A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Oct. 15, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Oct. 21.


In the midst of the 2001 anthrax scare, Congress went back to work. But, Senate office buildings remained closed while the investigation continued and security officials did a sweep for more anthrax spores, similar to those found in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and other areas. Anthrax also had turned up at TV network offices, post office mailrooms and other facilities.


It was one of history's greatest naval battles. On this date in 1805, the British fleet under Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated the combined French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar off the coast of Spain. Although victorious, Nelson was mortally wounded in the battle, which ended the threat of Napoleon's invasion of England.


After 14 months of experiments, Thomas Edison invented the first practical electric incandescent lamp and demonstrated it on this date in 1879. The proto-type, developed in Edison's lab in Menlo Park, N.J., could burn for 13 1/2 hours.


Swedish chemist and industrialist Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prize, was born on this date in 1833. The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually on Dec. 10, the anniversary of his death.


It was on this date in 1950 that Chinese troops occupied Tibet. The Dali Lama stuck it out until 1959 when he fled to India.


And it was on this date in 1987 that the Senate rejected the nomination of U.S. Federal District Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court by the biggest margin in history, 58-42.


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Today is Oct. 22.


The U.S. war in Afghanistan continued in high gear on this date in 2001. Nearly 200 jets struck Taliban and al Quaida communications facilities, barracks and training camps over the weekend. Taliban officials meanwhile charged that 100 civilians were killed when a U.S.-led bombing attack struck a hospital in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called the Taliban liars and said he had no evidence of such an event.


The Cuban Missile Crisis began on this date in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy, in a televised speech, demanded the Soviet Union remove the missiles it had deployed in Cuba. JFK also ordered a blockade of the island to prevent further military equipment from reaching it. On Oct. 28, 1962, the USSR announced it would remove the missiles in question. In return, the United States removed missiles in Turkey that were aimed at the Soviet Union.


It was on this date in 1797 that the first parachute jump was made by Andre-Jacques Garnerin. He dropped from a height of about 6,500 feet over a Paris park. Garnerin lived, and so the parachute continued to draw some interest.


Gen. Sam Houston was sworn in as the first president of the Republic of Texas on this date in 1836. When Texas became a U.S. state 10 years later, Houston was elected senator. A few years after that, he was elected governor.


Inventor Charles Carlson produced the first dry, or xerographic, copy on this day in 1938. But he had trouble interesting investors in his new invention.


And this is the anniversary of the birth, in 1920, of Harvard University professor and counterculture icon Timothy Leary. Leary was fired by Harvard after he gave LSD to students. Despite numerous arrests over the years, he continued to advocate the use of LSD in the pursuit of spiritual and political freedom and just for the fun of it. Leary died in 1996 of cancer.


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Today is Oct. 23.


A suicide terrorist attack on American forces took place in Beirut, Lebanon, on this date in 1983. A truck loaded with TNT was driven into the U.S. military headquarters and blown up, killing 241 U.S. Marines. A similar attack the same day on French troops killed 58 French soldiers. The event was a big reason why the United States ended its military presence in Lebanon.


It was on this date in 1942 that the British Eighth Army launched an offensive on occupying German forces at El Alamein in Egypt. The World War II battle eventually swept the Nazis out of North Africa.


On a more peaceful note: following nine days of tense negotiations and marathon talks at the Wye Conference Center in Queenstown, Md., Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on this date in 1998 signed an agreement to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.


The British Parliament met for the first time on this date in 1707.


Hungary formally declared an end to 40 years of communist rule and proclaimed itself a republic on this date in 1989, 33 years after Russian troops crushed a popular revolt against Soviet rule. Acting head of state Matyas Szuros made the announcement --- setting the stage for creation of a Western-style democracy -- from the same balcony overlooking Parliament Square which Imre Nagy stood on to address the rebels in 1956. Nagy was hanged for treason. Szuros's fate was much, much better.


And Jackie Robinson became the first black baseball player hired by a major league team on this date in 1945, when he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and sent to their Montreal farm team.


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Today is Oct. 24.


The United Nations was born on this day in 1945, less than two months after World War II ended. U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes announced that the U.N. charter was in effect, following Soviet ratification of the document. The new international body replaced the old League of Nations of the previous World War era. In 1971, the U.N. General Assembly declared this to be United Nations Day, observed as a holiday by all U.N. Member States.


The Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years' War in Europe on this date in 1648. The war was mainly a struggle between European Protestantism and Roman Catholicism as represented by the Hapsburg monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire. France emerged from the war with the most power, and Germany was virtually devastated.


The first telegram was transmitted across the United States on this date in 1861. California's state Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Field sent a telegram to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington.


He had been found guilty of fleecing his flock. And on this date in 1989, televangelist Jim Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $500,000 dollars. Bakker's downfall, and the collapse of his PTL religious empire, all began when a former church secretary said she'd had an affair with him. Jessica Hahn went on to pose for Playboy.


Several others have tried it, with mixed results, but Annie Edson Taylor did it first. In 1901, the female daredevil was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Taylor, who performed the feat on her birthday, went over the 175-foot-tall Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of Niagara inside a barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. A leather harness and cushions lined the barrel to protect Taylor during her fall, and she emerged shaken but unhurt in the river below.


