A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Jan. 7, 2003 at 3:15 AM
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Today is Jan. 13.

A blizzard struck Washington, D.C., on this date in 1982. An Air Florida flight to Miami took off from National Airport with ice on the wings. The Boeing 737 only got a few feet off the ground before clipping a highway bridge and diving into the icy Potomac River. 78 people were killed.

Just a couple miles away and less than an hour later, Washington's subway system had its first fatal accident when a train derailed -- crumpling a car into a concrete abutment.

On this date in 1987, seven top New York Mafia bosses were sentenced to 100 years in prison each -- including the heads of the Genovese, Colombo and Lucchese crime families.

Authorities in Portland, Ore., arrested Tonya Harding's bodyguard and another man on this date in 1994 in connection with the attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan a week earlier in Detroit.

The next day, the man believed to have actually carried out the attack on Kerrigan surrendered in Phoenix, Ariz.

Also on this date in 1994, a mistrial was declared in the trial of Erik Menendez, accused of killing his parents. 15 days later, a mistrial was declared in the case of Menendez's brother, Lyle.

Stephen Foster -- who wrote "My Old Kentucky Home" and other great American songs -- died in a New York hospital on this date in 1864, three days after he was found sick and almost penniless in a New York fleabag hotel.

The Irish novelist James Joyce -- whose novel "Finnegan's Wake" is as hard to understand as it is widely acclaimed -- died at age 58 on this day in 1941.

It was on this date in 1910 that radio pioneer and electron tube inventor Lee Deforest arranged the world's first radio broadcast to the public in New York City. It was a performance by the New York Metropolitan Opera.

Michael Jordan, regarded by many as the greatest basketball player ever, announced his retirement on this date in 1999. He had led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. Back in 1993, Jordan had "retired" to take up baseball, playing with a couple of different farm teams. He returned to the Bulls in early 1995.

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


Today is Jan. 14.

Something happened on this date which made traffic jams possible, and superhighway interchanges, and speeding tickets, and annual emissions tests, and rip-off towing companies, and host of other modern conveniences. It was in 1914 that Henry Ford introduced the assembly line method of manufacturing cars -- allowing completion of one Model-T Ford every 90 minutes.

Thousands of Cubans marched in Havana on this date in 2000 to demand that 6-year-old refugee Elian Gonzalez be returned to his father in Cuba. The boy's mother had drowned as they tried to enter the United States in Nov. 1999; the child was turned over to a great-uncle in Miami who fought to keep Elian in America.

It was on this date in 1794 that Dr. Jesse Bennett of Edom, Va., performed the first successful Caesarean section. The patient was his wife.

NBC's "Today," the program that started the morning news show format as we know it, premiered on this date in 1952. The show -- which was hosted by Dave Garroway -- was segmented with bits and pieces of news, sports, weather and interviews. The addition of J. Fred Muggs the chimpanzee pushed ratings even higher.

And David Letterman, on this date in 1993, announced that he had accepted a multimillion-dollar deal to move his late night talk show to CBS in August after his NBC contract expired. Letterman had been toiling away in the 12:30 a.m. (ET) timeslot at NBC for years. So when Johnny Carson retired in 1992, Letterman hoped he'd be named the show's new host. Instead, the gig went to Jay Leno.

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


Today is Jan. 15.

In 2002, John Walker Lindh, a 20-year-old American seized with the Taliban in Afghanistan, was charged on this date with conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and abetting terrorist groups. He was returned to the United States for trial on Jan. 23 and indicted by a grand jury on Feb. 5. He later pleaded not guilty.

President Nixon called a halt to American military offensives in Vietnam on this date in 1973. It was the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War, which was billed at the time as the first war the United States ever lost.

On this date in 1986, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev proposed that the superpowers eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2000.

Ireland became a free nation on this date in 1922. Before that it had been part of the British Empire, as Northern Ireland still is. Today about a third of all the folks in England have some kind of Irish blood and there are many times more Irish ethnics in the United States than in Ireland itself.

The donkey became the symbol of the Democratic Party as a result of a cartoon that appeared in the magazine Harper's on this date in 1870. The man who drew it, Thomas Nast, also came up with the elephant as a symbol for Republicans. Furthermore, he drew the first "Uncle Sam" figure, and our modern day image of Santa Claus is based on a Nast cartoon as well.

Construction of the Pentagon was completed on this day in 1943. It was the world's largest building of its kind. And it was too small. By the time it was finished, the Defense Department needed more office space than could be fit into that one building.

The British Museum opened on this day in 1759. Today you go to the British Museum if you want to see autographed scores by Beethoven and Brahms, or several famous English novels in the original handwriting, or the Rosetta Stone.

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


Today is Jan. 16.

The United States went "dry" on this date in 1920. Prohibition of alcoholic beverages took effect under the 18th amendment to the Constitution. Prohibition lasted for 13 years. Alcohol was available the entire time. Only it was illegal alcohol. Its quality was poor, and sometimes it was poisonous. And since it was sold by mobsters, Prohibition wound up enriching crooks. The Prohibition amendment was repealed in 1933.

The Persian Gulf War began on this date in 1991. President Bush drew the largest TV audience in history with an address to the nation on the commencement of hostilities against Iraq -- including the bombing of Baghdad, which was reported live on CNN.

