2008 Looking Back

31 December 2008 By Cassandra Tanti

From the election of the first African-American president in the U.S., to the earthquake that killed 68,000 people in western China ... this was a year of remarkable change and devastating loss. If you feel like you missed something while at sea these past 12 months, then read on, as we bring you up to date with the major world events of 2008!

Jan 1-4 Hundreds die in tribal violence in Kenya, after incumbent president Mwai Kibaki is declared winner in the presidential election.

Jan 1 Cyprus and Malta begin using the euro currency.

Jan 1 France begins a smoking ban in cafés, bars and restaurants.

Jan 2 Tennis star Roger Federer named Champion of Champions by L’Equipe newspaper for the third year running.

Jan 21 Markets plunge around the world amid fears that the U.S. is headed for a recession.

Jan 22 Heath Ledger dies at age 28. The Australian actor dies of an accidental prescription drugs overdose.

Jan 24 Italy’s government collapses as Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigns after losing a confidence vote in the Senate.

Feb 4 Researchers create “green fuel” from household waste. Australia’s CSIRO researchers discover a process to turn waste such as garden clippings and waste paper into “biocrude oil.”

Feb 5 London to Sydney flight “in five hours.” British engineers unveil plans for a supersonic jet that could fly from Europe to Australia in less than five hours.

Feb 17 Kosovo Declares Independence. Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declares independence from Serbia.

Feb 12 Writers’ strike ends. A three-year deal with production companies is approved, ending a three-month Writers’ Guild of America strike.

Feb 19 Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is voted the country’s most popular PM in 20 years.

Feb 19 Fidel Castro resigns as president of Cuba after 49 years in power.

Feb 23 The oldest person in Japan dies of natural causes at age 113.

Mar 10 Protests by Tibetan Monks. Some 400 Buddhist monks march in Tibet to commemorate the failed uprising of 1959, which resulted in the Dalai Lama fleeing to India. On March 14 the protests turn violent.

Mar 11 U.S. government intervenes to avert financial crisis. The U.S. Federal Reserve outlines a $US200 billion loan program for the country’s biggest banks.

Mar 23 U.S. suffers 4,000th death in Iraq.

Mar 27 Heathrow’s Terminal 5 opens. The latest terminal to be developed at Heathrow Airport in 20 years opens to the public, but is blighted by cancelled flights, baggage delays and check-in suspensions.

April 1 Russian sect members leave cave. 14 members of a doomsday cult leave a cave in central Russia after five months underground, waiting for the end of the world.

April 2 Irish Prime Minister announces his Resignation. Bertie Ahern says he will step down in May, amid bribery allegations.

April 6 & 7 Olympic torch relay draws protests. Dozens of human rights protesters are arrested in London after clashing with police during the Olympic torch relay. The torch is extinguished several times during the Paris leg of the relay.

April 9 French fashion industry signs anti-anorexia charter. Fashion houses, advertising firms and media sign a voluntary charter to promote healthy body images.

April 28 Ronaldo crowned Premier League’s best. Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo is voted England’s Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

April 30 LSD discoverer dies. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered the hallucinogenic drug LSD, dies at the age of 102.

May 7 New President of Russia is sworn in. Dmitri Medvedev succeeds Vladimir Putin as the president of Russia.

May 12 Earthquake kills thousands in China. Up to 68,000 people are killed and thousands injured when an estimated 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes western China.

May 14 Polar bear listed as threatened. The polar bear becomes protected under the Endangered Species Act.

May 18 Indiana Jones returns to the big screen. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull debuts at the Cannes Film Festival, 19 years after the release of the 3rd film.

May 25 The Phoenix spacecraft lands on Mars, ending a 422-million-mile journey from Earth and beginning a three-month mission using instruments to taste and smell the northern polar site’s soil and ice.

May 28 Kylie Minogue turns 40. Australia’s princess of pop celebrates her 40th at a lavish family dinner in Germany.

