Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal, and South Africa begin their terms on the UN Security Council Jan. 1 after October elections put them on the 15-member panel. The five permanent Security Council members-the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China-hold veto power while the remaining 10 hold two-year rotating terms. President Obama recently called for Security Council expansion to include India as a permanent member.
It wasn't until about A.D. 200 that a Christian teacher in Egypt made what historians believe was the first reference to the date Jesus was born. And no one can agree on whether it was chosen to coincide with a pagan winter holiday, an early Christian festival celebrated on Dec. 25, or a date that follows nine months after his conception. But around the world-and since the fourth century at least-Jesus' birth is celebrated Dec. 25 in the West and Jan. 6 in the East.
Beginning Jan. 2, the EPA will have the authority to regulate the use or production of any carbon-based energy source with a carbon dioxide footprint. Business leaders and the Chamber of Commerce have asked Congress to delay any new regulation the EPA might impose on industry.
Germans seeking to retire with full benefits in Germany will have to wait until age 67 as of Jan. 1. Financial crisis and an aging workforce have caused Germany to seek out ways to make its welfare system solvent.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a massive underwater earthquake touched off tsunamis in the Indian Ocean that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand-killing more than 230,000. Now, authorities hope, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, a network of seismographic and deep-water sensor systems, will provide the necessary warning to save lives in the event of another one.