Dec 30th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Turmoil in Iran increased after security forces fired on anti-government demonstrators in several cities.
State television said that eight people had died, including a nephew of last June’s thwarted presidential
candidate, Mir Hosein Mousavi. More than a thousand people were reportedly arrested, including a former
foreign minister. Divisions in the ruling clerical establishment deepened. See article
Barack Obama ordered an investigation into why America’s security apparatus failed
to stop a man from
boarding a jet in Amsterdam, which he then allegedly tried to blow up as it made its final approach to
Detroit on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was overpowered by fellow passengers after he
attempted to detonate explosives on the plane, causing a fire. An al-Qaeda-affiliated group in Yemen
claimed responsibility. See article
At least 38 people died in clashes between the police and members of a radical Islamist sect called Kala
Kato in Nigeria’s north-eastern state of Bauchi. The violence started when police tried to enforce a ban
on open-air preaching.
The UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea to punish it for backing Islamist militias in Somalia. Governments
in the region, along with the African Union, have been demanding such measures for several months.
A South Korean consortium beat French, American and Japanese rivals to win a coveted $40 billion
contract to build and run four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates, which will form part of the
first civilian nuclear-energy project in the Arab world. See article Mr Obama and his fellow Democrats were confident of passing a significant reform of health care in early
2010 after the Senate voted, along party lines, in favour of a bill. Differences between legislation in the
Senate and the House need to be thrashed out before the president gets a bill to sign. The share prices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac soared in response to the Treasury’s recent decision to
remove limits on the amount of federal aid to the companies. Fannie and Freddie, America’s biggest
“government-sponsored enterprises”, were bailed out in 2008 amid huge mortgage losses. The amount of
public money each could obtain was capped at $200 billion (neither has received that amount), but the
Treasury now wants to “leave no uncertainty” about its commitment to the firms.
In a setback for President álvaro Uribe’s security policy, Colombia’s FARC guerrillas kidnapped and killed
the governor of Caquetá department, south-east of Bogotá. See article
Just hours after his funeral, the mother and three other grieving relatives of a soldier who died during a
government raid that killed Arturo Beltrán Leyva, one of Mexico’s top drug-traffickers, were murdered in
a revenge attack that shocked Mexicans.
At a ceremony in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, two Argentine men became the first gay people in Latin
America to get married. Meanwhile, Mexico City’s legislature voted to legalise gay marriage.
The candidate of the ruling party was eliminated in the first round of Croatia’s
suggesting that voters are grumpy despite more steps towards joining the European Union. In mid-
December Serbia, Croatia’s neighbour, formally applied to join the EU. See article
In a sign of renewed tension between the Turkish army and the government, eight special-forces
soldiers were briefly arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate a senior politician from the ruling Justice
and Development (AK) party. See article
The Basel committee on banking supervision, which sets capital standards for banks around the
world, published a consultation document on December 17th that was more stringent than many bankers
had expected. Among other things, the committee is calling for a shake-up in the way banks’ capital is
Liu Xiaobo, one of China’s best-known political dissidents, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for
“inciting subversion”. Mr Liu had been instrumental in drafting a petition in December 2008 known as
Charter 08, calling for radical political reform. See article
Akmal Shaikh, a Briton convicted of smuggling heroin into China, was executed by lethal injection in the
north-western region of Xinjiang, despite pleas for a review of the man’s mental health. Gordon Brown
said he was “appalled”. See article
More than 4,000 ethnic Hmong refugees were repatriated from Thailand to Laos, despite
fears that some
of them might face persecution. See article
More than 40 people were killed in a suicide-bombing in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest
city, that targeted a
procession of Shia Muslims.
There were complaints as India tightened rules for long-term tourist visas, after the arrest of a Pakistani
American who was accused of involvement in planning the November 2008 attack on Mumbai. He had
travelled to India several times.
The governor of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, N.D. Tiwari, resigned after a television news
channel aired pictures purporting to show him having sex in the company of three women. Mr Tiwari is 84.
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