Posts Tagged ‘Suez Canal

17
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-17-2008: I’m Not a Crook

November 17, 1973

Nixon insists that he is not a crook

On this day in 1973, in the midst of the Watergate scandal that eventually ended his presidency, President Richard Nixon tells a group of newspaper editors gathered at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, that he is “not a crook.”

Nixon made the now-famous declaration during a televised question-and-answer session with Associated Press editors. Nixon, who appeared “tense” to a New York Times reporter, was questioned about his role in the Watergate burglary scandal and efforts to cover up the fact that members of his re-election committee had funded the break-in. Nixon replied “people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.” He did, however, admit that he was at fault for failing to supervise his campaign’s fund-raising activities.

At one point during the discussion, Nixon gave a morbid response to an unrelated question about why he chose not to fly with back-up to Air Force One when traveling, the usual security protocol for presidential flights. He told the crowd that by taking just one aircraft he was saving energy, money and possibly time spent in the impeachment process: “if this one [plane] goes down,” he said, “they don’t have to impeach [me].”

Nixon was trying to be funny, but in fact the scandal was taking a toll on his physical and mental health. In Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book All the President’s Men, Nixon is described at this time as being “a prisoner in his own house–secretive, distrustful…combative, sleepless.” Nixon’s protestations of innocence with regard to the Watergate cover-up were eventually eroded by a relentless federal investigation. On August 8, 1974, he resigned the following day.

“Nixon insists that he is not a crook.” 2008. The History Channel website. 17 Nov 2008, 10:58 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52010.

On This Day

1558 – Elizabeth I ascended the English throne upon the death of Queen Mary Tudor.

1800 – The U.S. Congress held its first session in Washington, DC, in the partially completed Capitol building.

1869 – The Suez Canal opened in Egypt, linking the Mediterranean and the Red seas.

1903 – Russia’s Social Democrats officially split into two groups – Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.

1913 – The steamship Louise became the first ship to travel through the Panama Canal.

1913 – In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm banned the armed forces from dancing the tango.

1968 – NBC cut away from the final minutes of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to begin a TV special, “Heidi,” on schedule. The Raiders came from behind to beat the Jets 43-32.

1970 – The Soviet Union landed an unmanned, remote-controlled vehicle on the moon, the Lunokhod 1. The vehicle was released by Luna 17.

1979 – Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of 13 female and black American hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

1988 – Benazir Bhutto became the first woman leader of an Islamic country. She was elected in the first democratic elections in Pakistan in 11 years.

1990 – A mass grave was discovered by the bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand. The bodies were believed to be those of World War II prisoners of war.

November 17, 1969

SALT I negotiations begin

Soviet and U.S. negotiators meet in Helsinki to begin the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). The meeting was the climax of years of discussions between the two nations concerning the means to curb the Cold War arms race. Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Gerard Smith was put in charge of the U.S. delegation. At the same time, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger began negotiations with the Soviet ambassador in America. The negotiations continued for nearly three years, until the signing of the SALT I agreement in May 1972.

Talks centered around two main weapon systems: anti-ballistic missiles (ABM) and multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs- missiles with multiple warheads, each capable of striking different targets). At the time the talks began, the Soviets held a slight advantage in ABM technology; the United States, however, was quickly moving ahead in developing MIRVs, which would give it a tremendous qualitative advantage over Soviet offensive missile systems. From the U.S. perspective, control of ABMs was key. After all, no matter how many missiles the United States developed, if the Soviets could shoot them down before they struck their targets they were of limited use. And, since the Soviets had a quantitative lead in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), an effective Soviet ABM system meant that the Russians could launch devastating nuclear attacks with little fear of reprisal. From the Soviet side, the U.S. development of MIRV technology was particularly frightening. Not only were MIRV missiles technologically superior to Soviet weapons, there were also questions as to whether even an advanced ABM system could protect the Soviet Union from this type of missile. It was obviously time to discuss what seemed to be a never-ending arms race.

The SALT I agreement reached in May 1972 limited each nation to no more than 100 ABM launchers at each of two sites of their own choosing. Offensive weapons were also limited. The United States would be held to 1,000 ICBMs and 710 SLBMs; the Soviets could have 1,409 ICBMs and 950 SLBMs. The administration of President Richard Nixon defended the apparent disparity by noting that nothing had been agreed to concerning MIRVs. American missiles, though fewer in number, could therefore carry more warheads.

Whether all of this made the world much safer was hard to say. The United States and Soviet Union essentially said they would limit efforts to both defend themselves and destroy the other. Their nuclear arsenals, however, were still sufficient to destroy the world many times over.

“SALT I negotiations begin.” 2008. The History Channel website. 17 Nov 2008, 11:03 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2487.

