A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Nov. 26, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Dec. 2.

On this date in 2001, Enron, America's seventh largest corporation, became the biggest company ever to file for bankruptcy. The Houston-based energy trading firm with $50 billion in assets had seen its stock plummet from $90 a share to nearly worthless.

John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American citizen who had converted to a radical brand of Islam, was fighting as a member of the Taliban troops when captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, it was reported on this date in 2001. Lindh, of San Anselmo, Cal., had studied at an Islamic school in Yemen before going to Pakistan and joining the Taliban. He was returned to the U.S. for trial.

Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin Republican who waged an overzealous pursuit of suspected communists in the U.S. government, military and civilian society, finally went too far. On this date in 1954, McCarthy's Senate colleagues voted 65-22 to condemn him for conduct unbecoming a Senator for his activities. The action was equivalent to a censure.

The Atomic Age was born on this date in 1942, when Dr. Enrico Fermi and his fellow scientists demonstrated the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. It happened in an unusual location -- a laboratory located beneath the stands of Stagg Stadium at the University of Chicago. Their breakthrough led to development of the atomic bomb three years later, in 1945.

It was on this date in 1961 that Fidel Castro disclosed that he was a communist. The former rebel -- now leader of Cuba -- acknowledged he'd concealed the fact until he solidified his hold on his Caribbean island nation.

Napoleon formally became emperor of France on this date in 1804. Just as the pope was about to place the crown on the emperor's head, Napoleon grabbed it and crowned himself -- with an audible "thunk." He then crowned his empress, Josephine, during ceremonies at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.

Remember the song "John Brown's body lies amolderin' in the grave...?" It was on this day in 1859 that abolitionist John Brown was hanged for his raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, W.Va. Harper's Ferry -- at the juncture of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers -- would be a strategic railroad junction during the Civil War that was to follow.

A 62-year-old retired dentist named Barney Clark made medical history on this date in 1982 when he became the first person to get a permanent artificial heart. Clark survived with his Jarvik-7 implant for 112 days.

And it was on this date in 1927 that the Model A Ford was introduced as the successor to the Model T. The price of a Model A roadster was $395.

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


Today is Dec. 3.

History's first successful heart transplant was performed on this date in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at Capetown, South Africa. While the technology involving artificial heart technology never has quite panned out, transplants of real human hearts have become widely accepted surgery -- with some patients living with their new hearts for many years.

This is the anniversary of the world's worst industrial accident. Toxic gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, on this date in 1984, causing people to drop in their tracks. The disaster was eventually blamed for 2,889 deaths.

Months later, Union Carbide's CEO, who was kept in his job to clean up the corporate mess, had turned into a near-recluse who said he couldn't go to restaurants or shows because he felt it would be offensive to other people to see him having a good time.

White House Chief of Staff John Sununu resigned on this date in 1991. The former New Hampshire governor later became a CNN political commentator. His son, John Jr., was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and later the Senate.

Oberlin College in Ohio opened with an enrollment of 29 men and 15 women on this date in 1833. It was the nation's first truly co-educational college.

And the Ford Motor Co. raised the pay of its employees from $5 to $7 a day on this date in 1929. For the time, it was quite a salary hike --especially considering the American stock market had collapsed only a month earlier.

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


Today is Dec. 4.

American journalist Terry Anderson was finally freed by his pro-Iranian Lebanese captors after more than six years imprisonment on this date in 1991. He was the final American hostage to be released in Lebanon. Anderson had been held since March 1985 -- one of 15 Americans held from two months to as long as 6 1/2 years. Three of those hostages were killed while in captivity.

On the same day Anderson was freed, Lincoln Savings & Loan Association chairman Charles Keating was convicted on 17 counts of securities fraud. Keating was one of the most controversial figures in the S&L scandals of the late 1980s. His sales personnel had persuaded depositors to put their money into high-risk junk bonds. Keating later said he was broke, although he flew from the West Coast to Washington, D.C., and then to London to say so.

National security adviser Robert McFarlane resigned on this day in 1985. President Reagan named Vice Admiral John Poindexter to succeed him. Both McFarlane and Poindexter would later become embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair -- in which arms were traded for hostages in the Middle East and the profits funneled to the Contra rebels fighting to overthrow the Nicaraguan government at a time when Congress prohibited such U.S. government support.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the liquidation of the Works Progress Administration on this date in 1942. The WPA had been created during the Depression to provide work for the unemployed. Its dismantlement was a sign of U.S. economic recovery.

India joined East Pakistan in its war for independence from West Pakistan on this date in 1971. East Pakistan would become the republic of Bangladesh. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were all previously part of the British colony of India.

President George H. Bush ordered U.S. troops to Somalia on this date in 1992. They were part of a U.N. peacekeeping force protecting humanitarian relief convoys in the east African nation, which was plagued by civil war and widespread hunger.

A Michigan man, Jonathan Schmitz, was sentenced to prison on this date in 1996 after being convicted in the slaying of a gay man, Scott Amedure, who had confessed to having a crush on Schmitz during the taping of "The Jenny Jones Show." The segment never aired.

And it was on this date in 1998 that the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., carrying into orbit a U.S. component of the International Space Station. Once in space, the astronauts fastened the component, named Unity, to a piece of the ISS launched into space by the Russians the previous month. When the space station is finally finished, it'll be 356 feet across and 290 feet long and able to support a crew of seven.

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


Today is Dec. 5.

