Twenty Years Ago Today: News Roundup

Christmas Day 1824 no foreign news of material importance in the Manchester Guardian Twenty years ago today, it was a Sunday. And a bit of a slow day for historical events. Well, it was actually a pretty hideous day for the 200 people who drowned when a ship sank off Thailand (most of them Thais who had been working illegally in Myanmar), but sadly this is not one of those stories that English-language newspapers (and ultimately the English-language internet) record in any great detail.

So let's have a quick look at a broader range of stories that the papers are mentioning today...

  • The three surviving Beatles are being offered £2.5m to appear in a festival this summer at the Isle of Wight. This offer may have been inspired by reports that McCartney, Harrison and Starr were getting back in the studio - but as it turned out, this had more to do with the Anthology documentary series than any original music.
  • Gerry Adams went on ITV's Walden programme to say that Sinn Fein might not join in with last year's Downing Street Declaration - and if that's the case, then the hoped-for ceasefire from the IRA will fall through. Adams wanted the UK government to do more to persuade the Unionist side to accept the possibility of Irish unity, which the UK government was refusing to do. We'll be coming back to this story later in the year.
  • In southern Sudan, 100,000 people were on the move, fleeing refugee camps due to continued fighting and random attacks from both the government and SPLA rebels. This part of the world is no stranger to conflict, although in recent years it's been successful in breaking away from Sudan to form a new country, South Sudan - which has then resulted in renewed fighting over internal conflicts.
  • In South Africa, the process of moving towards a post-apartheid state continues. There are elections coming soon, but some groups are still not happy; King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulus made a statement in Durban insisting that they have the right to their own country, while thousands of Zulus (many in traditional clothes and carrying ceremonial spears) demonstrated on the streets outside.
  • John Thanos, a murderer awaiting execution in Maryland, has given the go-ahead for his death to be videotaped so that another inmate can argue that the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, Maryland speedily amended their laws to give condemned prisoners the right to choose lethal injection rather than the gas chamber - so speedily, in fact, that Thanos was able to select this option for his own execution on May 17th.

Many thanks go to Coventry Libraries for making newspaper archives available to anyone with an internet connection and a library card (although sadly this means that I can't link directly to the archives). I've found this rather useful for this little series, although I do tend to get bogged down reading articles that I'm not even going to use. It's just too interesting!