Blast from the Past

By United Press International

Today is Nov. 18.

The largest mass suciide in modern history took place on this date in 1978. More than 900 people died from drinking poisoned drink mix at a religious community called Jonestown, founded by the Rev. Jim Jones in the South American nation of Guyana. Jones had started out in Indiana but moved to San Francisco, where he attracted a much larger group of faithful for a church he called the People's Temple. The commune then moved to Guyana. But when California Rep. Leo Ryan and others flew to Jonestown to investigate, they were murdered. The mass suicide followed.


It was on this date in 1883 that the United States adopted Standard Time and set up four zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. It was the brainchild of Connecticut schoolteacher Charles Ferdinand Dowd, who proposed a plan with four time zones covering 15 degrees of longitude each. He and others then persuaded the railroads to adopt it.


Standard Time was originally referred to as Railroad Time, because railroads needed standardized time for trains to run on published schedules. Previously, every town had its own time.

The original war on drugs began on this date in 1874, when the National Women's Christian Temperance Union was organized in Cleveland, Ohio.

South Africa's ruling National Party and leaders of 20 other parties representing blacks and whites approved a new national constitution on this date in 1993. For the first time in more than 300 years of white minority rule, black in South Africa were finally granted basic civil rights.

"The Sayings of the Philosophers" was published on this date in 1477. It was the earliest known book printed in England to carry a date.

Mickey Mouse made his acting debut -- and history -- in "Steamboat Willie" at the Colony Theater in New York City on this date in 1928. The landmark Walt Disney cartoon was the first to have synchronized sound.

And it was Doomsday for Superman as the comic book detailing the superhero's death -- rumored at the time to be temporary only -- hit newsstands in 1992. The rumors were right: it was only temporary.


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Today is Nov. 19.

On this date in 2001, the U.S. government sweetened the pot in its efforts to find the man suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington. A $25 million award was offered for information leading to the location or capture of Osama Bin Laden.

The Cold War formally ended on this date in 1990, when leaders of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) -- composed of NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations -- signed a massive conventional arms treaty following a three-day meeting in Paris.

It was on this date in 1919 that the U.S. Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles, which had been drawn up by the Paris peace conference at the end of World War I. As a result, the United States never joined the League of Nations -- even though it was the brainchild of President Woodrow Wilson.

It was on this date in 1863 that President Lincoln delivered what became known as the Gettysburg Address at the Pennsylvania field where the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought. His remarks -- lasting only a minute or so -- were not the main oration that day. No, that honor went to Edward Everett, who gave a three-hour speech describing the battle.


A Houston jury ruled on this date in 1985 that Texaco must pay $10.5 billion to Pennzoil for Texaco's 1984 acquisition of Getty Oil Co. It was the largest damage award in U.S. history.

And the first surviving set of septuplets -- that's seven babies -- was born on this date in 1997 to Bobbi McCaughey in Des Moines, Iowa. McCaughey had been taking fertility drugs to get pregnant. In one fell swoop, the family of three (the McCaugheys also had a 2-year-old daughter) grew to a family of 10.

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Today is Nov. 20.

The U.S. World War II offensive against Japan in the Central Pacific, known as Operation Galvanic, began on this date in 1943 with the Battle of Tarawa-Makin. U.S. forces attacked the heavily fortified Gilbert Islands. It took them eight days to oust the Japanese invaders, at a cost of 1,000 American and 4,700 Japanese lives.

Prior to this battle, censorship had kept the U.S. public in the dark about the human cost of war, but casualty figures and photographs from this battle appalled Americans.


Actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination on this date in 1975. He would lose to incumbent Gerald Ford, who then was defeated by Democrat Jimmy Carter in November 1976. Reagan would have more success four years later.

It was President Reagan who announced on this date in 1982 that U.S. Marines would go to Lebanon to assist in the evacuation of PLO fighters. The Marines were pulled out in October 1983 after 240 of them were killed in a terrorist bombing in Beirut.

