This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
October 17 is the 290th day of the year (291st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 75 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signs into law an act of Congress approving $100 million of military and “humanitarian” aid for the Contras. Unfortunately for the President and his advisors, the Iran-Contra scandal is just about to break wide open, seriously compromising their goal of overthrowing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Congress, and a majority of the American public, had not been supportive of the Reagan administration’s efforts to topple the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Reagan began a “secret war” to bring down the Nicaraguan government soon after taking office in 1981. Millions of dollars, training, and arms were funneled to the Contras (an armed force of Nicaraguan exiles intent on removing the leftist Nicaraguan regime) through the CIA. American involvement in the Contra movement soon became public, however, as did disturbing reports about the behavior of the Contra force. Charges were leveled in newspapers and in Congress that the Contras were little more than murderers and drug runners; rumors of corruption and payoffs were common. Congress steadily reduced U.S. assistance to the Contras, and in 1984 passed the second Boland Amendment prohibiting U.S. agencies from giving any aid to the group.
The affair was composed of arms sales to Iran in violation of the official US policy of an arms embargo against Iran, and of using funds thus generated to arm and train the Contra militants based in Honduras as they waged a guerilla war to topple the government of Nicaragua. The Contras’ form of warfare was “one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping.” The “Contras systematically engage in violent abuses… so prevalent that these may be said to be their principal means of waging war.” A Human Rights Watch report found that the Contras were guilty of targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination; kidnapping civilians; torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat; raping women; indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian homes; seizing civilian property; and burning civilian houses in captured towns.
Direct funding of the Contras insurgency had been made illegal through the Boland Amendment the name given to three U.S. legislative amendments between 1982 and 1984, all aimed at limiting US government assistance to the Contras militants. Senior officials of the Reagan administration decided to continue arming and training the Contras secretly and in violation of the law as enacted in the Boland Amendment. Senior Reagan administration officials started what they came to call “the Enterprise,” a project to raise money for their illegal funding of the Contras insurgency.
539 BC – King Cyrus The Great of Persia marches into the city of Babylon, releasing the Jews from almost 70 years of exile and making the first Human Rights Declaration.
1091 – T8/F4 tornado strikes the heart of London.
1346 – Battle of Neville’s Cross: King David II of Scotland is captured by Edward III of England near Durham, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for eleven years.
1448 – Second Battle of Kosovo, where the mainly Hungarian army led by John Hunyadi is defeated by an Ottoman army led by Sultan Murad II.
1456 – The University of Greifswald is established, making it the second oldest university in northern Europe (also for a period the oldest in Sweden, and Prussia)
1604 – Kepler’s Star: German astronomer Johannes Kepler observes a supernova in the constellation Ophiuchus.
1610 – French king Louis XIII is crowned in Rheims.
1660 – Nine Regicides, the men who signed the death warrant of Charles I, are hanged, drawn and quartered.
1662 – Charles II of England sells Dunkirk to France for 40,000 pounds.
1771 – Premiere in Milan of the opera Ascanio in Alba, composed by Wolfgang Mozart, age 15.
1777 – American troops defeat the British in the Battle of Saratoga.
1781 – General Charles Cornwallis offers his surrender to the American revolutionists at Yorktown, Virginia.
1797 – Treaty of Campo Formio is signed between France and Austria
1800 – Britain takes control of the Dutch colony of Curacao.
1806 – Former leader of the Haitian Revolution, Emperor Jacques I of Haiti is assassinated after an oppressive rule.
1814 – London Beer Flood occurs in London, killing nine.
1860 – First The Open Championship (referred to in North America as the British Open).
1888 – Thomas Edison files a patent for the Optical Phonograph (the first movie).
1907 – Guglielmo Marconi’s company begins the first commercial transatlantic wireless service between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada and Clifden, Ireland.
1912 – Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia declare war on the Ottoman Empire, joining Montenegro in the First Balkan War.
1917 – First British bombing of Germany in World War I.
1931 – Al Capone convicted of income tax evasion.
1933 – Albert Einstein, fleeing Nazi Germany, moves to the U.S..
1941 – For the first time in World War II, a German submarine attacks an American ship.
1941 – German troops execute the male population of the villages Kerdyllia in Serres, Greece and burn the houses down.
1943 – Burma Railway (Burma-Thailand Railway) is completed.
1945 – A massive number of people, headed by CGT and Evita, gather in the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina to demand Juan Peron’s release. This is known to the Peronists as the Dia de la lealtad (Loyalty Day). It’s considered the founding day of Peronism.
1956 – The first commercial nuclear power station is officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in Sellafield,in Cumbria, England.
1961 – Scores of Algerian protesters (some claim up to 400) are massacred by the Paris police at the instigation of Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon, then chief of the Prefecture of Police.
1964 – Prime Minister of Australia Robert Menzies opens the artificial Lake Burley Griffin in the middle of the capital Canberra.
1965 – The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair closes after a two year run. More than 51 million people had attended the two-year event.
1966 – A fire at a building in New York, New York kills 12 firefighters, the New York City Fire Department’s deadliest day until the September 11, 2001 attacks.
1966 – Botswana and Lesotho join the United Nations.
1968 – Black American athletes make a silent protest against racism at the Olympics
1970 – Montreal, Quebec: Quebec Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte murdered by members of the FLQ terrorist group.
1973 – OPEC starts an oil embargo against a number of western countries, considered to have helped Israel in its war against Syria.
1977 – German Autumn: Four days after it is hijacked, Lufthansa Flight 181 lands in Mogadishu, Somalia, where a team of German GSG 9 commandos later rescues all remaining hostages on board.
1979 – Mother Teresa awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1979 – The Department of Education Organization Act is signed into law creating the US Department of Education and US Department of Health and Human Services.
1980 – As part of the Holy See – United Kingdom relations a British monarch makes the first state visit to the Vatican
1989 – 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (7.1 on the Richter scale) hits the San Francisco Bay Area and causes 57 deaths directly (and 6 indirectly).
1998 – At Jesse, in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, a petroleum pipeline explodes killing about 1200 villagers, some of whom are scavenging gasoline.
2000 – Train crash at Hatfield, north of London, leading to collapse of Railtrack.
2003 – The pinnacle is fitted on the roof of Taipei 101, a 101-floor skyscraper in Taipei, allowing it to surpass the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur by 50 meters (165 feet) and become the World’s tallest highrise.
2006 – The United States population reaches 300 million.