A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Oct. 1, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Oct. 7.

In 2001, the U.S. and Britain stepped up the war on terror with a series of nightly air attacks on targets in Afghanistan. Using cruise missiles and long-range bombers, the allies directed assaults at airports, air defenses and communication and command centers.

We learned the name "Achille Lauro" on this date in 1985, when four Palestinian terrorists commandeered the Italian cruise ship off Egypt and threatened to blow it up unless Israel freed Palestinian prisoners. There were 511 passengers and crew aboard. One American, a wheelchair-bound man named Leon Kinghoffer, was killed. The hijackers surrendered in Port Said two days later.

What was regarded as a hate crime against homosexuals took place on this date in 1998, when gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was badly beaten and left for dead, hanging from a fence. The person who found him later said he thought at first it was a scarecrow. Shepard died five days later in a Colorado hospital. Two men were convicted in his murder.

It was on this date in 1992 that President Bush and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. The NAFTA pact created the world's largest trading block.

American Home Products, the makers of the maligned diet drug combination known as "fen-phen," agreed to a $3.75 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit on this date in 1999. The anti-obesity drugs were taken off the market in 1997 after studies linked them to heart valve problems.

It was the most lopsided football game on record. On this date in 1916, Georgia Tech humbled Cumberland University, 222-0. Perhaps "humbled" is too soft a word.

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


Today is Oct. 8.

The Great Chicago Fire started on this date in 1871, killing more than 300 people, leaving 90,000 homeless and destroying 17,000 buildings. Despite what the legend says, though, the Chicago City Council says don't blame it on Mrs. O'Leary's cow. With new evidence in hand, the council passed a resolution a few years ago exonerating the cow and apologizing to the O'Leary family.

That very same day, a forest fire began at Peshtigo, Wis., and burned across six counties -- eventually scorching some 850 square miles and killing about 1,100 people.

Sgt. Alvin York of Tennessee, who had tried unsuccessfully to be exempted as a conscientious objector, became a World War I hero on this date in 1918 when he single-handedly captured a hill in the Argonne Forest of France, killing 20 enemy soldiers and capturing 132 others. York was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre.

It was on this date in 1998 that the U.S. House of Representatives voted 258-176 to begin impeachment hearings against President Clinton. Just before Christmas, lawmakers would vote to impeach Clinton on two of four counts against him -- making him only the second American president to be impeached. However, he was acquitted in Feb. 1999 during a Senate trial.

The United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. .

Argentine-born Communist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, an important figure in the 1959 Cuban revolution, was killed while leading a guerrilla war in Bolivia on this date in 1967.

Prohibition began on this date in 1919 with passage of the Volstead Act. . Named for Rep. Andrew Volsted of Minnesota, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages. This rang in the era of bootleg liquor when people whispered passwords through speak-easy doors and flappers ruled the dance floor and mobsters like Al Capone made millions from a thirsty public. The ban on booze lasted more than a decade until Congress repealed the law in 1933.

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


Today is Oct. 9.

The U.S. launched heavy air strikes against the Taliban garrisons and troop encampments in Afghanistan on this date in 2001. The Pentagon reported the destruction of seven terrorist training camps iand claimed control of the skies over Afghanistan.

It was on this date in 1975 that Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb turned human rights activist, became the first Soviet citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Sakharov was exiled to Gorky, Russia, in 1980 after he denounced the shortcomings of his country's government, but allowed to return to Moscow in 1986. He was named to the Soviet Congress of Peoples Deputies eight months before his death in Dec. 1989.

In 1974, German businessman Oskar Schindler, credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust, died at the age of 66. Nineteen years later, Steven Spielberg brought the fascinating story to the American public in the award-winning film "Schindler's List."

James Watt, facing Senate condemnation for a racially insensitive remark he'd made, resigned as President Reagan's interior secretary on this date in 1983.

It was on this date in 1995 that a newly acquitted O.J. Simpson -- newly acquitted of charges he'd murdered his ex-wife and her friend -- agreed to a live one-hour interview with NBC News. Two days later, he'd change his mind -- saying he feared he was being "set up."

The Soviet news agency Tass, under Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of increasing openness in society, reported on this date in 1989 that a flying saucer had visited the Soviet Union. We don't know if FBI Agent Fox Mulder was called...

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


Today is Oct. 10.

