Global economic downturn
In 2007, the world experienced the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, called it a "once-in-a-century type of event". This global downturn was caused by a number of factors.
Primarily, it was the result of a Wild West casino mentality which had characterised banking in recent years, combined with a lack of regulation. Merchant bankers – keen to make a fast buck – had realised there were vast numbers of poor Americans who had been refused loans because they wouldn't be able to pay them back. Motivated by short term gains, they employed predatory mortgage lenders to offer these people the chance to own their first home. Inevitably, this led to millions of poor Americans now owning homes they could not afford. Bankers then bundled these mortgages together with more secure loans, before selling them on to other banks, who sold them onto other financial institutions, and so on. The bankers then received enormous bonuses for the commission and fees they generated.
This "sub prime" market was a time bomb waiting to go off. As interest rates rose, millions of Americans began defaulting on repayments. Loans which had originated from them were suddenly shown to be worthless – but it was already too late, as trillions of dollars' worth had spread throughout the system. With banks afraid to lend to each other – and not knowing the extent of each others' exposure – the outcome was a collapse on an unprecedented scale, with a liquidity crisis almost unparalleled in history. Some of the largest banks in the world, including Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns, fell into administration. Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalised. Even the likes of AIG and Citigroup had to be rescued.
The other major factor was simply the greed of consumers and their desire for instant gratification. In addition to buying homes they couldn't afford, credit cards and loans were used on spending binges for personal items, holidays and other products they didn't particularly need. Personal debt levels soared, leading to a massive rise in bankruptcies and foreclosures, triggering a worldwide recession.
Nicolas Sarkozy is elected President of the French Republic
Sarkozy succeeded Jacques Chirac as French president and promised to usher in a new era of change. His aims included the revitalisation of the French economy, reviving the work ethic, promoting new initiatives and fighting racial intolerance. In foreign affairs he promised a strengthening of the entente cordiale with the United Kingdom and closer cooperation with the USA. He married former model Carla Bruni in 2008.
Gordon Brown succeeds Tony Blair as Prime Minister of Great Britain
Initially, during the first few months of his premiership, Brown enjoyed a strong lead in the polls. His popularity was due in part to his handling of several serious events during his first weeks as Prime Minister. By late 2008, however, his popularity had fallen significantly, with eight Labour MPs urging a leadership contest. This threat receded due to his perceived strong handling of the global financial crisis.
His popularity reached an all-time low during the expenses scandal of May 2009, which Brown was seen to deal with indecisively. To make matters worse, Brown's cabinet began to rebel, with several key resignations in the run up to local and European elections in June 2009. Brown was defeated at the 2010 general election and succeeded as Prime Minister by the conservative David Cameron.
Apple debuts the iPhone
Released in June 2007, the iPhone was a multimedia-enabled smartphone designed and marketed by Apple. Functioning as a camera phone (also including text messaging and visual voicemail), a portable media player (equivalent to a video iPod), and Internet client (with e-mail, web browsing, and Wi-Fi connectivity), it used a multi-touch screen to provide a virtual keyboard in lieu of a physical keyboard. Time magazine named it the Invention of the Year.
A more advanced model, the iPhone 3G, was released in July 2008. This supported faster 3G data speeds and assisted GPS. Apple released version 3.0 of the iPhone OS for the iPhone (and Touch) in 2009. The iPhone 3GS had better performance, a camera with higher resolution and video capability, as well as voice control. By 2010, over 42 million units had been sold, with tens of thousands of downloadable apps now available.
Multiple suicide bombings kill 796 people in Kahtaniya, northern Iraq
The Yazidi communities bombings occurred at 8pm local time on 14th August 2007, when four co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks detonated in the villages of Kahtaniya and Jazeera, near Mosul. Entire neighbourhoods were flattened by the blasts. Iraqi Red Crescent's estimates stated that 796 were killed and 1,562 wounded, making it the Iraq War's most deadly car bomb attack during the period of American combat operations. It was also the second deadliest act of terrorism in the world – following only behind the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. which killed 3,000 people. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, though Al-Qaeda were suspected.
Arctic sea ice hits a record low
Arctic sea ice hit a record low of 4.1 million km² during the summer of 2007. This shattered the previous record, with an area of extra melting the size of five United Kingdoms. For the first time in recorded history, the fabled Northwest Passage became open to ships without the need for icebreakers.
Amazon releases the Kindle
The Kindle was a new software and hardware platform developed by Amazon subsidiary Lab126, for rendering and displaying e-books and other digital media. The device used an electronic paper display and was able to download books and other digital content from Amazon, without a computer and without any monthly fee.
Google Street View is launched
Google Street View was a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provided panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. Originally launched only in several US cities, it was gradually expanded to include many more cities, towns and rural areas worldwide.
Benazir Bhutto is assassinated in Pakistan
Bhutto was assassinated on 27th December 2007 after departing a PPP rally in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi – just two weeks before the scheduled Pakistani general election of which she was a leading opposition candidate. The following year, she was named one of seven winners of the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights.
Memorial at the site of Bhutto's assassination. Credit: Khalid Mahmood (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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