A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Dec. 31, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Jan. 6.

It was on this date in 1994 that U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed on the right knee as she finished up practice for the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Her attacker fled, leaving the injured Kerrigan to withdraw from the competition. It was won by her leading rival, Tonya Harding.

Despite Kerrigan's non-participation, U.S. Figure Skating officials named her and Harding to the U.S. Olympic team. Kerrigan would win a silver medal at the Winter Olympics in Norway, while Harding could finish no better than 8th place.

In the meantime, the attack on Kerrigan was traced to four men with links to Harding, including her ex-husband. Harding denied having anything to do with the attack, but admitted she knew about it. She was later banned for life from competitive skating.

Hong Kong's days as a British colony were numbered from this date in 1950, when Britain extended formal diplomatic recognition to the Communist government of what people then called "Red China" -- the People's Republic of China, founded by Mao Tse-tung.

An agreement on this date in 1999 ended the six-month player lockout by owners of National Basketball Association teams. The labor dispute had threatened to wipe out the entire 1998-99 season.

Samuel F.B. Morse and his partner, Alfred Vail, publicly demonstrated their new invention, the telegraph, for the first time on this date in 1838 in Morristown, N.J. In less than a generation, telegraph lines were stretching from coast to coast.

The first test-tube quadruplets, all boys, were born in Melbourne, Australia, on this date in 1984. Doctors don't like to call them "test-tube" babies, preferring to describe the method of their conception as "in-vitro fertilization" -- as if people believed the infants were grown in test tubes!

A Pan American Airways plane arrived in New York on this date in 1942 to complete the first around-the-world flight by a commercial airliner.

It was on this date in 1759 that George Washington married widow Martha Dandridge Custis. Washington may be known as the "father of our country," but he sired no children of his own -- possibly owing to a bout of smallpox as a child. Martha, by the way, had two children from her previous marriage.

Paavo Nurmi was dubbed the "Flying Finn" and regarded as the greatest runner of his day. He showed why on this date in 1925 when he set world records in the mile and 5,000-meter run within the space of one hour in his first U.S. appearance, an indoor meet at New York City's new Madison Square Garden. A year earlier, Nurmi had won five gold medals in the 1924 Olympics, setting two Olympic marks along the way.

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


Today is Jan. 7.

President Clinton's impeachment trial opened in the Senate on this date in 1999. A month later, he would be acquitted of charges stemming from grand jury testimony during which he denied having sex with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (He'd later own up to having an "improper relationship" with the young woman.) Clinton's testimony had come in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by former Arkansas state worker Paula Jones.

Exactly one year before his impeachment trial would begin, Lewinsky reportedly denied in an affidavit filed in 1998 in the Jones case that she'd had an affair with Clinton. This came at a time when her association with the president had not yet been made public.

Clinton was only the second U.S. president to be impeached -- the first being Andrew Johnson in 1868.

The first nationwide American presidential election was held, not on a Tuesday in November, but on this date in 1789. The voters chose the electoral college, and the electoral college unanimously choose George Washington as president. John Adams became vice president.

A federal jury in Denver announced on this date in 1998 that it was unable to agree on a penalty for Terry Nichols, convicted in December 1997 in connection with the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. That meant he would not face the death penalty.

The Cambodian government of Pol Pot was overthrown on this date in 1979. It took the combined forces of Cambodian rebels and Vietnamese troops to end the bloody regime that killed millions of people.

It was on this date in 1989 that Japan's Emperor Hirohito died of cancer. Hirohito had ruled Japan for 62 years, its longest-reigning monarch. Part of the agreement ending World War II called for Hirohito to renounced his claims of divinity. His radio address announcing Tokyo's surrender had been the first time most of the Japanese public had heard their emperor's voice.

Galileo discovered the four biggest moons of Jupiter on this date in 1610. Those moons are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

And commercial trans-Atlantic telephone service was inaugurated between New York and London on this date in 1927. 31 calls were made that day.

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


Today is Jan. 8.

The trial of the Watergate Seven began on this date in 1973. These were the burglars caught red-handed inside Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. They turned out to be part of an undercover "dirty tricks" group directed by associates of President Nixon.

A big battle was fought in the South on this day in history, but not during the Civil War. It was on this date in 1815 that Americans under Gen. Andrew Jackson decisively defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans. It was the last battle of the War of 1812, and made Jackson such a hero that he was later elected president.

On this day in 1867, Congress approved legislation that, for the first time, allowed blacks to vote in the District of Columbia. To this day, the District of Columbia does not have FULL self-government -- even though its population is greater than that of several states in the northern Rockies and Plains.

America's first female Republican governor was inaugurated on this day in 1987. Kay Orr was sworn in, in Lincoln, Neb.

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai died in Beijing on this date in 1976. At the time, Chou known as a man who spent most of his career in the shadow of Mao Tse-tung. His actual role in modern Chinese history, which was bigger than that, was dramatized in the John Adams opera "Nixon in China," in which Chou En-lai gets top billing over both Mao and Richard Nixon.

