What's new in 2008?


NEW HAMPSHIRE: At 12:01 today, the state became the fourth to legalize civil unions and about 20 couples decided to be the first to take advantage of the new law with a late-night ceremony on the Statehouse steps. New Hampshire joins Vermont, Connecticut and New Jersey in legalizing civil unions. Massachusetts is the only state that allows gay marriage. New Hampshire estimated 3,500 to 4,000 civil unions will be performed in the first year.


CYPRUS AND MALTA: The two European Union newcomers started using the euro at the stroke of midnight. The Mediterranean islands, both former British colonies, scrapped the Cyprus pound and Maltese lira to bring the number of countries using the shared currency to 15. Politicians ceremonially withdrew euros from automated teller machines after midnight, with fireworks and outdoor celebrations in the two capitals, Nicosia and Valletta.

FRANCE: Starting at midnight, the smoke-filled cafe was to become a memory in France. Following up on a ban last year on smoking in many indoor locations, cigarettes will now be off-limits in dance clubs, restaurants, hotels, casinos and cafes. People can still smoke in their homes, hotel rooms and sealed smoking chambers at establishments that decide to provide them.

-- Associated Press