Conflicts concerning North Korea's nuclear development
program sped-up at an alarming rate in 2003. In January, North Korea (under
the leadership of Kim Jong-II) withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. In February, it was confirmed that North Korea had re-activated
operations at one of its nuclear facilities and in August the government
in Pyongyang announced that it had developed nuclear missile capability
and was looking to conduct tests in the near future.
A deadly new respiratory virus called SARS captured world attention in
early 2003. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) started in Southern
China and by March 2003 the disease had spread to other countries. In
total, over 8,000 people became infected and 774 died before the virus
In 2003, a "Road Map" outlining steps with the aim to bring
peace between Israelis and Palestinians, was unveiled. Endorsed by the
United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia, the
Road Map called for concrete steps taken by Israelis and Palestinians
to alleviate terrorism and allow for the creation of a democratic Palestinian
state. The steps were: Phase 1 - Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing
Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions, Phase 2 - Transition,
Phase 3 - Permanent Status Agreement and End of the Israeli-Palestinian
It was a tragedy that sent NASA back to the drawing board-just one week
after the 17th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion.
On February 1, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered
the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard: commander
Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; payload commander Michael Anderson;
mission specialists David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Kalpana Chawla; and
Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. The breakup occurred 40 miles above
Earth, and fiery debris was showered across Texas and Louisiana.
World events took a major turn in March, when the U.S. launched an invasion
in Iraq to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The rationale for U.S.
invasion relied heavily on the claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass
destruction, and that they supported international terrorism, which contributed
to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. International cooperation
was scarce, save the notable exceptions of the United Kingdom and Spain,
and many nations explicitly opposed the invasion on the grounds that it
was based on flawed evidence and hasty decision-making.
Major operations in Iraq ceased on April 15, with George W. Bush prematurely
declaring military victory. Since that date, the undertaking of the rebuilding
of Iraq has proceeded slowly, with many doubting the planning and the
planners who are overseeing the project. Progress has further been plagued
by consistent and continuing guerilla attacks on coalition forces that
have taken the lives of hundreds of coalition soldiers as of December.
In May, a scandal broke out at the venerable New York Times when it was
discovered that a featured domestic affairs reporter, Jayson Blair, had
fabricated countless facts and even entire stories during his tenure at
the paper. As a result of the discoveries, a major overhaul took place
at the respected newspaper , with Howell Raines resigning from his post
In June, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas anti-sodomy
law. Many pundits saw this as opening the door to legalized gay marriage
in the U.S. In November, the Massachusetts State Supreme Court concluded
that the State Constitution cannot deny the right of marriage to homosexuals.
The topic sparked an active debate nationwide. In a related story, the
Episcopal Church voted to instate an openly gay priest as a bishop, marking
the first time an openly gay person reached the status of bishop in the
Noted comedian and actor Bob Hope died on July 27, 2003 at the age of
100. Hope made a name for himself on stage in the vaudeville days. He
then moved to radio and television , performed on Broadway and acted in
some notable Hollywood films later in his career. Starting with World
War II, Hope started performing for U.S. soldiers on USO tours. He continued
to perform overseas for the military throughout the rest of his career.
On Thursday, August 14 2003 a blackout hit major cities in the U.S. and
Canada, including New York City , Cleveland, Ohio , Detroit, Michigan
, and Toronto and Ottawa , Canada. The blackout left millions without
power for periods of time ranging from a few hours to over a day. Following
the blackout, accusations of blame shuttled across the border between
the U.S. and Canada, and the public was left without a reasonable explanation
In 2003, scientists officially discovered the existence of "dark
matter", sometimes referred to as "dark energy". The existence
of such dark matter had been predicted but never proven until this year.
All previously known particles emit or reflect light, which makes them
relatively easy to observe and understand. However, these particles only
comprise approximately 4 percent of the known universe, the rest of the
space taken up by "dark matter."
The Recording Industry Association of America decided to play hardball
with music-filesharing afficionados by handing down almost over 350 lawsuits
to people who illegally traded music over the Internet. Recipients of
the lawsuits included 13-year-old girls and 75-year-old grandmothers who
had never before used the Internet. As an alternative to the illegal trading
phenomenon, Apple devised a legal way for people to get digital music
by introducing the concept of $0.99 song downloads from their new I-Tunes
service. A flurry of competitors arose quickly in the aftermath of Apple's
Controversy ensued after the revelation that New York Stock Exchange Board
Chief Dick Grasso had a compensation package totaling over 139 million
dollars. Grasso was not accused of illegal activity, merely of having
a massively oversized paycheck. As a result, he was forced to resign from
the NYSE, a non-profit organization.
Country singer, guitarist, songwriter and legend, Johnny Cash died at
age 71 on September 12, 2003 of complications from diabetes. He started
his career in Memphis in 1955 and began to record hits such as "I
Walk the Line". Cash was a major figure in country and western music.
He was noted for his performances at prisons and appeared widely in concert,
on television, and in films.
In the still pervasive aftermath of September 11, 2001, controversy continued
to grow surrounding the designs for World Trade Center space. Daniel Libeskind
was initially chosen to design the memorial site but Larry Silverstein,
who holds the lease on the space, appointed architect David Childs to
oversee the project. The two architects have feuded over their differing
visions, but came together to reveal a joint design in December, 2003.
In a rare event for Major League Baseball, both the Chicago Cubs and the
Boston Red Sox reached the playoffs in the fall of 2003. In a twist of
fate that left many fans marveling at the realities of baseball curses,
they both failed to reach the World Series in stunning fashion. The Cubs
relinquished a 3 games to 1 lead in their series versus the Florida Marlins,
while the Red Sox squandered a 3 games to 2 lead in their series versus
their arch-rival New York Yankees.
On Wednesday, October 15 China made history by becoming only the third
nation to send a man into space. By sending astronaut Yang Liwei into
orbit, China followed Russia and the United States as the only countries
to accomplish the feat.
After an unprecedented recall vote, in which the people of California
ousted current Democrat governor Gray Davis - citing a $38 billion deficit,
high unemployment rates, and a struggling school system-actor (and Republican)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected to the post, securing a whopping 48
percent of the votes. "I want to be the governor of the people,"
said Schwarzenegger. "I know that together we can make this the greatest
state in the greatest country in the world."
2003 was an amazing, whirlwind of a year for Annika Sorenstam: She won
two majors--the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open--to complete
the career Grand Slam. And at the Colonial, she became the first woman
in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event. The Wonder Woman of golf was
also inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in October. At 33, she
was the third-youngest player to be inducted, behind Mickey Wright (30)
and Nancy Lopez (32). She was also the first foreign-born player to get
into the Hall of Fame through the LPGA Tour.
The contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination took front stage
with their eyes clearly on the 2004 Presidential race and President Bush.
With Howard Dean leading the charge on an anti-war ticket, other contenders
like John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, General Wesley Clark, John Edwards and
others shaped up their campaigns and started participating in heated debates.
In early December, former Presidential candidate Al Gore lent his political
weight to Dean's campaign, giving Dean an additional edge over the competition.