Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto assassinated


Updated:
Original:
Year
2007
Month Day
December 27

On December 27, 2007, Benazir Bhutto, a former Pakistani prime minister and the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country, is assassinated at age 54 in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. A polarizing figure at home and abroad, Bhutto had spent three decades struggling to stay afloat in the murky waters of Pakistani politics. To many of her supporters, she represented the strongest hope for democratic and egalitarian leadership in a country unhinged by political corruption and Islamic extremism.

Born in 1953 to a wealthy landowning family, Bhutto grew up in the privileged world of Pakistan’s political elite, receiving degrees from Harvard and Oxford. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founded the populist-leaning Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967. He then served as president and prime minister from 1971 to 1977, when he was ousted in a bloodless military coup led by General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq and charged with authorizing a political opponent’s murder.

Her father’s overthrow and subsequent execution in April 1979 thrust a young Benazir Bhutto into the political spotlight. She and her mother, Nusrat, whom she succeeded in 1982 as the PPP’s chairperson, spent several years in and out of detention for protesting his arrest and campaigning against General Zia. In August 1988, Zia died in a plane crash; three months later, Bhutto won the general election and formed a government, becoming the first woman—and, at 35, the youngest person—to head a Muslim state in modern times. Dismissed in 1990 after less than half a term as prime minister, she was reelected in 1993 and served again until 1996. Both times, she was removed from office by the sitting president—Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1990 and Farooq Leghari in 1996—amid charges of corruption and incompetent governance.

After her second dismissal from office, Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, faced allegations of various forms of financial misconduct, including accepting multimillion-dollar kickbacks and laundering money through Swiss banks. Zardari spent eight years in prison, while Bhutto lived in exile in London and Dubai with the couple’s three children. In 2007, under pressure from Bhutto’s supporters within the U.S. government, President Pervez Musharraf granted amnesty to Bhutto, Zardari and other Pakistani politicians with pending graft charges. On October 18 of that year, despite a spate of death threats from Islamic militants, Bhutto returned to Pakistan with plans to participate in the 2008 general election. On the day of her arrival, she narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack on her convoy that killed at least 136 people and injured more than 450.

On December 27, 2007, as Bhutto was waving to a crowd at a PPP rally in Rawalpindi, a gunman opened fire on her bulletproof vehicle. A bomb then exploded near the car, killing more than 20 people and wounding 100 others, including Bhutto. She was pronounced dead later that night and buried the next day in her hometown of Gardi Khuda Bakhsh, next to her father’s grave. The exact cause of her death remains in dispute: A subsequent investigation by Britain’s Scotland Yard ruled that Bhutto died of head injuries caused by the force of the explosion, while the PPP maintained that she died from gunshot wounds.

Bhutto’s death sparked widespread violence across Pakistan, with riots and demonstrations leading to violent police crackdowns. The political turmoil caused international fears of instability in a nuclear-armed nation already embroiled in a fight against Islamic extremists. In the weeks and months following Bhutto’s death, Pakistani moderates and Western leaders waited anxiously to see who would emerge as her successor. Zardari, who had taken the helm of the PPP after his wife’s assassination, was elected president of Pakistan in September 2008.

In the month following Bhutto’s murder, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistani officials named Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant with links to al-Qaeda, as the mastermind behind the assassination. Mehsud, who denied the charge, was killed in a U.S. drone attack in August 2009.

Source

The legend of “Stagger Lee” is born


Updated:
Original:
Year
1895
Month Day
December 27

Murder and mayhem have been the subject of many popular songs over the years, though more often than not, the tales around which such songs revolve tend to be wholly fictional. Johnny Cash never shot a man in Reno, and the events related in such famous story songs as “El Paso” and “I Shot The Sheriff” never actually took place. The same cannot be said, however, about “Stagger Lee”—a song that has drifted from the facts somewhat over the course of its many lives in the last 100-plus years, but a song inspired by an actual murder that took place on December 27, 1895, in a St. Louis, Missouri, barroom argument involving a man named Billy and another named “Stag” Lee.

Under the headline “Shot in Curtis’s Place,” the story that ran in the next day’s edition of the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat began, “William Lyons, 25, colored, a levee hand… was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis… by Lee Sheldon, also colored.” According to the Globe-Democrat’s account, Billy Lyons and “Stag” Lee Sheldon “had been drinking and were in exuberant spirits” when an argument over “politics” boiled over, and Lyons “snatched Sheldon’s hat from his head.” While subsequent musical renditions of this story would depict the dispute as one over gambling, they would preserve the key detail of “Stag” Lee Sheldon’s headwear and of his matter-of-fact response to losing it: “Sheldon drew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen… When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away.”