And Pan Am filed for bankruptcy on this date in 1991. It set a trend. Continental went into Chapter 11 the same year. The next year, America West Airlines did the same. And TWA went bankrupt the year after that.

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


Today is Jan. 9.

It wasn't D-Day, but it was a milestone in World War II. American troops invaded the Philippine island of Luzon on this date in 1945. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had indeed returned. U.S. forces would go on to liberate Manila from occupying Japanese troops.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich asked for the resignation of House historian Christina Jeffrey on this date in 1995 -- after it was revealed she had once criticized a school program on the Holocaust for not including the "Nazi point of view" or that of the Ku Klux Klan.

The British and French supersonic Concorde jetliner made its first test flight at Bristol, England, on this date in 1969. A generation later, most people still haven't ridden on a Concorde. It's too expensive.

The luxury liner Queen Elizabeth -- another mode of transportation that most people haven't ridden on -- was gutted by fire while docked in Hong Kong on this date in 1972.

Mississippi seceded from the Union on this date in 1861.

And it was on this date in 1768 that the first modern circus was staged in London. Twenty-four years later, in 1792, English equestrian John Bill Ricketts opened the first American circus in Philadelphia and later opened others in New York City and Boston.

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


Today is Jan. 10.

Thomas Paine, political pamphleteer, published "Common Sense" on this date in 1776. "Common Sense" immediately became a bestseller. In it, Paine argued that independence from England was just "Common Sense." Ironically, Paine was himself an Englishman who arrived in the Colonies only a few months before.

It was on this date in 1878 that a constitutional amendment that'd give women the right to vote was introduced in the U.S. Senate by California's A.A. Sargent. He was a close friend of Susan B. Anthony, and the women's suffrage amendment was called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It wasn't until Aug. 26, 1920 -- 42 years later -- that the amendment was finally signed into law.

This is a day of political milestones. The League of Nations came into being as the Treaty of Versailles went into effect on this date in 1920. The United States never joined the League of Nations, and it was dissolved in April 1946. Its successor, the United Nations, held its first meeting on this date in 1946 -- not in New York but in London.

The biggest merger in history was announced on this date in 2000 when America Online said it had agreed to buy Time Warner for $165 billion.

And oil was discovered in Texas on this day in 1901. The Southwest oil boom began with the Spindletop claim near Beaumont. Before that, Americans associated oil with western Pennsylvania.

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


Today is Jan. 11.

In a sharp reminder of a sluggish ecomony, Ford announced in 2002 it planned a series of down-sizing moves. It said it would lay off 35,000 employes, drop four car models and close four plants.

Also in 2002, the first 20 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured in Afghanistan were flown to the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Others soon would follow.

The U.S. Surgeon General issued a report on this date in 1964 declaring that smoking cigarettes may be hazardous to one's health. Before the 1960s, smoking was practiced by a majority of adult men, and some cigarette advertising even implied that smoking could be good for you.

It was on this date in 2000 that the British government declared former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet medically unfit to stand trial in Spain. The aging ex-leader had been arrested in October 1998 while in London for treatment of a back problem. The ruling cleared the way for Pinochet to avoid charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during his regime.

The First Continental Congress convened in New York City on this day in 1785. The U.S. government was headquartered in New York, in Philadelphia, even in Annapolis, Maryland, before the nation built a capital city on some Potomac River swampland and named it after Gen. George Washington.

Alabama seceded from the Union on this date in 1861.

And American aviator Amelia Earhart Putnam became the first woman to fly across the Pacific from Hawaii to California on this date in 1935.

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


Today is Jan. 12.

In the latest step in what seemed an endless quest for Middle East peace, the United Nations Security Council, on this date in 1976, voted 11-1 to allow Yasser Arafat's PLO send a delegate to join the U.N. debate on Middle East issues. The United States cast the only dissenting vote. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, tried to get Israel and the Arabs to talk peace, but with the Soviet Union backing the Arabs the United States tended to side with Israel.

It was bigger than NAFTA on this date in 1828, when boundary disputes were settled between the United States and Mexico. The agreement, however, did not settle the boundary where it is today. The Gadsden Purchase came later. That was the deal that bought southern Arizona from Mexico so the United States would control the entire route of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Otherwise, Nogales and Tucson might be in Mexico today.

It was on this date in 1971 that a federal grand jury indicted the radical Rev. Philip Berrigan and five other people, including a nun and two priests, on charges of plotting to kidnap Henry Kissinger. The plot had nothing to do with the Middle East. Berrigan's band opposed the Vietnam War and Kissinger was the most prominent member of the Nixon administration other than the president himself.

Two of the four female cadets who enrolled in The Citadel the previous fall after the South Carolina military school lost its fight to keep women out, resigned on this date in 1997. The cadets said they had been assaulted and sexually harassed.

This was not a very meaty day in 1943, when the wartime Office of Price Administration announced that soy meal would be mixed into hotdogs to save on scarce meat. The resulting franks were called "Victory Sausages."

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

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