5. Supreme Court Hullabaloo
More attention was focused on the Supreme Court in 2005 than the Bush administration probably wanted with all of the controversial rulings, judicial upheaval and personnel announcements that took place.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, one of only two female justices, announced her retirement on July 1. President Bush nominated Judge John G. Roberts to replace O'Connor on July 19. But one day after Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on Sept. 4 at the age of 80, Bush made Roberts the nominee for chief justice. Roberts was confirmed by a Senate vote of 78-22 and sworn in Sept. 29 as the 17th chief justice of the United States.
On Oct. 3, Bush nominated longtime confidant Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor. Under extreme pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Miers withdrew her nomination on Oct. 27. Bush then nominated Samuel Alito to be a justice on Oct. 31; Alito's confirmation hearings have yet to begin.
The issue of abortion is taking center stage, since many abortion-rights activists and Democrats want a "centrist" to take the place of O'Connor, who was considered a swing vote on several controversial issues.
Think your private property and your home will always be your own? That may not be the case thanks to a controversial Supreme Court ruling this year that caused uproar around the country.
The high court on June 23 ruled that state and local governments essentially have the right to bulldoze people's private homes to make way for strip malls or other private development.
In the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision to allow the Connecticut city to exercise a state eminent domain law to require several homeowners to cede their property for commercial use to generate tax revenue. In her dissent, O'Connor said the decision bowed to the rich and powerful at the expense of middle-class Americans.
"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property," O'Connor wrote. "Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."
Private property, civil rights, farm and religious groups were up in arms, arguing the decision was an abuse of the Fifth Amendment's "takings clause" that allows private property to be seized with fair compensation for public use.
"Homes and small businesses across the country have been placed in grave jeopardy and threatened by the government wrecking ball," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.
In response, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill 376-38 that would withhold federal money from state and local governments that use powers of eminent domain to force businesses and homeowners to give up their property for commercial uses. The Bush administration backed the bill. About half the states are also now considering changes in their laws to prevent takings for private use.
Thou shalt not display the 10 Commandments on government property, the Supreme Court ruled on June 27.
In a 5-4 decision, a divided court struck down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses. In McCreary County v. ACLU, the court said the Kentucky displays violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits government from endorsing or supporting one religion above others. So, the commandments can't be displayed in court buildings or on government property.
But the court also ruled that a 6-foot granite replica on state government land in Texas was acceptable. It said the Biblical laws can be displayed in an historical context, as they are in a frieze in the Supreme Court building.
The high court has not visited this hotly contested issue since 1980 when religious displays in public schools were ruled unconstitutional.
The nation's interest in the cases was boosted by former Alabama Justice Roy Moore's battle two years ago to keep a giant, 5,300-pound granite replica of the commandments near the sidewalk leading up the steps to the courthouse. The eight-by-three-foot granite slab contains the Ten Commandments on one side and the text of the Mayflower Compact on the other. On Nov. 13, 2003, a judicial panel banished him from the bench because he defied a federal court order to remove the tablets.
4. Bush's Second Term
Bush was sworn in for a second term on Jan. 20 after beating Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry on Nov. 2, 2004, by 3.5 million votes in the race for the White House; 48 percent of Americans who voted didn't support the president.
Bush staked his claim to a broad mandate and said his victory also won him political capital that he would spend enacting his agenda. Republicans also increased their majority in both the House and Senate. "I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it," Bush said.
In his State of the Union address on Feb. 2, Bush said the United States is working for good throughout the world, and that newly elected leaders in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Ukraine and Iraq now share the "great privilege" of being placed in office "by the votes of the people we serve."
The president stressed the need to improve the economy, provide reliable energy, reduce junk lawsuits, improve student achievements, train more workers and strengthen health care. The largest element of Bush's agenda, however, was reform to the ailing Social Security system. But as the year came to a close, he had not yet passed that reform plan.
To appeal to the conservative base that was largely responsible for getting him reelected, Bush also said he would support a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and not let "activist judges" redefine marriage, and drew a line in the sand on "culture of life" issues like stem cell research.