In his 2003 book Stagolee Shot Billy, based on his earlier doctoral dissertation on the subject, scholar Cecil Brown recounts the story of how the real “Stag” Lee became an iconic figure in African American folklore and how his story became the subject of various musical renderings “from the [age of the] steamboat to the electronic age in the American 21st century.” The most famous of those musical renditions were 1928’s “Stack O’ Lee Blues” by Mississippi John Hurt and 1959’s “Stagger Lee,” an unlikely #1 pop hit for Lloyd Price. Versions of the story have also appeared, however, in songs by artists as wide-ranging as Woody Guthrie, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, James Brown, The Clash, the Grateful Dead and Nick Cave.

Source

Charles Darwin sets sail from England


Updated:
Original:
Year
1831
Month Day
December 27

British naturalist Charles Darwin sets out from Plymouth, England, aboard the HMS Beagle on a five-year surveying expedition of the southern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Visiting such diverse places as the Galapagos Islands and New Zealand, Darwin acquired an intimate knowledge of the flora, fauna, and geology of many lands. This information proved invaluable in the development of his theory of evolution, first put forth in his groundbreaking scientific work of 1859, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

Darwin’s theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called “natural selection.” In natural selection, organisms with genetic variations that suit their environment tend to propagate more descendants than organisms of the same species that lack the variation, thus influencing the overall genetic makeup of the species. Most scientists quickly embraced the theory that solved so many puzzles of biological science, but orthodox Christians condemned the work as heresy. Controversy over Darwin’s ideas deepened with the publication of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), in which he presented evidence of man’s evolution from apes.

By the time of Darwin’s death in 1882, his theory of evolution had become generally accepted. In honor of his scientific work, he was buried in Westminster Abbey beside kings, queens, and other illustrious figures from British history. Subsequent developments in genetics and molecular biology led to modifications in accepted evolutionary theory, but Darwin’s ideas remain central to the field.

Source

Apollo 8 returns to Earth


Updated:
Original:
Year
1968
Month Day
December 27

Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, returns safely to Earth after an historic six-day journey.

On December 21, Apollo 8 was launched by a three-stage Saturn 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders aboard. On Christmas Eve, the astronauts entered into orbit around the moon, the first manned spacecraft ever to do so. During Apollo 8‘s 10 lunar orbits, television images were sent back home and spectacular photos were taken of the Earth and the moon from the spacecraft. In addition to being the first human beings to view firsthand their home world in its entirety, the three astronauts were also the first to see the dark side of the moon. On Christmas morning, Apollo 8 left its lunar orbit and began its journey back to Earth, landing safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27.

On July 20 of the following year, Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, became the first men to walk on the moon.

READ MORE: 5 Terrifying Moments During the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 

Source

Radio City Music Hall opens


Updated:
Original:
Year
1932
Month Day
December 27

At the height of the Great Depression, thousands turn out for the opening of Radio City Music Hall, a magnificent Art Deco theater in New York City. Radio City Music Hall was designed as a palace for the people, a place of beauty where ordinary people could see high-quality entertainment. Since its 1932 opening, more than 300 million people have gone to Radio City to enjoy movies, stage shows, concerts and special events.

Radio City Music Hall was the brainchild of the billionaire John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who decided to make the theater the cornerstone of the Rockefeller Complex he was building in a formerly derelict neighborhood in midtown Manhattan. The theater was built in partnership with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and designed by Donald Deskey. The result was an Art Deco masterpiece of elegance and grace constructed out of a diverse variety of materials, including aluminum, gold foil, marble, permatex, glass, and cork. Geometric ornamentation is found throughout the theater, as is Deskey’s central theme of the “Progress of Man.” The famous Great Stage, measuring 60 feet wide and 100 feet long, resembles a setting sun. Its sophisticated system of hydraulic-powered elevators allowed spectacular effects in staging, and many of its original mechanisms are still in use today.

In its first four decades, Radio City Music Hall alternated as a first-run movie theater and a site for gala stage shows. More than 700 films have premiered at Radio City Music Hall since 1933. In the late 1970s, the theater changed its format and began staging concerts by popular music artists. The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which debuted in 1933, draws more than a million people annually. The show features the high-kicking Rockettes, a precision dance troupe that has been a staple at Radio City since the 1930s.

