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Published:April 17th, 2008 12:56 EST
World Chronicle: April 17

World Chronicle: April 17

By Krzys Wasilewski

It happened today in Washington, DC…

Some 45,000 people from all over the country gathered at Nationals Park, filling the place to capacity, to attend the mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. Those who could not be there in person watched the ceremony on TV as all major national channels included the broadcast in their schedule. Freedom and hope dominated the papal sermon, often disrupted by enthusiastic rounds of applause. Quoted by the Associated Press, Benedict XVI told the gathered: “Americans have always been a people of hope. Your ancestors came to this country with the experience of finding new freedom and opportunity.” As expected, the pope also addressed the issue of the recent pedophile scandals in the Catholic Church, arguing that young people must be protected from hostile environments. Fragments of the sermon were delivered in Spanish as approximately half of the American Catholic community is of Latino origin.

It happened today in Dublin, Ireland…

A business class flight from Ireland to the United States for only eight dollars, including taxes? Sounds impossible, but due to a mistake of Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, such bargains were available on the Internet on Wednesday. Today the company announced it would seek a way to cancel the super cheap tickets that normally would cost over $2,000. Some 100 people were notified by the airline that the trip of their dreams would not come true. Far from blaming itself, the company accuses its customers of naivety. Aer Lingus official told the AFP news agency “to sell a business class flight for a fiver... that is a genuine mistake, people are going to know that there is something up.”

It happened 33 years ago in Phnom Penh, Cambodia…

April 17, 1975, marked the fall of the Republican government in Cambodia, overthrown by the Khmer Rouge. The five-year civil war had turned the prosperous Southeast Asian country to ruins, but the worst was yet to come. Democratic Kampuchea, as the Communists renamed their country, became an unwilling witness to the greatest genocide since the Holocaust. It is estimated that around three million people could have perished in various labor camps and prisons that mushroomed in the country since the Khmer Rouge came to power. The mass killings were ordered by Pol Pot – then prime minister – who liked to say that “the only good bourgeois is a dead bourgeois.” Eventually the bloody regime was toppled by the Vietnamese in 1979. Some believed that if the Watergate scandal had not led to Richard M. Nixon‘s resignation, the American president could have saved Cambodia from falling to the Communists.

It happened 47 years ago in the Bay of Pigs, Cuba…

Had the CIA-planned operation succeeded, the name of Fidel Castro would have disappeared from world books long time ago. Instead, the Bay of Pigs Invasion carried out on April 17, 1961, turned out to be one of the greatest debacles in the history of American diplomacy and intelligence. Prepared during the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower but executed by the Kennedy Administration, the operation hoped to overthrow Castro’s regime by arming some 1,500 Cuban refugees and transporting them back to Cuba. The paramilitary was to be supported by the American Air Force, yet President Kennedy decided the U.S. military should not be directly engaged in the invasion. As it could be expected, the Communist forces quickly defeated the invaders and Fidel Castro was hailed the national hero.

It happened 147 years ago in Richmond, Virginia…

It was on April 17, 1861, five days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, that Virginia seceded from the Union. The decision was a great blow for the United States as it was Virginia that had played a major role in the writing of the Constitution and given the country most presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Soon after the secession, Virginia adopted the Confederate constitution and Richmond became the capital of the Confederate States of America. Two years later Virginia’s northern counties rebelled against the South, creating the new state of West Virginia and joining the Union. Apart from its historical significance, Virginia held the national record of the place where the largest number of Civil War battles were fought, among them both of the Bull Run battles; the Seven Days Battles; and the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse, which turned out to be the last battle of the four-year conflict. On January 26, 1870, almost nine years after the secession, Virginia was returned to the Union.

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