"The war in Iraq is over, there is peace in the Middle East and order has been restored in Darfur. Oh, and a huge, winged monkey just flew out of my butt.

No, I kid. The bloody war in Iraq slogs on, the Middle East is a powder keg that’s already on fire and Darfur has become yet another case of modern-day genocide.

But did anyone have a good year? You bet: the Japanese! Particularly champion eater Takeru Kobayashi and Elvis-loving former Prime Minister Koizumi. And the Democrats had a good year, if only by default.

Read on, friends …

Jan. 2

Following an explosion, 13 coal miners are trapped in Sago Mine in West Virginia.

Jan. 3

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleads guilty to charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion in a Washington, D.C., federal court. Beatles producer Sir George Martin turns 80.

Jan. 4

After initial reports that 12 miners had survived the Sago Mine accident, families and the media learn that only one man is still alive. Israel’s prime minister Ariel Sharon suffers a major stroke and goes into emergency brain surgery.

Jan. 12

After 25 years in jail, the man who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981, Mehmet Ali Agca, is released from prison in Turkey.

Jan. 14

Eminem remarries his former wife, known to rap fans around the world simply as Kim.

Jan. 19

The Al-Jazeera network broadcasts an audiotape of Osama bin Laden in which the al-Qaida leader threatens future attacks but also proposes a long-term truce. Curvy country singer Dolly Parton turns 60.

Jan. 20

Shouting, “I declare myself Messiah … I am declaring the doomsday!” Mehmet Ali Agca is returned to prison in Turkey to serve more time for killing a Turkish journalist in 1979.

Jan. 24

Local radio producer (The Bob and Tom Show) and musician Dean Metcalf turns 40. I thought he was older.

Jan. 26

In an unpredicted victory, the Islamic militant party Hamas wins a majority of seats in the new Palestinian parliament.

Jan. 31

Civil rights leader Coretta Scott King dies at age 78. Samuel Alito is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. Punk rock legend Johnny Rotten turns 50.

Feb. 4

Muslim demonstrators set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria to protest cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published in Denmark and recently republished in European media.

Feb. 7

The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri announces a contest in which artists are asked to submit cartoons depicting the Holocaust.

Feb. 11

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots his friend Harry Whittington, 78, while hunting quail in Texas. After 76 grueling and often dangerous hours in the air, adventurer Steve Fossett, 61, completes the longest nonstop flight ever made: 26,389 miles. Dramatic-turned-comic actor Leslie Nielsen is 80.

Feb. 17

Bruised and birdshot-pocked yet impeccably well-dressed, Harry Whittington leaves his Texas hospital, apologizing for the trouble the hunting accident has caused the vice president.

Feb. 18

Muslim rioters in Nigeria attack Christians, burning churches and killing at least 15 people.

Feb. 21

The media reports that an Illinois woman claims to have found a bird head in a can of pinto beans; the product, La Preferida beans, is canned in Eaton, Ind.

Feb. 22

Insurgents bomb one of Iraq’s holiest Shiite shrines, sparking violent reprisals and attacks on Sunni mosques and raising fears of a civil war.

Feb. 24

The AP reports that more than 120 people have been killed in Christian vs. Muslim violence in Nigeria. More than 45 people have been killed in violent demonstrations over the Muhammad cartoons in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya and Pakistan. Comic actor Don Knotts — best known as Deputy Barney Fife — dies at age 81.

Feb. 25

The dreaded bird flu hits a turkey farm in France. So far the H5N1 strain of the disease has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa; at least 92 people have died.

March 1

The media reports that a dead cat that was infected with bird flu has been found in Germany, the first time the virus has been identified in an animal other than a bird. Indianapolis’ no-smoking law goes into effect.

March 3

Former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham is sentenced to eight years in prison for accepting nearly $2.5 million in bribes, setting a new record in the annals of congressional corruption.

March 9

Ending a politically-charged controversy, a Dubai-owned firm gives up plans to manage six U.S. ports, a deal supported by President Bush but opposed by many in Congress and a leery public.

March 11

Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan “Butcher of the Balkans” Milosevic is found dead in his jail cell at The Hague where he was being tried for war crimes.

March 13

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that President Bush has hit an all-time low approval rating of 36 percent.

March 14

By a 51-48 vote, the Indiana Legislature approves the I-69 extension and toll road privatization bill.

March 15

Saddam Hussein testifies for the first time at his trial, delivering a political speech in which he calls for Iraqis to unite against American forces. The judge orders TV cameras turned off and tells him, “You used to be a head of state. You are a defendant now.”

March 16

Comedian Jerry Lewis turns 80.

March 19

This day marks three full years of war in Iraq. The toll so far: more than 2,300 American soldiers killed, approximately 30,000 Iraqi dead (including a large percentage of civilians) and a cost to U.S. taxpayers of between $200-$250 billion. Shocking and awful.

March 30

Journalist Jill Carroll is released after being held hostage in Iraq for nearly three months.

April 2

Tornados sweep through eight Midwest states, killing 28; the Regions Bank building in downtown Indy incurs serious wind damage.

April 5

In a court filing, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald states President Bush and VP Dick Cheney authorized top aide “Scooter” Libby to leak classified information regarding Iraq’s quest for nuclear weapons (info that was ultimately determined to be wrong). Eminem files for a second divorce from his wife, Kim.

April 9

Founder of the Playboy empire, Hugh Hefner, turns 80.

April 10

More than 20,000 people, mostly Hispanics, gather in downtown Indianapolis to protest proposed immigration reform.

April 11

Rapper Proof, member of the group D12 and best man at Eminem’s marriage earlier this year, is killed in a shoot-out at a Detroit nightclub.

