Today In History, August 30
Saturday August 30, 2014 the 240th day and 34th week of 2014, there are 126 days and 18 weeks left in the year. Highlights of today in world history…
1918 Vladimir Lenin shot
After speaking at a factory in Moscow, Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was shot twice by Fanya Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionary party. Lenin was seriously wounded but survived the attack. The assassination attempt set off a wave of reprisals by the Bolsheviks against the Social Revolutionaries and other political opponents. Thousands were executed as Russia fell deeper into civil war.
Born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in 1870, Lenin was drawn to the revolutionary cause after his brother was executed in 1887 for plotting to assassinate Czar Alexander III. He studied law and took up practice in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), where he associated with revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895, he helped organize Marxist groups in the capital into the “Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class,” which attempted to enlist workers to the Marxist cause. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union were arrested. Lenin was jailed for a year and then exiled to Siberia for a term of three years.
After the end of his exile, in 1900, Lenin went to Western Europe, where he continued his revolutionary activity. It was during this time that he adopted the pseudonym Lenin. In 1902, he published a pamphlet titled What Is to Be Done? which argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia. In 1903, he met with other Russian Marxists in London and established the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). However, from the start there was a split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks (Majoritarian), who advocated militarism, and the Mensheviks (Majoritarian), who advocated a democratic movement toward socialism. These two groups increasingly opposed each other within the framework of the RSDWP, and Lenin made the split official at a 1912 conference of the Bolshevik Party.
After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. The revolution, which consisted mainly of strikes throughout the Russian empire, came to an end when Nicholas II promised reforms, including the adoption of a Russian constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature. However, once order was restored, the czar nullified most of these reforms, and in 1907 Lenin was again forced into exile.
Lenin opposed World War I, which began in 1914, as an imperialistic conflict and called on proletariat soldiers to turn their guns on the capitalist leaders who sent them down into the murderous trenches. For Russia, World War I was an unprecedented disaster: Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any nation in any previous war. Meanwhile, the economy was hopelessly disrupted by the costly war effort, and in March 1917 riots and strikes broke out in Petrograd over the scarcity of food. Demoralized army troops joined the strikers, and on March 15 Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, ending centuries of czarist rule. In the aftermath of the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar), power was shared between the ineffectual Provincial Government and the soviets, or “councils,” of soldiers’ and workers’ committees.
After the outbreak of the February Revolution, German authorities allowed Lenin and his lieutenants to cross Germany en route from Switzerland to Sweden in a sealed railway car. Berlin hoped (correctly) that the return of the anti-war Socialists to Russia would undermine the Russian war effort, which was continuing under the Provincial Government. Lenin called for the overthrow of the Provincial Government by the soviets, and he was condemned as a “German agent” by the government’s leaders. In July, he was forced to flee to Finland, but his call for “peace, land, and bread” met with increasing popular support, and the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet. In October, Lenin secretly returned to Petrograd, and on November 7 the Bolshevik-led Red Guards deposed the Provisional Government and proclaimed soviet rule.
Lenin became the virtual dictator of the world’s first Marxist state. His government made peace with Germany, nationalized industry, and distributed land but beginning in 1918, had to fight a devastating civil war against czarist forces. In 1920, the czarists were defeated, and in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established. Upon Lenin’s death in early 1924, his body was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum near the Moscow Kremlin. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honour. After a struggle of succession, fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union.
1963 The U.S.-Soviet “hot line” goes into operation
Two months after signing an agreement to establish a 24-hour-a-day “hot line” between Moscow and Washington, the system came into effect. The hot line was supposed to help speed communication between the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union and help prevent the possibility of an accidental war.
In June 1963, American and Russian representatives agreed to establish a so-called “hot line” between Moscow and Washington. The agreement came just months after the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which the United States and Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict. It was hoped that speedier and more secure communications between the two nuclear superpowers would forestall such crises in the future. In August 1963, the system was ready to be tested. American teletype machines had been installed in the Kremlin to receive messages from Washington; Soviet teletypes were installed in the Pentagon. (Contrary to popular belief, the hot line in the United States is in the Pentagon, not the White House.) Both nations also exchanged encoding devices in order to decipher the messages. Messages from one nation to another would take just a matter of minutes, although the messages would then have to be translated. The messages would be carried by a 10,000-mile long cable connection, with “scramblers” along the way to insure that the messages could not be intercepted and read by unauthorized personnel. On August 30, the United States sent its first message to the Soviet Union over the hot line: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back 1234567890.” The message used every letter and number key on the teletype machine in order to see that each was in working order. The return message from Moscow was in Russian, but it indicated that all of the keys on the Soviet teletype were also functioning.
The hot line was never really necessary to prevent war between the Soviet Union and the United States, but it did provide a useful prop for movies about nuclear disaster, such as Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove. Its significance at the time was largely symbolic. The two superpowers, who had been so close to mutual nuclear destruction in October 1962, clearly recognized the dangers of miscommunication or no communication in the modern world.
Though the Cold War was over, the hot line continues in operation between the United States and Russia. It was supplemented in 1999 by a direct secure telephone connection between the two governments.
1967 Thurgood Marshall confirmed as Supreme Court justice
On this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He remained on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
From a young age, Marshall seemed destined for a place in the American justice system. His parents instilled in him an appreciation for the Constitution, a feeling that was reinforced by his schoolteachers, who forced him to read the document as punishment for his misbehaviour. After graduating from Lincoln University in 1930, Marshall sought admission to the University of Maryland School of Law, but was turned away because of the school’s segregation policy, which effectively forbade blacks from studying with whites. Instead, Marshall attended Howard University Law School, from which he graduated magna cum laude in 1933. (Marshall later successfully sued Maryland School of Law for their unfair admissions policy.)
