Venezuelan opposition leaders claim to have gathered enough petition signatures to force a referendum to recall President Hugo Chávez; in response, the government alleges the four-day signature drive was tainted by "massive fraud".
The US dollar continues to decline, hitting a new low of 1.2 against the euro; the dollar is suffering from deteriorating support against the background of a large current account deficit and fears of growing protectionism.
GIMPS has confirmed that 220,996,011-1 is prime. At 6,320,430 decimaldigits, it is easily the largest known prime number. 220,996,011-1 is the 40th known Mersenne prime and the sixth Mersenne prime discovered by GIMPS.
In Kassel, Germany, the trial of Armin Meiwes begins. He is charged with killing and eating Bernd-Jürgen Brandes who was one of 200 people who replied to an Internet advertisement for "a well-built male prepared to be slaughtered and then consumed". The whole episode was videotaped. The case is legally difficult as cannibalism is not explicitly prohibited by the German penal code, and the defence argues that as the victim was willing, no murder took place.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is opened in Abuja, Nigeria, by Queen Elizabeth II. The future of Zimbabwe's membership is threatening to dominate the gathering. The debate has been marked by bitter personal polemics between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, whom Mugabe accuses of leading an "Anglo-Saxon conspiracy" against Zimbabwe. Mugabe himself is barred from entering the European Union. Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth last year on charges that Mugabe had rigged his re-election in 2002.
The draw for the qualifying stages of the 2006 Football World Cup is made. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are drawn together in group 6 of the Europe (UEFA) section, making the group three-quarters of a home nations championship – Scotland missed out by being drawn (amongst others) against Italy and Norway.
The first major winter storm strikes the North East United States.
Experts say that the US flu season will be worse than average, but they are not yet ready to say how bad it will be. The US is running out of the injectable version of the vaccine and is encouraging people to use the nasal spray.
Afghan villagers have disputed United States claims that a bombing by the US that killed nine children had killed the intended target, Taliban militant, Mullah Wazir. They say Wazir had left the village ten days earlier.
A suicide bombing in central Moscow at 11 a.m. local time (0800 UTC) kills six people and wounds 13 others. The police reports that one of the dead bombers has been identified as a woman.
Doctors at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are worried that the 2003–2004 influenza season will be the worst in years. Early signs indicate that a particularly virulent strain of the flu virus that is not well-covered by that year's vaccine is hitting hard in some states. Young children and the elderly have been urged to receive the vaccine, doses of which are running low.
In Israel, an explosion at a money exchange office in a shopping district near the city center of Tel Aviv at 1230 local time (1030 UTC) kills three and injures at least eighteen people. Police say the cause of the explosion was probably criminal rather than terrorist.
Queen Elizabeth II has a benign non-cancerous growth removed from her face. Buckingham Palace confirms the removed growths will be subject to further tests but denies there are any cancer fears surrounding the 77 year old sovereign. She also underwent a knee operation.
A European Union defence policy is agreed upon by Britain, France and Germany at the beginning of an EU summit in Brussels where the member countries will discuss a forthcoming constitution for the EU. Defence policy:; EU constitution:.
In Haiti the biggest anti-government demonstrations in a decade take place, calling for the removal of President Aristide; after nightfall, squadrons of armed Aristide supporters take to the streets in response.
Spain has announced an agreement with Morocco to proceed with plans to build a rail tunnel beneath the Strait of Gibraltar, linking Europe and Africa. Assuming the project is technically and financially feasible, digging would start in 2008.,
Wanderley Carlos Stringhini, retired partner of Ernst Young, dies at age 51, of suicide. During his life, he was partly responsible for the founding of Ernst Young offices in Curitiba, Blumenau, and Porto Alegre.
Iraq's Civil Administrator L. Paul Bremer announces that Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces. Saddam was found approximately 15 km south of his home town of Tikrit at 2030 local time on December 13. Hussein was captured without resistance in a so-called "spider-hole" at a farmhouse in the town of ad-Dawr. He is in Coalition custody at an undisclosed location. At a press conference, Bremer presents video of Saddam in custody with a full beard, which is later shown removed. Bremer says that Saddam is in good health and is being "co-operative and talkative". He says that Saddam will "face justice" before an Iraqi court and under Iraqi law.
In an address to his nation, US president George W. Bush comments on the capture of Saddam, "Now the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomes the capture of Saddam, urging the Iraqi people "to reach out and to reconcile." Other world leaders offer similar sentiments: Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the arrest "will contribute to the strengthening of security in Iraq and to the process of political regulation in the country," while UN Secretary General Kofi Annan comments that Saddam's capture provides a chance "to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq".
A car bomb explodes at a police station in Khaldiyah, 60 km west of Baghdad, killing at least 17 and wounding 30.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf narrowly escapes a bombing. "The president's motorcade passed a minute before the blast", according to officials.
The results of parliamentary elections in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are announced: pro-European Union parties won a narrow victory over the ruling nationalist coalition, with the opposition Republican Turkish Party becoming the largest party. However, the republic's complicated electoral system means that the two sides will each have 25 seats in the 50-seat assembly.
Saddam Hussein's daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, tells the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network, Saddam "should not be tried by the Iraqi governing council which was put in place by occupiers ... we want an international, fair and legal trial".
Mowaffaq al-Rubaie says that Saddam Hussein will be tried in Iraq by an Iraqi court. Mowaffaq, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, denies reports that the prisoner has been taken out of Baghdad.
Stephen Kenny, the first civilian lawyer to visit any of the former Afghan war suspects in Guantanamo Bay, describes it as a physical and moral black hole. He says prisoners are not treated equally and that there is a pecking order with Americans being treated best. (In fact there are no Americans being held at Guantanamo Bay.)