April 21

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain turns 80.

April 22

The Journal of Neurosurgery reports a case involving a 33-year-old male methamphetamine user who tried to kill himself by using a nail gun to shoot 12 nails into his head. The man arrived at an Oregon hospital complaining of a headache and surgeons successfully removed the nails.

April 25

A CNN poll finds President Bush’s approval rating at a new low: 32 percent.

April 28

Reacting to the release of a version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung in Spanish, President Bush says people who want to become U.S. citizens “ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.” An attorney for radio commentator Rush Limbaugh announces a deal has been reached in his prescription fraud case in which the charge will be dropped if Limbaugh continues to receive treatment.

April 30

The media reports that guitarist Keith Richards has been hospitalized with a mild concussion after falling out of a palm tree while on vacation in Fiji.

May 1

Hispanic immigrants across the country do not shop, attend school or go to work as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” protest; more than 1 million gather for rallies in over 24 U.S. cities.

May 3

Singer Englebert Humperdinck turns 70.

May 5

After crashing his car into a concrete barrier at 3 a.m. the previous day, Rep. Patrick Kennedy checks himself into rehab for pain-pill addiction. CIA Director Porter Goss resigns unexpectedly after less than two years on the job.

May 15

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announces that the U.S. will restore full diplomatic relations with Libya. In a televised address, President Bush calls for immigration reforms and says he will send 6,000 National Guard troops to help secure the border with Mexico.

May 16

Richard Hatch, winner of the first season of Survivor, is sentenced to just over four years for failing to pay taxes on his reality show winnings and other income.

May 17

Actor Dennis Hopper turns 70.

May 20

Iraq’s new government takes office. Cher turns 60.

May 26

Based on photos and other evidence, U.S. Marine investigators believe 24 unarmed Iraqis, including women and children, were killed by a Marine unit in the town of Haditha last fall.

May 27

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake kills more than 6,000 people in Indonesia.

May 29

In Baghdad, a car bomb kills two CBS crew members, a U.S. soldier and leaves correspondent Kimberly Dozier critically wounded. More than 30 people die in other bombings and shootings in Iraq.

June 1

In Indianapolis, seven members of the Covarrubias-Valdez family are shot and killed during a robbery of their home; it is the deadliest shooting in the city’s history.

June 6

R&B singer/keyboardist Billy Preston, sometimes called “the fifth Beatle,” dies at age 59.

June 7

A U.S. Air Force F-16 drops two 500-pound bombs on a house north of Baghdad, killing notorious terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

June 13

President Bush makes a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki and other Iraqi government officials.

June 14

Business tycoon Donald Trump turns 60.

June 15

The number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq reaches 2,500. The war’s fiscal cost thus far is $320 billion.

June 17

Singer Barry Manilow turns 60.

June 18

Paul McCartney is 64.

June 23

The World Health Organization confirms the first case of human-to-human transmission of the bird flu virus in Indonesia.

June 26

Rush Limbaugh is detained for several hours at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities find a bottle of Viagra prescribed to someone else in Limbaugh’s luggage.

June 28

Funnyman Mel Brooks turns 80.

June 30

U.S. military officials say they are investigating five soldiers suspected of raping an Iraqi woman and then killing her and three family members. President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visit Graceland.

July 3

Former soldier Steven Green, 21, is accused in federal court of rape and murder charges related to the alleged Iraq war crime.

July 4

Champion eater Takeru Kobayashi, 27, sets a new world record by consuming 53 and three-quarters hot dogs in 12 minutes at the annual Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition at Coney Island, N.Y.

July 5

Enron founder and convicted felon Kenneth Lay, 64, dies of a heart attack.

July 6

President George W. Bush turns 60.

July 11

Eight bombs are exploded on a Bombay, India, railway line, killing 190 people; Kashmiri militants are suspected.

July 12

In retaliation for a Hezbollah attack and capture of two Israeli soldiers, Israel bombs areas in southern Lebanon.

July 13

Israel and Lebanon increase military attacks against each other.

July 16

The death toll in the Lebanon/Israeli conflict passes 200; hundreds of foreigners, including Americans, scramble to leave Lebanon.

July 19

President Bush issues his first-ever veto, rejecting federal funding of stem cell research. Bush states, “This bill would support the taking of innocent life … it crosses a moral boundary that our society needs to respect.” The New York Times reports that last month more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day.

July 28

The media reports that more than 400 Lebanese (mostly civilians) and 50 Israelis have been killed since fighting began.

July 30

Blues legend Buddy Guy turns 70. Actor Dick Wilson — better known as “Mr. Whipple” — turns 90.

Aug. 1

An estimated 10,000 Israeli troops advance into Lebanon.

Aug. 3

Classy crooner Tony Bennett turns 80.

Aug. 5

Takeru Kobayashi gobbles down a record-breaking 58 brats in 10 minutes at the Johnsonville Bratwurst Eating Championship in Sheboygan, Wis.

Aug. 6

Hezbollah rocket attacks kill 15 Israelis; Israeli bombs kill 14 in Lebanon. Nearly 100 Israelis and approximately 600 Lebanese have died in fighting thus far.

Aug. 9

Actor Tom Hanks turns 50.

Aug. 10

British authorities say they have arrested 24 men who were planning to bomb trans-Atlantic jet flights.

Aug. 13

An ailing Fidel Castro turns 80.

Aug. 14

A U.N. imposed cease-fire begins in Lebanon and Israel; more than 900 people have been killed in recent fighting.

Aug. 24

The International Astronomical Union declares t"


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