A Blast From The Past

By PENNY NELSON BARTHOLOMEW, United Press International  |  March 5, 2002 at 8:05 AM
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Today is March 11.

Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union on this date in 1985, succeeding Konstantin Chernenko. At 54, Gorbachev was much younger than his two immediate predecessors, who'd been old and sick when they took office and only lasted about a year each. Gorbachev was the LAST Soviet leader -- he watched as democratic ideas swept the Communist Bloc, country after country split from Moscow, and then lost his job when the U.S.S.R. broke up in 1991. Today, he's on the lecture circuit.

More than 200 people died as a four-day snowstorm crippled New York City in 1888. It came to be known as the Blizzard of '88.

Former President William Howard Taft was laid to rest on this date in 1930. He became the first president of the United States to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. It had to have been a big casket -- Taft was a big guy.

And it was on this date in 1974 that an insurance company paid out $112,000 on a life insurance policy taken out by Janis Joplin. The payment was in keeping with a court agreement that the coroner had ruled Joplin's October 1970 overdose death an accident rather than a suicide.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 12.

Yesterday, we told you how Mikhail Gorbachev became the last Soviet leader in 1985. In another milestone of the post-Communist era, it was on this date in 1999 that three former Soviet Bloc countries -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- formally joined NATO. They'd previously belonged to the Warsaw Pact, which was the Soviet-led rival of NATO.

Juliette Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scouts of America troop in Savannah, Ga., on this date in 1912. It's now the largest volunteer organization for girls and women in the world.

It was on this date in 1930 that Mahatma Gandhi began a campaign of civil disobedience against British rule in India. It took 17 years, but India finally declared its independence in August 1947. Gandhi did not long survive the founding of the Indian republic -- he was assassinated in January 1948.

Exxon pleaded guilty to criminal charges on this date in 1990 and agreed to pay $100 million fine in a $1.1 billion settlement of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Years after millions of barrels of oil fouled Prince William Sound in Alaska, the area still has not recovered.

Female hearts around the world were broken on this date in 1969 when Paul McCartney -- the last bachelor Beatle -- married photographer Linda Eastman in a civil ceremony in London. Paul's brother, Mike, was his best man. No other Beatles attended the wedding.

And in 1992, Jim and Tammy Bakker, who ran a multimillion-dollar television evangelism empire before Jim Bakker went to prison for fleecing his flock, announced they were divorcing. We don't know who got the mascara in the settlement.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 13.

The world reacted in horror and grief on this date in 1996 when a gun collector opened fire on a kindergarten class in Dunblane, Scotland. He killed 16 children and their teacher before turning the gun on himself. One year later, in 1997 at the Israeli-Jordan border, a Jordanian soldier suddenly opened fire and killed seven Israeli schoolgirls. Jordan's King Hussein would travel to Israel to personally convey his condolences to the victims' families.

It was on this date in 1868 that the U.S. Senate began impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson. He was charged with "high crimes and misdemeanors." Eventually, Johnson would be acquitted by one vote. It would be 130 years before a second American president would be impeached. Like Johnson, Bill Clinton was also acquitted.

As the Great Depression wore on, banks throughout the United States began to reopen on this date in 1933 following a weeklong bank holiday declared by President Roosevelt in an effort to stop runs on bank assets. It worked.

And British astronomer William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, on this date in 1781. We know a great "Star Trek" joke involving Uranus but we can't tell it here...

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 14.

Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby was convicted on this date in 1964 of murdering Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Oswald was in police custody at the time. Conspiracy theorists claim Ruby shot Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963, to shut him up about who REALLY was behind the JFK assassination two days earlier. Anyway, Ruby was sentenced to death, but the conviction was overturned and he died of cancer while awaiting a new trial.

It was on this date in 1812 that the U.S. government authorized issue of America's first war bonds, to pay for military equipment for use against the British.

Okay, guys, you can have 'em. On this date in 1994, Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Oregon, dropped a court battle to prevent a Senate panel from gaining access to his diaries. The committee was investigating allegations of sexual harassment and influence peddling against the senator. Eventually, Packwood would resign his office.

And Los Angeles police detective Mark Fuhrman took the witness stand at the O.J. Simpson murder trial on this date in 1995 and denied allegations that he'd made racist statements. Oops! Wrong answer -- someone had a tape-recording on which Fuhrman used the so-called "n"-word several times.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 15.

Beware of the Ides of March. It was on this date in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar was assassinated by Brutus and other Roman nobles in Rome. Caesar had gotten a swelled head from his military and political victories, and when he didn't outright refuse the title of "king," the other senators decided to stick it to him. Literally. Ironically, the upheaval and civil war that followed in the wake of Caesar's assassination led to the end of the Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire, which was headed by Caesar's adopted son, Octavius, as the Emperor Augustus.

It was on this date in 1493 that Christopher Columbus returned to Spain after his first voyage to the New World. He brought back with him all sorts of neat stuff for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing marched into Mexico on this date in 1916 to capture Mexican revolutionary leader Pancho Villa, who had staged several cross-border raids. Villa turned out to be pretty good at eluding the American forces -- Pershing's two-year expedition was unsuccessful.

On this date in 1991, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic declared Serbia's secession from the Yugoslav federation.

Congressman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, won a hard-fought battle for re-nomination on this date in 1994, despite his being the subject of a criminal investigation into his financial affairs. He'd lose the November general election.

And Colonel Tom Parker became Elvis Presley's personal manager on this date in 1956.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 16.

What became known as the My Lai massacre took place on this date in 1968 when some 300 Vietnamese villagers died at the hands of American troops. It was the most publicized atrocity of the Vietnam War.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., was established on this date in 1802 by an act of Congress.

This is Goddard Day. On this date in 1926, Robert Goddard devised and launched the world's first liquid-fuel-powered rocket at Auburn, Mass. 40 years later, on this date in 1966, astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott conducted an orbital first when they docked their Gemini-8 space capsule with an Agena craft.

Authorities held a "face-to-face" meeting with representatives of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on this date in 1993 in a bid to end the then-17-day-old siege peacefully. The meeting was a failure and the standoff continued until April 19, when federal agents -- hoping to force a surrender -- tear-gassed the compound and a fire started, killing more than 80 people inside.

It was the first posthumous No.1 single of the rock era. On this date in 1968, "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" by the late Otis Redding topped the Billboard Hot-100 singles chart. Redding had been killed the previous December in a place crash.

And in 1994, Tonya Harding pleaded guilty to helping to cover up the plot against fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.


Today is March 17.

American military victories: on this date in 1776, the Continental Army under Gen. George Washington forced British troops to evacuate Boston. Today, it's a public holiday in Boston known, appropriately enough, as Evacuation Day.

And in 1945, the battle against Japanese forces for the Pacific island of Iwo Jima ended in victory for the United States.

The U.S. Navy launched the satellite Vanguard-1 into orbit around the earth on this date in 1958. The spacecraft -- the first solar-powered satellite -- established that the earth is more "pear-shaped" than round.

An ecological disaster began on this date in 1978 when the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground on the coast of Brittany in France. It eventually spilled some 220,000 tons of crude.

And on this date in 1999, the International Olympic Committee voted to expel six members in connection with the bribery scandal related to the effort by Salt Lake City, Utah, to win the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Five other IOC members had already resigned.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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