December 2003

December 2003: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

Events

See also:
2004 Canadian Federal Election
2004 Taiwan Presidential Election
2004 U.S. Presidential Election
Bloody Sunday Inquiry
Search for Beagle 2
Kyoto Protocol
Liberian Crisis
Same-sex Marriage
SCO v. IBM
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Road Map to Peace

North Korean Crisis
War on Terrorism

Timeline of the War in Afghanistan (December 2003)

Occupation of Iraq

Iraq Timeline

December 1

December 2

December 3

December 4

December 5

December 6

December 7

  • Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán receives a 20-year prison sentence for money laundering, embezzlement, electoral crime, etc. [61] [62]
  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe announces that he is withdrawing his country from the Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth had earlier decided to maintain Zimbabwe's suspension until human rights and democratic reforms had taken place. [63]
  • President Putin's United Russia Party wins a resounding victory in the 2003 Russian election, with 37% of the vote. Second place and 12.5% of the vote goes to the Communist Party, with Zhirinovsky's LDPR nationalists close behind with 11.5%. However, electoral monitors say the democratic process was "overwhelmingly distorted" in the government's favour. [64] [65]
  • Afghan villagers have disputed United States claims that a bombing by the US that killed nine children had killed the intended target, Taliban militant, Mullah Wazir. They say Wazir had left the village ten days earlier. [66] [67]
  • Currency analysts remain negative on the US dollar. [68]
  • One US soldier is killed and two are injured Sunday in Mosul when a convoy is attacked. [69]

December 8

December 9

December 10

December 11

December 12

December 13

December 14

  • Occupation of Iraq:
    • Iraq's Civil Administrator L. Paul Bremer announces that Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces. Saddam was found approximately 15 km south of his home town of Tikrit at 2030 local time on December 13. Hussein was captured without resistance in a so-called "spider-hole" at a farmhouse in the town of ad-Dawr. He is in Coalition custody at an undisclosed location. At a press conference, Bremer presents video of Saddam in custody with a full beard, which is later shown removed. Bremer says that Saddam is in good health and is being "co-operative and talkative". He says that Saddam will "face justice" before an Iraqi court and under Iraqi law. [142] [143] [144] [145]
    • In an address to his nation, US president George W. Bush comments on the capture of Saddam, "Now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions." [146]
    • British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomes the capture of Saddam, urging the Iraqi people "to reach out and to reconcile." Other world leaders offer similar sentiments: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the arrest "will contribute to the strengthening of security in Iraq and to the process of political regulation in the country," while UN Secretary General Kofi Annan comments that Saddam's capture provides a chance "to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq". [147] [148]
    • A car bomb explodes at a police station in Khaldiyah, 60 km west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 and wounding 30. [149]
  • Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf narrowly escapes a bombing. "The president's motorcade passed a minute before the blast", according to officials. [150]
  • In an interview with The Washington Post newspaper, a 78-year-old African-American Los Angeles woman claims to be the illegitimate daughter of the late U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond. [151]
  • The famous Italian opera house La Fenice in Venice reopens after being destroyed by fire in 1996. It was rebuilt at the cost of 90mn.[152]
  • Jason White, quarterback of the University of Oklahoma Sooners, wins the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the best player in college football. [153]

December 15

  • Wesley Clark concludes his first day of closed-door testimony against Slobodan Milošević at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. [154]
  • US Secretary of State Colin Powell successfully undergoes two hours of prostate cancer surgery at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. [155]
  • Capture of Saddam Hussein:
    • US President George W. Bush promises a "fair trial" for Saddam, refusing demands to hand him over to an international court. [156]
    • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says, about Saddam, "... as secretary-general ... I am not going to now turn around and support a death penalty". [157]
  • The results of parliamentary elections in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are announced: pro-European Union parties won a narrow victory over the ruling nationalist coalition, with the opposition Republican Turkish Party becoming the largest party. However, the republic's complicated electoral system means that the two sides will each have 25 seats in the 50-seat assembly. [158]
  • Safeway, a British grocery store chain, is the subject of a £3bn ($5.2bn USD) takeover bid from rival supermarket chain Morrisons. [159]
  • Liberian Crisis: the United Nations announces the suspension of its disarmament campaign for a month. [160]