The Nuremberg Trials began on this day in 1945. The International War Crimes Tribunal heard evidence against 24 German leaders, including military leaders, civilian officials, and judges. Many were found guilty and sentenced to death.

It was on this date in 1789 that New Jersey became the first state to ratify 10 of the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution proposed by Congress two months earlier. These 10 amendments came to be known as the Bill of Rights.

Edward I was proclaimed King of England on this date in 1272. Edward was called the English Justinian because of his legal reforms.


Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, the future Queen Elizabeth II of England, wed Philip Mountbatten on this date in 1947. Philip, a former prince of Greece, had become a British citizen nine months earlier and was given the title Duke of Edinburgh.

British Prime Minister Thatcher failed to win a 65-percent majority in a Conservative Party vote on this day in 1990, forcing a runoff against Michael Heseltine.

And on this day in 1992, fire erupted at Windsor Castle -- Queen Elizabeth's official residence west of London -- causing much damage. The queen and Prince Andrew pitched in to help save priceless artworks housed in the fortress.

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Today is Nov. 21.

Anthrax continued to bother Americans on this date in 2001 as a 94-year-old Connecticut woman became the nation's fifth anthrax victim. It was a death that mystified authorities since she rarely left home. But, a couple of weeks later, it was discovered a letter with anthrax residue had been delivered to a family living a mile away.


Nazi forces occupied western Czechoslovakia on this date in 1938 and declared its people German citizens. The annexation of the Sudatenland was Hitler's first major belligerent action. In response, England and its allies chose to sit still for it in return for a promise of "peace in our time," which Hitler later broke. This miscalculation has influenced geopolitics ever since, because it comes to mind when world leaders consider what, if anything, to do about regional troublemakers.

Thomas Edison announced one of his greatest inventions on this date in 1877. His new creation was the phonograph with the capacity to record and play back sound.

President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ended a summit meeting in Switzerland on this date in 1985, and promised to step up the pace of arms-reduction talks.

It was on this date in 1800 that the U.S. Congress met for the first time in Washington, D.C. Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives had been meeting in Philadelphia from 1790 to 1800, when the north wing of the new Capitol was completed.

This is the anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act. Congress passed it on this day in 1974 over President Ford's veto. The Freedom of Information Act allows citizens to see any federal government document that is not classified.


President Bush signed a new Civil Rights Act on this date in 1991. It made it easier for workers to sue in job discrimination cases.

The man they called the Junk Bond King was sentenced to jail on this date in 1990. Michael Milken, a former executive with the brokerage house Drexel Burnham Lambert, got 10 years for securities violations. Junk bonds are bonds that pay big because they carry high risk. In the 1980s and '90s, some people lost big by investing in them.

And it was on this date in 1783, in Paris, that Jean de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes made the first free-flight ascent in a balloon.

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Today is Nov. 22.

John F. Kennedy was assassinated on this date in 1963. The president was shot in the head while riding in an open motorcade in Dallas. The governor of Texas, John Connally, was wounded at the same time. The motorcade raced to the nearest hospital but the president could not be saved.

Within hours, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as the 36th U.S. chief executive. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the crime but would be shot to death before he could stand trial. His assailant, Jack Ruby, later died in jail of cancer.


Three American presidents had been assassinated before -- but this was the first time since the advent of broadcasting, and that allowed the public to learn of the shooting before any suspect had been arrested, and indeed before it was known the president had died.

In 2000, two weeks after the nation voted, there still was no winner declared in the presidential race because of disputed ballots in Florida and demand by Democrats for a recount. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that hand count of the state's presidential ballots could continue despite Republican efforts to block it. The winner in Florida, based on national delegate numbers, in all likelihood would be the next president.

On this date in 1989. Lebanon's newly elected president, Rene Moawad, died in bomb blast that also killed 17 other people in Syrian-patrolled Muslim west Beirut.

On the same day, 12 U.S. Green Berets were evacuated from the San Salvador Sheraton. They were the last of nearly 100 people trapped when leftist rebels seized the hotel in the capital city of El Salvador.

