Top NEWS Stories of 2000.
The presidential race looked close on Election Day. But no one knew just how close. It soon became clear that Florida, with its 25 electoral votes, held the key to the White House.
The race between Governor George W.Bush and Vice President Al Gore was perhaps the closest in history--and among the most bitterly contested. Dozens of lawsuits sprang up across Florida, extending up to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and, finally, the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
One question seemed to divide the nation in two: Should undervotes--votes that a machine could not read--be counted by hand?
Ringing in Y2K
Before the calendar turned to January 1, 2000, many people feared that a Y2K computer virus might wipe out power grids, disrupt airplane flights, and cause ATM machines to malfunction. The U.S. government set up a $50 million Y2K command center. But none of that happened. New Year's Eve turned out to be a worldwide party, with fireworks in Paris and a crystal ball dropping over Times Square in New York City.
Wildfires in West
Dry, dry, dry. Forest fires swept large areas of the American West this summer, after one of the driest seasons in years. By September, more than 6.5 million acres had burned, and in a single week, 68 large fires were burning in 10 states. Why so many fires? Loggers argued that not enough forest trees had been cut, allowing too much of a "fuel load" to build up. Environmentalists blamed logging for taking away the forest canopy, drying out the forest floor, and encouraging the growth of smaller, more-flammable trees. Environmentalists also say this past summer's weather might have been affected by global warming. Even though temperatures have now cooled, the topic is expected to remain hot long into the future.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1999, fishermen found a 5-year-old boy, Elian Gonzalez, clinging to an inner tube off the coast of Florida. His mother, who drowned days before, had left Communist Cuba with him. After Elian was rescued, he lived with relatives in Miami. But his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, wanted the boy returned to Cuba. He came to the U.S. to retrieve his son. The U.S. government agreed that Elian should be with his father. When negotiations with the Miami relatives failed, U.S. agents broke into the relatives' home and took Elian. In June, he returned with his father to Cuba.
A Failed Peace
In September, violence flared in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis. The two peoples, who share a common land that is sacred to both, had been negotiating a peace treaty. Despite the peace talks, they could not agree on the thorniest issues that divided them--especially the future of Jerusalem. Both want the city as their capital. So far, more than 300 people have been killed, most of them Palestinians.
In October, violence spilled over into nearby Yemen, where terrorists bombed a U.S. Navy ship, the U.S.S. Cole, killing 19 onboard.
In December, Ehud Barak announced that he would step down as Israel's prime minister.
Uncle Sam Counts Heads
On December 31, President Bill Clinton was presented with a special document--the 2000 U.S. Census. The U.S. Constitution requires that a new census be taken every 10 years. The first was taken in 1790.
The census counts the population of each state. Then, the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are distributed among the states, based on population. The census also tells us the country's ethnic makeup and the number of people living in poverty. The federal government uses that information to distribute more than $180 billion a year in aid to community programs. What is the U.S. population now? More than 275 million.
Democracy in Yugoslavia
On September 24, the troubled country of Yugoslavia held a presidential election. Leader Slobodan Milosovic had controlled Yugoslavia for more than 10 years. During that time, he helped wage war on Croatia and Bosnia--nations that had once been part of Yugoslavia. Milosovic was also behind the expulsion of several hundred thousand ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo. The expulsion led NATO to bomb Serbia, destroying much of its infrastructure.
Milosovic lost to his democratic opponent, Vojislav Kostunica (kosh-TOON-eet-za). When Milosovic tried to avoid stepping down by calling for a runoff election, the people rebelled. Thousands of protesters filled the streets. Finally, Milosovic gave in. On October 7, Kostunica was sworn in as Yugoslavia's new President.
Reunion in Korea
There were many tears of joy last August, when members of 200 Korean families were reunited for the first time in 50 years. The reunion was one sign of change in the icy relations between North and South Korea. On June 14, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung met for the first time to ease relations between their two countries. North and South Korea have been enemies since 1950, when Communist North Korea invaded the South. Now, the two Koreas are working toward peace. On December 10, South Korean President Kim received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to improve relations with North Korea.
2000 Olympic Games
Australians said "G'day" to athletes from around the world last September, when Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Games. There were many dramatic moments. Australian Aborigine Cathy Freeman captured her nation's heart--and the gold medal in the 400-meter race. Another Australian, 17-year-old Ian Thorpe, earned three medals in swimming and showed why he is known as the "Thorpedo." U.S. track star Marion Jones, who vowed to win five events, came up short, winning only three. But the 24-year-old showed that she has the determination and talent to be a champion. "Trust me," she said, "I'll be back in 2004." U.S. athletes won 39 gold medals, while Russians captured 32, the Chinese, 28, and Australians, 16. Olympic officials are gearing up now for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Human Genome Mapped
"This is a great day," announced President Bill Clinton on June 26. Scientists had just revealed that they had completed a rough map of the entire human genome, the genetic blueprint for human beings. They call it "the Book of Life." Many compare this achievement to landing on the moon, saying it will lead to an explosion of new scientific discoveries. About 5,000 diseases are known to have genetic causes. This discovery could help health experts develop cures for many diseases, including cancer and cystic fibrosis. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project describes the map as a "set of power tools" that will allow scientists to discover in days what could once have been done only in years.