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The Treaty on Open Skies entered into force on January 1, 2002, and currently has 34 States Parties. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants. The treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international efforts to date promoting openness and transparency of military forces and activities. The concept of "mutual aerial observation" was initially proposed by President Eisenhower in 1955; the treaty eventually signed was an initiative of President (and former Director of Central Intelligence) George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the agreement was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992. The United States ratified it in 1993.

On July 1st, the International Criminal Court was established to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Once in force, crimes committed on or after that date could be prosecuted by the court.

The last words of the former Catholic priest and noted 1960's peace activist, Philip Berrigan were:

I die with the conviction, held since 1968 and Catonsville, that nuclear weapons are the scourge of the earth; to mine for them, manufacture them, deploy them, use them, is a curse against God, the human family, and the earth itself. We have already exploded such weapons in Japan in 1945 and the equivalent of them in Iraq in 1991, in Yugoslavia in 1999, and in Afghanistan in 2001. We left a legacy for other people of deadly radioactive isotopes - a prime counterinsurgency measure. For example, the people of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Pakistan will be battling cancer, mostly from depleted uranium, for decades. In addition, our nuclear adventurism over 57 years has saturated the planet with nuclear garbage from testing, from explosions in high altitudes (four of these), from 103 nuclear power plants, from nuclear weapons factories that can't be cleaned up - and so on. Because of myopic leadership, of greed for possessions, a public chained to corporate media, there has been virtually no response to these realities...


The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the Virunga Mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on January 17th displaced an estimated 400,000 people. An 18 km fissure opened in the south flank of the volcano, spreading in a few hours from 2800 m to 1550 m elevation.

The fissure emitted three streams of lava, one of which flowed through the city of Goma. 400,000 people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. Lava also destroyed Goma Airport, and reached nearby Lake Kivu. This raised fears that the lava might cause gas-saturated waters deep in the lake to suddenly rise to the surface, releasing lethally large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane - a similar event to the disaster at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986. This did not happen, but volcanologists continue to monitor the area closely.

About 45 people died in the eruption, and property damage was extensive. At least 15% of Goma was destroyed, leaving about 120,000 people homeless. The eruption was the most destructive effusive eruption in modern history.

Six months after the start of the 2002 eruption, Nyamuragira volcano also erupted. Together these two volcanoes are responsible for 40% of Africa's historical volcanic eruptions.

On February 22nd, Angolan political and rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in a military ambush.


On January 31st, A large section of the Antarctic Larsen Ice Shelf began disintegrating, eventually consuming about 3,250 km² (1,254 miles²) over a 35-day period.

§Central America

On February 3rd, Costa Rica held presidential and congressional elections.


The former currencies of all Euro members officially ceased to be legal tender on February 28th.


In France, Jacques Chirac was relected on May 5th in the second round of the French presidential election.


In the Netherlands, on February 2nd, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander married Máxima, Princess of Orange in Amsterdam. Two weeks later, the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević began at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague (Den Haag). On May 6th, the popular politician Pim Fortuyn was killed by Volkert van der Graaf.

§United Kingdom

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom gave former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani an honorary knighthood on February 13th.


On February 27th, a series of riots left hundreds dead, after 59 Hindu pilgrims died aboard a train burned by a Muslim mob in Godhra, India.

§Middle East


The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan's "Operation Anaconda" began in eastern Afghanistan on March 1st. Along with allied Afghan military forces, The U.S. conducted a large operation to destroy al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shahi-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains southeast of Zormat. This operation was the first large-scale battle in the United States war in Afghanistan since the Battle of Tora Bora in December of the previous year. It ended on March 19th after killing 500 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, and 11 allied troops.


Pakistani voters approved a referendum granting a 5-year term for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on April 30th. The 38-day stand-off in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem came to an end on May 9th when the Palestinians inside agreed to have 13 suspected militants among them deported to several different countries.


On July 5th Iraq again rejected U.N. weapons inspections proposals.

§North America

The emerald ash borer beetle is accidentally introduced into North America, probably from an Asian packing crate. It later decimates the ash tree population in less than two decades.