December 16

December 17

  • Linux kernel 2.6.0 is released by Linus Torvalds.
  • Capture of Saddam Hussein:
  • Stephen Kenny, the first civilian lawyer to visit any of the former Afghan war suspects in Guantanamo Bay, describes it as a physical and moral black hole. He says prisoners are not treated equally and that there is a pecking order with Americans being treated best. (In fact there are no Americans being held at Guantanamo Bay.) [172] [173]
  • Occupation of Iraq: A fuel tanker explodes in downtown Baghdad, killing 10 and wounding 15. Initially believed to be caused by a bomb, officials later conclude that a traffic accident was responsible. [174]
  • Terrorism:
    • The head of the Greek terrorist group Revolutionary Organization 17 November and their chief hitman are jailed for life, along with four other members of the organisation. [175]
    • Thomas Kean, chairman of the independent commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks, says that the attacks could have been prevented and that public officials were to blame for not anticipating and pre-empting the threat. The commission's report is due in May 2004. [176] [177]
  • Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr are convicted for their roles in the August 2002 murders of 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in the English village of Soham. [178]
  • Taiwan reports the first confirmed SARS case in five months, a medical researcher who had studied the virus. [179]
  • The United States National Weather Service warns of "excessive heat" after the Earth reportedly breaks out of its orbit and begins falling into the sun. Fortunately, it turns out to be a mistakenly published test message. [180]
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the final part of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, goes on broad public release in the United States and much of Europe. Industry pundits predicted that it could have become the second film, after Titanic, to earn over US$1 billion at the box office. [181]
  • Republic of Congo: A gunbattle breaks out in Brazzaville.[182]
  • Health: The UK government says that a case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease may have occurred through blood transfusion. [183]
  • Former Governor of Illinois George H. Ryan is indicted on corruption charges for receiving payoffs, gifts and vacations in return for government contracts and leases while he served as the Governor and Secretary of State of Illinois. [184]
  • Governor of Connecticut John G. Rowland announces that he will not resign, despite allegations of corruption involving the receipt of free modifications to a vacation cottage, and the indictments of several of his top aides. [185]
  • Islam in France: the hidjab issue: President of France Jacques Chirac announces that he will support a ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses in schools and government offices. If passed, the law will come into effect in September 2004. Muslim clerics counter that the ban is an attack on their religion. [186] [187]
  • Space exploration:

December 18

  • NASA announces that the new name for the "Space Infrared Telescope Facility" will be the Spitzer Space Telescope (after the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr.). This coincides with the release of the telescope's first images, which show the glowing stars of the Elephant's Trunk nebula, the dusty arms of the Messier 81 spiral galaxy, a disc of planet-forming debris, and organic material 3.25 billion light years away. [191] [192] [193]
  • Legal status of suspected terrorists:
    • A committee of the UK Parliament recommends that the power to hold terrorist suspects without trial be repealed. [194]
    • A United States federal appeals court rules that José Padilla, accused by the U.S. Government of taking part in a terrorist "dirty bomb" plot with possible links to al-Qaida, cannot be designated an illegal combatant and must be released from military custody within 30 days. [195] [196] The Bush administration announces that it will seek a stay of the Padilla decision. [197]
    • A United States federal appeals court rules that the "illegal combatants" being held at Camp X-Ray in Cuba should have access to lawyers and to US courts. [198]
    • It is alleged that, in cases where their treatment of a detainee may never come under public scrutiny, The Pentagon and CIA are using a number of controversial techniques to extract information. [199]
  • Capture of Saddam Hussein: a Jordanian news source claims that Saddam Hussein was drugged and betrayed by his personal bodyguard, General Mohammed Ibrahim Omar al-Muslit, a member of his own family. [200]
  • The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rules to disqualify Spanish athlete Johann Mühlegg and Russian athlete Olga Danilova from all the cross-country skiing races they participated in during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and thus withdraw their medals, due to doping by darbepoetin. [201]
  • Prosecutors in California charge singer Michael Jackson with seven counts of child molestation and schedule hearings for January 16, 2004. [202]
  • Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warns the Palestinian Authority that Israel will take unilateral steps to separate from the Palestinians unless there is progress on the road map peace plan and sets a deadline of "a few months" for Palestinian compliance. The speech is strongly criticised by the United States, the Israeli left, the Jewish settler movement and the Palestinians. [203]
  • Red Hat, in its third quarter, buys Sistina Software. Red Hat expects that it will close the deal by early January for $31 million dollars. [204]
  • Sudanese authorities close the Khartoum office of the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera and detain its bureau chief for questioning. [205]

