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Published:April 9th, 2008 10:50 EST
World Chronicle: April 9

World Chronicle: April 9

By Krzys Wasilewski

It happened today in Beijing, China…

Hopes in reaching an agreement with North Korea about its nuclear disarmament dash, as Chinese officials predict no major breakthrough will be reached by autumn. Quoted by the Associated Press, the Chinese vice minister of foreign affairs admitted that although some progress has been made recently, he expects to finalize the talks “around the autumn.” U.S. Special Envoy to Asia Christopher Hill, who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, told reporters that, “We have a lot of work ahead of us. I don't want to suggest we've had any major breakthroughs.” The Bush Administration hoped that North Korea’s disarmament would be one of the few diplomatic successes of the ongoing cabinet, yet recent comments from Pyongyang suggest that it will be Bush’s successor to finalize the agreement.

It happened 141 years ago in Washington, DC…

Alaska, an ice-covered territory of over 586,000 miles, became part of the United States, with Congress ratifying its purchase on April 9, 1867. The vast reserves of gold and oil were yet to be discovered, so the idea of obtaining such a huge but useless piece of land was by many thought preposterous and soon was dubbed “Seward’s Folly,” after the then Secretary of State William Seward. But the chief diplomat undauntedly pursued in his negotiations with the Russians who owned Alaska. At that time, Tsar’s Russia experienced severe problems within its multi-racial and multi-cultural empire and the sale of Alaska came as a great idea. On March 30, 1867, Seward and Eduard de Stoeckl, a Russian minister to the United States, finalized the talks and the United States bought Alaska for $7,200,000, less than 2 cents per acre. Although the purchase almost cost Seward his job, he was proved right years later. Apart from gold and oil that were plentiful in the newly-bought territory, Alaska became a strategic place during the Cold War.

It happened 143 years ago in Appomattox Court House, Virginia…

As it could be expected from two gentlemen/old-school generals, the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant lacked the passions that had plunged the United States into the four-year long Civil War. Over 26,000 Confederate soldiers, shabby and hungry, were to finally end their struggle as the outcome of this national tragedy was already decided. In the days that followed, Lee and Grant negotiated terms of surrender and these were quite lenient than previously expected from the tough Union commander. The Confederate troops had to pledge not to fight against the United States, but were allowed to keep their horses and other property which traveled with them during military operations. The house where Lee surrendered to Grant belonged to a former militia major McLean who, however, was too old to take part in the Civil War. Instead, McLean started a smuggling career, breaking the Union-imposed blockade by trading with Confederates.

It happened 173 years ago in Brussels, Belgium…

It was on this day that Leopold II, the king of Belgium who built Belgium colonial empire in Africa, was born in the Royal Palace in Brussels. Leopold II ascended the throne in December 1865 and at once began to implement his controversial policies. The new king visualized his small country as able to defend itself against its powerful neighbors – France and Germany – and demanded a strong army supported by a system of fortresses on the borders. Outside Europe, Leopold II realized his ambitions by purchasing the African territory known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although many times larger than Belgium, Congo became the king’s personal domain that he ran with an iron fist. It is approximated that as many as 15 million people inhabiting the Congo died from 1885 to 1908 due to the brutal policies of Leopold II. The king himself died, despised by his own subjects at home and hated abroad, on December 17, 1909 – exactly 44 years after assuming the crown.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please write to: krzys.wasilewski@yahoo.com