On this day : The 6th March 2001

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The death spiral of Napster begins

In 2000, a new company called Napster created something of a music-fan’s utopia—a world in which nearly every song ever recorded was instantly available on your home computer—for free. Even to some at the time, it sounded too good to be true, and in the end, it was. The fantasy world that Napster created came crashing down in 2001 in the face of multiple copyright-violation lawsuits. After a string of adverse legal decisions, Napster, Inc. began its death spiral on March 6, 2001, when it began complying with a Federal court order to block the transfer of copyrighted material over its peer-to-peer network.

Oh, but people enjoyed it while it lasted. At the peak of Napster’s popularity in late 2000 and early 2001, some 60 million users around the world were freely exchanging digital mp3 files with the help of the program developed by Northeastern University college student Shawn Fanning in the summer of 1999. Radiohead? Robert Johnson? The Runaways? Metallica? Nearly all of their music was right at your fingertips, and free for the taking. Which, of course, was a problem for the bands, like Metallica, which after discovering their song “I Disappear” circulating through Napster prior to its official release, filed suit against the company, alleging “vicarious copyright infringement” under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1996. Hip-hop artist Dr. Dre soon did the same, but the case that eventually brought Napster down was the $20 billion infringement case filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

That case—A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc—wended its way through the courts over the course of 2000 and early 2001 before being decided in favor of the RIAA on February 12, 2001. The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Napster’s claims of fair use, as well as its call for the court to institute a payment system that would have compensated the record labels while allowing Napster to stay in business. Then, on March 5, 2001, District Court Judge Marilyn Patel issued a preliminary injunction ordering Napster to remove, within 72 hours, any songs named by the plaintiffs in a list of their copyrighted material on the Napster network. The following day, March 6, 2001, Napster, Inc. began the process of complying with Judge Patel’s order. Though the company would attempt to stay afloat, it shut down its service just three months later, having begun the process of dismantling itself on this day in 2001.


On this day : The 25th February 1964

Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston


On February 25, 1964, underdog Cassius Clay, age 22, defeats champion Sonny Liston in a technical knockout to win the world heavyweight boxing crown. The highly anticipated match took place in Miami Beach, Florida. Clay, who later became known to the world as Muhammad Ali, went on to become the first fighter to capture the heavyweight title three times.

Liston was a reserved, feared fighter, a decade older than Cassius Clay, and had been world heavyweight champ since defeating Floyd Patterson in 1962. By contrast, Clay was a mouthy underdog who had won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome. While training for their fight, Clay, a natural self-promoter, taunted Liston and boasted to reporters that he would win by knockout. Clay came out strong during the fight, using speed and footwork to his advantage against the slower Liston. After the sixth round, Liston, who was suffering from cuts and bruises under his eyes and an apparent injured shoulder, announced he couldn’t continue. Clay won the match by technical knockout and then announced to the world, “I am the greatest!”

On May 25, 1965, the two fighters met in Lewiston, Maine, for a rematch. The bout ended with a highly controversial first-round knockout for Clay, who by then had become a member of the Nation of Islam and taken a Muslim name, Muhammad Ali. Some people claimed Liston threw the fight, possibly because he was controlled by the Mafia or because he feared retaliation from Black Muslim extremists.

In 1967, while America was at war in Vietnam, Ali refused for religious reasons to join the Army. As a result, he was convicted of draft dodging, stripped of his title and banned from boxing for three years. In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed his conviction and Ali reclaimed the heavyweight crown on January 28, 1974, at the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire against champion George Foreman.

In February 1978, Ali lost the title to Olympic gold medalist Leon Spinks. In a rematch seven months later, Ali defeated Spinks in 15 rounds and to reclaim the heavyweight crown. He then retired. Two years later, he made a brief, unsuccessful comeback before retiring permanently in 1981. Ali’s career record includes 56 wins, 5 losses and 37 knockouts.

Sonny Liston was found dead in his Las Vegas home on January 5, 1971. It’s believed he could have been dead for a week by that time and the cause of his death remains a mystery. During his career, he recorded 50 wins, 39 knockouts and 4 losses.

On this day : The 1st November 1967

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Paul Newman stars in Cool Hand Luke

Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman as a tough, anti-authoritarian, poker-playing prisoner, debuts in theaters. Newman received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the jail-breaking Luke Jackson, whom the American Film Institute in 2003 named one of the top 50 greatest movie heroes in history. For his role as the chain-gang boss, Dragline, co-star George Jackson collected a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Voyage of the Damned, The Amityville Horror, The Pope of Greenwich Village), Cool Hand Luke contained the now-famous lines: “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I have my plastic Jesus, right here on the dashboard of my car…”

At the time of Cool Hand Luke’s debut, Paul Newman was already on the path to becoming one of Hollywood’s greatest leading men. The actor, who was born January 26, 1925, in Cleveland and raised in Shaker Heights, Ohio, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later graduated from Kenyon College. He acted on Broadway in the early 1950s and made his big-screen debut in 1954’s The Silver Chalice. Newman received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Brick Pollitt in 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,based on the Tennessee Williams play and co-starring Elizabeth Taylor. Newman’s next two Best Actor Oscar nominations came for The Hustler (1961) and Hud (1963).