December 19

  • Italian dairy company Parmalat declared a 3.96 billion euro hole in its accounts when the amount held by Cayman Islands-based unit, Bonlat Financing Corporation, was declared false by Bank of America. [206]
  • Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi acknowledges that his country was pursuing a development program for weapons of mass destruction but now agrees to its dismantling. [207]
  • A revised plan is unveiled for the new Freedom Tower which will be erected on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. At a symbolic height of 1,776 feet (541 m; 1776 is significant as the year of the United States Declaration of Independence) the projected edifice will be among the tallest buildings in the world. [208] [209]
  • Occupation of Iraq:
  • Flights from Vancouver International Airport bound for the U.S. are delayed following the discovery of an envelope containing suspicious white powder and a threatening note at one of the terminals. [212]
  • SARS quarantine orders are lifted on up to 75 people in Singapore but concerns remain that the deadly virus could yet make a comeback across Asia. [213]
  • Australia sends A$1.2 million to Nauru so that the Pacific island-state can pay its public servants before Christmas in a move that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says illustrates the need for long-term solutions to the island's deep-seated problems. [214]
  • In a major blow to the recording industry's efforts to stamp out online file sharing, a United States federal appeals court invalidates subpoenas issued against Verizon to identify individual P2P users. [215]
  • The British spacecraft Beagle 2 successfully separates from the ESA's Mars Express orbiter and is now less than 10 days away from its scheduled landing on the surface of Mars; it will attempt to parachute onto the surface on Christmas morning. [216] [217] [218]
  • Police seal off the printing plant and offices of Zimbabwe's last remaining independent daily newspaper, Daily News. [219]
  • Same-sex marriage in Canada: an Ontario court rules that Canadians whose same-sex partners died after 1985 are entitled to survivors' benefits. It is believed to be the first class-action lawsuit awarding compensation to gays and lesbians anywhere in the world. [220]
  • The University of Delaware's Blue Hens shut out Colgate University to win the NCAA Division I-AA football national championship. [221]
  • Jason Cooper, a cousin of Alonzo Mourning (a player of the NBA Team the Miami Heat), donated him his kidney because he Mourning had suffered from a career ending kidney disease.

December 20

  • The Holy See announces plans to beatify the last Austro-Hungarian emperor Karl. Karl, who was overthrown in 1918 and died in exile in 1922, is expected to be beatified, a step to sainthood, in the next year. Karl's widow, Zita of Bourbon-Parma died in 1989. His son, former Crown Prince Otto von Habsburg was until recently a German MEP. [222] [223]
  • CCTV footage at Hampton Court Palace near London, once home of King Henry VIII of England, is released, and claimed to show a "ghost". The footage, taken in October 2003, shows a man in 16th century clothes closing a firedoor that had blown open. The palace markets itself as one of Britain's most haunted locations. [224] [225]
  • Celebrations marking the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase culminate in New Orleans, Louisiana. [226]
  • Irish charity fundraiser John O'Shea attacks Manchester United football manager Sir Alex Ferguson as "greedy" for demanding £90,000 to attend a cancer charity function in Ireland in 1999. According to O'Shea, a sports celebrity demanding 'appearance money' from a charity is unheard of in his experience. Ferguson's appearance fee amounted to half the money raised. The fundraisers, until now unaware that Ferguson had taken half the proceeds, denounce his behaviour and say if they had known about it at the time they would have cancelled the event.
  • Former Argentinian president Carlos Menem is charged with tax fraud for failing to declare a Swiss bank account containing $600,000. If convicted he could be debarred from public office. [227]
  • The World Court says it will hear legal arguments about Israel's construction of a controversial barrier in the West Bank to separate Israeli and Palestinian areas. The hearings will begin on 23 February 2004. [228]
  • Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar pays a surprise visit to Spanish troops in Iraq. [229]
  • Massive landslides in the Philippines caused by heavy rain result in the deaths of up to 90 people. [230]
  • A Malaysian opposition website is shut down by its British web-hosting company amid claims of "political censorship" from the opposition. [231]
  • Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai tells his supporters to "fight fear" as they campaign against President Robert Mugabe. His comments follow the decision of Zimbabwe's police to occupy the offices of Zimbabwe's only privately owned newspaper in defiance of a court order that the newspaper could resume publication. [232]
  • Eleven people, mainly young people from Germany, die in a bus crash in Belgium. [233]
  • In Comoros, leaders signed an agreement clearing the way for legislative elections in April. [234]
  • CW meets KM

