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IN THE NEWS - Top Stories of 2003 - 2004-01-02

Broadcast: January 3, 2004

This is Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

American news experts at the Associated Press have chosen the top stories of two-thousand-three. Almost all the news directors named the war in Iraq as the most important event of the year.

The United States led a military coalition against Iraq beginning March nineteenth. The military action began after President Bush repeatedly warned Iraq to report about its weapons of mass destruction. By April seventh, much of Baghdad was under control of the coalition. Mister Bush declared major combat operations over on May first.

Many Iraqis said they were happy that Saddam Hussein’s rule was over. But Iraqi resisters have continued to attack and kill coalition fighters and Iraqi civilians.

American troops captured Saddam Hussein on December thirteenth. But so far the coalition has found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The news experts named the loss of the American space shuttle Columbia as the second most important story of the year. Columbia broke apart on February first as it returned to Earth after a sixteen-day research flight. Seven astronauts died in the explosion.

The Associated Press experts said a special recall vote by citizens in the state of California was the third most important story of the year. On October seventh, California voters removed Democrat Gray Davis as governor. They chose actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to replace him. Under Governor Davis, California had suffered severe financial problems.

The news experts said the disease SARS was another top story. In February, health experts in Asia reported the first cases of a new disease later named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. Over time, about eight-thousand people around the world became sick with the disease. Almost eight-hundred people reportedly died.

The news agency experts identified a power loss in North America as the next most important event. On August fourteenth, a power company computer failed in the American state of Ohio. This caused a loss of electricity in eight American states and part of Canada.

Next, the experts noted America’s improving economy. The nation’s growth rate from July through September was the best in nineteen years. But estimates said the federal debt increased to five-hundred-thousand-million dollars.

Another top story was the deadly wildfires in California in October and November. The news experts said the tax cut of three-hundred-thirty-thousand-million dollars for American taxpayers was also an important story.

The safe return of a kidnapped fifteen-year-old girl was voted the ninth biggest story. Finally, the news experts chose the campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the two-thousand-four election. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean now appears to lead eight other competitors.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.