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Listen to News 2008

Here are twelve of the top news stories from 2008. These stories and audio clips were taken from EnglishClub.com's Listen to News pages. Review the news stories and then take the quiz. Double click on the green arrow to listen.

January: Violence Plagues Kenya After Election
A December vote resulting in the re-election of President Kabaki, sparked mass violence throughout Kenya this January. Close to 1000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have had to flee their homes. Opposition leader, Raila Odinga accused the government of rigging the election. Violent protesters are claiming that they have been robbed of their democratic rights while Kabaki's supporters are defending their leader. The opposition party which called for a million man march, accused Kenya's police and government of turning the country into a killing field. The two leaders, who belong to rival tribes, have begun peace talks with former UN head, Kofi Annan.
February: Fidel Castro Resigns
Cuba's long term leader, Fidel Castro, announced in February that he would be resigning. Having served for half of a century, Castro held the longest presidency in history. In his letter to the people, Castro stated that his physical health was preventing him from leading his nation responsibly. Castro's younger brother, Raul, who has been Cuba's acting president since Fidel underwent surgery in July 2006, took over as the official leader days later. While President Bush expressed his hopes that Cubans would be given a chance for democracy, he claims it is unlikely with one dictator replacing another.
March: Earth Hour Goes Global in 2008
Over 30 million people from more than 35 countries participated in Earth Hour on March 29th by turning off their electricity from 8:00 to 9:00pm. In 2007, Sydney Australia held the first Earth Hour, to raise awareness and express concern for world climate change. The event inspired millions to take part in the 2008 Earth Hour. With the street lights shut off, people gathered by candle-light in large cities, hoping for a clear night to view the stars. Landmarks including Niagara Falls, The Golden Gate Bridge, and Sydney's Opera House shut their lights off for Earth Hour to support the cause.
April: Global Food Crisis
Over 100 million people do not have enough food, according to the UN Secretary General. The UN is now calling the food shortage a global crisis, and is urging wealthy nations to donate more funds. A task force is being created to address the shortage and the soaring food prices. The price of staple foods such as flour and sugar has doubled in the past year, and the cost of rice has risen by more than 90%. Numerous countries have already placed export bans on food stocks, which the UN says will lead to "unprecedented" starvation in poor countries.
May: 5 Million Chinese Left Homeless
A devastating earthquake in south western China claimed the lives of over 60, 000 people and left over five million people homeless in May. This is the first time in ten years that the Chinese government has requested international assistance, which the UN says demonstrates the severity of the crisis. Numerous survivors were pulled from the debris days after the quake, including a 102 year old woman who was trapped for more than a week. Mass evacuations resulted due to powerful aftershocks and fear of flooding and landslides.
June: Honey Bee Decline is a World Crisis
The world population of honeybees is in great decline for the second year in a row. Scientists refer to this mysterious disappearance as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). For an unknown reason, worker bees abandon their hives and die. Some of the possible reasons for CCD include pesticide use, environmental stress, malnutrition, and mites. Up to 70% of honeybees have disappeared in the US in the past two years. This crisis is also happening throughout Canada, Europe, and Australia. Honeybees are the world's most important pollinators, and this decline severely threatens fruit and vegetable production worldwide. Research is crucial to resolving the honeybee crisis.
July: "Last Lecture" Professor Dies
Randy Pausch, an American professor who inspired millions to live their best life via a YouTube video, died this July. In September 2007, Pausch who was battling pancreatic cancer, was told he had six months to live. Pausch used this news to promote the importance of joyful living. His "last lecture," which was intended for students at Carnegie Mellon university, quickly became a YouTube sensation. Pausch used humour and real life examples to encourage his students to achieve their childhood dreams. Besides being a professor, and a father of three, Pausch was a virtual reality pioneer. One of his most famous lines is, "I'm dying and I'm having fun."
August: Beijing Games Open on 8/8/08
Over 90, 000 people filled China's National Stadium, also called "The Bird's Nest" for Beijing's Opening Ceremonies, which kicked off at exactly 8:00 pm on the eighth day of the eighth month of 2008. The number eight is considered the luckiest number in China. Acrobats, drummers, and dancers entertained the world audience, depicting scenes from China's ancient past, including the Silk Road and the Great Wall. Basketball superstar Yao Ming, who was accompanied by a young hero from the recent earthquake, held China's flag when the athletes entered the building. Over 80 world leaders attended the event, which has been called the most watched television show in history.
September: Contaminated Milk Kills Babies in China
Contaminated baby milk has been linked to the death of at least four infants and the sickness of over 6200 more in China. The sick infants are developing kidney stones in their urinary tract systems, a condition that is very rare at this age. Investigators have found the industrial chemical melamine in milk powder from over 20 companies. Suspects are accused of adding water and melamine to their products in order to sell more volume. The Sanlu Group, China's largest producer of milk powder, is at the heart of the scandal. Melamine has also been found in several other dairy products.
October: Japan's Economy Gets Government Help
At the end of October, Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that the government will be putting 275 billion dollars into its economy to ease the financial crisis. His package includes a benefits pay out for every household as well as a cut on employment deductions. An additional package designed to help fishermen and farmers deal with high fuel costs was announced earlier in the month. As the global crisis began to unfold last month, Japan's economy looked strong, especially in comparison to the US and the UK. However, Japan relies heavily on exports, and the rising yen is making products too expensive for importers.
November: Barack Obama Elected Next US President
On November 4th Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States, beating out his opponent, John McCain. While US voters turned out in record numbers to elect the first African American President, people around the world watched and celebrated the historic victory. In his acceptance speech, the President elect spoke in length about the economic challenges ahead, promising to work hard to turn things around. Prior to the campaign, Obama was considered a long shot candidate. The Illinois Senator's eloquent speeches convinced many that he was ready for the role as commander-in-chief.
December: Memorial Followed by Christmas Tree Protest in Greece
A memorial service for Alexis Grigoropolous, a 15-year-old boy in Athens who was killed by police during a small youth protest, was followed by a series of rioting. This included a second attack on the Christmas tree in Athens' central square. The first tree burned down during a widespread protest on December 8th, two days after the killing. Youth had violent clashes with authorities throughout the month of December even after a policeman was charged with the teen's murder. Protesters in Greece view the government as politically corrupt and hope to topple it before the economic crisis worsens.

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