Monday March 24, 2014 the 82nd day and 12th week of 2014, there 283 days and 40 weeks left in the year. Highlights of today in world history
1977 United States and Cuba engage in direct negotiations
For the first time since severing diplomatic relations in 1961, Cuba and the United Statesentered into direct negotiations when the two nations discuss fishing rights. The talks marked a dramatic, but short-lived, change in relations between the two Cold Warenemies.
Fidel Castrohad led Cuba farther away from the U.S. orbit and closer to the Soviet bloc since coming to power in 1959. Throughout the 1960s,the United States and Cuba maintained hostility toward one another. By the mid-1970s, the deteriorating state of U.S.-Latin America relations suggested that perhaps the time had come to ease tensions with Castro. Though the Cuban dictator was feared by many in Latin America, he was also a hero to many others for his success in remaining independent from the “colossus of the North”?the United States.
When Carter took office in 1977, he indicated to Cuba that the United States was prepared to enter into direct diplomatic negotiations on a number of issues, including fishing rights. On March 24, 1977, negotiators from the United States and Cuba met in New York Cityto discuss the fishing issue. It was the first time since 1961 that U.S. and Cuban officials had talked face to face on any issue. In the months that followed, other breakthroughs occurred. The two nations agreed to establish “interest sections” in the other’s country that would operate as de facto embassies pending the restoration of full diplomatic relations. Castro freed some political prisoners and Carter eased travel restrictions to Cuba.
These were encouraging signs, but many factors worked together to prevent any progress toward normalized relations. The strong and vocal Cuban-American community in the United States pressured congressmen and the president to back away from closer relations with Castro. Officials within Carter’s administration cautioned the president about appearing too “soft” with the communist dictator. When Carter suffered a series of diplomatic setbacks in 1979, such as the fall of the pro-American leaders of Nicaragua and Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, he began to toughen his stance with Cuba. He criticized Cuba for its role in the Angolan civil war, and warned Castro about allowing Soviet troops into Cuba. Castro responded to these new attacks in a novel manner. In early 1980 he encouraged tens of thousand of Cubans, some from jails and asylums, to immigrate to the United States. Over 100,000 Cubans flooded into the United States, causing some serious problems, particularly in south Florida. By the end of 1980, U.S.-Cuban relations were as acrimonious as ever.
1989 Exxon Valdez runs aground
The worst oil spill in U.S. territory began when the super tanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster.
It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanour negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.
Exxon itself was condemned by the National Transportation Safety Board and in early 1991 agreed under pressure from environmental groups to pay a penalty of $100 million and provide $1 billion over a 10-year period for the cost of the cleanup. However, later in the year, both Alaska and Exxon rejected the agreement, and in October 1991 the oil giant settled the matter by paying $25 million, less than 4 percent of the cleanup aid promised by Exxon earlier that year.
1996 Shannon Lucid enters Mir
U.S. astronaut Shannon Lucid transferred to the Russian space station Mir from the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis for a planned five-month stay. Lucid was the first female U.S. astronaut to live in a space station.
Lucid, a biochemist, shared Mir with Russian cosmonauts Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev, conducting scientific experiments during her stay. Beginning in August, her scheduled return to Earth was delayed more than six weeks because of last-minute repairs to the booster rockets of Atlantis and then by a hurricane. Finally, on September 26, 1996, she returned to Earth aboard Atlantis, touching down at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Her 188-day sojourn aboard Mir set a new space endurance record for an American and a world endurance record for a woman.
1998 A school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, kills five
Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shut their classmates and teachers in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Golden, the younger of the two boys, asked to be excused from his class, pulled a fire alarm and then ran to join Johnson in a wooded area 100 yards away from the school’s gym. As the students streamed out of the building, Johnson and Golden opened fire and killed four students and a teacher. Ten other children were wounded.
The two boys were caught soon afterward. In their possession were thirteen fully loaded firearms, including three semi-automatic rifles, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Their stolen van had a stockpile of supplies as well as a crossbow and several hunting knives. All of the weapons were taken from the Golden family’s personal arsenal. Both of the boys had been raised around guns. They belonged to gun clubs and even participated in practical shooting competitions, which involve firing at simulated moving human targets. Golden reportedly shot several dogs in preparation for the actual shooting.