Source

FDR seizes control of Montgomery Ward


Updated:
Original:
Year
1944
Month Day
December 27

On December 27, 1944, as World War II dragged on, President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders his secretary of war to seize properties belonging to the Montgomery Ward company because the company refused to comply with a labor agreement.

In an effort to avert strikes in critical war-support industries, Roosevelt created the National War Labor Board in 1942. The board negotiated settlements between management and workers to avoid shut-downs in production that might cripple the war effort. During the war, the well-known retailer and manufacturer Montgomery Ward had supplied the Allies with everything from tractors to auto parts to workmen’s clothing–items deemed as important to the war effort as bullets and ships. However, Montgomery Ward Chairman Sewell Avery refused to comply with the terms of three different collective bargaining agreements with the United Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union hammered out between 1943 and 1944. In April 1944, after Sewell refused a second board order, Roosevelt called out the Army National Guard to seize the company’s main plant in Chicago. Sewell himself had to be carried out of his office by National Guard troops. By December of that year, Roosevelt was fed up with Sewell’s obstinacy and disrespect for the government’s authority. (The uber-capitalist Sewell’s favorite insult was to call someone a “New Dealer”–a direct reference to Roosevelt’s Depression-era policies.) On December 27, Roosevelt ordered the secretary of war to seize Montgomery Ward’s plants and facilities in New York, Michigan, California, Illinois, Colorado and Oregon.

In his announcement that day, Roosevelt emphasized that the government would “not tolerate any interference with war production in this critical hour.” He issued a stern warning to labor unions and industry management alike: “strikes in wartime cannot be condoned, whether they are strikes by workers against their employers or strikes by employers against their Government.” Sewell took the fight to federal court, but lost.

For much of the 20th century, Montgomery Ward, founded in 1872, reigned as one of the country’s largest department store and mail-order retail chains. Heavy competition from Wal-Mart, Target and similar discount stores forced the company to close all of its stores in 2000, though it retains a catalog and internet presence.

Source

J.M. Barrie’s play “Peter Pan” opens in London


Updated:
Original:
Year
1904
Month Day
December 27

On December 27, 1904, the play Peter Pan, by James Barrie, opens at the Duke of York’s Theater in London.

Barrie was born in 1860 and studied at the University of Edinburgh. He worked as a reporter for the Nottingham Journal for two years after college. He moved to London in 1885 and became a freelance writer. His first collection of sketches, Auld Licht Idylls, was published in 1888 and became a success, followed by an account of his days working in newspapers, called When a Man’s Single. He published a collection of stories in 1889 and a bestselling novel, The Little Minister, in 1891.

The Little Minister was dramatized in 1897, and Barrie shifted his focus from prose to drama, enjoying a series of successes. In 1904, he wrote Peter Pan. Although he wrote many other plays, few are still performed today, and none had the staying power of Peter Pan. In 1913, he was made a baronet and in 1922 received the Order of Merit. He became president of the Society of Authors in 1928 and chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in 1930. Barrie died in London in 1937.

READ MORE: J.M. Barrie & Peter Pan: From Fantasy to Dark Realities

Source

Prohibitionist Carry Nation smashes bar


Updated:
Original:
Year
1900
Month Day
December 27

Prohibitionist Carry Nation smashes up the bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, causing several thousand dollars in damage and landing in jail. Nation, who was released shortly after the incident, became famous for carrying a hatchet and wrecking saloons as part of her anti-alcohol crusade.

READ MORE: Activist Carry Nation Used a Hatchet to Smash Booze Bottles Before Prohibition

Carry Amelia Moore was born in Kentucky in 1846. As a young woman, she married Charles Gloyd, whose hard-drinking soon killed him and left Nation alone to support their young child. The experience instilled in Nation a lifelong distaste for alcohol. She later married David Nation, who worked as a preacher and lawyer, and they eventually settled in Kansas. There, she was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU was founded in 1874 by women “concerned about the problems alcohol was causing their families and society.” At the time, women lacked many of the same rights as men and their lives could be ruined if their husbands drank too much. In addition to alcohol prohibition, over the years the WCTU lobbied for a long list of social reforms, including women’s suffrage and the fight against tobacco and other drugs.

