Headline News 2000–2003

With the overwhelming events of September 11, 2001, it is easy to forget other notable events of the time period. With that in mind, it is important to note other significant moments in history, such as the very publicized execution of Timothy James McVeigh on June 11, 2001, who had been convicted of eleven federal offenses and was ultimately executed as a result of his role in the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing.

Enron, WorldCom, and Corporate Scandal

In December 2001 Enron, the largest energy corporation in the United States, filed for bankruptcy. Prior to this, Enron had been investigated for illegally driving up power prices during California's energy crisis. Enron had been under federal investigation for “cooking the books,” — that is, falsifying higher earnings and hiding the company's debt. Perhaps the greatest tragedy was the loss of its employees' retirement funds. In 2002 WorldCom, a major telecommunications corporation, went bankrupt after admitting to illegally altering its earnings and debt reports. Following Enron and World Com came charges against Qwest, Global Crossing, Tyco, Adelphia, as corporate America came under intense scrutiny for illegal activities, incredible greed, and criminal disregard for its employees.

Sino-American Tension

On April 1, 2001, a United States Navy reconnaissance plane on a mission over international waters was intercepted by a Chinese fighter aircraft and trailed. During the flight a collision between the planes took place when the wing of the U.S. plane hit the Chinese fighter. The U.S. reconnaissance plane, with twenty-four crewmembers, was forced to land at a military base on nearby Hainan Island. On April 11, the crewmembers were released after a letter of apologies was issued; one apology for the death of pilot Wang Wei and another apology for entering Chinese air space without permission to land the plane. The crewmembers were not released for ten days, and the plane was not returned to the United States until July 3, 2001.

Medical Marijuana

In the case of United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, decided on May 14, 2001, the Court decided that federal law did not allow exception to use of an illegal substance, even for medical reasons. Interestingly enough, the ruling did not overturn state laws giving patients access to the medicinal use of marijuana.

Medical marijuana has been used for the relief of certain types of pains, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS. While twelve states have legalized medical marijuana use since 1996, the American Medical Association calls for further studies for the medical use of marijuana.

Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cells

The attempts to clone animals produced problems and defects and led to many scientific, moral, and religious debates about cloning. Even now, the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research remains controversial. The stem cells come from a fertilized egg four days after conception. The debate pits pro-life advocates against many in the scientific community in favor of continuing research funding in hopes that the stem cells may also be able to replace damaged or sick cells in a patient with an injury or degenerative disease.

Rejection of Anti–Ballistic Missile Treaty

On December 13, 2001, President Bush gave notice that the United States would be withdrawing from the Anti–Ballistic Missile Treaty, marking the first time in recent history that the United States has withdrawn from a major international arms treaty. The United States withdrew on June 13, 2002.

Rejection of the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court was established on July 17, 1998. Today, 104 countries have submitted to the jurisdiction of the ICC. The court is based in The Hague, Netherlands and hears cases involving international law, including allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. To date, the United States has not ratified the ICC, arguing that prosecutions may be brought against United States nationals for political reasons.

Kyoto, Global Warming, and the EPA

The Kyoto Protocol (named for the city of Kyoto, Japan), which, for the first time, would require certain nations to cut the emissions of gases that contribute to global warming, was never ratified by the Senate when President Clinton was in office. After assuming office in January 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the United States would withdraw from the Kyoto Treaty. As late as 2005, the Bush administration was still stating that there were many “inconsistencies” in reports that global warming was taking place.

The National Academy of Sciences concluded that global warming was not simply a cyclical stage of Earth's development and that human activity was also responsible. The Bush administration did little to curtail the emission of carbon dioxide pollution.

In December 2002, nine states — New York, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont — brought a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency that challenged new regulations of the Bush administration that would remove some of the protections of the 1970 Clean Air Act.

Execution of Mentally Retarded

The holding of the Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia, decided on June 25, 2002, found that the execution of mentally retarded individuals was a “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

Explosion of Space Shuttle Columbia

On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded in the skies over Texas as it was re-entering the earth's atmosphere. All seven crewmembers were killed in the disaster.

North Korea and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

On January 10, 2003, North Korea announced that they were withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, following accusations made by the United States that the country was engaged in nuclear weapons programs. North Korea had ratified the treaty in 1985 and was the first country ever to withdraw from the treaty.

“Mission Accomplished”

On May 1, 2003, President Bush announced from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln that major combat operations in Iraq were over. Behind him was a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” and the President hailed a “job well done.”

There has been much controversy over this event and the president's claim of victory in Iraq. Although the White House first said that it was the navy who put up the banner, later reports from the White House stated that they had it made for the navy to put up on the ship. In retrospect, all agree the announcement was unfortunately premature.

Saddam Hussein Captured

Saddam Hussein, at age sixty-six, was captured by American troops on December 13, 2003. He was found hiding in a dirt hole at a farmhouse about ten miles south of his hometown, Tikrit. Saddam Hussein had not been seen since Baghdad fell to coalition forces in April 2003.

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