On January 5th, Charles Bishop, a 15 year-old student pilot, crashed a light aircraft into a Tampa, Florida building, evoking fear of a copycat 9/11 terrorist attack. It was later learned that he was suffering side effects from the acne medicine, accutane.

Already gripped in the turmoil of 9/11, the United States was dealing with a completely different kind of disaster. On January 9th, the United States Department of Justice announced it will pursue a criminal investigation of Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas. Before its bankruptcy in late 2001, Enron employed around 21,000 people (McLean & Elkind, 2003) and was one of the world's leading electricity, natural gas, pulp and paper, and communications companies, with claimed revenues of $111 billion in 2000. Fortune named Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years. It achieved infamy at the end of 2001, when it was revealed that its reported financial condition was sustained mostly by institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud.

Attorney General, John Ashcroft, announced that American Taliban member John Walker Lindh would be tried in the United States. Walker was first captured on November 25, 2001, by Afghan Northern Alliance forces, and questioned by CIA agent Mike Spann and another agent at General Dostum's military garrison named Qali Jangi near Mazari Sharif. Later that day, the makeshift prison was the scene of a violent uprising, in which Spann was killed along with hundreds of foreign fighters. Walker found refuge in a basement bunker after taking a bullet in the upper-right thigh, hiding with Saudi, Uzbek and Pakistani jihadis. He was found seven days later on December 2, 2001, when Northern Alliance forces diverted an irrigation stream, drowning many, and eventually flushing out Walker and about 80 survivors from the original 300. Walker initially gave his name as "Abdul Hamid" but later gave his real name when interviewed by Robert Young Pelton for CNN.

Upon capture, Walker signed confession documents while he was held by the United States Marine Corps on USS Peleliu and informed his interrogators that he was not merely Taliban but al-Qaeda, though his father later asserted he was not involved in, and unaware of, al-Qaeda.

On February 5, 2002, Walker was indicted by a federal grand jury on ten charges:

  • Conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals
  • Two counts of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations
  • Two counts of providing material support and resources to terrorist organizations
  • One count of supplying services to the Taliban.
  • Conspiracy to contribute services to Al Qaeda
  • Contributing services to Al Qaeda
  • Conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban
  • Using and carrying firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence

If convicted of these charges, Walker Lindh would have received three life terms and 90 additional years in prison. On February 13, 2002, he pleaded "not guilty" to all ten charges.

Complicating the prosecution was the nature of the confession. Photos emerged from Lindh's captivity of him being held naked and bound, wearing an obscenity-covered blindfold. When details of the conditions of his captivity began to emerge, it was discovered that he had initially been wounded and hidden for a week with limited food, water, and minimal sleep before being captured. After being captured and taken to a room with the only window blocked off, Lindh had his clothes cut off him and was duct-taped to a stretcher and placed in a metal shipping container for transportation. Lindh was not even released from the stretcher when he needed to urinate. Instead, guards propped him upright. When interrogated, he was denied a lawyer despite several requests, and was threatened with denial of medical aid if he didn't cooperate. It took more than a week in U. S. custody for his wound to be treated and the bullet removed.

The court scheduled an evidence suppression hearing, at which Walker would be able to testify about the details of the torture to which he was subjected. The government faced the problem that a key piece of evidence—Walker's confession—might be excluded from evidence as having been forced under duress. Furthermore, the hearing would turn a spotlight on the way that U.S. soldiers had conducted the interrogation.

To forestall this possibility, Michael Chertoff, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, directed the prosecutors to offer Walker a plea bargain: He would plead guilty to two charges — serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons. He would also have to consent to a gag order that would prevent him from making any public statements on the matter for the duration of his twenty-year sentence, and he would have to drop claims that he had been mistreated or tortured by U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan and aboard two military ships during December 2001 and January 2002. In return, all the other charges would be dropped.

Walker accepted this offer. On July 15, 2002, he entered his plea of guilty to the two remaining charges. The judge asked Walker to say, in his own words, what he was admitting to. "I plead guilty," he said. "I provided my services as a soldier to the Taliban last year from about August to December. In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly knowing that it was illegal." On October 4, 2002, Judge T.S. Ellis, III formally imposed the sentence: 20 years without parole.