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29
Oct
08

On This Day, 10-29-2008: The Stock Market Crash

October 29, 1929

Stock market crashes

Black Tuesday hits Wall Street as investors trade 16,410,030 shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, wiping out thousands of investors, and stock tickers ran hours behind because the machinery could not handle the tremendous volume of trading. In the aftermath of Black Tuesday, America and the rest of the industrialized world spiraled downward into the Great Depression.

During the 1920s, the U.S. stock market underwent rapid expansion, reaching its peak in August 1929, a period of wild speculation. By then, production had already declined and unemployment had risen, leaving stocks in great excess of their real value. Among the other causes of the eventual market collapse were low wages, the proliferation of debt, a weak agriculture, and an excess of large bank loans that could not be liquidated.

Stock prices began to decline in September and early October 1929, and on October 18 the fall began. Panic set in, and on October 24–Black Thursday–a record 12,894,650 shares were traded. Investment companies and leading bankers attempted to stabilize the market by buying up great blocks of stock, producing a moderate rally on Friday. On Monday, however, the storm broke anew, and the market went into free fall. Black Monday was followed by Black Tuesday, in which stock prices collapsed completely.

After October 29, 1929, stock prices had nowhere to go but up, so there was considerable recovery during succeeding weeks. Overall, however, prices continued to drop as the United States slumped into the Great Depression, and by 1932 stocks were worth only about 20 percent of their value in the summer of 1929. The stock market crash of 1929 was not the sole cause of the Great Depression, but it did act to accelerate the global economic collapse of which it was also a symptom. By 1933, nearly half of America’s banks had failed, and unemployment was approaching 15 million people, or 30 percent of the workforce. It would take World War II, and the massive level of armaments production taken on by the United States, to finally bring the country out of the Depression after a decade of suffering.

“Stock market crashes.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Oct 2008, 12:34 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7065.

On This Day

1618 – Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded under a sentence that had been brought against him 15 years earlier for conspiracy against King James I.

1682 – William Penn landed at what is now Chester, PA. He was the founder of Pennsylvania.

1901 – Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of U.S. President McKinley, was electrocuted.

1923 – Turkey formally became a republic after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. The first president was Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Ataturk.

1940 – The first peacetime military draft began in the U.S.

1945 – The first ballpoint pens to be made commercially went on sale at Gimbels Department Store in New York at the price of $12.50 each.

1956 – Israel invaded Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula during the Suez Canal Crisis.

1966 – The National Organization for Women was founded.

1969 – The U.S. Supreme Court ordered an immediate end to all school segregation.

1993 – A group of U.S. athletes were attacked by skinheads in Germany.

1994 – Francisco Martin Duran fired more than two dozen shots at the White House while standing on Pennsylvania Ave. Duran was later convicted of trying to kill U.S. President Clinton.

 

October 29, 1942

The British protest against the persecution of Jews

On this day in 1942, leading British clergymen and political figures hold a public meeting to register their outrage over the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany.

In a message sent to the meeting, Prime Minister Winston Churchill summed up the sentiments of all present: “The systematic cruelties to which the Jewish people-men, women, and children-have been exposed under the Nazi regime are amongst the most terrible events of history, and place an indelible stain upon all who perpetrate and instigate them. Free men and women,” Churchill continued, “denounce these vile crimes, and when this world struggle ends with the enthronement of human rights, racial persecution will be ended.”

The very next day, the power of protest over cruelty was made evident elsewhere in Europe. When Gestapo officers in Brussels removed more than 100 Jewish children from a children’s home for deportation, staff members refused to leave the sides of their young charges. Both the staff and the children were removed to a deportation camp set up in Malines. Protests rained down on the Germans, who had occupied the nation for more than two years, including one lodged by the Belgian secretary-general of the Ministry of Justice. The children and staff were returned to the home.

“The British protest against the persecution of Jews.” 2008. The History Channel website. 29 Oct 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6632.

26
Jul
08

On This Day, 7-26-08: The National Security Act

Truman signs the National Security Act

President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act, which becomes one of the most important pieces of Cold War legislation. The act established much of the bureaucratic framework for foreign policymaking for the next 40-plus years of the Cold War.

By July 1947, the Cold War was in full swing. The United States and the Soviet Union, once allies during World War II, now faced off as ideological enemies. In the preceding months, the administration of President Truman had argued for, and secured, military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to assist in their struggles against communist insurgents. In addition, the Marshall Plan, which called for billions of dollars in U.S. aid to help rebuild war-torn Western Europe and strengthen it against possible communist aggression, had also taken shape. As the magnitude of the Cold War increased, however, so too did the need for a more efficient and manageable foreign policymaking bureaucracy in the United States. The National Security Act was the solution.

