News Timeline: January 2012

January 3 — Europe: HUNGARY

Tens of thousands of people protest Hungary’s series of controversial laws, which a part of the new constitution pushed through the parliament by the ruling Fidesz party, which has two-thirds majority in parliament. The opponents say that these laws threaten democracy and accuse Prime Minister Viktor Orban of authoritarianism. It is feared that the new changes to the constitution undermine the independence of the judiciary and the central bank, while redrawn constituency boundaries give advantage to the ruling party. (January 17): The European Union opens legal action against Hungary over the new laws and gives Prime Minister Orban a month to address its concerns.

January 5 — Middle East: IRAQ

A wave of bombings across Iraq kills about 72 people. The assailants target Shia pilgrims in Nasiriya and Shia Muslims in Baghdad neighborhoods. Sectarian tensions have risen again since the U.S. pulled out its troops from Iraq and an arrest warrant issued for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. (January 24): Several car bombs in Shia neighborhoods of Baghdad kill about 13 people and injure scores of others.

January 11 — Middle East: IRAN

Iranian university professor and a nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan is killed after a bomb was planted under his car. Ahmadi-Roshan worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, and is the most recent of several scientists assassinated in the past year. No one takes responsibility, although Iran blames Israel and the United States.

January 13 — East Asia/North America: MYANMAR/UNITED STATES

The United States says it will reestablish its diplomatic relations with Myanmar after the country released over 650 prisoners, including its most prominent political dissidents. Releasing political prisoners has been one of the main conditions of the western countries to lift sanctions imposed on Myanmar.

January 14 — East Asia: TAIWAN

Taiwanese incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou defeats his opponent Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), winning a second term in office. Unlike the DPP, which favors a formal independence from China, President Ma promises to continue his policies of cooperation with China. During his four years in office, Taiwan resumed direct flights with China and signed a key trade agreement that scrapped tariffs on hundreds of Taiwanese exports to China.

January 16 — East Asia: CHINA

Chinese authorities sack two party leaders in the southern fishing village of Wukan in Guangdong province after the villagers revolted against their corruption and land grabs. Villagers also win their demand to make the protest leader , Liu Zullian, the new head of Wukan’s Communist Party Committee and organize elections for a new village committee, a rare event in China.

January 23 — Middle East/Europe: IRAN/EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union adopts an oil embargo on Iran, a new step over the country’s controversial nuclear program. The embargo bans new oil contracts with the country and freezes assets of Iran’s central bank in the European Union.

January 24 — South Asia: INDIA

More than 650 separatist rebels, who for the last 30 years fought for autonomy in India’s northeastern state of Assam, put down their arms and sign a ceasefire agreement with the government. The three decades of insurgency have claimed the lives of 10,000 people.

January 24 — North America: UNITED STATES

The United States President Barack Obama gives his third State of the Union speech, which sets the administration’s agenda for the upcoming year as well as President Obama’s reelection campaign. He reiterates the importance of an economy that benefits society as a whole, proposing to extend the payroll tax cut, making college more affordable, and making people who earn more than $1 million a year pay a minimum effective tax rate of at least 30 percent in income taxes. He also proposes tax reforms that would keep U.S. companies from moving overseas.

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