Human Rights Day
December 10: When UN delegates gather in New York to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, some 250,000 Congolese citizens will huddle in jungles and makeshift displacement camps, fleeing the rebel violence that has rocked the African nation since August. They'll clamor to avoid the armed soldiers perpetrating widespread rape and kidnapping in a worsening terror campaign that violates their human rights. Nearly 60 years after UN delegates signed a document designed to define human rights standards, humanitarian groups are worried about fresh conflicts and chronic stalemates contributing to humanitarian crises around the world, and point particularly to escalating suffering in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
Electoral College votes
December 15: There will be no intrigue when the Electoral College meets in 51 different locations to formally elect Barack Obama to be the nation's 44th president. But the constitutional formality serves as a reminder of the United States' federalist heritage, where the power of large states (such as New York and California) is counterbalanced by the disproportionate influence awarded to smaller states (such as Wyoming and the Dakotas).
December 16: This day marks the 47th anniversary of South Africa's African National Congress decision to arm its soldiers to begin the overthrow of apartheid. Now, nearly 50 years later, it's the ANC playing the role of the aging establishment as the Congress of the People (COPE) officially splits away from the ANC to create a formidable new party just in time for a parliamentary election in the first half of 2009.
Fed governors meet
December 16: Fearing the possibility of economic deflation in the United States, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke and the governors of the Federal Reserve will meet to discuss possible interest rate cuts-even dropping the closely watched federal funds rate to zero. And while that may be good news for borrowers, money market investors will likely see lower yields.
UK oil summit
December 19: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosts a summit of oil-producing countries and the world's top oil consumers to discuss ways to stabilize volatile crude prices. At least one invitee, Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, could attract protesters: Dec. 21 is the 20th anniversary of the PanAm Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, for which the Libyan government has accepted responsibility.
December 27: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the assassination of two-time Pakistani prime minister and leader of the Pakistan People's Party, Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto originally rose to power in 1988 and had returned from political exile in an attempt to retake a leadership position in the strife-ridden Islamic nation. After a few close calls with would-be assassins, operatives from a group associated with al-Qaeda critically injured the politician in an ambush. She died that day.