Samantha's Today in History

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August 20th

1741 Danish navigator Vitus Jonas Bering discovered what is now Alaska.
1968 Approximately 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the Prague Spring -- a brief period of liberalization in the communist country.
1977 The first U.S. Voyager spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., bound for Jupiter and Saturn.
1982 U.S. President Ronald Reagan announced that a contingent of U.S. Marines would join French and Italian troops as peacekeepers in Beirut.
1986 Postal worker Patrick Henry Sherrill killed 14 fellow workers and wounded six others in the Edmond, Okla., post office before killing himself.
1990 U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared that Americans and other foreigners held by Iraq are hostages and warned he will hold Iraq responsible for their safety and well-being.
1996 U.S. President Bill Clinton signed into law an increase in the minimum wage in two steps from $4.25 to $5.15 an hour.
1997 NATO forces seized thousands of weapons being kept at police stations in Serbian Bosnia's largest city.
1998 U.S. missiles struck sites in Afghanistan and Sudan said to be linked with terrorists. The attacks were in response to the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 13 days earlier.
2002 A group of Iraqis opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein took over the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin for five hours before releasing their hostages and surrendering.
2003 Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended after refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a rock inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lobby of the state supreme court building.
2005 In his first visit to his German homeland since becoming pope, Benedict XVI told a group of Muslims that Islam and Christianity must work together to defeat terrorism.
2006 Schoolteacher John Mark Karr was returned to the United States for questioning in the decade-old death of 6-year-old Colorado beauty queen Jon Benet Ramsey. Karr confessed to the killing but said it was an accident. He was later determined not to have a role in the girl's death.
2007 The governor of Iraq's southern al-Muthana province and five of his aides were killed when a roadside bomb struck their convoy. Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Hassani was a member of the largest Shiite political group in parliament.
2007 Fall term classes started at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on a day after a memorial service for the 32 people gunned down by a student on campus in April.
2008 Spanish officials have put the death toll at 153 in the Madrid crash of a Spanair jet on takeoff. Twenty-seven people were said to have survived though injured. Observers told authorities the left jet engine was on fire as the plane lifted off.
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August 21st

1831 Slave Nat Turner launched a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Va., leading to the deaths of 60 people. Turner, an educated minister who considered himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, was hanged.
1935 Benny Goodman's nationally broadcast concert at Los Angeles' Palomar Theater was such a hit that it often has been referred to as the kickoff of the swing era.
1940 Exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City on orders from Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
1951 The United States ordered construction of the world's first atomic submarine, the Nautilus.
1959 Hawaii became the 50th state.
1968 The Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia to end its bid for independence from Moscow.
1983 Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino was assassinated as he stepped from a plane at the Manila airport.
1986 Gas belching from a volcanic lake in the remote mountains of Cameroon killed more than 1,700 people and injured 500.
1991 A coup to oust Soviet President Gorbachev collapsed two days after it began.
1992 Fugitive neo-Nazi leader Randall Weaver opened fire on U.S. marshals from inside his Idaho mountaintop home. His wife and teenage son and a deputy marshal died during the 11-day standoff.
1994 Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon was elected president of Mexico.
1995 The Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds tobacco companies agreed to drop libel suits against ABC News after the network apologized for reporting a year earlier that cigarette makers added nicotine in order to addict smokers.
2002 U.S. President George Bush said that while no decision had been made whether to go to war against Iraq, he believed a regime change would be in the best interest of the world.
2002 Michael Copper, former executive of the bankrupt energy giant Enron, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
2004 Two French journalists were reported kidnapped by Islamic radicals who demanded France repeal its ban on Muslim headscarves in school. France refused.
2005 Israeli soldiers moved into the final phase of their evacuation of residents of the Gaza Strip, an operation that reportedly went smoothly overall. More than 30 homes were razed in the northern section, first large-scale demolitions of the mission.
2005 Sectarian violence erupted in Northern Ireland with about 400 nationalists and loyalists rioting in Belfast. There were no serious injuries reported.
2006 U.S. President George Bush admitted at a news conference that the war in Iraq was a big strain on the United States but declared there would be no mass American pullout so long as I'm the president.
2006 Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein went on trial on a second mass murder charge in Baghdad, this one involving the deaths of 148 men and boys in an alleged revenge attack. He already was being tried in relation to the deaths of thousands of Kurds.
2007 Hurricane Dean, a Category 5 storm with wind gusts of 200 mph, slammed into a relatively unpopulated area of the Yucatan Peninsula as the third-most powerful recorded Atlantic hurricane at landfall. The storm drifted to the northwest, weakening and dissipating uneventfully over the southwestern United States.
2008 The United States and Iraq report they have agreed to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the rest of the country by 2011 if conditions remain stable.
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August 22nd