Setting up a private practice in his home state of Maryland, Marshall quickly established a reputation as a lawyer for the “little man.” In a year’s time, he began working with the Baltimore NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), and went on to become the organization’s chief counsel by the time he was 32, in 1940. Over the next two decades, Marshall distinguished himself as one of the country’s leading advocates for individual rights, winning 29 of the 32 cases he argued in front of the Supreme Court, all of which challenged in some way the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that had been established by the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). The high-water mark of Marshall’s career as a litigator came in 1954 with his victory in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. In that case, Marshall argued that the ‘separate but equal’ principle was unconstitutional, and designed to keep blacks “as near [slavery] as possible.”
In 1961, Marshall was appointed by then-President John F. Kennedy to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a position he held until 1965, when Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, named him solicitor general. Following the retirement of Justice Tom Clark in 1967, President Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court, a decision confirmed by the Senate with a 69-11 vote. Over the next 24 years, Justice Marshall came out in favor of abortion rights and against the death penalty, as he continued his tireless commitment to ensuring equitable treatment of individuals–particularly minorities–by state and federal governments.
1974 Train crashes into station in Yugoslavia
A train entering a Zagreb, Yugoslavia, station derailed, killing 153 people, on this day in 1974. It was the worst rail accident in the country’s history to that date and remains one of the worst in Europe’s history.
The express train from Belgrade to Dortmund was filled mostly with workers returning to their jobs in West Germany after taking summer vacations when it pulled away with 400 passengers that evening. Two engineers were in charge of the electric locomotive leading the passenger cars. As the train approached the Zagreb station, it had to negotiate a curve and should have slowed to 30 miles per hour. However, the engineers not only failed to slow the train, but went through a red signal at about 60 mph. There was some dispute as to whether the engineers were drunk or had just fallen asleep; it is known for certain that they had already worked 300 hours each that month and may have been suffering from fatigue.
The train, traveling far too fast, crashed into the platform at the Zagreb station and derailed. The scene was horrific, a mess of bodies and crushed metal. Even worse, the train brought down power lines, which then electrocuted some of the passengers. Many of the survivors were trapped and it took hours before they were rescued. The identification of bodies was very difficult and although authorities attempted to use dental records to assist in the effort, they proved useful in only 5 percent of the identifications. The best estimate is that 153 people died in the crash, but some reports indicate up to 175 deaths may have resulted. President Marshal Tito declared a national day of mourning in response to the disaster.
During the subsequent investigation, it was shown that the train’s brakes were in full working order; the disaster was blamed solely on the engineers. They received prison terms of 15 and eight years.
1983 First African American in space
U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to travel into space when the space shuttle Challenger lifts off on its third mission. It was the first night launch of a space shuttle, and many people stayed up late to watch the spacecraft roar up from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:32 a.m.
The Challenger spent six days in space, during which time Bluford and his four fellow crew members launched a communications satellite for the government of India, made contact with an errant communications satellite, conducted scientific experiments, and tested the shuttle’s robotic arm. Just before dawn on September 5, the shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, bringing an end to the most flawless shuttle mission to that date.
Guion Stewart Bluford II was born in Philadelphia in 1942. From an early age, “Guy” was fascinated with flight and decided he wanted to design and build airplanes. In 1964, he graduated from Penn State with a degree in aerospace engineering. Deciding he’d need to know how to fly planes if he wanted to build them, he entered the U.S. Air Force and graduated with his pilot wings in 1965. He was assigned to a fighter squadron in Vietnam, where he flew 144 combat missions. After combat service, he became a flight instructor and in the 1970s went on to receive a master’s degree and doctorate in aerospace engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
In 1979, he was accepted into the U.S. astronaut program. He made his first flight in 1983 as a mission specialist on the eighth shuttle mission. He later flew three more shuttle missions, logging a total of 700 hours in orbit. After returning from NASA, he became vice president and general manager of an engineering company in Ohio.
2006 California Senate passes Global Warming Solutions Act
On this day in 2006, the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill (AB) 32, otherwise known as the Global Warming Solutions Act. The law made California the first state in America to place caps on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including those found in automobile emissions.
The Global Warming Solutions Act became law thanks to an alliance between the state’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its Democratic-controlled legislature. The bill’s passage solidified California’s role as a leader in enacting legislation aimed at combating global warming, or the gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere due to the so-called “greenhouse effect” caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. California–which represents 10 percent of the nation’s automobile market and is known for its struggles with air pollution–took the lead early in setting stricter fuel emissions standards than the federal governments.
Despite his professed enthusiasm for the Hummer, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) known for its prodigious size (and prodigious emission of greenhouse gases), Schwarzenegger sought to uphold his state’s pioneering legislation regarding automobile emissions, passed during the tenure of his predecessor, Gray Davis. That law, AB 1493, required the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to regulate greenhouse gases under the state’s motor vehicle program and gave automakers until the 2009 model year to produce cars and light trucks that would collectively emit 22 percent fewer greenhouse gases by 2012 and 30 percent fewer by 2016.
The Global Warming Solutions Act went even further, calling for an overall 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (or to 1990 levels) by 2025, a timetable that would bring California close to full compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, an international climate-change treaty signed in that Japanese city in 1997. Even after Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 into law in September 2006, California faced an uphill battle to enact these new standards against the resistance of the automotive industry, backed by the administration of President George W. Bush. Automakers had historically resisted increases in fuel-economy standards, as stricter standards usually require an overhaul of their production methods to make cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The tides turned, however, with the presidential election of 2008, and in 2009 President Barack Obama announced new nationwide rules on auto emissions standards, bringing them into line with those mandated by California.
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