The National Security Act had three main parts. First, it streamlined and unified the nation’s military establishment by bringing together the Navy Department and War Department under a new Department of Defense. This department would facilitate control and utilization of the nation’s growing military. Second, the act established the National Security Council (NSC). Based in the White House, the NSC was supposed to serve as a coordinating agency, sifting through the increasing flow of diplomatic and intelligence information in order to provide the president with brief but detailed reports. Finally, the act set up the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA replaced the Central Intelligence Group, which had been established in 1946 to coordinate the intelligence-gathering activities of the various military branches and the Department of State. The CIA, however, was to be much more–it was a separate agency, designed not only to gather intelligence but also to carry out covert operations in foreign nations.

The National Security Act formally took effect in September 1947. Since that time, the Department of Defense, NSC, and CIA have grown steadily in terms of size, budgets, and power. The Department of Defense, housed in the Pentagon, controls a budget that many Third World nations would envy. The NSC rapidly became not simply an information organizing agency, but one that was active in the formation of foreign policy. The CIA also grew in power over the course of the Cold War, becoming involved in numerous covert operations. Most notable of these was the failed Bay of Pigs operation of 1961, in which Cuban refugees, trained and armed by the CIA, were unleashed against the communist regime of Fidel Castro. The mission was a disaster, with most of the attackers either killed or captured in a short time. Though it had both successes and failures, the National Security Act indicated just how seriously the U.S. government took the Cold War threat.

“Truman signs the National Security Act.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:42 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2740.

 

On This Day

1775 – A postal system was established by the 2nd Continental Congress of the United States. The first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin.

1788 – New York became the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1881 – Thomas Edison and Patrick Kenny execute a patent application for a facsimile telegraph (U.S. Pat. 479,184).

1945 – Winston Churchill resigned as Britain’s prime minister.

1948 – U.S. President Truman signed executive orders that prohibited discrimination in the U.S. armed forces and federal employment.

1953 – Fidel Castro began his revolt against Fulgencio Batista with an unsuccessful attack on an army barracks in eastern Cuba. Castro eventually ousted Batista six years later.

1956 – Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal.

1971 – Apollo 15 was launched from Cape Kennedy, FL.

1999 – 1,500 pieces of Marilyn Monroe’s personal items went on display at Christie’s in New York, NY. The items went on sale later in 1999.

 

Liberian independence proclaimed

The Republic of Liberia, formerly a colony of the American Colonization Society, declares its independence. Under pressure from Britain, the United States hesitantly accepted Liberian sovereignty, making the West African nation the first democratic republic in African history. A constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution was approved, and in 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts was elected Liberia’s first president.

“Liberian independence proclaimed.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:43 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5208.

FBI founded

On July 26, 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is born when U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte orders a group of newly hired federal investigators to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch of the Department of Justice. One year later, the Office of the Chief Examiner was renamed the Bureau of Investigation, and in 1935 it became the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“FBI founded.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6970.

Real-life Psycho Ed Gein dies

On July 26, 1984, Ed Gein, a serial killer infamous for skinning human corpses, dies of complications from cancer in a Wisconsin prison at age 77. Gein served as the inspiration for writer Robert Bloch’s character Norman Bates in the 1959 novel Psycho, which in 1960 was turned into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Edward Theodore Gein was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on July 27, 1906, to an alcoholic father and domineering mother, who taught her son that women and sex were evil. Gein was raised, along with an older brother, on an isolated farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. After Gein’s father died in 1940, the future killer’s brother died under mysterious circumstances during a fire in 1944 and his beloved mother passed away from health problems in 1945. Gein remained on the farm by himself.

In November 1957, police found the headless, gutted body of a missing store clerk, Bernice Worden, at Gein’s farmhouse. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a collection of human skulls along with furniture and clothing, including a suit, made from human body parts and skin. Gein told police he had dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother. Investigators found the remains of 10 women in Gein’s home, but he was ultimately linked to just two murders: Bernice Worden and another local woman, Mary Hogan.

Gein was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a state hospital in Wisconsin. His farm attracted crowds of curiosity seekers before it burned down in 1958, most likely in a blaze set by an arsonist. In 1968, Gein was deemed sane enough to stand trial, but a judge ultimately found him guilty by reason of insanity and he spent the rest of his days in a state facility.

In addition to Psycho, films including Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs were said to be loosely based on Gein’s crimes.

“Real-life Psycho Ed Gein dies.” 2008. The History Channel website. 26 Jul 2008, 12:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=57191.

 

The very concept of history implies the scholar and the reader. Without a generation of civilized people to study history, to preserve its records, to absorb its lessons and relate them to its own problems, history, too, would lose its meaning.
George F. Kennan

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
John Maynard Keynes

25
Apr
08

On This Day, 4-25-08: Samantha Smith

Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two

On this day in 1945, eight Russian armies completely encircle Berlin, linking up with the U.S. First Army patrol, first on the western bank of the Elbe, then later at Torgau. Germany is, for all intents and purposes, Allied territory.