Because Johnson and Golden were thirteen and eleven, they could not be charged as adults in Arkansas. They were both adjudicated as delinquent and sent to reform institutes. They were to be released when they turned eighteen, as they could legally no longer be housed with minors, but Arkansas bought a facility in 1999 that enabled the state to keep the boys in custody until their twenty-first birthdays. Johnson was freed in 2005; Golden was released in 2007. Neither has any criminal record. Arkansas changed its laws following the Jonesboro tragedy so that child murderers can be imprisoned past twenty-one.
School shootings were highly publicized in the media during the late 1990s who ascribed the supposed epidemic to violent movies, television and video games. However, violence against students in school actually went down significantly in the late 1990s, throwing into the question the entire theory.
1999 NATO bombs Yugoslavia
On March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) commenced air strikes against Yugoslavia with the bombing of Serbian military positions in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The NATO offensive came in response to a new wave of ethnic cleansinglaunched by Serbian forces against the Kosovar Albanians on March 20.
The Kosovo region lay at the heart of the Serbian empire in the late Middle Agesbut was lost to the Ottoman Turks in 1389 following Serbia’s defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. By the time Serbia regained control of Kosovo from Turkey in 1913, there were few Serbs left in a region that had come to be dominated by ethnic Albanians. In 1918, Kosovo formally became a province of Serbia, and it continued as such after communist leader Josip Broz Tito established the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945, comprising the Balkan states of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia. However, Tito eventually gave in to Kosovar demands for greater autonomy, and after 1974 Kosovo existed as independent state in all but name.
Serbs came to resent Kosovo’s autonomy, which allowed it to act against Serbian interests, and in 1987 Slobodan Milosevic was elected leader of Serbia’s Communist Party with a promise of restoring Serbian rule to Kosovo. In 1989, Milosevic became president of Serbia and moved quickly to suppress Kosovo, stripping its autonomy and in 1990 sending troops to disband its government. Meanwhile, Serbian nationalism led to the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation in 1991, and in 1992 the Balkan crisis deteriorated into civil war. A new Yugoslav state, consisting only of Serbia and the small state of Montenegro, was created, and Kosovo began four years of nonviolent resistance to Serbian rule.
The militant Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerged in 1996 and began attacking Serbian police in Kosovo. With arms obtained in Albania, the KLA stepped up its attacks in 1997, prompting a major offensive by Serbian troops against the rebel-held Drenica region in February-March 1998. Dozens of civilians were killed, and enlistment in the KLA increased dramatically. In July, the KLA launched an offensive across Kosovo, seizing control of nearly half the province before being routed in a Serbian counteroffensive later that summer. The Serbian troops drove thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes and were accused of massacring Kosovo civilians.
In October, NATO threatened Serbia with air strikes, and Milosevic agreed to allow the return of tens of thousands of refugees. Fighting soon resumed, however, and talks between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs in Rambouillet, France, in February 1999 ended in failure. On March 18, further peace talks in Paris collapsed after the Serbian delegation refused to sign a deal calling for Kosovo autonomy and the deployment of NATO troops to enforce the agreement. Two days later, the Serbian army launched a new offensive in Kosovo. On March 24, NATO air strikes began.
In addition to Serbian military positions, the NATO air campaign targeted Serbian government buildings and the country’s infrastructure in an effort to destabilize the Milosevic regime. The bombing and continued Serbian offensives drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians into neighbouring Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Many of these refugees were airlifted to safety in the United Statesand other NATO nations. On June 10, the NATO bombardment ended when Serbia agreed to a peace agreement calling for the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo and their replacement by NATO peacekeeping troops.
With the exception of two U.S. pilots killed in a training mission in Albania, no NATO personnel lost their lives in the 78-day operation. There were some mishaps, however, such as miscalculated bombings that led to the deaths of Kosovar Albanian refugees, KLA members, and Serbian civilians. The most controversial incident was the May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which killed three Chinese journalists and caused a diplomatic crisis in U.S.-Chinese relations.
On June 12, NATO forces moved into Kosovo from Macedonia. The same day, Russian troops arrived in the Kosovo capital of Pristine and forced NATO into agreeing to a joint occupation. Despite the presence of peacekeeping troops, the returning Kosovar Albanians retaliated against Kosovo’s Serbian minority, forcing them to flee into Serbia. Under the NATO occupation, Kosovar autonomy was restored, but the province remained officially part of Serbia.
Slobodan Milosevic was ousted from power by a popular revolution in Belgrade in October 2000. He was replaced by the popularly elected Vojislav Kostunica, a moderate Serbian nationalist who promised to reintegrate Serbia into Europe and the world after a decade of isolation.