At the end of the year, many Democrats were pushing for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, while the administration and many Republicans argued that setting such a timetable would send the wrong message to U.S. troops, Iraqis and America's allies around the world — a message that would be, when the going gets tough, the United States will cut and run. Bush says he will take his cues on withdrawal from U.S. military commanders on the ground. The Dec. 15 elections in Iraq, which had large voter turnout — even among Sunni Arabs, who boycotted the January elections and who form the backbone of the insurgency — are seen as a major benchmark as to when U.S troops may pull out.
"When Iraqis step up, America will step down" is an oft-repeated phrase of Bush, meaning that as Iraqis take control of their own security and establish an inclusive government, the U. S. presence there will diminish.
The Revolving Door of the White House
There was a game of musical chairs played when Bush entered the Oval Office for a second term.
—Secretary of State Colin Powell — who was the U.S. face of diplomacy during debates at the United Nations over whether Iraq should be invaded — left and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took his place.
— Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, took over for Rice as Bush's chief national security adviser.
—Former Environmental Protection Agency chief Michael Leavitt took over the helm of the Health and Human Services Department, replacing Tommy Thompson.
—White House counsel Alberto Gonzales took over as head of the Justice Department after outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft.
—Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns took over as secretary of agriculture, replacing Ann Veneman.
—Former prosecutor Michael Chertoff took over for Tom Ridge as head of the Homeland Security Department.
—Kellogg, Co. CEO Carlos Gutierrez replaced Don Evans as commerce secretary.
—Margaret Spellings left her job as Bush's domestic policy adviser to become education secretary.
—Samuel Bodman left his position as deputy treasury secretary to take over the top job at that agency, which was left vacant by the outgoing Spencer Abraham.
—Jim Nicholson, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, took over as secretary of veterans affairs for Anthony Principi.
The Hunt for the Leaker
The investigation into who, if anyone, in the administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to reporters went into full tilt this year as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — tapped in December 2003 to head the probe — kept digging to determine if anyone in the White House maliciously outed the officer.
Some of the biggest headlines to come out of this Beltway brouhaha included top Bush adviser Karl Rove being brought before the grand jury four times and former Cheney chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, resigning after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of false statements to FBI agents and two counts of perjury. Libby pleaded not guilty Nov. 3; if found guilty, he faces a maximum 30 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
Here's the short version of went down:
CIA officials asked former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to go to Africa in February 2002 to check out a report that Niger sold uranium to Iraq in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson concluded that that reference — used by Bush in his January 2003 State of the Union address to make the Iraq-weapons connection — was false. It later came out that the yellowcake information wasn't verified by intelligence experts and it shouldn't have been included in the president's speech.
Wilson wrote a New York Times editorial accusing the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. Six days after Wilson's article appeared, columnist Robert Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him that Wilson's wife, identified by her maiden name as Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative who had suggested sending Wilson on the trip. The CIA denied that's how Wilson was picked.
Novak's public identification of Plame is what started the fire.
Rove and Libby said they spoke to reporters about the issue but that they never were first to give Plame's name. They also rejected any suggestion they were trying to punish Wilson for criticizing the president. In order for a leak crime to be committed, the person or persons who leaked the name must have done so intentionally and to bring some harm to the agent in charge. Bush repeatedly said he wants to find "the leakers."
New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before telling the grand jury what she knew and when she knew it, while Time reporter Matt Cooper told the grand jury that Rove indicated Wilson's wife worked at the CIA but didn't reveal her name or that her work was covert. Other prominent journalists like "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus also testified.
Then, on Nov. 16, out of the blue, Bob Woodward said an unnamed Bush administration official told him the identity of a CIA analyst almost a month before it was publicly revealed — and that official was not Libby. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at the Post, provided a sworn deposition to Fitzgerald earlier in the week about conversations with three administration officials. Woodward did not mention speaking to Rove. Woodward — who made his first big splash on the Washington scene with Carl Bernstein when covering Watergate — received a slap from his employers for not telling them what he knew about the leak.
Fitzgerald's investigation continues.
