News Timeline: December 2015


December 2 – International Organizations / Europe:
Montenegro becomes the 29th member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Montenegro’s membership in NATO shows a dramatic transformation of this small country, which 16 years ago, during the Kosovo war, was bombed by the same organization it now joins. Montenegro hopes that the presence of NATO in its region will solidify its recent stability. Russia, on the other hand, protests NATO’s expansion eastward and threatens with retaliation.

December 2 – North America: UNITED STATES
A married couple living in the city of Redlands, CA, both radicalized Muslims, opens fire at employees of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health attending a Christmas party, killing 14 people and injuring 22. The couple is killed by police a few hours later in a shootout. Investigators find a large stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making equipment in the couple’s home. This mass shooting is described as homegrown violent extremism, where the perpetrators were inspired by foreign terrorist groups, but they did not act as part of any of these groups. It also renews the discussion about gun violence in the United States. President Barack Obama calls for “common-sense” gun safety laws and stronger background checks to reduce such mass killings.

December 3 – Latin America: BRAZIL
Brazil’s parliament launches impeachment proceedings against the country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, on allegations that she broke fiscal laws and misused public money. The proceedings were initiated by her political opponent – the lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who is accused by the ruling Workers Party of plotting a coup. He himself is accused of the involvement in the Petrobras corruption. President Rousseff denies any wrongdoing. In March and April 2015 millions of Brazilians took to the streets to protest the Petrobras scandal which involved kickbacks and corruption. When information surfaced that corruption scheme at Petrobras took place while President Rousseff was on the company’s board of directors, people called for Rousseff’s impeachment. There is no evidence, however, that Rousseff was involved in the scheme, or that she had prior knowledge about it. To proceed with impeachment, the proposal needs the support of at least two-thirds of the members in the lower house.

December 4 – Europe / Middle East:
The United Kingdom begins military air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) targets in Syria immediately after the UK’s parliament overwhelmingly approved the country’s military action against IS. The first six different targets include the Omar oil fields in eastern Syria that are under the IS control. Germany’s parliament also votes to send military support for the US-led coalition in Syria.

December 4 – East Asia / Africa: CHINA / AFRICA
Speaking at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in South Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledges $60 billion for development aid for African countries. The money will fund infrastructure projects, help drought-stricken countries, upgrade African health care facilities, train journalists, and provide scholarships for African students. The pledged amount will be disbursed over the next three years.

December 6 – Latin America: VENEZUELA
Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) coalition wins two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections, ending 16-year-rule by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which will allow it to block legislation proposed by President Nicolas Maduro. The campaign issues focused on economic crisis that includes chronic shortages of basic foods, high inflation, and shrinking GDP. The MUD will be able to call a referendum on President Maduro and pass laws to release political prisoners. The outcome of the election is a serious blow to the Socialists, who for the first time in 16 years will not be in control of the parliament.

December 12 – International Organizations: 2015 UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE
After two weeks of intense negotiations, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference ends with the Paris Agreement. The conference gathered representatives of 195 countries to discuss how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stop dangerous climate warming caused by human activities. The Paris Agreement includes the following elements: to reduce carbon output as soon as possible; to keep global temperatures below 2.0 degrees C (3.6F) compared to preindustrial levels; to review each country’s progress towards cutting emissions every five years; to provide financial aid to developing countries that would allow them to implement new procedures to slow down climate change and switch to renewable energy. The critics of the agreement say that significant parts of it are based on promises rather than firm commitments by the countries.

December 18 – Africa / International Organizations: BURUNDI / AFRICAN UNION
The African Union (AU) approves a plan to deploy 5,000 peacekeeping troops in Burundi to protect civilians amid escalating unrest between the government and rebel forces. The violence started after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term in office and escalated after his win in the controversial election. The AU charter allows the organization to deploy troops even without a country’s consent in the case of circumstances such as war crimes or genocide.

December 18 – East Asia: CHINA
China issues the highest level of smog alert for the Beijing area the second time in two weeks. The authorities advise people to stay home, including children from schools, for several days. The alert also restricts operations of factories and the use of vehicles. Sixty percent of China’s industries and heating systems is still powered by coal, which heavily contributes to such high levels of smog.

December 27 – Africa: NIGERIA
Boko Haram militants raid a village near Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria, shooting indiscriminately and killing 21 people and injuring dozens. The attack comes a week after the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the fight against the group had been concluded. In March 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and changed its name to the Islamic State West Africa Province.

December 28 – Middle East: IRAQ
With the backing of the US-led coalition, the Iraqi army regains the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State (IS) militants. Ramadi was in the militants’ hands since May. Ramadi’s recapture is seen as a major setback for the IS militants.

December 28 – East Asia: JAPAN / SOUTH KOREA
Japan officially issues an apology and promises to pay over $8 million to South Korean women who during WWII were forced to work in brothels as so called “comfort women” to Japanese soldiers. This has been one of the main issues straining the Japanese-South Korean relations.