WHITE HOUSE President Bush solidified his second-term cabinet just over a month before Inauguration Day. Six cabinet members confirmed they will remain, notably Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary John Snow, and three positions remain to be filled.
IRAQ Secretary Rumsfeld immediately took his show on the road, visiting soldiers in Kuwait and taking questions on security in Iraq. Army Reserves Sgt. Chris Missick said the widely publicized event was more townhall meeting than gripe session despite media focus on one question about soldiers having to reinforce their own vehicles to ward off IED attacks. "Not one soldier present asked questions about why we were here, or expressed the sort of anti-war sentiment that Michael Moore led some to believe was prevalent in the military," wrote Mr. Missick. The concern, he said, "was about ensuring we would be supplied with all necessary equipment to accomplish the mission and return home safely. Let there be no doubt, this was not a hostile crowd."
UNITED NATIONS With records in Baghdad revealing almost $22 billion in illegal proceeds from the UN's old Oil for Food program and U.S. legislators threatening to withhold money from the international body, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan admitted only a "perception problem" in an interview with the Financial Times last week. U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, meanwhile, is calling for Mr. Annan's resignation, calling the Oil for Food scandal "the most extensive fraud in the history of the UN."
UKRAINE Election demonstrators started dismantling their blockades around Kiev on Dec. 9, two weeks after they began protesting against fraudulent results. But their frigid vigil paid off. The Supreme Court annulled the results of the presidential election, which had handed victory to prime minister Viktor Yanukovych over reformist opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Parliament also approved electoral reforms and changed the electoral commission believed responsible for covering up fraud. A run-off between the two candidates is scheduled for Dec. 26.
LATIN AMERICA Twelve South American countries signed a declaration Dec. 8 creating a political and economic bloc they hope will put them on a more equal footing with the United States and Europe. Delegates inaugurated the South American Community of Nations at a two-day summit in Cuzco, Peru.
SAUDI ARABIA A team of U.S. Marines arrived in the Red Sea port of Jiddah to beef up security after the U.S. Consulate there was attacked by Islamic militants. Five militants shot their way into the facility on Dec. 6, killing five non-American employees and briefly taking hostages. Four of the attackers were killed and one was wounded and in police custody.
BASEBALL Fallout from Major League Baseball's steroid scandal continued last week as leaked grand jury testimony revealed that Barry Bonds, holder of the single-season record for home runs, admitted using performance-enhancing substances. With U.S. Sen. John McCain threatening federal intervention, the players union lifted its opposition to tougher rules against steroids.
DEMOCRATS At the request of the Kerry campaign, the Democratic National Committee paid one-time Kerry challenger Al Sharpton $86,715 in travel and consulting fees, according to reports to the Federal Election Commission. Mr. Sharpton told reporters he was paid for travel and didn't know how much he had been reimbursed. But records show that Mr. Sharpton was paid $35,000 as a "political consulting fee" 15 days after the election, according to a report in Village Voice.
SOCIAL SECURITY President Bush on Dec. 9 rejected an increase in the payroll tax as part of any overhaul of Social Security. "We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem," he said, while specifically leaving open the possibility of government borrowing to finance a partial transition to private accounts for young workers. Meanwhile, GOP reform plans received a boost when U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) said he would support legislation drafted by Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe that includes private accounts. Mr. Boyd said many Democrats "didn't understand" that failure to act soon would lead to a crisis when baby boomers retire but that "there are some of us who are willing to work across party lines.