Time magazine named Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, as its Person of 2009 for “his role in steering the United States through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression”. A few days previously Mr Bernanke was reconfirmed for a further term as Chairman only after a split vote in Congress.

The Times named Neda Soltan as its Person of the Year. She was the Iranian student shot dead in Tehran by a militiaman during a demonstration against the Iranian regime. The newspaper described her as an “inspiration for a generation”.

On Christmas Eve President Obama secured a key vote in the US Senate for the health-care reform Bill which he has called the main priority of his domestic policies. The Republican party in both Houses of Congress remain opposed to the Bill.

Obama bin Laden's closest relatives were found to be living in a secret compound in Iran where they had apparently been staying since they left Afghanistan immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. n Snow and ice affected transport in many parts of Europe. Train services through the Channel Tunnel were badly hit as trains were stranded in darkness and without information for many hours.

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