Bush Approval Ratings Drop, Iraq a Big Cause
President Bush saw his approval ratings sink earlier in the year, in large part because of the waning support for the war in Iraq. But as he launched into a series of four speeches aimed at fighting back against his Democratic critics calling for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, he began to regain some ground.
Sure, there are a lot of polls, but we're going to just focus on our FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Polls.
March 31: President's job approval rating was below 50 percent for the first time this year at 49 percent. That was a 2 percent drop from the beginning of the month.
Sept. 1: Public approval of Bush's handling of Iraq was at the lowest level of his presidency; views of his handling of the economy and terrorism were also low. Many things in Iraq were going worse than expected, pessimism about the economy was up and most foresaw gas prices continuing to climb. For the second time of Bush's presidency, more Americans disapproved than approved of his job performance: 45 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved.
Sept. 15: Bush's ratings hit a new low — 41 percent of voters approved and 51 percent disapproved of his performance; that was 4 percentage points fewer than two weeks ago, around the time the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina's damage was becoming evident. Before Katrina, 47 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved (July 26-27). Up until now, the average approval rating for Bush's presidency among Republicans had been 90 percent but now, 81 percent approved. Only 8 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents approve of the job Bush was doing.
Sept. 29: Bush saw a slight uptick of 4 percentage points; his support reached 45 percent with 47 percent disapproving. Bush gained ground among several independents, those over age 55 and Southerners; 84 percent of Republicans approved and 81 percent of Democrats disapproved.
Oct. 27: Poll numbers made their way back down, with just 41 percent of Americans approving and 51 percent disapproving of Bush's job performance. When given the opportunity for a 2004 presidential vote "do over," 6 percent of those who voted for Bush in November 2004 said they would switch their vote to Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry. For the first time during his presidency, approval among Republicans fell below 80 percent; it hit 79 percent. But 11 percent of Democrats said they approved, while 36 percent of the independents approved.
Nov. 10: Bush's numbers slide even further, with only 36 percent saying Bush was doing a good job; 53 percent disapproved. This drop was due, in part, because support among Republicans dropped to 72 percent.
In come Bush's speeches about Iraq, where he outlined benchmarks for U.S. troop withdrawal; the president's approval marks begin increasing again.
—Dec. 1: Bush regained 6 percentage points from the previous month; 42 percent of Americans approved and 48 percent disapproved. The improvement was attributed to increases in approval among Republicans (+ 6 percentage points), men (+ 8 points) and independents (+10 points).
Meanwhile, 46 percent said they thought Bush gave Americans the best prewar intelligence available before invading Iraq; 44 percent thought he intentionally misled the country about the presence of weapons of mass destruction; 79 percent of Republicans thought Bush gave Americans the best available prewar intelligence; 72 percent of Democrats thought he misled the country; 45 percent of independents thought Bush misled Americans and 43 percent disagreed; a 42 percent plurality thought Iraq had weapons before the war and moved or destroyed them; 28 percent thought there were no WMD at all.
—Dec. 15: President Bush's average job rating for the year 2005 is 46 percent, making this the lowest annual average of his presidency. This year's average rating is down slightly from a 49 percent average in 2004; his highest annual average of 72 percent came in 2002, buoyed by post-Sept. 11 ratings throughout that year that were in the high 60s to low 80s.
One in four say Bush's recent speeches on Iraq have given them a better understanding of the situation, while twice as many — 53 percent — disagree. Another 17 percent are unfamiliar with the speeches at all.
The president's job rating now sits at 42 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval, essentially unchanged from two weeks ago, but up from last month when his approval hit a record low of 36 percent (Nov. 8-9).
An Associated Press-Ipsos poll taken in early December indicated Bush's public relations campaign might be working. He improved his job approval rating from 37 percent in November to 42 percent — the highest figure since summer.
3. London's Sept. 11
Thousands around the world mourned with the British when on July 7, a series of coordinated bomb attacks hit London's subway and bus systems during the morning rush hour, leaving 52 people dead. The four homicide bombers were also killed. Bombs exploded on three Tube trains just outside Liverpool Street, Edgware Road and King's Cross stations. Another explosion went off on a packed No. 30 double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. The bombings had the hallmark of Al Qaeda.
