June 15 to June 21 WORLD SNIPER SPREE: Police in Montgomery County, Md., launched a massive manhunt Oct. 3 for a suspected sniper who gunned down and killed seven people in what appeared to be a random, motiveless 16-hour shooting spree in the usually quiet suburban community north of the nation’s capital.

* More bloodshed — Parents in the suburbs around Washington anguished over their children’s safety Oct. 8 after a sniper linked to the murder of seven adults resurfaced to cut down a middle-school student. The teenager was in critical but stable condition after the bullet entered his abdomen and chest.

SHOE BOMBER: Richard Reid, the British man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in December with explosives hidden in his shoes, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 after declaring himself a follower of Osama bin Laden.

* Is it him ? The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera broadcast an audiotape Oct. 6 in which a male voice attributed to Osama bin Laden said the “youths of God” are planning more attacks against the United States. It wasn’t immediately clear when the tape was made.

NOT SO FAST. . . North Korea’s plans to road-test the market economy and engage the world by enticing foreign investment took a hit Oct. 4 when Yang Bin, the Chinese-born entrepreneur enlisted to run the project, was “summoned” by police — reportedly to answer accusations of tax evasion.

* That’s that — North Korea may have reached a face-saving compromise with China to sack Chinese-born Dutch businessman Yang Bin as governor of the Stalinist country’s fledgling capitalist enclave, it was revealed Oct. 9.

MISSILE ‘TESTS’: Pakistan test fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead deep into Indian territory on Oct. 4. Hours later, India fired its Akash surface-to-air missile in a successful “routine test.”

NEPAL: Nepal’s King Gyanendra has stunned the nation by sacking caretaker Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and the Cabinet and taking temporary executive power, it was reported Oct. 5. Gyanendra also declared he would suspend national elections scheduled for next month.

FRANCE: Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe — one of France’s few openly gay politicians — was recovering in hospital Oct. 6 after being stabbed in the stomach in an apparent homophobic attack. During questioning, suspect Azedine Berkane said “he did not like politicians and in particular he did not like homosexuals.”

* Tanker blast — A French oil tanker was rammed Oct. 6 by a small boat packed with explosives as it was about to load at a Yemeni port in the Gulf of Aden, Agence France-Presse reported, citing French Vice Consul Marcel Goncalves. Yemeni officials said the blast was an accident.

MIDEAST: The Palestinian Parliament has ratified a law signed by Yasser Arafat designating Jerusalem as the future Palestinian capital in response to U.S. moves to recognize it as Israeli, it was revealed Oct. 6.

* Deadly raid — At least 13 Palestinians were killed Oct. 7 after Israeli tanks backed by helicopters thundered into the Gaza Strip in a major overnight raid.

BUSH FIRE: In a televised speech Oct. 7, U.S. President George W. Bush called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a “murderous tyrant” and said he may be plotting to attack the U.S. with chemical or biological weapons.

WELSH WISDOM: A Welsh police team dubbed “the Frying Squad” has been formed to sniff out motorists who fuel their cars with cooking oil from fish and chip shops in a bid to avoid paying high government fuel taxes, it was revealed Oct. 9.

FEMME FATALE: Aileen Wuornos, dubbed the “Damsel of Death” for the murders of six men during a yearlong highway killing spree, was executed in Florida on Oct. 9, making her only the third woman put to death by the state since before the Civil War. Wuornos, a prostitute, gunned down at least six men with a .22 caliber handgun.

NATIONAL SPY SHIP: The government said Oct. 4 that the arms-laden vessel that sank in December in the East China Sea after a gunbattle with Japanese patrol boats is a North Korean spy ship. The ship had an array of powerful weapons on board, including two anti-air missile launchers.

TEEN KILLERS? Two 14-year-old boys and a 15-year-old boy who escaped from a reformatory in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, were arrested Oct. 4 on suspicion of murdering Shigemasa Morino, an employee at the facility, during their breakout and stealing his money.

BUILDING MERGER: Mitsui Construction Co. and Sumitomo Construction Co. said Oct. 4 they will merge their operations April 1 after finalizing the terms of an integration plan they unveiled in January.

LOFTY PLANS: Construction of a 600-meter-high tower — which would make it the tallest in the world — is being planned for Ueno Onishi Park in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, it was learned Oct. 5. The tower, tentatively named the New Tokyo Tower, would transmit next-generation terrestrial digital broadcasting.

ADULT FILM: Police said Oct. 5 they have arrested elementary school teacher Takayuki Ikei for allegedly filming video up a teenage girl’s skirt with a hidden camera on a train in Tokyo.

PIRACY RAP: The Institute of Energy Economics, which is affiliated to the trade ministry, has agreed to pay about 10 million yen to compensate 10 computer software companies for pirating their software, it was revealed Oct. 6.

NIKKEI CARNAGE: Tokyo stocks tumbled Oct. 7, with the Nikkei index hitting a fresh 19-year low amid concerns over the negative effects of a plan to accelerate a banking sector cleanup. The 225-issue Nikkei stock average dropped 339.55 points to close at 8,688.00, the lowest finish since June 16, 1983.

* Bank respite — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Oct. 8 the government had decided to postpone the introduction of a refund cap on bank deposits for two years to avoid raising “unnecessary anxieties about the country’s financial system.” The cap was one of Koizumi’s reform pledges.

* Almost there. . . Japan edged closer toward a financial crisis on Oct. 10 as stock prices tumbled to a new 19-year low for the third time in a week, adding urgency to the government’s plans to cushion the pain of a promised cleanup of the ailing banking sector. The Nikkei closed at 8,439.62, its lowest close since April 1983.

ASBESTOS CASE: In a landmark ruling, the Yokohama District Court on Oct. 7 ordered the government to pay 231 million yen to nine workers and the relatives of three deceased employees sickened by prolonged exposure to asbestos at a U.S. Navy base in Yokosuka.

NOBEL, NOBEL: Masatoshi Koshiba, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and two American researchers won the Nobel Prize in physics on Oct. 8 for “pioneering contributions to astrophysics,” including the detection of cosmic neutrinos.

* Double team — Japan got its second Nobel of the year Oct. 9, when Koichi Tanaka of Shimadzu Corp. and two others were named the winners of the 2002 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

ABDUCTEES: The government announced Oct. 9 that the five Japanese who were abducted to North Korea in 1978 would make their first homecoming in 24 years on Oct. 15. The visit is expected to last around two weeks.

LOCAL TRAGEDY: Five 22-year-old men from the city of Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, were killed early Oct. 9 when their car was involved in a head-on collision with a tractor trailer on a boulevard in nearby Matto.