News Timeline: October 2005


October 3 – Middle East/Europe: TURKEY/EU

Turkey and the European Union officially begin membership talks, towards which Turkey has been working since 1959. The negotiations may last several years, and Turkey’s admittance into the EU is not guaranteed. After the talks are concluded, all twenty-five member-nations will have to ratify Turkey’s accession.

October 6 – North America: UNITED STATES

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly votes to add an amendment to a military spending bill that will outlaw cruel or degrading treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody abroad. The Bush administration opposed the amendment, claiming it would limit its fight against terrorism. The Pentagon blames the recent abuses in the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay on a few rogue soldiers and army officers rather than on the overall U.S. policy. The main advocate of the motion, Senator John McCain, says the amendment sends a clear message to the world that the U.S. does not condone torture.

October 7 — International Organizations: INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY

The Nobel Peace Prize committee grants its 2005 peace prize jointly to the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director, Mohamed ElBaradei. The UN agency is honored for its work on promoting safe nuclear energy and deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The IAEA is currently investigating Iran’s nuclear program, and has dealt with nuclear crises in Iraq and North Korea.

October 10 – Europe: GERMANY

Angela Merkel, head of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), becomes Germany’s first woman chancellor under the agreement between the CDU and the Social Democrats (SPD) that formed a “grand coalition.” The chancellery had been contested after close elections in September, when both Merkel and current chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of the SPD party laid claim to the position.

October 10 – East Asia: NORTH KOREA

North Korea celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the ruling Workers Party. Leader Kim Jong Il presides over marches and other festivities in the capital, Pyongyang. Officials use the celebrations to emphasize their defiance of international pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon program.

October 12 – Latin America: GUATEMALA

Officials in Guatemala concede that entire villages be declared mass graves after torrential rains from Tropical Storm Stan cause devastating mudslides in Guatemala, killing more than 650 people. Mud completely submerges two Mayan towns, Panabaj and Tzanchaj, and rescue efforts cease amid concern over disease and further mudslides. The decision to end the search causes controversy, as local traditional beliefs dictate that the bodies be recovered and buried. The storm also kills 131 people in other Central American countries and Mexico.

October 13 – Europe: RUSSIA

Chechen rebels attack the city of Nalchik in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria in the northern Caucasus, targeting police and military installations. Over one hundred people, including civilians, are killed as Russian forces exchange fire with militants. Russian President Vladimir Putin orders the city sealed off as the search for rebels is carried out. Islamic militant Shamil Basayev from nearby Chechnya, who orchestrated last year’s violent siege on a school in Beslan, claims responsibility for this attack.

October 14 – East Asia: JAPAN

Japan’s upper house of parliament approves the privatization of the country’s post office. The move will create the largest bank in the world, with more than $3 trillion in assets. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says the privatization will stimulate growth and open state sectors to greater competition. Critics of privatization fear the loss of services for residents in remote areas, as well as the loss of jobs.

October 19 – East Asia: CHINA

China publishes its first ever white paper on democracy and reform, entitled “Building of Political Democracy in China,” which identifies a socialist political democracy, led by the ruling Workers Party, as the appropriate system for China. The document also admits that the country has many problems to address, including bureaucracy and corruption. Critics of the country argue that China’s recent economic development should coincide with greater political freedom and reform.

October 19 – Middle East: IRAQ

Iraq’s former president, Saddam Hussein, makes his first court appearance, pleading “not guilty” on charges of ordering a massacre of 143 Shia men in 1982. Hussein also says he does not recognize the authority of the court consisting of five Iraqi judges. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have sent monitors to the trial to report on fairness. Prosecutors are also preparing other cases against the former leader.

October 19 – Former Soviet Republics: GEORGIA

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli dismisses Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili after the parliament accused her of poor management, nepotism, and insubordination. The French-born daughter of Georgian émigrés, Zourabichvili had been serving as France’s ambassador to Tbilisi when President Mikheil Saakashvili convinced his French counterpart Jacques Chirac to let her join his government last year.

October 20 – Latin America: COLOMBIA

The Columbian Constitutional Court overturns the single-term limit for presidents, allowing current President Alvaro Uribe to stand for reelection in 2006. Uribe enjoys high approval ratings and is one of the United States’ strongest allies in South America. Critics worry that the ruling will give Colombian presidents too much power and fear an increase in violence by leftist guerillas opposed to Uribe’s rule.

