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Democracy

News of the Year

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 30, 2006

When November 2004 postelection analysis pinpointed religious folks as a key swing bloc that had swung even further to the right, Democrats quickly set out to un-corner the GOP's market on God. They continued to do so right up through November 2006. Democratic leaders began invoking faith more in their speeches. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi launched the party's Faith Working Group. Sen. Harry Reid and others began framing "Democratic" issues like poverty as questions of morality rather than social justice. In October 2006, Democratic strategists even teamed with some prominent evangelicals to hype global warming as a "Christian" issue in midterm battleground states. The beat goes on: Presidential hopefuls including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Kerry have hired high-profile religious advisors, each hoping to reach the faithful in time for 2008.

Chances are internet surfers haven't heard of Judson Laipply, but they've likely seen him dancing. Near the end of his inspirational comedy act, Laipply decided to tape his closing routine-something he calls the "Evolution of Dance." In April, Laipply published his video on YouTube.com, then a little-known video-hosting website founded by Chad Hurley and Steven Chen. By the end of the year, web surfers had watched Laipply's video nearly 37 million times-a YouTube record-while the website had been bought out by Google for $1.65 billion in stock after its traffic skyrocketed over the summer.

YouTube wasn't the only site to be bought up: Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation bought out MySpace.com's parent company for $580 million while both Viacom and Yahoo! have tried to buy Facebook.com.

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"I use the Wikipedia a lot. It is a good starting point for serious research, but I would never accept something that I read there without checking."-BBC technology writer Bill Thompson on how to use Wikipedia, the online open-source encyclopedia. But politicians saw the website's real power: a site with the feel of an encyclopedia that they could edit. According to press accounts, Wikipedia investigators discovered thousands of edits by congressional staffers, most notably for Minnesota GOP Sen. Norm Coleman and Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Marty Meehan. For staffers whose job is to craft a policymaker's public image, editing an encyclopedia seems like a no-brainer. Even less reason to trust blindly the Wikipedia, says Thompson.

Nepal's people may be small in stature but they are powerful when they speak. Months of street demonstrations forced King Gyanendra to cede power in April to parliament. The king had dismissed the elected government and declared a state of emergency in 2005 for failing to quell a 10-year-old Maoist insurgency. With peace talks underway and a constitutional monarchy restored, parliamentarians forged a ceasefire with Maoist rebels and proposed new religious freedom in one of the most closed nations in the world.

Election highlights around the world:

Middle East, Jan. 25: Democratic Palestinian elections result in an unexpected landslide victory for Hamas over the ruling Fatah Party.

Haiti, Feb. 7: Voters elect René Préval and take to the streets to make it stick after reporters find hundreds of ballot boxes and burned ballots in a garbage dump outside the capital.

Israel, March 28: Parliamentary elections make former Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert officially Israel's prime minister.

Montenegro, June 3: Part of Serbia since the 15th century, Montenegro gains independence in a vote in favor of severing Serbian ties.

Mexico, July 2: Voters elect Felipe Calderón.

Congo, July 30: The first multiparty elections in 46 years are held. Incumbent Joseph Kabila wins an October presidential runoff.

Japan, Sept. 26: Shinzo Abe becomes Japan's first prime minister born after World War II.

Nicaragua, Nov. 5: Former Marxist dictator Daniel Ortega wins election.

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