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Published:April 25th, 2008 12:38 EST
World Chronicle: April 25

World Chronicle: April 25

By Krzys Wasilewski

It happened today in London, Great Britain...

In times of financial crises, the British, unlike their American friends, have more trust in the Conservative Party. An opinion poll released by the Daily Telegraph newspaper shows that the ruling Labor Party would lose its parliamentary majority, should the election be held today. With 26 percent, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's camp would trail the Conservatives, led by young and charismatic David Cameron, by 18 points. Such high support for the right has not been registered since the late 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher lived at 10 Downing Street. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, could hope for some 17 percent of the vote. For British commentators the Labor's poor performance is a direct result of the abolition of the 10 percent tax which, by far, was paid by the poorest citizens. Although no general election will be held until 2010, the British will go to polling booths next week to pick their local representatives.

 

It happened 25 years ago in Augusta, Maine...

Samantha Smith, an 11-year-old girl from Maine, was invited today to the Soviet Union, as a response to her touching letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. Andropov came to power in late 1982 and was widely thought to be a hardliner who was ready to start World War III. After one prophetic article in an American newspaper, Samantha, then 10 years old, wrote to Andropov, asking what he really intended. Touched by the girl's sincerity and hoping to score some points in public relations, the Soviet leader invited the girl to visit him in Russia and testify herself that his country was not as bad as some Americans imagined. Indeed, Samantha with her parents came to Moscow in July 1983; after two weeks Samantha told reporters that “Russians were just like us.” After returning to the United States, she continued her peace campaign that took her to Japan in December 1983. Samantha became such a celebrity in America that no politician could refuse her an interview. Among her guests were Democratic presidential candidates in the 1984 campaign, George McGovern and Jesse Jackson. Her life was brutally ended on August 25, 1985, when an airplane with Samantha on board crashed during the landing. Her funeral was attended by over 1,000 people – among them the Soviet ambassador to the United States. President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, who had replaced Andropov, sent Samantha's parents condolences.

 

It happened 149 years ago in Cairo, Egypt...

It was on this day in 1859 that the first spades were stuck in the ground that in ten years would join Europe and Asia as the Suez Canal. Although some sources confirm that the first attempts to lay water between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea were made by the ancient Egyptians, it wasn't until Napoleon Bonaparte that modern plans would be sketched. Yet Bonaparte proved a better general than an architect and the works were abandoned. In 1856 the French developer Ferdinand Lesseps bought concessions from the rulers of Egypt and, having collected money from various sponsors, he started preparatory excavation. The most interested country in the world trade, Great Britain, suspiciously observed the French works but very few in London expected the canal to succeed. Finally, in 1869, the Suez Canal was opened and, to a great surprise in the British capital, it became an immediate financial success. Fearing being blocked from the trade with India, the British prime minister made the ruler of Egypt sell him his shares of the venture and thus, through the back doors, Great Britain joined France as the owner of the Suez Canal.

 

It happened 216 years ago in Strasbourg, France...

One of the best known and energetic melodies, La Marseillaise, was composed today in 1792. Its author, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, was an army captain and an ardent believer in the Revolution. After one of heated debates in Strasbourg, where his contingent was stationed, de Lisle began to write a song, which, he hoped, would accompany his fellow soldiers on battlefields across Europe. The captain titled his work The Battle Hymn of the Rhine Army, a name changed into La Marseillaise in August the same year, after the song became popular among troops in Paris. One year later, de Lisle was expelled from the army and arrested for political activities only to be released soon after. In 1795, the central government made it the national anthem; however, both Napoleon Bonaparte and King Louis XVIII banned it from public performances. It wouldn't be until 1879 that La Marseillaise would again serve as the country's first song. Its popularity has exceeded France's borders; its first tunes can be heard on the Beatles' All You Need Is Love song, as well as in countless movies.

 

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