Two of the bombers were named by police as Shehzad Tanweer, 22, and Hasib Mir Hussain, 18, both of Leeds. A third, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, of Beeston, linked to the Edgware Road attack, was named by newspapers. Police sources said the fourth bomber was Jamaican-born Lindsey Germaine, of Bucks.
Scotland Yard released an image of bus bomber Hussain, caught on CCTV. Police continued searching for a fifth man linked to the bombings. Pakistani officials later confirmed three of the four London homicide bombers visited Pakistan last year.
July 14: A two-minute silence was held in memory of victims. The British Muslim Forum issued a fatwa offering condolences for the attacks and stated that Islam condemns violence and forbids suicide bombings. It's read at mosques on July 22. On July 19, the government said there was no clear connection to Al Qaeda.
July 21: London's transport network was attacked again as Tube stations at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd's Bush stations, plus a No. 26 bus in Bethnal Green, were evacuated. Luckily, the bombs malfunctioned and only partially exploded. No one was killed or injured.
July 22: A man was shot dead by armed officers at Stockwell Tube station; passengers were evacuated from the Northern Line station in south London. It was later announced that the man shot was not connected to the 21 July attacks and was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, a Brazilian working as an electrician in London. In other developments, a possible link between those behind the July 21 attacks and a whitewater-rafting course attended by two of the July 7 bombers in North Wales was probed.
July 24: Families of the victims of the July 7 attacks visited the bombing scenes to pay tribute.
July 27: British Prime Minister Tony Blair met his Spanish counterpart, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and welcomed a proposal to create an "alliance of civilizations" between Western and Muslim countries in the War on Terror.
July 29: British police said all four of the July 21 bomb suspects were in custody.
Aug. 3: Ismael Abdurahman, 23, from Kennington, became the first person to be charged in those attacks; police said he failed to report information that could have led to the apprehension of someone involved in terrorism. It was also announced that the families of those killed in the July 7 bombings would be eligible for compensation.
Aug. 4: Usama bin Laden's lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, warned that London would face more attacks because of Blair's foreign policy decisions.
Sept. 19: Zawahri said for the first time that Al Qaeda did in fact carry out the July 7 bombings. Meanwhile, there was a fight over the extradition of July 21 bombing suspect Hussain Osman (also known as Hamdi Isaac). An Italian court approved Osman's extradition to Britain but the suspect's lawyers fought it.
Nov. 1: A national memorial service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London to remember the 52 people killed in the July 7 attacks.
"We are here grieving ... because those who so pointlessly and terribly died were, each one of them, precious, non-replaceable," said the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
NYC Subway Terror Threat
New York City authorities stepped up security Oct. 6 after receiving what city officials called a credible threat that the city's subway could be the target of a terrorist attack. Homeland security officials in Washington downplayed the threat, saying it was of "doubtful credibility."
The threat reportedly involved the possibility terrorists would pack a baby stroller with explosives, among other potential subway bombing methods. In response, New York officials mobilized police officers to begin looking through commuters' strollers, bags, brief cases and luggage. New York City had been on high alert — or code orange — on the nation's terror threat advisory system since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"This is the first time we have had a threat with this level of specificity," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
There were later reports that the threat was a hoax perpetrated by an Iraqi informant who admitted he made the story up. After four days of high alert, officials announced Monday there was no clear evidence an attack would be carried out and scaled back the protection. The mayor continued to insist the city didn't overreact.
2. Iraq's Push to Freedom
Up to 15 million Iraqis went to the polls on Dec. 15 to select a constitutional parliament. U.S. officials hoped the new parliament would help quell the Sunni-dominated insurgency so that American forces could begin heading home. The 275-member assembly would be the first full-term parliament, serving for four years, since Saddam Hussein's 2003 ouster.
President Jalal Talabani described the elections as "a national celebration, a day of the national unity and of victory over the terrorists and those who oppose our march toward democracy."