It was on this date in 1998 that investigators for special counsel Kenneth Starr questioned former White House intern Monica Lewinsky about rumors that she had an affair with President Clinton. The next day, Clinton would deny in a sworn deposition that he'd had sex with Lewinsky. Later, after admitting to an "inappropriate" relationship with the young woman, the president would say that -- strictly speaking -- the two had not had sex.

Leon Trotsky was dismissed as chairman of the Russian Revolution Military Council on this date in 1925. Trotsky would eventually be murdered.

On this date in 1942, screen star Carole Lombard, her mother and 20 other people were killed in a plane crash near Las Vegas. Lombard was the wife of actor Clark Gable.

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


Today is Jan. 17.

The U.S. Justice Department launched an international manhunt for five suspected al-Qaeda members believed to be plotting a new suicide attack on this date in 2002. Videotapes of their plans had been found in the rubble of an Afghanistan compound used by an aide to Osama bin Laden.

Also on this date in 2002, Mount Nyiragongo, a volcano near the town of Goma in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, erupted, killing at least 45 and leaving an estimated 55,000 homeless.

Rolling blackouts in California, caused by an energy crisis, affected as many as two million people beginning on this date in 2001. The governor declared a state of emergency and accused out-of-state energy generators of withholding supplies to drive up prices.

A bloodless coup succeeded on this date in 1893, when the queen of Hawaii was deposed by wealthy merchants who wanted Hawaii to join the United States. Hawaii had seen an influx of Portuguese sailors, then became part of the British Empire, then allied itself with America. Each group did all it could to Westernize the natives. Ironically, today Hawaiians of all ethnic stripes do all they can to nurture what is left of Hawaiian culture.

It was on this date in 1917 that the United States extended its island holdings in another hemisphere when it bought 50 of the Virgin Islands in the West Indies from Denmark for $25 million.

President Reagan -- who told the American public that he would not permit arms sales to Iran -- signed a secret order permitting that very thing on this date in 1987. The main scandal of the Iran-Contra affair, however, was that profits from the sale were sent to Nicaragua's Contra rebels -- something Congress had made illegal. Reagan defenders said the ban was itself unconstitutional, but the courts never got to decide since the help was secret and denied.

A firing squad executed Gary Gilmore on this date in 1977. Gilmore's execution, in Utah, was the first after reinstatement of the U.S. death penalty in 1976. Utah lets a condemned man choose a firing squad or hanging.

A pre-dawn earthquake struck the Los Angeles area on this date in 1994, claiming 61 lives and causing widespread damage. Exactly one years later, in 1995, a powerful earthquake rocked Kobe, Japan, and the surrounding area -- killing more than 5,000 people.

And it was on this date in 1806 that the first baby was born in the White House, the grandson of President Thomas Jefferson.

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


Today is Jan. 18.

As mandated by Congress, U.S. airlines on this date in 2002 began inspecting every piece of luggage checked in by passengers in a new security measure to combat possible terrorism.

It was on this date in 1701 that Frederick III of Brandenburg was crowned as King Frederick I of Prussia. Then, on this date in 1871, William of Prussia was crowned the first German emperor in a nice little ceremony at Versailles.

Indira Gandhi, daughter of the late Indian leader Nehru, became prime minister of India on this date in 1966. Her son Rajiv would, in turn, become prime minister following his mother's assassination in Oct. 1984. Rajiv Gandhi also would be killed, by a suicide bomber, while campaigning.

Moscow announced on this date in 1943 that the 16-month Nazi siege of Leningrad had been lifted. Leningrad used to be, and today once again is, St. Petersburg, the second-biggest city in Russia.

It was on this date in 1990 that Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry was arrested in an FBI sting at a hotel in the capital. He was charged with buying and smoking crack cocaine. (He was videotaped doing it.)

The same day Marion Barry was arrested, a Los Angeles jury in the nation's longest criminal trial acquitted Raymond Buckey, 31, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 63, on 52 charges of molestation of students at the McMartin Pre-School. A mistrial was declared on the 13 other counts. All charges were dropped against Mrs. Buckey. Her son was retried later in the year, with the trial ending in a hung jury July 27. All remaining charges were dropped Aug. 1.

And it was on this date in 1996 that Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of "The King" Elvis Presley, filed for divorce from the self-proclaimed "Prince of Pop" Michael Jackson after 20 months of marriage. The court documents cited irreconcilable difference.

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


Today is Jan. 19.

Millions of G.I.s knew her as Tokyo Rose, the voice of World War II Japanese propaganda broadcasts. Later, under her real name, Iva Toguri D'Aquino was convicted of treason. It was on this date in 1977 that she got a pardon from President Ford.

It was on this date in 1994 that Tonya Harding's former husband, Jeff Gillooly, was arrested and charged with conspiracy in the attack two weeks earlier on skater Nancy Kerrigan. The bashing had forced Kerrigan to drop out of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, a competition Harding won.

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.

Celebrities ranging from Barbra Streisand to Michael Jackson to a reunited Fleetwood Mac threw a nationally televised pre-inaugural bash for President-elect Clinton on this date in 1993.

And Georgia seceded from the Union on this date in 1861.

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


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