Slobodan Milosevic died in prison in the Netherlands on March 11, 2006, shortly before his trial for crimes against humanity and genocidewas due to end.
2002 Halle Berry, Denzel Washington triumph at Oscars
On this day in 2002, the 74th annual Academy Awards ceremony is held at its brand new venue, the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Completed the previous November, the $94 million Kodak Theatre would be the first permanent home for the Academy Awards ceremony.
At the first Oscar ceremony since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the mood was relatively subdued, and security was tighter than ever. That year?s Oscar race had been seen as particularly close, with a number of high-profile films in the running for Best Picture: besides the front-runner, Ron Howard?s A Beautiful Mind, many were predicting wins for the musical Moulin Rouge or The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first instalment of Peter Jackson?s big-screen adaptation of the popular J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. Two sleeper picks, Robert Altman?s ensemble murder mystery Gosford Park and Todd Field?s In the Bedroom, rounded out the Best Picture category.
Before Best Picture was announced, however, the Oscars made history, when Halle Berry was presented with the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as the wife of a death row inmate in Monster?s Ball. Berry was the first African-American performer to win in the Best Actress category and only the second African-American actress ever to be honoured by the Academy (the first was Hattie McDaniel, who won for her supporting role in 1939?s Gone with the Wind). As an emotional Berry clutched her Oscar, she tearfully called the moment ?so much bigger than me? and declared that ?the door had been opened? for actresses of colour.
On the heels of Berry?s historic win, Denzel Washington became only the second African-American man to win in the Best Actor category, accepting the statuette for his role as a corrupt Los Angeles police officer in Training Day. It was the first time that African-American performers had taken home both of the year?s top acting awards. Sidney Poitier, the first black Best Actor winner (for 1964?s Lilies of the Field ) received an honorary Oscar that night as well.
In another Oscar first, the animated film Shrek, produced by DreamWorks SKG (a studio formed in 1999 by Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen), won the first-ever Academy Award given in a brand new category: Best Animated Feature Film. With Mike Myers voicing the titular character, a lovable green ogre, and Cameron Diaz voicing his adored Princess Fiona, Shrek beat out the two other entrants in its category, Monsters, Inc. and Jimmy Neutron.
The night ended with Howard taking home the Oscar for Best Director and A Beautiful Mind winning Best Picture.
2007 Ferrari’s around-the-world relay stops in L.A.
On this day in 2007, an around-the-world relay celebrating Italian sports car maker Ferrari’s 60th anniversary passed through Los Angeles, California. The relay began earlier that year, on January 28, in Abu Dhabi and continued on through 50 countries including Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Australia, Mexico, America, Canada and Russia, before ending on June 23, 2007 at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy. Thousands of Ferrari owners and their cars participated at various points of the relay, serving as symbolic bearers of a relay baton featuring 60 badges representing key innovations in the luxury automaker’s history.
The relay was officially kicked off in January 2007 by Piero Ferrari, an executive at the company founded by his father Enzo. The elder Ferrari was born in Modena, Italy, on February 18, 1898 (although his birth wasn’t registered until two days later due to bad weather). Starting in 1920, he began racing cars for Alfa Romeo and later became head of the company’s racing division. After leaving Alfa Romeo in 1939, Ferrari went on to found his own manufacturing firm; during its early years, which coincided with World War II, the company built machine tools, not race cars. In 1947, the first Ferrari sports car, the 125 S, which featured a 1.5 litre, V-12 engine and a prancing stallion logo, made its debut. In the decades that followed, Ferrari earned a reputation for producing powerful, pricey sports cars and high-performance racing vehicles.
The company experienced one of its first major racing victories in 1949, when a Ferrari driven by Luigi Chinetti won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 24 Hour race. In 1951, Ferrari collected its inaugural Formula One win at the British Grand Prix. The next year, Ferrari driver Alberto Ascari won the Formula One World Championship. Ferrari would eventually become Formula One’s oldest and most successful team: As of 2009, Ferrari had collected 15 driver championships and 16 constructor championships, along with numerous other records. The list of drivers who have competed for Ferrari over the years includes Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher (who won a record-setting seven driver world championships).
The final car to be developed under Enzo Ferrari’s leadership was the F40, which was introduced in 1987. Enzo Ferrari died on August 14, 1988, at the age of 90. The Ferrari brand continues to be a compelling one. In May 2009, at an auction held at Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello, a black 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sold for $12,402,500, setting a record for the most money ever paid for a car at a public auction