This Day In History

 


UNICEF Founded

December 11, 1946

In the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations votes to establish the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organization to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by the war.

After the food and medical crisis of the late 1940s passed, UNICEF continued its role as a relief organization for the children of troubled nations and during the 1970s grew into a vocal advocate of children’s rights. During the 1980s, UNICEF assisted the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After its introduction to the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child became the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, and UNICEF played a key role in ensuring its enforcement.

Of the 184 member states of the United Nations, only two countries have failed to ratify the treaty–Somalia and the United States. Somalia does not currently have an internationally recognized government, so ratification is impossible, and the United States, which was one of the original signatories of the convention, has failed to ratify the treaty because of concerns about its potential impact on national sovereignty and the parent-child relationship.


Sam Cooke Dies under Suspicious Circumstances in LA

December 11, 1964

On December 11, 1964, in response to a reported shooting, officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were dispatched to the Hacienda Motel, where they found Sam Cooke dead on the office floor, shot three times in the chest by the motel’s manager, Bertha Franklin. The authorities ruled Cooke’s death a case of justifiable homicide, based on the testimony of Ms. Franklin, who claimed that Cooke had threatened her life after attempting to rape a young woman with whom he had earlier checked in.

Even as the lurid details of the case were becoming common knowledge, some 200,000 fans turned out in the streets of Los Angeles and Chicago to mourn the passing of Sam Cooke, a man whose legacy seemed able to transcend the scandal surrounding his death. That legacy was built during a brief but spectacular run as a singer, songwriter, producer and music publisher in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Born in 1931 to a Baptist minister and his wife, Cooke’s early musical development took place in the church. Like other early figures in what would eventually be called “soul” music, Cooke began his professional career singing gospel. A member of the legendary Soul Stirrers since the age of 19, Cooke was given permission by his record label to begin recording secular music in 1956.

“You Send Me” (1957) was Sam Cooke’s first pop smash, and it was followed by such classics as “Chain Gang” (1960), “Cupid” (1961), “Twistin’ the Night Away” (1962) and the Dylan-inspired posthumous release that became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement: “A Change Is Gonna Come” (1964). His voice has been called the most important in the history of soul music, but just as important to Sam Cooke’s historical standing is the fact that he also wrote all of the aforementioned hits—a remarkable fact for any popular singer of his time.

In the years since his death, the circumstances surrounding Cooke’s shooting have been called into question by his family and others. Though the truth of what happened on this day in 1964 might remain uncertain, Sam Cooke’s place in the history of popular music is anything but.


Muhammad Ali vs. Trevor Berbick

December 11, 1981

On this day in 1981, the Jamaican boxer Trevor Berbick beat former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a unanimous 10-round decision, before a crowd of 10,000 at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, the Bahamas.

At the age of 39, Ali (born Cassius Clay) was attempting his second comeback from retirement. Crowned as the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight champ in 1964 after beating Sonny Liston, he had successfully defended the title eight times before he was convicted of draft evasion in 1967, stripped of his boxing license and title and sentenced to five years in prison. Though the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, Ali was inactive for two years and announced his retirement in 1970. He returned to the ring after only a short time, however, and regained his heavyweight title in 1974 after a win against George Foreman in Zaire. After losing and regaining the crown again in 1978, Ali announced his retirement for the second time. He reemerged in October 1980 to fight a championship bout against Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round in a one-sided battle. Ali refused to accept the result, however, and pushed to set up the fight with Berbick in the Bahamas in order to prove himself.

Immensely popular with the fans, Ali put in his best performance in the middle of the Berbick fight, seeming to win the fifth and sixth rounds with his combinations and aggressive punches. From the seventh round on, however, control belonged to the 27-year-old Berbick, whose speed and power allowed him to inflict a series of damaging punches, batter Ali in the corner, land a punch to the head in the ninth, and get him on the ropes in the tenth. In the end, all three judges gave the match to Berbick.

Ali retired for good after the fight, finishing his career with an overall record of 56-5 and earning a lasting reputation as one of the 20th century’s most influential sportsmen. For his part, Berbick won the WBC heavyweight title in 1986 but was beaten in his first defense by the 20-year-old Mike Tyson. Berbick continued boxing for another 14 years but was plagued by issues in his personal life, including various arrests and a conviction for sexual assault. His boxing license was revoked in 2000 after a post-fight CAT scan found a blood clot in his brain. In October 2006, Berbick was found dead, with massive wounds to the head, in a church courtyard in his native town, Norwich, near Kingston, Jamaica. His 20-year-old nephew and a friend were charged in the killing.


Billionaire Conman Bernard Madoff Arrested

December 11, 2008

On this day in 2008, financier Bernard Madoff is arrested at his New York City apartment and charged with masterminding a long-running Ponzi scheme later estimated to involve around $65 billion, making it one of the biggest investment frauds in Wall Street history.

Madoff, who was born in Queens, New York, in 1938, founded a small trading firm bearing his name in 1960. The business was established, in part, with money he earned working as a lifeguard. Two decades later, Madoff’s firm, which helped revolutionize the way stocks are traded, had grown into one of the largest independent trading operations in the securities industry, and he and his family lived a life of luxury, owning multiple homes, boats and expensive artwork and jewelry.

Based on the success of his legitimate operations, Madoff launched an investment-advisory business as part of his firm, and it was this business that by the 1990s had become a Ponzi scheme, in which he paid his earlier investors with funds received from more recent investors. For years, clients of this business were sent account statements showing consistently high—and fraudulent—returns. Potential new customers clamored for Madoff to invest their money. However, in 2008, with the U.S. economy in crisis, Madoff’s financial swindle began to fall apart as his clients took money out faster than he could bring in fresh cash.

On December 10, 2008, Madoff revealed to his brother and two sons, who worked for the legitimate arm of his firm, that his investment-advisory business was a fraud and nearly bankrupt. Madoff’s sons turned in their father to federal authorities, who arrested him the next day. Madoff was freed on $10 million bail, and placed under 24-hour house arrest at his penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The fallout from Madoff’s scam was widespread: The victims included everyone from his wealthy country-club acquaintances, Hollywood celebrities, banks and hedge funds to universities, charities and ordinary individual investors, some of whom lost their life savings. The charitable foundation of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel lost more than $15 million, and Wiesel also lost his personal savings. Public outrage was further stoked when it was revealed that since the late 1990s a private financial fraud investigator, Harry Markopolos, had repeatedly warned the Securities and Exchange Commission about his suspicion that Madoff was operating a massive investment scam.

On March 12, 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to the 11 felony counts against him, including securities fraud, money laundering and perjury. On June 29 of that year, a federal district court judge in Manhattan sentenced Madoff to 150 years behind bars, calling his actions “extraordinary evil.”

On December 11, 2010, the second anniversary of Madoff’s arrest, his 46-year-old son Mark was found dead in his Manhattan apartment after committing suicide. Bernard Madoff, who is serving his sentence at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, has maintained that his family members knew nothing about his crimes and although they have faced intense scrutiny, none have been charged with any wrongdoing. Several of Madoff’s former employees, including his accountant and chief financial officer, have pleaded guilty in connection with the long-running fraud.