The Allies sounded the death knell of their common enemy by celebrating. In Moscow, news of the link-up between the two armies resulted in a 324-gun salute; in New York, crowds burst into song and dance in the middle of Times Square. Among the Soviet commanders who participated in this historic meeting of the two armies was the renowned Russian Marshal Georgi K. Zhukov, who warned a skeptical Stalin as early as June 1941 that Germany posed a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zhukov would become invaluable in battling German forces within Russia (Stalingrad and Moscow) and without. It was also Zhukov who would demand and receive unconditional surrender of Berlin from German General Krebs less than a week after encircling the German capital. At the end of the war, Zhukov was awarded a military medal of honor from Great Britain.

“Americans and Russians link up, cut Germany in two.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Apr 2008, 01:54 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6433.

1684 – A patent was granted for the thimble.

1792 – The guillotine was first used to execute highwayman Nicolas J. Pelletier.

1846 – The Mexican-American War ignited as a result of disputes over claims to Texas boundaries. The outcome of the war fixed Texas‘ southern boundary at the Rio Grande River.

1859 – Work began on the Suez Canal in Egypt.

1860 – The first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power reached Washington, DC. They remained in the U.S. capital for several weeks while discussing expansion of trade with the United States.

1862 – Union Admiral Farragut occupied New Orleans, LA.

1864 – After facing defeat in the Red River Campaign, Union General Nathaniel Bank returned to Alexandria, LA.

1867 – Tokyo was opened for foreign trade.

1882 – French commander Henri Riviere seized the citadel of Hanoi in Indochina.

1898 – The U.S. declared war on Spain. Spain had declared war on the U.S. the day before.

1915 – During World War I, Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey in hopes of attacking the Central Powers from below. The attack was unsuccessful.

1928 – A seeing eye dog was used for the first time.

1945 – Delegates from about 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations.

1952 – After a three-day fight against Chinese Communist Forces, the Gloucestershire Regiment was annihilated on “Gloucester Hill,” in Korea.

1954 – The prototype manufacture of the first solar battery was announced by the Bell Laboratories in New York City.

1959 – St. Lawrence Seaway opened to shipping. The water way connects the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

1967 – Colorado Governor John Love signed the first law legalizing abortion in the U.S. The law was limited to therapeutic abortions when agreed to, unanimously, by a panel of three physicians.

1984 – David Anthony Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, was found dead of a drug overdose in a hotel room.

1992 – Islamic forces in Afghanistan took control of most of the capital of Kabul following the collapse of the Communist government.

1996 – The main assembly of the Palestine Liberation Organization voted to revoke clauses in its charter that called for an armed struggle to destroy Israel.

 

Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader

The Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader. This rather unusual piece of Soviet propaganda was in direct response to President Ronald Reagan’s vigorous attacks on what he called “the evil empire” of the Soviet Union.

In 1983, President Reagan was in the midst of a harsh rhetorical campaign against the Soviet Union. A passionate anticommunist, President Reagan called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In Russia, however, events were leading to a different Soviet approach to the West. In 1982, long-time leader Leonid Brezhnev died; Yuri Andropov was his successor. While Andropov was not radical in his approach to politics and economics, he did seem to sincerely desire a better relationship with the United States. In an attempt to blunt the Reagan attacks, the Soviet government released a letter that Andropov had written in response to one sent by Samantha Smith, a fifth-grade student from Manchester, Maine.

Smith had written the Soviet leader as part of a class assignment, one that was common enough for students in the Cold War years. Most of these missives received a form letter response, if any at all, but Andropov answered Smith’s letter personally. He explained that the Soviet Union had suffered horrible losses in World War II, an experience that convinced the Russian people that they wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries, so that there will be no war at all on earth. This is the wish of everyone in the Soviet Union. That’s what we were taught to do by Vladimir Lenin, the great founder of our state.” He vowed that Russia would “never, but never, be the first to use nuclear weapons against any country.” Andropov complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character of Becky from the Mark Twain novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “All kids in our country, boys and girls alike, know and love this book,” he added. Andropov ended by inviting Samantha and her parents to visit the Soviet Union. In July 1983, Samantha accepted the invitation and flew to Russia for a three-week tour.

Soviet propaganda had never been known for its human qualities. Generally speaking, it was given to heavy-handed diatribes and communist cliches. In his public relations duel with Reagan-the American president known as the “Great Communicator”-Andropov tried something different by assuming a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach. Whether this would have borne fruit is unknown; just a year later, Andropov died. Tragically, Samantha Smith, aged 13, died just one year after Andropov’s passing, in August 1985 in a plane crash.

“Andropov writes to an American fifth-grader.” 2008. The History Channel website. 25 Apr 2008, 01:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2648.




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