Iraq mandate expires
December 31: The looming expiration of a UN mandate for American operations in Iraq forced the outgoing Bush administration to scramble to broker a deal with Iraq's splintered civil government to authorize the continued presence of U.S. troops. Under the newly signed deal set to take effect New Year's Day, U.S. troops may provide security in Iraq for three more years.
Cancer study begins
December 31: Canadian researchers begin recruiting participants for a cancer study with a 30-year horizon that hopes to discover cancer's cause and learn what factors can be harnessed to prevent it. The scientists leading the study, commissioned by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006, will begin randomly selecting 300,000 Canadians to track over three decades to ascertain how behavior and biology affect cancer risks.
Euro turns 10
January 1: On this day 10 years ago, a smattering of European nations finalized the European Monetary Union and introduced the European currency, the Euro. New Year's Day 2009 would have been the day the Treaty of Lisbon was to take effect had Irish voters not scuttled the motion last June. By European law, the Lisbon Treaty, which further vested power in the European Union, needs ratification from all 27 member states. Irish voters will vote again on the measure by October 2009.
January 6: The First Session of the 111th Congress begins with Democrats holding almost 60 percent of the seats in both the House and the Senate. Democrats increased their majorities in the November elections but have come just shy of attaining a filibuster- proof majority in the Senate.
National championship game
January 8: Oklahoma and Florida square off in college football's national championship game at Dolphin Stadium just outside of Miami. The Sooners and the Gators arrive at the game each with one loss, yet again igniting claims of injustice from other one-loss teams less favored by the complicated metric used to determine the game's participants.
50th anniversary of Castro's Cuba
January 8: It's been 50 years since the revolutionary guerrilla forces of Fidel Castro chased Fulgencio Batista from power (Jan. 1) and took Havana by force (Jan. 8). News reports at the time commented that locals greeted Castro by honking car horns-some of which are presumably still on Havana roadways decades after socialism and an American embargo put the island nation's car culture into stasis.
Commissioning of the USS George H.W. Bush
January 10: The United States Navy will commission the 10th and final Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, in Norfolk, Va. During World War II, the future president and namesake of CVN-77 flew a torpedo bomber as a Navy pilot from the USS San Jacinto.