Spiro Agnew became the first U.S. vice president to resign in disgrace, on this date in 1973. It was part of an agreement with the Justice Department in which he pleaded no contest to income tax evasion charges stemming from contract kickbacks received while he was governor of Maryland and after he became vice president. He was fined $10,000 and placed on three years' probation. Agnew was elected vice president twice, serving under President Nixon. He died in 1996.

It was on this date in 1997 that the major tobacco companies agreed to settle the class-action lawsuit filed against them by 60,000 present and former flight attendants. The flight attendants claimed second-hand smoke in airplanes had caused them to get cancer and other diseases.

An estimated 3,000 people drowned on this date in 1963 when a dam burst in northern Italy.

And the U.S. Naval Academy was formally opened at Fort Severn in Annapolis, Md., on this date in 1845 with 500 midshipmen in the first class.

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


Today is Oct. 11.

It was on this date in 1868 that Thomas Alva Edison filed papers for a patent on his first invention: an electrical vote recorder to rapidly tabulate floor votes in Congress. But members of Congress decided not to buy the machine. It was Edison's first financial loss.

Speaking of firsts: on this date in 1811, the first steam-powered ferry in the world started its run between New York City and Hoboken, N.J.

The 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church was convened by Pope John XXIII on this date in 1962 at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It met in four sessions, ending on Dec. 8, 1965, and ushered in the era known as Vatican II -- which included sweeping changes, such as the use of the vernacular rather than Latin in the Mass.

Financier Marc Rich agreed on this date in 1984 to pay the U.S. government nearly $200 million. It was the biggest tax fraud penalty in American history.

Speaking of money: the appraisal on the late John Jacob Astor's estate was announced on this day in 1912 -- $78 million. And that's back when a million bucks was a million bucks.

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


Today is Oct. 12.

An explosion heavily damaged the U.S.S. Cole and killed 17 sailors as the destroyer refueled at a Yemen port on this date in 2000. It was immediately labeled a terrorist attack and President Clinton put the blame on Osama bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive and suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults on the U.S. Bin Laden's shadowy organization also was accused in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in eastern Africa.

It was on this date in 1492 that Christopher Columbus discovered America -- making his first landing in the New World on San Salvador, one of the islands of the Bahamas. Columbus believed he had reached India -- one of the goals of his voyage, financed by Spain, was to find a new route to that country -- which is why the natives he met, living peacefully and productively, were dubbed "Indians."

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher escaped injury in the bombing of a hotel in Brighton, England, on this date in 1984. But four other people were not so lucky -- they died in the attack, which was blamed on the Irish Republican Army.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev often had interesting ways of making a point. One of the most famous took place on this date in 1960, when -- during a speech before the United Nations in New York City -- the Soviet leader removed one of his shoes and pounded it on his desk.

President Nixon, on this date in 1973, nominated Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Mich., the House Minority Leader, for the vice presidency to replace Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in disgrace two days earlier. When Nixon resigned in August 1974, Ford became president and one of his first acts was to pardon his former boss. When elections came up again in 1976, Ford was summarily voted out.

And it was on this date in 1998 that University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard died -- five days after he was being beaten, robbed and left tied to a fence. The 21-year-old man had been targeted because he was gay. His attackers were later convicted in his murder.

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


Today is Oct. 13.

The Roman Emperor Claudius was poisoned on this date in 54 A.D. His fourth wife, Agrippina, was the murderess. She wanted to see her son Nero, adopted by Claudius, on the throne. Nero did become emperor upon his stepfather's death -- only to suffer a similar fate in 68 A.D.

It was on this date in 1775, the Revolutionary War only months old, that the Continental Congress ordered construction of America's first naval fleet.

On other war-related history: Italy -- having been conquered by the Allies -- declared war on Germany, its former Axis partner, on this date in 1943.

On a more peaceful note, it was on this date in 1987 that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his Central American peace treaty efforts. Arias Sanchez was the first Nobel Peace laureate from Central America.

A grand jury in Boulder, Colo., announced on this date in 1999 that it had insufficient evidence to charge anyone in the Dec. 26, 1996, murder of 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The little girl had been found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family's upscale home.

And the Boston Pilgrims (who became the Red Sox four years later) beat the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the first World Series -- five games to three -- on this date in 1903.

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

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