BEATEN: The normally combative career of Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi turned bloody on Dec. 14 when the 73-year-old head of state came under attack by a middle-aged man wielding a souvenir statue of Milan's Duomo cathedral. Officials rushed Berlusconi to a hospital with a fractured nose, two broken teeth, and multiple facial cuts. And what a year it had already been: He was divorced by his wife amid sexual scandal; inaugurated a new conservative party in March (for which he was quickly chosen chairman); hosted the world's leaders at a G8 summit in July; then on Dec. 5 an estimated 250,000 flocked to a "No Berlusconi Day" in Rome. The subsequent attack became one more polarizing event in the scandal-prone PM's year.
OUSTED: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was evicted from his post in January after his 2008 arrest on federal corruption charges, including allegations that he tried to sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. Before Illinois lawmakers voted to impeach him, Blagojevich, 53, sparked furor by appointing Roland Burris to Obama's seat. Burris later faced scrutiny from the Senate Ethics Committee after he failed to disclose that he tried to raise money for Blagojevich. Blagojevich's trial is slated to begin next year.
PLEDGED: LeRoy Carhart, the Nebraska abortionist, vowed after the shooting death of late-term abortionist George Tiller to carry on Tiller's work even though Tiller's family permanently closed his Wichita, Kan., abortion center. Carhart, who is one of only a handful of U.S. abortionists willing to perform late-term abortions, traveled once a month to perform abortions at Tiller's center. After Tiller's May death, however, Carhart began offering late-term abortions at his Omaha-based center and said he plans to open a new late-term abortion center.
INCARCERATED: Walter Hoye, the pro-life Oakland, Calif., pastor one reporter described as looking more "like actor Don Cheadle than a public menace," chose prison time over a plea bargain after a jury found him guilty-despite evidence to the contrary-of violating an 8-foot bubble zone around an abortion center (see "Straight time," May 9). Hoye spent 19 days at the Santa Rita jail where he put his time to good use leading Bible studies and prayer vigils for inmates intrigued by his story: "I'm sure my adversary meant my incarceration for evil, but God used it for good." Hoye's case may not be over: On Dec. 1 a defense team filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his case in connection with a case under review of a Massachusetts law also restricting pro-life speech activity.
UNRESOLVED: The ongoing trial of five men accused in the 2007 murders of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske at a Christian publishing company in Malatya, Turkey, failed to bring resolution as new information emerged linking local security forces to the murders ("Nation on trial," Dec. 22, 2007). In February, testimony from suspect Emre Gunaydin led to the arrests of Varol Bulent Aral and Huseyin Yelki, but Gunaydin later retracted his accusations, saying he had falsely implicated the men to reduce his own sentence. Plaintiff lawyers now question whether Gunaydin was pressured to make the retractions to protect the real perpetrators of the savage plot.
CAPTIVE: Iranian authorities detained Americans Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Joshua Fattal, 27, in July after they reportedly strayed into the country while hiking along a poorly marked section of the Iran-Iraq border. They are now facing charges of espionage and remain in isolation at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. Iran announced Dec. 14 that it plans to put the three on trial.
PENDING: Five months after President Obama called a "beer summit" at the White House to heal race relations following the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates by white Cambridge, Mass., cop James Crowley, another Boston cop is living out the divide. Justin Barrett, the policeman who called Gates a "banana-eating jungle monkey" was suspended for using the racial slur but has continued to receive his $70,000 salary, pending a just-announced Jan. 6 hearing.