Margaret Thatcher announced on this date in 1990 that she would step down as British prime minister. She resigned after failing to win a decisive victory in a battle for control of her Conservative Party. Thatcher had been named prime minister in May 1979 and served more than 11 years in office -- the longest tenure of any British prime minister in the 20th century.


The State Department invited Israeli and Arab negotiators to begin bilateral peace talks in Washington, D.C., on this date in 1991. So began a new round of Middle East peace talks.

In another peaceable action, the State Department ended a 22-year ban on travel to China this date in 1972.

It was on this date in 1992 that 10 women who had worked with Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Oregon, accused him of unwelcome sexual advances.

That same day, Woody Allen told the CBS news program "60 Minutes" that Mia Farrow vowed to do something "very nasty" to him before she charged him with sexually abusing their adopted seven-year-old daughter.

It was on this date in 1977 that supersonic Concorde jets began regularly scheduled flights to New York from London and Paris. SSTs were developed jointly by Britain and France.

And New Zealanders Robert Hamill and Phil Stubbs, on this date in 1997, arrived in Barbados from the Canary Islands in their boat, Kiwi Challenger, after 41 days, one hour and 55 minutes. It was a new record for rowing across the Atlantic.


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Today is Nov. 23.

It was on this date in 1992 that the United States lowered its flag over the last American base in the Philippines. The event ended nearly a century of U.S. military presence in the former American colony. The U.S. naval base at Subic Bay had been the center of American military operations in Southeast Asia. But Washington and Manila had been unable to agree to terms for a new lease on the land, and so the old lease was allowed to expire.

Also on this date in 1992, a Senate report said no credible evidence was found to support claims that Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign tried to delay the release of the U.S. hostages held by Iran. You might recall that the 52 Americans held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran since Nov. 4, 1979, were released on Reagan's inauguration date in January 1981.

The Israeli government announced on this date in 2001 it had killed the head of the Palestinian extremist group Hamas. Mahmoud Abu Hudnud was slain in a helicopter attack while riding in a van in Jerusalem.


The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was carved out of the Netherlands on this date in 1890 and became independent.

World War II rationing ended in the United States on all foods except sugar on this date in 1945.

And it was on this date in 1997 that Prince Charles appointed former British Prime Minister John Major as the legal and financial protector of Princes William and Harry. The boys' mother, Diana, had been killed in a car accident in Paris almost three months earlier.

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Today is Nov. 24.

Scientists in Worcester, Mass., announced on this date in 2001 the successful cloning of 24 cows. They said the animals were normal in every respect. A widely held theory by challengers of the controversial procedure linked defects to cloning.

Accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was fatally shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby in a Dallas jail on this date in 1963. We said "accused" because Oswald was never tried and convicted in the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However, the Warren Commission would later rule Oswald was in all probability the killer, although conspiracy theories still abound. The more colorful ones include the Mafia and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.


Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launched the Battle of Chattanooga (Tenn.) on this date in 1863 after bringing in reinforcements. Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg had been confident that he and his troops were in an impregnable position on Lookout Mountain. They were wrong. Union forces overran the Confederate encampment and Bragg himself barely escaped capture.

A middle-aged man whose ticket was made out to "D.B. Cooper" hijacked a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland, Ore., to Seattle on this date in 1971. Somewhere south of Seattle early the following day, he parachuted from the plane with the $200,000 in ransom he'd collected from the airline -- and was never heard from again.

Several thousand dollars of the ransom money was found in February 1980 along the Columbia River near Vancouver, Wash. But no sign of "D.B. Cooper."

It was on this date in 1985 that Arab commandos forced an EgyptAir jetliner to Malta and began shooting passengers, fatally wounding two. 57 other people died when Egyptian commandos stormed the jet, bringing the hijacking to a bloody end.

And Joseph Glidden received a patent for barbed wire on this date in 1874. Without barbed wire, farming of the Great Plains might have been near impossible.


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