Iraq held two other elections this year — the election of the transitional government in January and the adoption of the constitution in October. The Jan. 30 vote was the first time in more than 30 years to elect a Transitional National Assembly, provincial councils for each of Iraq's provinces, and a Kurdistan Regional Government. Over 70 percent of eligible Iraqi voters — or almost 8.5 million — turned out to vote
Many Sunni Arabs — who form the backbone of Iraq's insurgency — boycotted the January elections but were encouraging voter turnout among their ranks in December, to gain more representation in the government.
As of Dec. 16, it was expected to take two weeks to tally the results.
A referendum on Iraq's constitution was approved Oct. 15. There is a 13-article bill of rights that guarantees basic rights to all Iraqis. This includes the rights to freedom of religion and worship, to free expression, to peacefully assemble and demonstrate, to organize political parties and to form and join unions. It also guarantees the right to equal treatment under the law and prohibits discrimination based on gender, nationality, religion or origin.
The interim constitution also offers important protections to a population subjected to decades of Saddam's brutality: protection from arbitrary arrest or detention and the guarantee of a fair, speedy and open trial.
The charter was approved by nearly 80 percent of the voters. Voters in two Sunni-dominated provinces overwhelmingly rejected the constitution, raising concern that Sunni Arabs might forego politics in favor of armed resistance. The charter was considered a major step in Iraq's democratic reforms, clearing the way for the election of a new, full-term parliament on Dec. 15.
Mass Graves Found
In case anyone had any doubt how brutal Saddam was, U.S. investigators in April exhumed the remains of 113 people — all but five of them women, children or teenagers — from a mass grave in southern Iraq. Forensic experts believed the grave could contain the remains of as many as 1,500 Kurds killed in the 1980s. More than 300 mass graves had been found by that time in Iraq.
"We believe that more than half of the Iraqi population have someone who is missing in their family," said Bakhtiar Amin, outgoing Iraqi Human Rights Minister and a Kurd.
The grave near the southern city of Samawah, about 150 miles southeast of Baghdad, was a series of 18 trenches. Investigators said women and children were forced to stand at the edge of the pits, then shot with AK-47 assault rifles; casings were found near the site.
"They sprayed people with bullets so they fell back" into the graves, Amin said.
Saddam oversaw a particularly brutal wave of violence from 1987 to 1988, called the Anfal campaign, to punish the Kurds for siding with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were displaced from their lands in northern Iraq, while half a million people died or were killed.
Before 2005, other mass graves full of bodies with their arms lashed together and bullet holes in the backs of skulls were found. Human Rights Watch estimates that as many as 290,000 Iraqis 'disappeared' during the two days when Saddam was in control; hundreds of thousands more were murdered.
"We've already discovered just so far the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Nov. 20, 2003, in London.
Saddam's Trial Begins
Deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and seven senior members of his regime went on trial on Oct. 19 for a 1982 massacre of about 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad. That trial continues today.
The trial of the brutal dictator commonly known as the "Butcher of Baghdad" was symbolic for the Iraqi people, many of whom lived suppressed under Saddam's thumb for years. Acts of torture, kidnappings and abuse were rampant during Saddam's reign. During the trial, various witnesses testified to the atrocities suffered under Saddam; the most dramatic testimony came from a woman who told of beatings, torture and sexual humiliation at the hands of security agents when she was a teenager. Others testified about abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam.
At the end of the Dec. 6 proceedings, the judges agreed over defense objections to meet again the following day. Saddam shouted that, "I will not come to an unjust court! Go to hell!" He didn't show up to court the next day.
Death Toll Among Coalition Forces Tops 2,000
As of Dec. 14, at least 2,149 U.S. service members died since the war started, according to an Associated Press count. During the second week of December, Bush said about 30,000 Iraqis had died since the initial invasion of Iraq; that number included Iraqis killed from the ongoing insurgent violence against Iraqis.
1. Hurricane Katrina, the Biggest U.S. Disaster Since Sept. 11, 2001
This year could very well be dubbed "The Year of the Storm." Coming off the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in Southeast Asia, when the world witnessed more than 200,000 deaths, the United States was struck by Hurricane Katrina — the deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1928 and the biggest disaster experienced by this country since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that left about 3,000 people dead. More than 1,300 were killed in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida by Katrina and in the storm's aftermath. It cost about $34.4 billion in insured losses.