In 1969, the famously blue-eyed actor teamed up with Robert Redford to play a pair of Old West bank robbers in the hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,which earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. The two handsome screen icons collaborated again in 1973’s The Sting, which collected seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Newman went on to star in such movies as Absence of Malice (1981) and The Verdict (1982), both of which earned him Best Actor Oscar nominations, and The Color of Money (1986), for which he took home his first Best Actor Oscar. In the film, directed by Martin Scorsese, Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler who finds a protege in a young player portrayed by Tom Cruise. In the later years of his acting career, Newman also received Oscar nominations for his performances in Nobody’s Fool (1994) and Road to Perdition (2002), with Tom Hanks.

Newman, who outside of acting was known for his avid interest in race-car driving and his Newman’s Own line of foods (the profits of which go to charity), also stepped behind the camera to direct such movies as Rachel, Rachel (1968), which starred his second wife, Joanne Woodward (the couple married in 1958 and starred in 10 movies together) and earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and The Glass Menagerie (1987), which featured Woodward and John Malkovich. Paul Newman died at his home in Westport, Connecticut, on September 26, 2008, at the age of 83.

On this day : The 28th June 1914

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The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

On 28th June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia.

The archduke traveled to Sarajevo in June 1914 to inspect the imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, former Ottoman territories in the turbulent Balkan region that were annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908 to the indignation of Serbian nationalists, who believed they should become part of the newly independent and ambitious Serbian nation. The date scheduled for his visit, June 28, coincided with the anniversary of the First Battle of Kosovo in 1389, in which medieval Serbia was defeated by the Turks. Despite the fact that Serbia did not truly lose its independence until the Second Battle of Kosovo in 1448, June 28 was a day of great significance to Serbian nationalists, and one on which they could be expected to take exception to a demonstration of Austrian imperial strength in Bosnia.

The day was already an important one. For Ferdinand, it marked his wedding anniversary and the only day that the emperor would allow him to be seen in public with his commoner wife, Sophie.

For the Bosnian Serbs, whose country was formally annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908, it was a day of anger. Opposition to the Austro-Hungarian annexation led to the formation of the Young Bosnia movement, largely made up of Serbian and Bosniak students. It was The Black Hand Gang, a more radical group within the movement, that plotted the assassination of the archduke.

As he and his wife drive through Sarajevo in an open top car, the seven assassins of the Black Hand are already in position. The first two would-be assassins miss their chance as the archduke’s car passes by. The third man, Nedeljko Čabrinović throws a bomb at the car but it bounces off the hood and explodes behind, injuring twenty bystanders.

Čabrinović attempts suicide but his cyanide tablet is a dud. He throws himself into a river, only to find it is just four inches deep. He is caught by an angry mob and almost beaten to death before being taken into custody.

The archduke, outraged at the attack, proceeds to a town hall meeting. Later in the day he sets off for the hospital to visit the victims of Čabrinović’s attack. Enroute his driver takes a wrong turn into Franz Josef Street where another of the Black Hand Gang, Gavrilo Princip, is sitting in a café.

Princip, a 19 year old Croat previously rejected from joining the Bosnian guerrillas in the First Balkan War due to his small stature, is determined to prove himself. As the archduke’s car backs out of the street Princip opens fire at point-blank range. He fires two shots, hitting the pregnant Sophie in the stomach and Ferdinand in the neck. Ferdinand cries out “don’t die darling, live for our children” but they both perish there in the car. Princip then turned the gun on himself, but was prevented from shooting it by a bystander who threw himself upon the young assassin. A mob of angry onlookers attacked Princip, who fought back and was subsequently wrestled away by the police. Meanwhile, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie lay fatally wounded in their limousine as it rushed to seek help; they both died within the hour.

Though Princip and his fellow conspirators attempted to deflect the blame away from Serbia, the assassination of the archduke was viewed as a provocation by the Austro-Hungarians. Too young to face the death penalty, Princip was tried and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He died in 1918 from a combination of malnutrition and tuberculosis.

The assassination of Franz-Ferdinand and Sophie set off a rapid chain of events: Austria-Hungary, like many in countries around the world, blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the question of Slav nationalism once and for all. As Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention–which would likely involve Russia’s ally, France, and possibly Britain as well. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun.


