BARACK Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States; he was the first black man to hold the office. One of his first executive actions was to set a date for the closure of the US Guantanamo Bay prison in which some 250 “enemy aliens” are still held without charge. Britain entered a state of recesssion as the government offered failing banks a second financial bail-out. Spain and Portugal were downgraded by the US credit agency Standard and Poors; other EU countries were expected to follow them. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza and the Palestinian Hamas group followed soon after. Some 1'300 Palestinians had been killed during Israel's three week incursion into Gaza, Israeli casualties totalled 13. After a dispute lasting three weeks, Russia agreed to resume gas supplies to Ukraine and from there to other customers in east and west Europe.


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