Occupation of Iraq: A fuel tanker explodes in downtown Baghdad, killing 10 and wounding 15. Initially believed to be caused by a bomb, officials later conclude that a traffic accident was responsible.
Thomas Kean, chairman of the independent commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks, says that the attacks could have been prevented and that public officials were to blame for not anticipating and pre-empting the threat. The commission's report is due in May 2004.
Taiwan reports the first confirmed SARS case in five months, a medical researcher who had studied the virus.
The United States National Weather Service warns of "excessive heat" after the Earth reportedly breaks out of its orbit and begins falling into the sun. Fortunately, it turns out to be a mistakenly published test message.
Former Governor of IllinoisGeorge H. Ryan is indicted on corruption charges for receiving payoffs, gifts and vacations in return for government contracts and leases while he served as the Governor and Secretary of State of Illinois.
Governor of ConnecticutJohn G. Rowland announces that he will not resign, despite allegations of corruption involving the receipt of free modifications to a vacation cottage, and the indictments of several of his top aides.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon warns the Palestinian Authority that Israel will take unilateral steps to separate from the Palestinians unless there is progress on the road map peace plan and sets a deadline of "a few months" for Palestinian compliance. The speech is strongly criticised by the United States, the Israeli left, the Jewish settler movement and the Palestinians.
Red Hat, in its third quarter, buys Sistina Software. Red Hat expects that it will close the deal by early January for $31 million dollars.
Italian dairy company Parmalat declared a 3.96 billion euro hole in its accounts when the amount held by Cayman Islands-based unit, Bonlat Financing Corporation, was declared false by Bank of America.
Flights from Vancouver International Airport bound for the U.S. are delayed following the discovery of an envelope containing suspicious white powder and a threatening note at one of the terminals.
SARS quarantine orders are lifted on up to 75 people in Singapore but concerns remain that the deadly virus could yet make a comeback across Asia.
Australia sends A$1.2 million to Nauru so that the Pacific island-state can pay its public servants before Christmas in a move that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says illustrates the need for long-term solutions to the island's deep-seated problems.
CCTV footage at Hampton Court Palace near London, once home of King Henry VIII of England, is released, and claimed to show a "ghost". The footage, taken in October 2003, shows a man in 16th century clothes closing a firedoor that had blown open. The palace markets itself as one of Britain's most haunted locations.
Irish charity fundraiser John O'Shea attacks Manchester United football manager Sir Alex Ferguson as "greedy" for demanding £90,000 to attend a cancer charity function in Ireland in 1999. According to O'Shea, a sports celebrity demanding 'appearance money' from a charity is unheard of in his experience. Ferguson's appearance fee amounted to half the money raised. The fundraisers, until now unaware that Ferguson had taken half the proceeds, denounce his behaviour and say if they had known about it at the time they would have cancelled the event.
Former Argentinian president Carlos Menem is charged with tax fraud for failing to declare a Swiss bank account containing $600,000. If convicted he could be debarred from public office.
The World Court says it will hear legal arguments about Israel's construction of a controversial barrier in the West Bank to separate Israeli and Palestinian areas. The hearings will begin on 23 February 2004.
Massive landslides in the Philippines caused by heavy rain result in the deaths of up to 90 people.
A Malaysian opposition website is shut down by its British web-hosting company amid claims of "political censorship" from the opposition.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai tells his supporters to "fight fear" as they campaign against President Robert Mugabe. His comments follow the decision of Zimbabwe's police to occupy the offices of Zimbabwe's only privately owned newspaper in defiance of a court order that the newspaper could resume publication.
Eleven people, mainly young people from Germany, die in a bus crash in Belgium.
In Comoros, leaders signed an agreement clearing the way for legislative elections in April.
Quoting an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer, a report in the Sunday Express (Britain) claims that before Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops, he had already been discovered by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Kurdish forces had been alerted to his location by a member of the al-Jabour tribe whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday Hussein.
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark presented 4,000 petition signatures to qualify for South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary ballot today. He's the second of the nine candidates for the Democratic nomination to file for the February 3 ballot. Campaign workers for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts gave the state Democratic Party a check for $2,500 last week to qualify.
The United States Department of Agriculture confirms the first case of BSE (mad cow disease) in the United States, detected at a small slaughter house. The USDA has found no evidence that the infected materials made it into the food supply. Specimens have been sent to the United Kingdom for further analysis. Authorities quarantined a ranch near Yakima where the animal was raised.
A UK lab confirms the presence of BSE in samples taken from a cow in Washington.Mexico joins the list of countries which have banned imports of US beef.
Reports emerge of a major leak of natural gas in a gas field near the south-western Chinese city of Chongqing. Over 100 people are believed dead and up to 40,000 people have been evacuated from the area surrounding the leak.
A powerful earthquake occurs near the southern Iranian city of Bam at 0156 GMT (5.26 am local time). The USGS estimates its magnitude as 6.7 on the Richter scale. The BBC reports that "70% of the modern city of Bam" is destroyed. Iranian government officials estimate the death toll at over 20,000 with a further 50,000 injured. Bam Citadel the largest adobe structure of the world is destroyed. The area of the citadel is about 180,000 square meters and the construction date of parts of it goes back for about 2500 years.
The death toll in the Chinese gas-leak rises to 191.
British scientists are continuing their efforts to make contact with the Mars probe Beagle 2, which was designed to perform advanced studies of the Martian soil in an effort to find microbial life.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation issues a memo instructing police to be alert of people carrying almanacs, stating that information in these reference works could be used to aid in the planning of terrorist attacks.