June 5 Inquiry finds Bush exaggerated Iraq evidence. A five-year inquiry states that President Bush and his staff repeatedly overstated evidence Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and misled the public about ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

June 5 Clinton bows out of presidential race. Hillary Clinton pulls out of her marathon campaign for the White House.

June 26 US Supreme Court rules for gun rights. The U.S. court rules five to four that the Constitution continues to protect an individual’s right to possess a gun.

June 27 Bill Gates steps down from the top job at Microsoft. Thirty-three years after declaring his ambition to put “a computer on every desk in every home,” Bill Gates retires from his day-to-day role at Microsoft.

July 2 Hostages are freed in Columbia. After being held for nearly six years by FARC rebels, 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, are freed.

July 13 U.S. Treasury Department proposes rescue plan for mortgage companies. As tumbling stock prices cause diminished confidence in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (who either own or guarantee half of all mortgages in the U.S.), the treasury puts together a package to invest billions in both companies.

Aug 3 Hundreds killed in Indian stampede. Nearly 150 people, many children, die when rumors of a landslide cause pilgrims to stampede during a Hindu festival in northern India.

Aug 7 Violence breaks out in breakaway region in Georgia. Fighting erupts after Georgian soldiers attack South Ossetia, a breakaway region in Georgia that won de facto independence in the early 1990s. On Aug 8, Russia sends in troops and tanks to South Ossetia to support the region.

Aug 8 Beijing Olympics begin. The opening ceremony signals the beginning of the summer Olympic Games, with 14,000 performers.

Aug 22 Iraq and the U.S. agree on a time frame for troop pullout. The U.S. says it will withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2011.

Aug 30 New Orleans residents prepare for hurricane. One day after the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, two million people evacuate the city as hurricane Gustav makes its way towards Louisiana.

Sept 8 Russia agrees to withdraw from Georgia. Russian president Dmitri Medvedev says he will remove troops from Georgia by mid-October.

Sept 15 Google celebrates 10th birthday. Internet search engine celebrates ten year’s since it was registered as a business.

Sept 20 $700 billion bailout plan announced. The Bush Administration asks Congress to allow the treasury department to buy up to $700 billion U.S. in bad mortgage assets from private investment companies.

Sept 27 Chinese take first space walk. A Chinese astronaut completes his country’s first-ever space walk.

Oct 01 U.S. Senate passes bailout plan, but not before making some major changes.

Oct 15 Madonna-Ritchie divorce confirmed. Pop star Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie announce their divorce, ending a seven-year marriage.

Nov 4 Barack Obama is elected U.S. president. Democratic Senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election against Sen. John McCain, making history on a number of different levels.

Nov 9 Bali bombers are executed. Three men are executed by firing squad for their role in the 2002 bombing at a Bali nightclub that killed 202 people, mostly tourists.

Nov 27 Terrorists launch a deadly series of attack on Mumbai, India. A group of well-trained terrorists embark on a series of coordinated attacks on seven sites in Mumbai, including luxury hotels, a rail station, a hospital and a Jewish centre. The death toll reached 171.

Dec 4 Zimbabwe cholera outbreak declared a national emergency. The Zimbabwean government calls for international assistance, as the UN reports 12,546 cases of cholera and 565 deaths since August.

Dec 6 Police shooting prompts Greek riots. A police officer shoots dead a 15-year-old boy in Athens. Hours later, thousands protest in the city, throwing petrol bombs, smashing shop windows and setting fires. The policemen are charged with murder and abetting.

Dec 8 Arrests made over Mumbai attacks. Pakistan arrests three people linked to the group India accuses of involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

Dec 9 Woman gives birth at age 70. An Indian woman gives birth to her first child at the age of 70 using IVF treatment.

Dec 12 Zimbabwe unveils 500 million dollar note, as the African country struggles to cope with the world’s highest inflation and currency shortages.