A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  Feb. 14, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Today is Feb. 14.

This is Valentine's Day, for many a romantic time to be remembered with affection and with cards, flowers and candy. It also is a date with a dark side, a date on which at least two Christians with the name Valentine were martyred. One, a priest, was beaten and beheaded in 269 A.D., supposedly for performing secret wedding ceremonies for soldiers at a time when Roman authorities thought it best that soldiers remain unmarried. Another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni, was said also have been beheaded on the date.

And, on this date in 1929, in what is known as the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre," gunmen believed to be working for Prohibition-era crime lord Al Capone murdered seven members of the rival George "Bugs" Moran gang in a Chicago garage. The brutal assault stirred a media storm centered on Capone and his illegal activities and motivated federal authorities to redouble their efforts to find evidence incriminating enough to take him off the streets.

The West Coast citrus industry was born on this date in 1886 when the first trainload of oranges left Los Angeles for eastern markets.

On this day in 1979, Iranian guerrillas stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, trapping Ambassador William Sullivan and 100 staff members. Forces of the Ayatollah Khomeini later freed them but the incident foreshadowed the embassy takeover in November.

And 10 years later, in 1989, Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini -- offended by a novel titled "The Satanic Verses" -- called on Muslims around the world to kill its British author, Salmon Rushdie. He offered a $1 million reward for Rushdie's death. The writer went into hiding. In 1998, the Iranian government rescinded the death sentence.

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

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