff is "Illegally tied to Blagojevich."

Dec 16  Somali pirates capture two more ships, one an Indonesian tugboat contracted to a French oil company and the other a Turkish cargo ship. Meanwhile the UN Security Council unanimously approves a resolution allowing countries to pursue Somali pirates on land as well as at sea.

Dec 17  In South Korea, the popular 40-year-old actress Ok So-ri receives a suspended prison sentence of eight months for adultery. The man associated with Ms Ok, a well-known singer, receives a six-month suspended term. The BBC reports that, "according to a survey carried out last year, nearly 68% of South Korean men and 12% of women confess to having sex outside marriage."

Dec 19  The economic crisis brings attention to a book with philosophical pretentions that has impressed celebrity writers such as David Brooks and Fareed Zakaria. The book is Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable. It is a takeoff on the commonly acknowledged induction fallacy but, some believe, overdone and with distortions. Recent remarks supporting the book suggest that today's economic crisis was a random event incapable of being foreseen rather than the result of bad policy and of mismanagement with consequences that should have been foreseen.

Map of Tuareg Territory

Tuareg territory(Wikimedia commons)

Dec 19  Japan's government forecasts zero GDP growth for 2009. Hopes are that its strong fiscal stimulus measures will keep the GDP from declining into negative territory.

Dec 20  In Mali, Tuaregs attack an army base. They signed a peace agreement with the Mali government in July, but they say they want more negotiations, more resources directed their way and more autonomy. The Tuaregs are largely camel riding pastoral people whose territory was divided in the 1960s with the creation of independent nations. What had been their territory is now part of Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya and Burkina Faso. Their total population is estimated at 5.2 million. Desertification and prohibitions on nomadism have been an aggravation. Some have been forced to abandon herding and are seeking jobs in towns and cities.

Dec 23  In Uganda, two women who were arrested in 2005 for lesbianism are awarded $7,000 in damages. The presiding judge describes their rights as having been infringed upon.

Dec 23  Pope Benedict XVI says, "Rain forests deserve, yes, our protection but the human being... does not deserve it less." He speaks of protecting "the nature of man against its manipulation... The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected." Transsexuals are offended.

Map showing location of the Republic of Guinea, in West Africa

Dec 23  Guinea's president, Lansana Conte, dies. The army maintains order and promises the creation of a consultative council of civilian and military chiefs. Lasana Conte was not a popular ruler – despite having won three elections. He was dependent on military support.

Dec 24  In Guinea, an army officer, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, is declared president of an interim administration that will rule for two years. Looking happy and kind as he convoys through the streets, thousands cheer him. But government officials look for help from the international community, complaining that they still have power that is being usurped illegally.

Dec 25  At army barracks in Guinea, Captain Camara meets with government officials and tells them that he will not be one of the candidates for president in December 2010. He tells the government officials, "You can go back to business. Let us just avoid armed conflict, which would drag our country into fratricidal war." Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare agrees and tells Camara, "We are at your complete disposal." Camara describes his purpose as restoring order to the country and ridding the country of corruption. Local radio reports Camara as saying that already "people who are starting to show up with bags of money to try to corrupt us ... They've tried to give money to our wives and cars to our children."

Dec 26  In China two Chinese men appear in court in handcuffs, their heads bowed. They were executives of the Sanlu Group, a company owned partly by New Zealanders. It sold milk with the chemical Melamine. It was a disastrous tactic. The company stopped production on September 12 and has filed for bankruptcy. Four other executives are also charged and will be appear at court in coming days.

Dec 26  In China it is announced that the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (CCDI) has for the year ending in November disciplined nearly 5,000 officials above the county-chief level – officials involved in "corruption, bribery, acting against [the] public interest and other breaches of discipline or the law."

Dec 27  The cease fire between Hamas and Israel, agreed to in June, expired a few days ago. It was not renewed, and rocket attacks on Israel launched from Gaza have continued. Israeli F-16 bombers strike key targets across the Gaza Strip, killing at least 225 people according to local medics. Israel is claiming its right to self-defense. Hamas vows revenge attacks and fires Qassam rockets into Israel.

Dec 29  Israel continues its military operations in Gaza. Their strategy is to eliminate Hamas as a political force in Gaza in order to stop attacks from there into Israel. Some Israelis have concluded that striking militarily merely to teach Hamas a lesson is futile and therefore dumb. In Egypt and elsewhere, anti-Israeli demonstrators work at their analysis and accuse Israel of terrorism.

Dec 30  Members of the Lord's Resistance Army have fled from Uganda into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, according to the BBC, since Christmas they have killed more than 400 people, and they are trying to advance their reputation for righteousness by cutting off lips as a warning not to speak ill of the Lord's army.

Dec 30  Hamas announces that it will continue firing rockets "until Israel ends its aggression." In the dark of night a Hamas rocket-firing crew with a pickup truck exposes itself to Israeli high tech spotting devices. Boom! The crew is obliterated. And the Israelis know that the number of crews that Hamas can field is limited.

Dec 31  In a televised speech from an undisclosed location in Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announces that "Victory is near, God willing, and it is closer than people think." Regarding a truce, he speaks as one might when heading for a military victory. He offers the Israelis no assurances regarding their security. He says that first "Zionist aggression must end without any conditions."

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