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Illustrations by Istvan Banyai

DECEMBER 2
Putin’s Jig

Election day in Russia, yawn. Speculation about today’s parliamentary vote and the upcoming presidential election centers not on who will win—Vladimir Putin’s party should sail to victory—but on how Putin will maintain control of Russia after he gives up the presidency.

Seasoned

Bad news for those who finally got the Spice Girls out of their heads: The British girl group is cashing in with a nostalgia tour and greatest- hits album. While Ginger left the group in 1998, leading to a breakup in 2001, it was Sporty’s acquiescence that finally brought the Girls back together.

DECEMBER 3–14
Emission Impossible?

With the Kyoto Protocol set to expire in 2012, negotiations on a new climate treaty begin in earnest this week in Bali. The hope is to reduce greenhouse gases to 25 to 40 percent of their 1990 levels. Kyoto’s goal of a 5 percent reduction has yielded mixed results. The U.S. (which never ratified Kyoto) is proposing a voluntary regime.

DECEMBER 5
Catch …

José Padilla faces a possible life sentence today after being found guilty in August of supporting terrorism and of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim overseas. The government never brought charges for the al-Qaeda dirty-bomb plot with which Padilla was originally alleged to be involved.

DECEMBER 16
… And Release

Arthur Bremer, the would-be assassin who shot and paralyzed Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1972, is due to be released from the Maryland Correctional Institution today (though he may get out sooner if he continues to cut time off his sentence for good behavior). Bremer, whose tale inspired the movie Taxi Driver, won’t be allowed near politicians or rallies.

DECEMBER 21
Roll Over, Victoria

At 81 years, 8 months, and 1 day, Queen Elizabeth II will become the oldest reigning monarch in the history of Britain and the entire Commonwealth today, surpassing King George III and Queen Victoria.

Cloak and Blogger

Spooks join the social-networking craze this month when the director of national intelligence launches “A-space,” a Facebook of sorts for the top-secret set. The spies’ new tools—blogs, wikis, and Amazon-style recommendation engines—aim to spread information and surmount the intelligence agencies’ “need to know” culture.

DECEMBER 29
Bound, Then Gagged

David Hicks, the so-called Australian Taliban, will be released today from a prison in Adelaide. Captured in Afghanistan, the former kangaroo skinner spent more than five years in captivity at Guantánamo before pleading guilty in March at a military tribunal. As part of a plea deal, he may not sell his story for at least a year or pursue legal action against the U.S. for alleged abuses.

DECEMBER 31
Worn-Out Welcome

The United Nations mandate for the occupation of Iraq, which has been repeatedly extended at the request of Iraq’s government, is set to expire at year’s end. Though the U.S. hasn’t always heeded UN concerns, the renewal could be a flash point: The Iraqi government has lately become vocal about wanting America out.

ALSO IN DECEMBER
Hefty Bag

Will a shaky global economy slow spending among the superrich? Chanel hopes not. This month the Parisian fashion house unveils 13 white-alligator-skin “Diamond Forever” bags, each featuring 334 diamonds in a white-gold clasp. Price: $260,150.

Bridge of Sighs

To spare commuters a labyrinthine walk from the train to the bus station, Venice has finally built a new bridge. The modernist span—a Santiago Calatrava design in red steel—has upset sentimentalists. But the city hopes that, like the 16th-century Rialto (which has always had its critics), the new bridge will win Venetians’ hearts.

Matthew Quirk is an Atlantic staff editor.
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