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Democratic presidential candidates took agressive aim at their biggest obstacle: Hillary Clinton in a debate at Drexel University on Oct. 30

A fair fight

News of the Year | October 2007

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 29, 2007

During a debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Democratic presidential candidates battling for the party's nomination took aggressive aim at their biggest obstacle: Sen. Hillary Clinton. The senator's opponents paid little attention to each other during the two-hour October debate, reserving most of their firepower for the woman with the double-digit lead.

The next morning the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees endorsed Clinton. "Some of you may have seen last night's debate," said Gerald McEntee, president of the government workers' union. "Six guys against Hillary. I'd call that a fair fight."

By late October, "six guys against Hillary" seemed an apt description of the Democratic contest. Polls showed Clinton grabbing her biggest lead of the year: 53-20 over Sen. Barack Obama. Former senator John Edwards trailed in third with 13 percent.

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In the Republican contest, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani led the race he had dominated for months with 30 percent. Sen. John McCain and former senator Fred Thompson tied in second place with about 14 percent of likely Republican voters.

What a difference a month makes. By late November, Clinton's nationwide lead had tumbled by 11 points, and Obama edged slightly ahead in polls in crucial nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Among Republicans, the shift was even more dramatic. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee made a stunning surge: The former Baptist minister took the lead in Iowa and shot up from fifth place nationwide to a close second behind Giuliani.

For the first time in months, the air of inevitability began to thin for Clinton and Giuliani, and all eyes turned to January 2008.

Also in October ...

Grainy images on video smuggled out of Burma in early October revealed a grim reality unfolding for weeks in the secretive nation: government security forces mercilessly beating unarmed protesters, including scores of Buddhist monks.

The so-called "Saffron Revolution" began in late August when Burmese citizens peacefully protested against a huge spike in fuel costs leveraged by the military government. Authorities responded with severity, and the peaceful protests turned into an uprising for freedom against a regime notorious for its human-rights abuses. By late October, UN envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro confirmed that at least 110 people were dead and more than 200 had been beaten. Nearly 3,000 remained in jail, many in deplorable conditions.

Nearly a year after North Korean officials proudly announced they had successfully conducted their first test of a nuclear weapon, authorities delivered a different announcement: They would shut down their nuclear program by the end of 2007. At six-party talks in Beijing on Oct. 3, the North Koreans said they would disarm their nuclear facilities and provide a complete report of their nuclear program by Dec. 31. A skeptical international community took a wait-and-see approach, but U.S. nuclear experts in November offered positive initial reports: The disarming process was "off to a good start."

When President Bush on Oct. 3 vetoed $60 billion legislation to expand SCHIP, a government health-care program for children, congressional Democrats lined up to paint the president as a leader who doesn't care about kids: Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Bush "single-handedly jeopardized health care for millions of poor children."

Bush accused Democrats of not telling the whole story: The president said that the legislation would also allow adults into the program and that it would cover families with incomes above the U.S. median, a move that could encourage families to abandon private health insurance for government-funded programs.

Jammie Thomas is one in 30,000. Out of the 30,000 people the U.S. recording industry has brought legal action against for copyright infringement since 2003, Thomas became the first person found guilty in a federal court on Oct. 4. A Minnesota jury found the mother of two liable for copyright infringement for sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa online network and levied a hefty penalty: $222,000 in damages. The Recording Industry Association of America hailed the victory, but The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that opposes the industry's copyright charges, said, "Every lawsuit makes the recording industry look more and more like King Canute, vainly trying to hold back the tide."

In early October, Christian human-rights lawyer Li Heping spoke about the six hours of torture he endured at the hands of unknown assailants in a Beijing basement: "Thank God for giving me the opportunity as an attorney to experience and personally witness the harshness of electric torture."

Li's kidnappers told him to quit his law practice defending Christians and leave the city. They tortured him with high-voltage electric batons and brutally beat him "with smiles on their faces," said Li.

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