December 1
Mexican Standoff

After a bitterly contested election, Mexico gets not one but two new presidents today—though not officially. The recognized victor, conservative Felipe Calderón, is expected to advocate U.S.-friendly immigration and trade policies. His leftist opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has refused to acknowledge defeat and has vowed to establish his own parallel government.

December 2
A Very Happy Unbirthday

Fidel Castro gets a proper party today, the fiftieth anniversary of his landing in Cuba to lead the revolution. Bedridden by intestinal bleeding on his actual birthday, in August, Castro “celebrated” then by sharing yogurt, good times, and matching red shirts with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

December 2 –8
Tangled Web

ICANN, the nonprofit group that controls Internet domain names, meets this week in São Paolo to debate policy options for the host of dot-com and dot-org alternatives seeking places on the Web. Overseen by the prim United States, the organization miffed other countries in May when it voted not to allow the “adults-only” .xxx suffix.

December 3
Damned If You Don’t

With unchecked power, majority approval, and all the airtime he wants, President Hugo Chávez is widely favored to win today’s Venezuelan election. The opposition party has considered a boycott, a prospect that Chávez parried by threatening to call a referendum that would allow him to rule until 2031.

December 5
Little Dress, Big Number

Holly Golightly’s iconic little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s is on the block at today’s entertainment auction at Christie’s, where it’s expected to fetch somewhere between $90,000 and $130,000 (brown sack of pastry not included).

December 15
Show Me the Money

After a raft of corporate scandals, publicly traded companies today must begin disclosing, in “plain English,” all compensation paid to their top executives, including the multifarious perks and options that have obscured such figures in the past. (A proposed “Couric clause”——as in Katie—would also have meant divulging salaries of top- earning nonexecutives, such as pro athletes, movie stars, and, yes, news anchors. It was ultimately dropped.)

December 26
Mad for Mao

China’s Mao Zedong museum will be completed by the end of the month, in time to commemorate the chairman’s birthday. Located in his hometown of Shaoshan, the museum features over 6,500 of his personal effects (including his washbasin).

December 30
Virtual Verdi

In an effort to breathe new life into a fusty art form, the Metropolitan Opera tonight kicks off an ambitious digital distribution program that will use special satellites and projectors to beam its operas to movie theaters in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

December 31
The Morning After

Three years after it first roiled the FDA and intensified the abortion debate, the Plan B emergency contraceptive will go on sale without a prescription no later than today—though only to adults. Studies suggest it will have minimal impact on rates of abortion and sexually transmitted disease.

December 31
Putting It All Back Together

Sixteen months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the master plan for rebuilding is due by today. By taking a hands-off approach that leaves most planning to the city’s seventy-three neighborhoods, state and national politicians have dodged the tough question of which, if any, neighborhoods should be abandoned.

December 31
Electric Ticker

Coming soon to a chest near you! Doctors will be equipped to implant the first fully self-contained and self- sufficient artificial heart, the AbioCor, newly approved by the FDA. In clinical trials, none of its recipients survived for more than eighteen months.

Also This Month:
Free at Last

SpiralFrog, a digital music service aimed at challenging Apple’s pay model with free (but ad-supported) downloads, launches this month. The small print: SpiralFrog tunes aren’t iPod-compatible, and regular site visits are required to keep them playing.

Baby Steps

Iraq’s leaders have promised that the growing (though dubiously qualified) Iraqi army will handle security in most, even all, of the country by year’s end. Iraqi troops may still depend on coalition forces for command, support, and logistics.

Containing Kim

Following North Korea’s missile launches this summer, and its recent nuclear test, Japan will begin operations of new Patriot antimissile batteries in Okinawa by the end of the year, part of the U.S. attempt to contain Kim Jong Il’s rogue state.