In 154 years of record keeping, 2005 had the most named storms at 26, the most hurricanes at 13, the highest number of major hurricanes hitting the U.S. at four and the most top-scale Category 5 hurricanes, with three.
Total insured losses from hurricanes this year were put at $47.2 billion, above the previous record of $22.9 billion set last year when four hurricanes also hit the United States, according to risk-analysis firm ISO.
The biggest story of 2005 was the horrific hurricane that ravaged the Gulf Coast at the end of August.
Katrina, which at one point was a Category 5 storm, came ashore Aug. 29 as a Category 3. The storm itself was bad but it wasn't until after the storm passed and all the water dumped on the Gulf Coast proved too much for New Orleans' levees to bear. Water surged through the city's levees, flooding many of the low-lying neighborhoods home to the city's poorest residents and leaving 80 percent of the city under water.
Many people evacuated to the New Orleans Superdome, where horrible conditions were reported — many of which later turned out to be false. Hospital workers were left without electricity to care for patients in need while people were rescued from their roofs as they tried to escape the rising water. Rampant looting took place; many police officers disappeared from the job and hundreds of volunteers from around the country descended upon the Crescent City and other hard-hit areas to help out. Evacuees were bused to Texas and other surrounding areas.
Congress rushed to provide a $10.5 billion down payment in relief aid, while gasoline supplies tightened in markets that depended on Gulf Coast refiners. As gas prices rose above $3 a gallon, some retailers were overrun by motorists and price gouging was reported. Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, lost his job after fingerpointing over mismanagement of the crisis, and President Bush's approval ratings sank. Louisiana's economy was crippled and it remains to be seen if the Big Easy will ever fully recover.
Wilma, Dennis and Rita, the other hurricanes that hit the United States, were not as deadly or destructive. But there were 14-hour traffic jams as Houston emptied out ahead of the Category 5 Rita, which struck the Texas-Louisiana coast on Sept. 24, and South Florida was crippled for days after Wilma knocked out power to more than 6 million people on Oct. 24.
Hurricane Ophelia dropped 10-12 inches of rain on coastal areas of North Carolina, while Wilma entered the record books in October after producing over 60 inches of rain as it moved across the Yucatan Peninsula, then turned northeastward and landed in Florida as a Category 3 storm. Hurricane Vince tracked northeast from the Atlantic, passing northwest of the Madeira Islands and making landfall in Spain as a tropical depression. Hurricane Tammy hit northeast Florida as a tropical storm and Tropical Storm Alpha and Hurricane Beta also formed in October. This year marked the first since the storm-naming system was set up that the Greek alphabet had to be used. November was active with Tropical Storm Gamma, Tropical Storm Delta and Hurricane Epsilon.
An 8.7-magnitude earthquake shook Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, on March 28.
Over 1,300 people were killed and at least 340 were injured in the areas of Nias, Simeulue, Kepulauan Banyak and Meulaboh. A 3-meter tsunami damaged the port and airport on Simeulue. Small tsunamis as high as 2 meters were observed on the west coast of Nias and 1 meter at Singkil and Meulaboh, Sumatra, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At least 10 people were killed during evacuation of the coast of Sri Lanka. The quake was felt in parts of Malaysia, Bangkok, Thailand, Singapore, Maldives, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan Quake Kills 87,000
Northwestern Pakistan and Indian Kashmir were devastated Oct. 8 when a 7.6-magnitude earthquake killed about 87,000 people and left another 3.3 million homeless.
Many relief workers couldn't reach affected areas because of the landslide-blocked roads; temperatures already were dipping below freezing and quake victims were not getting the help they needed fast enough. Two aftershocks struck eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border Oct. 23, killing five people. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered U.N. help to the governments of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan; the United States contributed an initial $100,000 in aid and dispatched 250 rolls of plastic sheeting, 5,000 blankets and 5,000 water containers. It later committed another $1 million in relief and sent U.S. military troops and resources to help. Pakistan has said rebuilding the area will cost $5 billion.
