U.S. Transfers Power to IraqOn January 1, the day after the UN mandate for foreign troops expired and the new Status of Forces security agreement between Iraq and the United States took effect, the U.S. military turned over security control of the Green Zone in central Baghdad to the Iraqi military. The Green Zone is a heavily fortified area of Baghdad containing many Iraqi government and foreign diplomatic structures. Under the new agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns and cities by June 30, and the remaining 150,000 will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.

Russian pipelineRussia continues to surge ahead as the global energy titan, reaping huge profits and geo-strategic political advantages by exploiting its oil and natural-gas reserves.

gazaIsraeli tanks and troops late Saturday on January 3 entered Gaza, escalating Israel's eight-day-old offensive against the Hamas terrorist organization that controls the narrow, 25-mile-long strip of land along the Mediterranean between southwest Israel and Egypt's Sinai peninsula. On December 27, Israeli F-16 fighters launched a series of airstrikes against targets in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas' rocket attacks against Israel that numbered over 3,000 in 2008.

spainLabor-market regulations and high taxes associated with hiring workers typically lead to high unemployment figures. Not least was this the case in many European nations before reforms began being implemented during the middle of the '80s and onward.

EU flagOn January 1, 2009, Slovakia became the first former Soviet-bloc country to adopt the Euro as its national currency. Once the "-slovakia" in "Czechoslovakia," Slovakia, already a member of the European Union, became the 16th nation to join the "Eurozone" on New Year's Day. Its currency, the koruna, will be negotiable only until January 16, at which time the Euro will become the sole national currency.

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