1851 The U.S.-built schooner America outran a fleet of Britain's finest ships around England's Isle of Wight in an international race that became known as America's Cup.
1881 American humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons founded the National Red Cross.
1911 Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris. It was recovered four months later.
1922 Michael Collins, a founder of the Irish Republican Army and a key figure in Ireland's independence movement, was assassinated by political opponents.
1968 Pope Paul VI arrived in Colombia, becoming the first pontiff to visit South America.
1986 Kerr-McGee Corp. agreed to pay the estate of nuclear industry worker Karen Silkwood more than $1 million, ending a 10-year legal battle waged by her family over her exposure to radioactive materials at the company's plant in Oklahoma.
1995 U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-Ill, was convicted of having sex with an underage girl, leading to his resignation later in the year.
2003 A senior U.S. official said Iraqi security guards were suspected of helping the suicide bomber that hit the Baghdad U.N. compound earlier in the week, killing 22 and injuring about 100 others.
2004 Two masked robbers stole Edvard Munch's The Scream and another painting from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. The Scream was stolen once before, 10 years earlier, but was recovered within three months.
2005 The last Jewish settlers moved peacefully out of the Gaza Strip after carrying the Torah scrolls down the main street of Netzarim, last of 21 settlements to be evacuated.
2005 Iraq's constitution committee returned to the drawing board after submitting a draft document to the National Assembly and then withdrawing it. Many Sunni negotiators reportedly objected to the draft.
2006 The U.S. State Department began investigating Israel's reported use of U.S.-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon, said to be a violation of secret agreements with the United States.
2006 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration decided to make the morning-after contraceptive pill known as Plan B available without a prescription to people 18 and older.
2007 As sectarian violence continued in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said political progress there had been extremely disappointing.
2007 The Iraqi High Tribunal began the trial of 15 of former dictator Saddam Hussein's aides in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
2008 Six Americans arrested in China for protesting Chinese rule over Tibet were given 10-day detention sentences.
2008 Tropical Storm Fay spent most of the week in Florida spawning high winds and heavy rains there and in surrounding states. Six deaths were attributed to the storm.
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August 23rd

1926 Silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino died, sending his fans into hysterical mourning.
1927 Despite worldwide demonstrations in support of their innocence, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were executed for murder.
1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. Less than two years later, Germany launched a blitzkrieg attack on Russia.
1982 Beirut Christian leader Beshir Gemayel was elected president of Lebanon. He was assassinated less than one month later and was succeeded by his brother, Amin.
1991 Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin pressured Soviet President Gorbachev into replacing his Cabinet in the wake of a failed coup.
1996 Tobacco regulation, recommended by the FDA, was approved by U.S. President Bill Clinton.
1999 Berlin once again became the capital of Germany.
2003 A former priest who had been in the forefront of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church was strangled, apparently by a fellow inmate, at a Massachusetts prison.
2005 The U.S. Defense Department said it planned to review its investigation into the friendly fire death of soldier and former pro football star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan.
2005 Venezuela's vice president reacted angrily to comments by U.S. evangelist Pat Robertson who suggested President Hugo Chavez be assassinated.
2006 Amnesty International accused Israel of war crimes for allegedly targeting civilians in its fight with Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.
2007 Flooding in the upper U.S. Midwest drove thousands of people from their homes. Hardest hit were Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio. Wildfires meanwhile raged out of control in California, Idaho and Montana.
2007 Military authorities investigated the crash of a U.S. helicopter that apparently malfunctioned and crashed in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, killing 14 soldiers aboard.
2008 Sen. Barack Obama, the expected Democratic nominee for president, confirmed he chose U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.
2008 Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed U.S. airstrikes for the deaths of 95 civilians.
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August 24th

