1 | Bangladesh A Secular Victory On Dec. 29, following two years of rule by a military-backed interim government, Bangladesh held its first parliamentary elections in seven years. The secular Awami League--led by former Prime Minister Sheik Hasina Wajed--and its allied groups won an overwhelming majority of seats, easily defeating the Islamist-heavy Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which after the loss complained of voting irregularities. Some analysts are fearful that lack of cooperation from the BNP might result in mass protests and a resurgence of the violence and extremism that have afflicted Bangladeshi politics. Hopes remain high, however, that the generally peaceful and fair elections will usher in a new era of democracy.
2 | Baghdad Networks Scale Back In Iraq As violence increases in Afghanistan, not only are troops being redirected there, but so are journalists--at the expense of news coverage in Iraq. A New York Times report noted that the three major U.S. networks--ABC, CBS and NBC--have quietly stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq despite the fact that about 130,000 U.S. service members are still there. While the networks declined to discuss specific staffing changes, representatives said the switch reflects a change in the nature of the Iraq mission from pacification to reconstruction.
3 | Baltimore Why Chastity Vows Don't Work Though teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage delay sex longer than average, they are as likely as their peers to have premarital sex and less likely to use protection, according to a study released Dec. 29. The report, in which a researcher at Johns Hopkins University parsed data gleaned from a large federal study, casts further doubt on the efficacy of abstinence-only sex-education programs, which received $204 million in government funding in 2008.
4 | Detroit The Lost Season It wasn't their worst defeat of the year--that dubious honor goes to a 47-10 drubbing on Thanksgiving Day--but the Lions' Dec. 28 loss to the Green Bay Packers locked up their spot in the NFL's record books. The hapless squad, which was outscored 517-268 in 2008, became the first in league history to go 0-16.
The Biggest Losers
NBA (9-73) Philadelphia 76ers, 1972-73
MLB (40-120) New York Mets, 1962
NHL (8-67-5) Washington Capitals, 1974-75
5 | Somalia Yusuf Steps Down One of the world's most violence-plagued nations became even more unstable Dec. 29 with the resignation of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who had served as the head of Somalia's U.N.-backed central government since 2004. Two weeks earlier, Yusuf had tried to fire Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, only to have parliament rally behind Hussein, whom it considered more capable of bringing about peace. But with much of the country ruled by extremist Islamic insurgents or harassed by warlords and pirates, the government in Mogadishu has grown increasingly ineffective. An outbreak of violence followed Yusuf's announcement.