End of story

News of the Year

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

After 76 years of running with the big boys, Pluto's failure to "clear its neighborhood" (as astronomers might say) ultimately led to its demotion from one of the solar system's nine planets to a dwarf planet known as 134340. Under new definitions put forth by the International Astronomical Union, a planet must orbit around the sun, coalesce into a round shape, and be substantial enough to sweep away most of the debris from its orbit. Pluto failed on the third count.

The Bush administration has released since 2002 nearly half the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: 360 with 420 remaining. But the status of terror-related detainees remained a sore point. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court ruled that the military tribunals used to try detainees were illegal. Reacting to the June 29 setback, the Bush administration pushed and Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which allows military trials of enemy combatants and prevents them from bringing their cases before federal judges.

The Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein sentenced the ex-dictator to death in November for ordering the deaths of 143 Shiite men in the village of Dujail, following an assassination attempt on Hussein there in 1982. Still to face next year: genocide charges for the murder of Kurds in the late 1980s.

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A federal jury decided April 3 that the man meant to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11 is eligible for the death penalty. Zacarias Moussaoui left the courtroom shouting at the jurors, "You'll never get my blood. God curse you all."

In a major victory for the United States, al-Qaeda in Iraq's terrorist mastermind died June 7 in a carefully planned U.S. air strike. Warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's house outside Baghdad while Zarqawi met with other insurgent leaders. The strike also led to raids of 17 homes holding riches of information on terrorist plans.

A Jan. 2 mine explosion in West Virginia (pictured) left 13 coal miners trapped underground for nearly two days. When some of the emergency oxygen packs failed, miners shared precious breaths of clean air and scrawled notes to loved ones. Weeks after being rescued, the lone survivor of the Sago Mine disaster told families of the 12 victims that the trapped miners "began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones."

On Oct. 27, the last Ford Taurus rolled off the assembly line, marking the end for a car whose 21-year career, experts say, meant as much to Ford Motor Co. as any vehicle since the Model T. The practical Taurus helped define the market for inexpensive midsize sedans.

Year in Numbers

1 veto-President Bush's first-of a bill to federally fund embryonic stem-cell research.

$4 price Wal-Mart now offers for nearly 300 generic prescriptions.

7 states that passed marriage amendments in November.

160 pages of The Iraq Study Group Report released Dec. 6.

199 people who became ill after a spinach-borne E. coli outbreak.

700 miles of new fencing authorized along the U.S.-Mexican border.

757 U.S. fatalities in Iraq during 2006 (as of Dec. 13).

12,000 Americans evacuated from Beirut during July conflict.

17,327 number of days Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) had been in office on June 12, when he became the longest-serving senator in U.S. history.

30,000 jobs that GM announced it was cutting by 2008.

26.5 million U.S. veterans whose personal information was stolen after a Veterans Affairs blunder.

27593-112 prison number of Jack Abramoff, who reported to jail Nov. 15.

300 million U.S. population according to the Census Bureau Oct. 17.

$1.65 billion amount Google paid for the online video service YouTube.

$37 billion amount Warren Buffett pledged to charity, $31 billion of which went to the Gates Foundation.

-compiled by Kristin Chapman


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