The legend of the Bermuda Triangle got a prominent boost on this date in 1945. Five Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers with 14 men aboard took off from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a routine flight and vanished. Later, a rescue plane with 13 aboard, took off to look for the missing squadron. It also disappeared. The planes were believed to have gone down in the Atlantic somewhere north of the Bahamas and east of the Florida coast but no trace was ever found.

It was one of the early civil rights actions in the South. On this date in 1955, blacks declared a boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Ala., demanding seating on an equal basis with whites. The boycott had been sparked by the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. It lasted until Dec. 20, 1956, when a U.S Supreme Court ruling was implemented -- integrating the city's public transit system.

Prohibition ended on this date in 1933, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution. The 21st Amendment repealed the 18th, which had prohibited the manufacture and sale of liquor in ;the U.S.

There's gold in them there hills! On this date in 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, leading to the "gold rush" of 1848 and '49.

It was on this date in 1991 that British media magnate Robert Maxwell disappeared while on his yacht off the Canary Islands. His body would later be found floating in the Atlantic.

The same day, convicted mass murderer Richard Speck died -- one day short of his 50th birthday and 25 years after killing eight student nurses in Chicago.

Paving the way for toga parties and hazing, the first scholastic fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at William and Mary College in Virginia on this date in 1776.

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


Today is Dec. 6.

The most prolonged series of earthquakes in U.S. history began on this date in 1811, not in California but in the Midwest. The quakes were centered at New Madrid, Mo., and lasted until Feb. 12, 1812. There were few deaths reported, probably because of the sparse population in the region at the time.

The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, measuring 8.5 to 9 in magnitude, on this date in 1997. Again, probably because the area is sparsely populated, there were no reported deaths.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S Constitution was ratified on this date in 1865, abolishing slavery in the United States.

One day after the repeal of Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), Americans crowded into liquor stores, bars and cafes on this date in 1933 to buy their first legal alcoholic beverages in 13 years.

More than 1,600 people were killed on this date in 1917 when a Belgian relief ship crashed into a French munitions vessel in the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. In addition to those killed, more than 1,000 more were injured. The blast created a tidal wave that washed much of the city out to sea.

A free, all-star concert headlined by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., was marred by tragedy on this date in 1969. Besides overcrowding and drug overdoses, a spectator was stabbed to death by members of the Hell's Angels, which had been hired as security guards for the event. Also performing at the concert: Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

And Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford was sworn-in as vice president under Richard Nixon on this date in 1973. He replaced Spiro Agnew, who had resigned after pleading no contest to income tax evasion charges.

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


Today is Dec. 7.

Today is a "date that will live in infamy." On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, nearly 200 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The raid, which lasted a little more than an hour, killed nearly 3,000 people and nearly destroyed the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet. The attack came one day after President Franklin Roosevelt send a message of peace to Japan's Emperor Hirohito, and catapulted the United States into World War II. The U.S. Congress declared war on Japan one day later.

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck the Soviet Republic of Armenia on this date in 1988. As many as 60,000 people were killed -- many when their poorly constructed homes collapsed on them. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev cut short his U.S. visit to fly home to head the worldwide relief efforts.

The destruction of a 16th century mosque in India by militant Hindus on this date in 1992 sparked five days of violence across the Indian subcontinent that left more than 1,100 people dead.

It was on this date in 1993 that a gunman opened fire on a crowded Long Island, N.Y., commuter train -- killing several persons. One of those killed was the husband of Carolyn McCarthy, who later campaigned on a platform of gun control to win a seat in the U.S House of Representatives.

Charles Brooks Jr., earned a dubious place in history on this date In 1983. Convicted of murdering an auto mechanic, Brooks became the first person put to death by lethal injection in this country. He received an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol, the barbiturate that is known as a "truth serum" when administered in lesser doses, at the Texas State Prison in Huntsville.

Delaware became the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, doing so on this date in 1787. The vote was unanimous.

And where would we be without Leo Baekeland, who on this date in 1909, patented the process for making Bakelite -- giving birth to the modern plastics industry.

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


Today is Dec. 8.

Former Beatle John Lennon, 40, was shot to death outside the New York City apartment building where he lived with his wife, Yoko Ono on this date in 1980. A 25-year-old mental patient and Beatles fan named Mark David Chapman was arrested in the slaying, and later sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison after pleading guilty to the crime.

Kimberly Bergalis died on this date in 1991 in Fort Pierce, Fla. She was the first patient believed to have contracted the AIDS virus from a health care professional (her dentist). Her case sparked calls to banned HIV-infected health care professionals from the workplace.

The Soviet Union ceased to exist on this date in 1991, when the republics of Russia, Byelorussia (now known as Belarus) and Ukraine signed an agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. The remaining former Soviet republics, with the exception of Georgia, also would join the CIS.

It was on this date in 1949 that the Chinese Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-Shek -- defeated by the Communists forces led by Mao Tse-Tung -- retreated from the mainland to the island of Formosa (Taiwan).

President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on this date in 1993. The pact cut tariffs and eliminated trade barriers between the United States, Canada and Mexico. It went into effect Jan. 1, 1994.

And delegates from 25 unions founded the American Federation of Labor, forerunner of the modern AFL-CIO, in Columbus, Ohio, on this date in 1886. Originally founded in Pittsburgh in 1881 as the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, the AFL was dissolved as a separate entity in 1955 when it merged with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form the AFL-CIO.

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