1814 The British captured Washington and burned the Capitol building and the White House.
1932 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the United States.
1987 A U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati ruled public schools could require students to study textbooks not accepted by religious fundamentalists.
1990 Irish-British hostage Brian Keenan, held by pro-Iranian Muslim extremists in Lebanon for more than four years, was freed.
1991 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev quit as general secretary of the Communist Party central committee. He also ordered his Cabinet to resign.
1992 Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida south of Miami with sustained winds of up to 145 mph, carving a path of destruction.
1995 Beijing convicted and then expelled Chinese-American human rights activist Harry Wu, arrested in June while trying to enter China from Kazakhstan.
1996 Four women became students at The Citadel, a military school in South Carolina that had fought in court to remain all-male.
2004 Two Russian passenger jetliners crashed within minutes of each other after taking off from Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. A total of 89 people were killed.
2005 U.S. President George Bush vowed in an Idaho speech that he wouldn't retreat from Iraq or the rest of the Middle East until U.S. troops win the war on terror.
2005 A Peruvian passenger plane crashed in the jungle of central Peru, killing at least 40 people.
2006 Pluto, the small, distant planet that has been around officially since 1930, was demoted to a non-planet status when the International Astronomical Union voted to adopt a new definition of planet, which excludes Pluto.
2007 An amount of phosgene, a potentially deadly chemical nerve gas component, was found in secured vials in a U.N. office in New York. There were no injuries and an inquiry was opened to find out how the substance got there.
2007 Chinese officials, under global pressure regarding the safety of their products, said they have launched a special war to improve quality and supervision. The list of products runs from food and drugs to toys and electric wires.
2008 The Summer Olympic Games came to a close in Beijing with the United States winning the most medals, 110, including 36 gold. Host China captured the most gold medals, 51, and was second in the overall category, at 100. U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps turned in the most outstanding individual performance with a record eight gold medals in eight events.
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August 25th

1718 The city of New Orleans was founded.
1875 Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old British merchant navy captain, became the first person known to successfully swim the English Channel.
1944 U.S. troops liberated Paris from the Nazis in World War II.
1967 A sniper assassinated American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell in Arlington, Va.
1985 Samantha Smith, 13, was killed with her father and six other people in a plane crash in Maine. Her 1983 letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov about her fear of nuclear war earned her a visit to the Soviet Union.
1990 The U.N. Security Council voted 13-0 to authorize use of minimal force against ships breaking the economic embargo of Iraq.
1991 The Soviet republic of Byelorussia, now known as Belarus, declared independence.
1992 Researchers reported that cigarette smoking significantly boosts the risk of developing cataracts, a leading cause of blindness.
1992 Right-wing extremists, egged on by Berlin residents, set fire to a hostel for Vietnamese asylum seekers during a third night of violence against foreigners.
1993 Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in connection with a number of terrorist activities, including the bombing of the World Trade Center.
1993 On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at an all-time high of 3,652.09.
1999 The FBI admitted it fired pyrotechnic tear-gas canisters at the Branch Davidian cult compound near Waco, Texas, on the day in 1993 that the standoff came to a fiery end but said the containers bounced away harmlessly.
2003 At least 45 people died and more than 61 were injured when two car bombs exploded in a crowded area of Mumbai.
2004 A U.S. Army investigation concluded that military intelligence units played a major role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuses in Iraq.
2004 The World Health Organization warned that polio was on the verge of becoming a major epidemic in Africa.
2006 Pulkova Ailines Flight 612 crashed near the Russian border in Ukraine, killing 171 people.
2007 The Democratic National Committee voted to strip Florida of its delegates to the 2008 presidential nominating convention for rescheduling its primary for Jan. 29 in violation of party policy. Michigan received a similar penalty.
2007 Back-to-back explosions thought to be set by terrorists killed at least 44 people and injured more than 50 in Hyderabad, India. Authorities uncovered explosives at 16 other locations in and near the city, officials said.
2008 Two Afghan army commanders were fired after a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed 89 civilians, many of them children. Afghan President Hamid Karzai blamed the casualties on a failure of coordination between coalition forces and the Afghan army.
2008 Israel freed 198 Palestinian prisoners to show support for the leadership of the Fatah party governing the West Bank. Nearly 9,000 Palestinians remained in Israeli prisons for offenses ranging from attacks to membership in militant groups, including one behind bars since 1977.
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August 26th