October 21 – Latin America: BRAZIL

A report by American and Brazilian scientists suggests that deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has been underestimated by at least 60 percent. Using an advanced satellite technology, the scientists also focus on selective logging, involving the cutting down of valuable trees while leaving other trees in place. The report claims that there are thousands of square kilometers of previously unrecognized deforestation.

October 24 – Europe: POLAND

Lech Kaczynski of the Law and Justice Party wins a runoff election for president, defeating his Civic Platform opponent, Donald Tusk. Law and Justice, a conservative party led by Kaczynski’s identical twin brother, won parliamentary elections last month. The party now controls both the prime minister position and the presidency.

October 24 – Latin America: ARGENTINA

Supporters of Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner take control of the Senate in legislative elections and form the largest bloc in the lower house. The election is seen as a measure of public opinion of Kirchner, who came to power in 2003 with only 22 percent of the vote after his opponent, former President Carlos Menem, withdrew from the race. Election results strengthen Kirchner in an ongoing struggle for leadership of the Peronist Party, which has dominated Argentinean politics for the last 50 years.

October 25 – Middle East: IRAQ

Official results show that 78 percent of Iraq’s voters accepted their country’s new draft constitution in the October 15 referendum. Some Sunni groups allege fraud but the UN accepts the results. The constitution provides for a federal parliamentary state, with an independent judiciary, and guarantees equal rights for all. Arabic and Kurdish are to be the country’s official languages and Islam an official religion with a clause, which guarantees freedom of religion. According to the new constitution, Iraq will vote for a permanent parliament in December.

October 25 – North America: UNITED STATES

U.S. civil rights legend Rosa Parks dies at age ninety-two. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the white section of a Montgomery, Alabama, public bus, which sparked a bus boycott organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and helped catalyze the emerging civil rights movement. His movement led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination in the U.S.

October 26 – East Asia/Africa: CHINA/SENEGAL

Senegal renews diplomatic relations with China, abandoning its ties with Taiwan. The country’s foreign ministry attributes the decision to a thorough assessment of the current global geopolitical situation. China does not recognize countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

October 28 – East Asia: CHINA/NORTH KOREA

Chinese President Hu Jintao makes his first visit to North Korea since 2001 to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. North Korea agreed last month to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for aid and security guarantees. China is one of North Korea’s larger aid donors.

October 28 – North America: UNITED STATES

Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff Lewis Libby resigns on his indictment on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby faces charges of lying to the FBI and a grand jury about how and when he found out, and then disclosed to the press classified information about CIA agent Valerie Plame. Libby is seen as an integral member of President Bush’s White House inner circle.

October 28 – North America/Latin America: UNITED STATES/CUBA

Cuba accepts an offer by the United States to send a disaster assessment team to Havana to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma. It is the first acceptance of such an offer in decades. The two nations have not had diplomatic relations since 1959, and the U.S. maintains a trade embargo against the island. The U.S. declined Cuba’s offer of aid following Hurricane Katrina in August.

October 30 – South Asia: INDIA/PAKISTAN

Following the devastating earthquake on October 8, India and Pakistan reach an unprecedented agreement to open the Line of Control dividing Kashmir in order to help victims and allow divided families in the region to find their relatives. Under the agreement, families can cross the de facto border on foot until November 7, and aid supplies can be sent in both directions. The quake killed more than 73,000 people and left millions homeless.

October 31 – North America: UNITED STATES

President George W. Bush nominates federal appeals court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, a critical swing vote. Democrats threaten to block Alito’s nomination, saying he could swing the court too far to the right. Samuel Alito is Bush’s second attempt to fill O’Connor’s seat, after his first nominee, Harriet Miers, stepped down earlier in the month in the face of wide criticism concerning her judicial credentials.

October 31 – International Organizations/Africa: UNITED NATIONS/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO/RWANDA

The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), supported by UN peacekeeping troops, begins an operation to eject Rwandan rebels from the Virunga national park on the border with Rwanda. Nearly 15,000 Rwandan militiamen are camped out in the park, having fled their country after the 1994 genocide. Rwanda has invaded the DRC twice over the presence of the rebels, and threatens to do so again if the rebels are not disarmed.