In 1880, Kansas became the first state to adopt a constitutional provision banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol. However, prohibition was enforced unevenly and with many saloon owners ignoring the ban completely, Nation came to believe she needed to abandon the nonviolent methods of the WCTU in order to make an impact. After the incident at the Carey Hotel, her fame increased as she continued her saloon-smashing campaign in other locations and traveled extensively to speak out in favor of temperance. She sold souvenir hatchets to help fund her activities and used the name Carry A. Nation. Some people viewed her as crusader, while others saw her as a crank.

Nation died in 1911, never living to see nationwide prohibition in America, which was established with the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and went into effect on January 16, 1920. Prohibition, considered a failure, was repealed on December 5, 1933, by the 21st Amendment.

READ MORE: The Night Prohibition Ended

Source

Soviets take over in Afghanistan


Updated:
Original:
Year
1979
Month Day
December 27

In an attempt to stabilize the turbulent political situation in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union sends 75,000 troops to enforce the installation of Babrak Karmal as the new leader of the nation. The new government and the imposing Soviet presence, however, had little success in putting down antigovernment rebels. Thus began nearly 10 years of an agonizing, destructive, and ultimately fruitless Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.

Ironically, Karmal overthrew and murdered another Afghan communist, Hafizullah Amin, to take power. Amin’s government became unpopular and unstable after it attempted to install a harsh communist regime, declared one-party rule and abolished the Afghan constitution. Muslims in the nation rejected his rule and formed a rebel force, the Mujahideen. When it became apparent that Amin could not control the rebellion, Soviet troops intervened and put a puppet ruler, Karmal, into power. For the Soviets, political turbulence in this bordering nation, which was viewed by some officials as a potentially useful ally pursuing its interests in the Middle East, was unacceptable.

The Soviet intervention cost Russia dearly. The seemingly endless civil war in Afghanistan resulted in thousands of Soviet dead and untold monetary costs. It also brought an abrupt end to the era of détente between the United States and the Soviet Union that began during the Nixon years. In response to the Soviet intervention, President Jimmy Carter withdrew the SALT II agreement from consideration by Congress. The treaty, which had been signed in June 1979, was designed to establish parity in nuclear delivery vehicles between the United States and the Soviet Union. Carter also halted grain shipments to the Soviet Union and ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics that were to be held in Moscow.

Source

Office of Price Administration begins to ration automobile tires


Updated:
Original:
Year
1941
Month Day
December 27

On December 27, 1941, the federal Office of Price Administration initiates its first rationing program in support of the American effort in World War II: It mandates that from that day on, no driver will be permitted to own more than five automobile tires.

President Roosevelt established the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply in April 1941 to “stabilize prices and rents and prevent unwarranted increases in them; to prevent profiteering, hoarding and speculation; to assure that defense appropriations were not dissipated by excessive prices; to protect those with fixed incomes from undue impairment of their living standards; to assist in securing adequate production; and to prevent a post-emergency collapse of values.” The OPA (its name was streamlined in August 1941) was responsible for two types of rationing programs. The first limited the purchase of certain commodities (tires, cars, metal typewriters, bicycles, stoves and rubber shoes) to people who had demonstrated an especial need for them. The second limited the quantity of things–like butter, coffee, sugar, cooking fat, gasoline and non-rubber shoes–which every citizen was allowed to buy. (As a result, of course, the black market flourished–studies estimated that 25 percent of all purchases during the war were illegal.)

Japanese occupations in the Far East had made it impossible to get rubber from plantations in the Dutch East Indies, and what little rubber was available went straight to airplane and munitions factories. Because no one had yet figured out how to make really high-quality artificial rubber, the OPA especially wanted to encourage people to care for the automobile tires they already had. Ads urged people to put less wear on their tires by driving in carpools. (“When You Ride Alone You Ride With Hitler!” said one poster; another announced, “To win this war…more people have got to enjoy riding in fewer cars.”) To conserve rubber (and gasoline), the national “Victory Speed Limit” was 35 miles per hour. Meanwhile, scrap-rubber drives collected old raincoats, garden hoses and bathing caps.

Rationing and recycling–collecting items like tin cans and used cooking fat for reuse–was a way to make ordinary citizens feel like they were part of what one ad called a “fighting unit on the home front.” During the war, the OPA rationed almost every commodity it could think of, but by the end of 1945 only two rationing programs–for sugar and for rubber tires–remained in place. Tire rationing finally ended on December 31, 1945.

Source