2008, alphabetized

December 31, 2008

A FGHANISTAN - The country, the conflict, the casualties overtook Iraq as the war on everyone's mind this year. With the death toll among Americans rising at an alarming rate and the Taliban forces resurgent, a question keeps repeating: How do we win?

B AILOUT - This fall, with America's financial infrastructure crumbling, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. persuaded Congress to appropriate $700 billion to help bail out troubled institutions. So far, $350 billion has been invested or lent to more than two dozen banks and financial institutions. But it's been hard to see positive economic results. Now Congress wants a better accounting before the Treasury spends more.

C ONSTELLATION - It was a roller-coaster year for Baltimore Gas and Electric's parent. Losses and the credit crisis brought the company to the edge of bankruptcy. It's paying Warren E. Buffett major bucks to call off a hastily arranged, bargain-basement merger in favor of billions of bailout euros from nuclear power partner Electricite de France. Mon dieu.

D IXON - Sheila, the mayor of Baltimore, suffered through subpoenas from state prosecutors and questions about a fondness for fur (a coat perhaps?), shopping trips to Chicago, designer shoes and a developer. The investigation that resulted in the mayor acknowledging a past personal relationship hasn't produced much else since those early disclosures in a year of accomplished stewardship at City Hall.

E DSEL - In what may have been the largest public relations misstep in U.S. corporate history, America's Big Three automakers traveled in luxury by corporate jet to Washington this fall to beg for $17 billion in short-term government loans to keep themselves afloat through a promised massive reorganization and downsizing aimed at saving the corporations and the related jobs of more than a million American workers. They eventually got most of the money, but their future is far from certain.

F ORECLOSURES - They were the tip of the subprime mortgage meltdown as thousands upon thousands of homeowners borrowed more than they could afford in the mistaken belief that the housing bubble would never burst. Well, it did, and with devastating consequences for all involved from Main Street to Wall Street. A federal bailout for banks, financial institutions and others ensnared in the scandal has done next to nothing to help. This is the crisis that just won't quit.

G AMBLING - Jackpot for the gaming companies and their legion of lobbyists in Annapolis as Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved the slot machine gambling bill that state lawmakers passed in 2007. Next up: deciding who gets these lucrative licenses.

H ILLARY- Mrs. Clinton was the only first lady ever to seek office when she ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and won. In 2008, she wore pantsuits, cried real tears and fought like a tiger during her Democratic presidential primary bid - and came within a hairbreadth of victory. Now the irrepressible Hillary is set to become the next secretary of state.

I MMIGRATION - Nationally, the issue everyone was talking about in 2007 went underground in 2008 - like the 11 million or more people living illegally in the United States. Locally, Frederick County unwisely agreed to deputize some of its officers as immigration cops, while Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold welcomed a federal immigration raid in Annapolis and had threatening words for companies that hire illegal immigrants. But without a comprehensive federal solution, it's doubtful that any of this really helps solve the problem.

J OE - Joes were in headlines this year. There was Joe the plumber, who won 15 minutes of fame for attacking presidential candidate Barack Obama's tax proposal. And there was Joe Flacco, the rookie quarterback who led the Ravens to the NFL playoffs in a remarkable performance under the leadership of coach John Harbaugh, also in his first season with the Ravens. Go Joe!

K RATOVIL - As if Republicans weren't having enough problems, an ugly primary led to the ouster of Eastern Shore Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest and opened the door for Frank M. Kratovil Jr., a little-known prosecutor from Queen Anne's County, to win in a squeaker. A Democrat winning a House seat in a district gerrymandered to be Republican-leaning? GOP candidate Andy Harris sure got Bush-whacked.

L OOSE LIPS - His lawyer claims he didn't do anything wrong, but a U.S. attorney says Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was willing to sell everything, from appointments to boards and commissions to Barack Obama's old Senate seat, if the price was right. Mr. Blagojevich allegedly made pitches for cash, campaign contributions and cushy jobs for himself and his wife during phone conversations recorded by the FBI.

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