Walker's attorney, James Brosnahan, said Walker would be eligible for release in 17 years, with good behavior. This is because, although there is no parole under federal law, his sentence could be reduced by 15 percent, or three years, for good behavior. In addition, Walker agreed to cooperate "fully, truthfully and completely" with both military intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the terrorism investigation, and any profits Walker might make from telling his story will be taken by the government.

§U.S. Law

June 17 - Decided: Watchtower Society v. Village of Stratton

Should people going door-to-door for solicitations, canvassing, etc. be required to get a permit first? The Jehovah's Witnesses don't think so, and challenged just such a law in the Village of Stratton, Ohio. The 6th Circuit Court decided against them, but the case will soon be decided by the Supreme Court.

November 18 - U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of Montgomery, Alabama, ordered the removal of Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument, finding that it violated the constitution's ban on government establishment of religion. Thompson wrote in his decision that "the Ten Commandments monument, viewed alone or in the context of its history, placement, and location, has the primary effect of endorsing religion."

§U.S. Religion

February 19 - Speaking before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that "Civilized people - Muslims, Christians and Jews - all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator. Civilized people of all religious faiths are called to the defense of His creation," implying that atheists. simply aren't civilized.

February 21 - On his "700 Club" program, Pat Robertson stated that Islam " not a peaceful religion that wants to coexist. They want to coexist until they can control, dominate and then if need be destroy."

March 28 - In Mississippi, the "George County Times" published a letter from George County Justice Court Judge Connie Wilkerson which read, in part, "In my opinion, gays and lesbians should be put in some type of mental institution." Because of the bias expressed in such a statement, an ethics violation complaint was filed against Wilkerson.

June 24 - A Utah judge found Mormon polygamist Tom Green guilty of raping Linda Kunz, a child whom he married when she was 13 and he was 37.

July 24 - Pioneer Day: Mormons commemorate the first settlement in the Salt Lake area by Brigham Young.

§South America


FARC kidnapped Ingrid Betancourt in Colombia on February 23rd while she was campaigning for the presidency of Columbia.


The U.S. educated, Enrique Bolaños began his 5-year term as President of the Republic of Nicaragua. Of Spanish and German decent he was born in Masaya. Sandinista government of the 1980s, resulting in brief imprisonment, intimidation, threats from the government and political persecution. His successful agro-production company, SAIMSA, was confiscated by the Sandinista government.

Bolaños served as vice president under his predecessor, Arnoldo Alemán. On 4 November 2001 he beat Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista party in the presidential elections and was sworn in as president on January 10th.


April 11 - Overthrow of President Chavez failed.

§South Pacific

§South East Asia

§East Timor

East Timor, known for centuries as Portuguese Timor after being colonized by Portugal in the sixteenth century, was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, which occupied it until 1999. Following the UN-sponsored act of self-determination that year, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and East Timor became the first new country of the twenty-first century on May 20.


NASA's Mars Odyssey space probe began to map the surface of Mars using its thermal emission imaging system. On May 26th it found evidence of huge water ice deposits.

On April 25th South African, Mark Shuttleworth, blasts off from the Baikonur cosmodrome aboard Soyuz TM-34. He had paid £15 million for the trip.

50000 Quaoar, a Trans-Neptunian object orbiting the Sun in the Kuiper belt, discovered on June 4th by astronomers Chad Trujillo and Michael Brown at the California Institute of Technology from images acquired at the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory.

An annular solar eclipse occurred on June 10th.

August 15 - NASA's $159 million Contour space probe, launched on July 3 and designed to chase comets, breaks up on leaving Earth's atmosphere.

December 11 - An upgraded European Space Agency Ariane-5 rocket explodes soon after blast-off from Kourou, French Guiana, sending two satellites worth about $600 million plunging into the Atlantic Ocean.


  • February 1 - Kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was murdered in Karachi, Pakistan.
  • March 30 - Queen Elizabeth, the British Queen Mother died.
  • December 6 - Philip Berrigan - noted peace activist and former Catholic priest


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