Wildfires on the West Coast
On Nov. 18, most of Southern California was under a red flag warning for wildfires, with advisories of warm, windy and dry conditions that could lead to explosive fire growth. Pushed by fierce Santa Ana winds, a 4,000-acre wildfire crept toward about 200 large, ridge-top homes in Ventura, Calif., prompting a voluntary evacuation.
The late-season blaze was first reported around 3:30 a.m. in School Canyon — a hilly, rocky area between Ventura and Ojai, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Wind gusts of more than 50 mph helped the fire more than triple in size in just a few hours.
The next day, calming winds helped firefighters battle a 3,700-acre wildfire that prompted the evacuation of the ridge-top homes. FEMA had authorized the use of federal funds to help the state battle the fire.
A few days later, about 50,000 acres burned in Oklahoma, displacing more than 30 families. The wind also fanned grass fires in at least six northern Texas counties. One Texas fire began west of Cleburne, about 30 miles south of Fort Worth, and spread north into neighboring Tarrant County, burning 1,000 acres and 24 structures along the way.
Monsoon Rains in India
More than 900 people were killed in India when record-breaking monsoon rains pounded Bombay and the surrounding area. Five days after crippling rains pounded western India — reaching a record 37 inches in 24 hours in suburban Bombay — soldiers, civil defense teams and aid workers were finding bodies in the state's worst-affected districts. For days, incessant rain and mounds of debris, boulders and mud mixed with the remains of people's homes, making it difficult to retrieve the remaining bodies.
As many as 421 people were killed in Bombay alone — most of them drowned, buried by landslides or electrocuted.
Big Year of Giving
Between the tsunami that devastated regions around the Indian Ocean and Hurricane Katrina, 2005 was a huge year of charitable giving.
Although the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, most money donated to relief efforts there didn't officially come through until 2005. But Americans donated about $1.3 billion to help tsunami victims; $11 billion in all was donated by the international community. The huge tidal wave killed more than 230,000 people and displaced some 1.5 million more in 12 countries. But the U.N. said this month that there are still delays in getting help to those who need it.
The Red Cross and other groups are using donated money to help displaced residents get out of the tents they've been living in for months, and to build permanent housing, among other services. Companies like General Electric, as well as the customers and companies of Amazon.com and Yahoo donated $5 million or more, while others like American Express, Boeing, John Deere and Merck donated at least $1 million. Community children even cracked open their piggy banks.
Similar support was given by Americans — and others throughout the world — when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Kids throughout the country sold lemonade and baked goods to earn money for the storm victims.
As of Sept. 17, 2005, charities had raised over $1.06 billion in aid for the Gulf Coast victims, according to OMB Watch. Congress passed charitable giving legislation designed to aid charities in getting the resources they need. Many families, friends and coworkers of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks also held various charity drives and donated resources.
"We realize that our pain is something that we can help heal by giving back," Valerie McGee, whose husband Brian McGee died in the attacks, told The Associated Press. "It's time to give back."
The Red Cross continues to feed hot meals and snacks to millions of people who are sheltered across the country. Survivors are also being provided financial assistance in a variety of ways, including client assistance cards, vouchers, checks and cash for the purchase of essential items. In addition, trained health professionals are providing first aid and mental health services, assisting those eager to transition to a recovery phase.
Those who donated more than $10 million to the Red Cross for relief efforts were The Lilly Endowment, Inc., Yahoo and Amazon.com; the latter two companies' customers' donations were included in that amount. Honda, Intel and Verizon were among the companies who donated anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million. Healthcare unions, insurance companies like Allstate, Lowes, the American Truckers Association, Disney, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Walgreens also donated large sums of money. Anheuser-Busch donated 6.7 million cans of fresh drinking water through the Red Cross and other relief agencies in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita. Truck drivers volunteered to drive hundreds of miles to cart supplies down to the Gulf region.
Other countries also stepped up to the plate: Kuwait donated $500 million — $400 million in oil products and $100 million in humanitarian relief; Qatar pledged $100 million; Britain's government sent 500,000 ration packs; Germany and Italy sent flights of supplies, including food rations, bed supplies, inflatable dinghies and water purifiers.