1964 Democrats nominated U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey to face the Republicans in November.
1974 Charles Lindbergh died at the age of 72.
1978 Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected the 263rd pope and chose the name John Paul I. He died 33 days later.
1992 U.S. President George H.W. Bush announced a ban on Iraqi military flights over southern Iraq to protect the Shiite Muslims. He said any planes that violate the order would be shot down by U.S.-led coalition forces.
1996 A court in South Korea sentenced former President Chun Doo-hwan to death for the coup that put him in power. His successor, Roh Tae-woo, was sentenced to prison for taking bribes.
1998 U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno asked for a 90-day preliminary investigation into alleged illegal campaign fundraising phone calls Vice President Al Gore made from the White House.
2003 NASA was severely criticized on several counts by a federal board investigating the Feb. 1 Columbia shuttle disaster.
2003 The U.N. Security Council denounced as a grave violation of human rights the killings of Kuwaiti prisoners, believed to be in the hundreds, by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime.
2004 A leader in the U.S. Army panel investigating prisoner abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison said the team had discovered serious misconduct and a loss of moral values.
2004 A mortar attack on a mosque in Koufa in central Iraq killed 40 people and injured another 70.
2005 Hurricane Katrina struck Florida's Atlantic coast, causing flooding that claimed 11 lives. The massive storm then moved into the Gulf of Mexico where it picked up strength and sent thousands of Gulf Coast residents fleeing its expected onslaught.
2005 A Gallup Poll indicated U.S. President George W. Bush's approval rating was 40 percent -- the lowest Gallup rating of his presidency.
2006 Iran rebuffed the U.N. edict to stop its nuclear project or face sanctions and went ahead with expansion steps.
2007 The unofficial estimate of people killed in flooding in North Korea ballooned to 600.
2007 Wildfires, all believed to be the act of arsonists, raged in Greece, fanned by gale force winds, killing at least 59 people and destroying thousands of acres of crops, pasture land and forests.
2008 Median U.S. household income climbed 1.3 percent from 2006 to 2007, reaching $50,233 for a third consecutive increase, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. The report said the nation's official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent -- 37.3 million -- about the same as a year earlier.
2008 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees recognizing the independence of two breakaway regions of Georgia. Medvedev said granting South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence was an act of necessity and urged other nations to make similar diplomatic moves.
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August 27th

1859 The first successful oil well in the United States was drilled near Titusville, Pa.
1883 The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred on Krakatoa, a small, uninhabited island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia.
1928 The Kellogg-Briand Pact, outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes, was signed by 15 nations in Paris. World War II began 11 years later.
1939 Adolf Hitler served notice on England and France that Germany wanted Danzig and the Polish Corridor.
1977 IRA militants killed Louis Mountbatten, a cousin of the queen, by blowing up his boat. It was the IRA's first attack on the royal family.
1991 The Soviet republic of Moldavia declared independence and the European Community recognized Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as independent countries.
1992 Serbian leaders at the Yugoslav peace conference pledged to close the prisoner-of-war camps, end ethnic cleansing and work toward peace.
1999 Two Russian cosmonauts and a French astronaut left Mir to return to Earth, leaving the orbiting Russian space station unmanned for the first time in 13 years.
2003 The United States and North Korea met privately in Beijing during the six-nation talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program. Diplomats said there was no breakthrough in the talks.
2004 Russian authorities said traces of explosives were found in the wreckage of two airliners that crashed within minutes of each other after takeoff earlier in the week in Moscow, heightening suspicion of terrorism. A total of 89 people died in the crashes.
2006 Reports said hundreds of tribal chiefs signed a pact supporting reconciliation and an end to sectarian strife in Iraq while bombs and gunfire killed 100 Iraqis over a two-day period.
2007 Beleaguered U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation, effective Sept. 17. He had been embroiled in several controversies including the firings of nine U.S. attorneys, treatment of detainees, surveillance and other issues.
2008 Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was formally elected the Democratic presidential nominee at the party's national convention in Denver. In a symbolic gesture, Sen. Hillary Clinton, his closest opponent, moved to end the roll call and nominate Obama by acclamation. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware was the party's vice presidential nominee.
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