And also on this date in 1989, former Hungarian beauty queen-turned-actress Zsa Zsa Gabor was sentenced to 72 hours in jail, 120 hours of community service and ordered to pay nearly $13,000 in fines and court costs for slapping a police officer who had stopped her car in Beverly Hills, Calif.


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Today is Oct. 25.


On this day in 2001, the Senate, by a 90-1 vote, approved a final package of anti-terror reforms designed to help law enforcement monitor, observe and detain suspected terrorists. The bill was sent to the president who promptly signed it the next day.

Some 2,000 U.S. Marines and Army Rangers, supported by six Caribbean nations, invaded the tiny island of Grenada in 1983. The invasion followed a political coup the previous week that, according to President Reagan, had turned the island into a "Soviet-Cuban colony." 19 Americans died in the fighting.


What's known to history as the Charge of the Light Brigade took place on this date in 1854. 670 British cavalrymen fighting in the Crimean War attacked a heavily fortified Russian position and were wiped out. French General Bosquet remarked, "It is magnificent, but it is not war."


It was on this day in 1825 when the Erie Canal -- America's first major man-made waterway -- was opened, linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, via the Hudson River. The first boat left Buffalo the following day for New York City, arriving there on Nov. 4. Aboard was New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton, the driving force behind the project.

The new canal, by the way, increased Pennsylvania's mule population by huge numbers. The long-eared animals were hired at feeding wages to pull barges along the canal.


The United Nations, on this date in 1971, admitted the People's Republic of China as a member and ousted the Nationalist Chinese government of Taiwan. Then as now, China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province.


On this date in 1986, the International Red Cross ousted South African delegates from a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, because of Pretoria's policy of apartheid. It was the first such ejection in the organization's 123 years.


And it was on this date in 1994 that Susan Smith, a young mother from Union, S.C., reported to police that her two young boys had been taken in a carjacking. Massive searches turned up nothing. Nine days later, Smith confessed that she'd rolled the car into a lake, drowning the children. She claimed she also meant to kill herself but changed her mind at the last minute. Her sons' bodies were found in the submerged vehicle, still strapped in their car seats.


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Today is Oct. 26.


On this date one year ago, six weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist assault on the United States, President Bush signed egislation giving law enforcement agencies expanded authority in their fight against suspected terrorists. The measure, passed overhwlemingly by Congress, extends authority to monitor and hold suspects, to wiretap telephones and examine internet usage, with greater reach for federal warrants and provides harsher penalties for terrorists and those who help them.


It was on this day in 1906 that workers in St. Petersburg, Russia, established the first "soviet," or council. After the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II, the word "soviet" would make up the country's new name -- the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Just one day before NATO was threatening to bomb the former Yugoslavia, Serbian soldiers and police on this date in 1998 began what was said to be a significant pullback from positions in the rebellious province of Kosovo. But the massacre of ethnic Albanians in the province didn't end, and in March 1999 NATO launched air strikes after the Serbians refused to sign a peace agreement on the future of Kosovo.


A setback for the allies on this date in 1942, during the early days of U.S. involvement in World War II. In the Pacific, Japanese warships sank the aircraft carrier USS Hornet off the Solomon Islands.


The Lord Mayor of Cork, Ireland, Terence McSwiney, died on this date in 1920 after a two-and-a-half-month hunger strike in a British prison cell. He was demanding independence for Ireland.


South Korean President Park Chung Hee was assassinated on this date in 1979 by the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.


And it was on this date in 1990 that Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $5,000 after being convicted on misdemeanor drug charges. Barry had been nabbed during a drug sting at a motel. After doing his time, he was reelected mayor.


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Today is Oct. 27.


On this date in 1904, the first rapid transit subway system in America opened in New York City. More than 100,000 people paid a nickel apiece to take a ride beneath Manhattan on that opening day on a route that ran from City Hall to Broadway by way of Grand Central Station and Times Square. Today, the New York subway system is the largest in the world.


The Justice Department reported on this date in 1994 that the U.S. prison population had topped one million for the first time in American history. The figure--1,012,851 men and women were in state and federal prisons--did not include local prisons, where an estimated 500,000 prisoners were held, usually for short periods.


The first of 77 essays explaining the new U.S. Constitution and urging its ratification were published on this date in 1787 in a New York newspaper. The essays -- by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay -- also argued in favor of adoption of the new form of federal government. They were later published as "The Federalist Papers."


Disasters in history: it was on this date in 1993 that Southern California was hit by dozens of brush fires -- the worst in six years. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands of people were forced to flee the flames.

And in 1998, Hurricane Mitch -- one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded -- began its four-day siege of Central America. At least 10,000 people were killed by storm-spawned flooding in Honduras, Nicaragua, and other countries.


A treaty with Spain on this date in 1795 settled Florida's northern boundary and gave navigation rights on the Mississippi River to the United States. Remember, at this time, Florida still belonged to Spain, and most of the land west of the Mississippi was either in French or Spanish hands.


And it was on this date in 1954 that a prime-time anthology TV series for children, titled "Disneyland," premiered on ABC. The show was so named to promote the soon-to-be-opened Anaheim, Calif., theme park as well as Walt Disney Studios upcoming releases. Later titles included "Walt Disney Presents," "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," "The Wonderful World of Disney," "Disney's Wonderful World," "The Disney Sunday Movie" and "The Magical World of Disney." Despite the name and network changes, it was essentially the same show. When it left the air in December 1980, it was the longest-running series in prime-time TV history.


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