December 21

  • "The American Soldier" is named as Time magazine's "Person of the Year". The periodical's editors chose the anonymous soldier to represent the 1.4 million men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces. [235] [236] [237] [238] [239] [240] [241]
  • Citing increased "chatter" regarding potential terrorist attacks over the holiday period, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raises its terrorism alert level from "elevated" (yellow) to "high" (orange). [242]
  • A senior French police source claims Diana, Princess of Wales was pregnant when she was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. A Clarence House spokesperson for The Prince of Wales refuses to comment on the issue. Mohamed Al-Fayed, the father of Diana's partner Dodi Al-Fayed had long insisted that Diana was pregnant with Dodi's baby and that she was murdered to stop her from giving birth. [243] [244]
  • Quoting an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer, a report in the Sunday Express (Britain) claims that before Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops, he had already been discovered by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Kurdish forces had been alerted to his location by a member of the al-Jabour tribe whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday Hussein. [245]
  • Retired Gen. Wesley Clark presented 4,000 petition signatures to qualify for South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary ballot today. He's the second of the nine candidates for the Democratic nomination to file for the February 3 ballot. Campaign workers for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts gave the state Democratic Party a check for $2,500 last week to qualify.

December 22

December 23

December 24

December 25

  • Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf survives a suicide bomber attack on his motorcade, the second attempt to assassinate him in two weeks. [273]
  • Following Beagle 2's expected landing, US probe Mars Odyssey (already in Martian orbit) listens for the lander's distinctive musical callsign. A further scan for the lander is conducted using the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. No signal is detected. [274][275]
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict:
    • An Israeli helicopter gunship attacks a car in Gaza City, killing Islamic Jihad commander Mekled Hameid and two fellow militants, together with two bystanders. [276]
    • A suicide-bomber strikes a bus stop Tel Aviv, killing four civilians and himself. [277]
    • Israel announces closure of the West Bank and Gaza. [278]
  • A UK lab confirms the presence of BSE in samples taken from a cow in Washington [279]. Mexico joins the list of countries which have banned imports of US beef.
  • Reports emerge of a major leak of natural gas in a gas field near the south-western Chinese city of Chongqing. Over 100 people are believed dead and up to 40,000 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding the leak. [280]
  • A Boeing 727 of United Transit Airlines originating in the Guinean capital, Conakry, stopping in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and bound for Beirut, clips a building during takeoff and crashes into the Atlantic Ocean off Benin. Over 100 people die, most of them Lebanese. [281]

December 26

  • A powerful earthquake occurs near the southern Iranian city of Bam at 0156 GMT (5.26 am local time). The USGS estimates its magnitude as 6.7 on the Richter scale. The BBC reports that "70% of the modern city of Bam" is destroyed. Iranian government officials estimate the death toll at over 20,000 with a further 50,000 injured. Bam Citadel the largest adobe structure of the world is destroyed. The area of the citadel is about 180,000 square meters and the construction date of parts of it goes back for about 2500 years. [282][283][284]
  • The death toll in the Chinese gas-leak rises to 191. [285]
  • Fearing the state's BSE outbreak may extend beyond a single farm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantines a second cattle farm in Washington state. [286]

December 27

December 28

December 29

December 30

December 31


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