On this day : The 16th May 1943


The Dambusters Raid

By 1943 the German threat in North Africa had been negated; there was no chance that the Nazis could or would invade Britain; and the Americans had entered the conflict on the Allied side. Yet still Britain endured regular poundings from Luftwaffe bombing raids ; and the German war machine, centred on the Ruhr, was turning out arms and ammunition for the Third Reich’s forces. Such was the background to 617 Squadron’s Dambusters Raid, or Operation Chastise as it was officially dubbed.
Chastise was intended to hit German industrial production by destroying several strategically important dams that provided both hydro-electric power and water for factories in the area. As the dams were too small to be hit with accuracy by high level bombing, and defended by nets from torpedo attack, a new method was devised by Barnes Wallis – the bouncing bomb. This was a cylindrical device, rotated at high speed to impart backward spin that made it skip over the water like a skimming-stone until hitting the dam walls, at which point its remaining spin would roll it down the face of the dam where a depth sensitive detonator would explode it beneath the water, in theory causing devastating breaches.
The raid proved very costly, 53 of the 133 aircrew on the mission being killed, and eight of the 19 Avro Lancaster bombers not returning. The floods caused by breaches in the Möhne and Eder dams wreaked havoc in the area, and many of those killed were Allied prisoners of war and forced labourers from the USSR. But for more than a month the power generating capacity of the region was drastically reduced; and above all British morale was raised by the daring nature of the attack, and the reassurance that we had secret weapons to combat those it was constantly feared the Germans were developing. The operation’s leader, Guy Gibson , won the VC for his action in drawing fire from planes yet to complete their bomb run by offering his as a target; sadly he was later killed during a mission in 1944.

On this day : The 12th April 1961


First man in space

Aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”

After his historic feat was announced, the attractive and unassuming Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity. He was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Monuments were raised to him across the Soviet Union and streets renamed in his honor.

The triumph of the Soviet space program in putting the first man into space was a great blow to the United States, which had scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.

To Soviet propagandists, the Soviet conquest of space was evidence of the supremacy of communism over capitalism. However, to those who worked on the Vostok program and earlier on Sputnik (which launched the first satellite into space in 1957), the successes were attributable chiefly to the brilliance of one man: Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Because of his controversial past, Chief Designer Korolev was unknown in the West and to all but insiders in the USSR until his death in 1966.

Born in the Ukraine in 1906, Korolev was part of a scientific team that launched the first Soviet liquid-fueled rocket in 1933. In 1938, his military sponsor fell prey to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s purges, and Korolev and his colleagues were also put on trial. Convicted of treason and sabotage, Korolev was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. The Soviet authorities came to fear German rocket advances, however, and after only a year Korolev was put in charge of a prison design bureau and ordered to continue his rocketry work.

In 1945, Korolev was sent to Germany to learn about the V-2 rocket, which had been used to devastating effect by the Nazis against the British. The Americans had captured the rocket’s designer, Wernher von Braun, who later became head of the U.S. space program, but the Soviets acquired a fair amount of V-2 resources, including rockets, launch facilities, blueprints, and a few German V-2 technicians. By employing this technology and his own considerable engineering talents, by 1954 Korolev had built a rocket that could carry a five-ton nuclear warhead and in 1957 launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile.

That year, Korolev’s plan to launch a satellite into space was approved, and on October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was fired into Earth’s orbit. It was the first Soviet victory of the space race, and Korolev, still technically a prisoner, was officially rehabilitated. The Soviet space program under Korolev would go on to numerous space firsts in the late 1950s and early ’60s: first animal in orbit, first large scientific satellite, first man, first woman, first three men, first space walk, first spacecraft to impact the moon, first to orbit the moon, first to impact Venus, and first craft to soft-land on the moon. Throughout this time, Korolev remained anonymous, known only as the “Chief Designer.” His dream of sending cosmonauts to the moon eventually ended in failure, primarily because the Soviet lunar program received just one-tenth the funding allocated to America’s successful Apollo lunar landing program.

Korolev died in 1966. Upon his death, his identity was finally revealed to the world, and he was awarded a burial in the Kremlin wall as a hero of the Soviet Union. Yuri Gagarin was killed in a routine jet-aircraft test flight in 1968. His ashes were also placed in the Kremlin wall.

On this day in Football History : February 27 1977

Maradona Goes International


On 27 February 1977, Argentina beat Hungary 5-1 in a friendly that marked the international debut of 16-year old Diego Maradona. At the time, Hungary had been the more successful team, with two World Cup finals (1938 and 1954), three Olympic gold medals (1952, 1964, 1968) and one silver medal (1972). But they were in decline, failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, the 1976 Olympics, or the 1976 European Championship. Argentina, meanwhile, had reached the Olympic final in 1928 and the World Cup final in 1930, but had since done little on the global stage (they did have 12 Copa América trophies, however).

For the friendly, they met at the Bombanera in Buenos Aires, where approximately 60,000 people turned out to watch. By half time, the hosts were up 4-0 with a hat-trick from Daniel Bertoni (11′, 18′) and a goal from Leopoldo Luque (37′). Luque added another just after the break (47′) to extend the lead to 5-0 before Hungary substitute Zombori Sándor pulled one back in the 61st minute.
One minute later, Argentina made a couple of substitutions of their own, taking Ricardo Villa off for Jorge Benítez and replacing Luque with young Argentinos Juniors midfielder Diego Maradona. It was Maradona’s first appearance for Argentina and he would go on to become the country’s greatest player, earning a total of 91 caps and leading them them to World Cup glory in 1986.