13 coal miners are trapped in Sago Mine disaster; 12 die


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Year
2006
Month Day
January 02

An explosion rocks the Sago Mine in Sago, West Virginia on January 2, 2006. 13 coal miners were trapped, and all but one eventually died. The tragedy, exacerbated by false reports that 12 of the miners had been rescued, brought scrutiny upon the media, the company that owned the mine and the administration of then-president George W. Bush.

The explosion occurred early in the morning of January 2, as two groups of miners entered the mine. The cave-in trapped the first group of 13 inside the mine, and the group behind them soon found the air too contaminated with carbon monoxide for them to attempt a rescue. According to the account of the lone survivor, Randal McCloy, Jr., the trapped miners were equipped with emergency oxygen “rescuers,” but several of them failed to function. As crews above tried and failed to locate the miners, those trapped took emergency action to shield themselves from the fumes but were eventually overcome. McCloy recalled the group praying together and writing letters to their loved ones as, one by one, they lost consciousness.

When rescuers finally reached the miners over 40 hours after the explosion, they found McCloy in critical condition and the others dead. He was rushed to a hospital, where he remained unconscious for days. The source of the rumors is still unknown, but it was widely reported that 12 miners had survived, prompting newspapers and networks across the country to spread the false story of a “miracle.” The national media had quickly descended upon Sago, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera filming live from outside the mine, and locals later accused the national media of inflicting emotional damage by running with unverified reports.

Just as the source of the false news has not been identified, the cause of the explosion has never been determined. Some believe a lightning strike or seismic activity was to blame, while others suspect sparks from the re-starting of equipment after the New Year’s holiday ignited the explosion. Multiple investigations and hearings sought to determine who was responsible, with many focusing on the fact that the Bush Administration had staffed regulatory positions with former lobbyists and executives from the coal industry. In particular, critics blamed former mining executive Dave Lauriski, Bush’s appointee to lead the Mining Health and Safety Administration, who had struck down a proposed rule requiring mines to maintain two functioning escapeways at all times. In the wake of the Sago tragedy, West Virginia quickly passed a law mandating multiple escapeways. 

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Football fans crushed in stadium stampede


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Year
1971
Month Day
January 02

On January 2, 1971, 66 football (soccer) fans are killed in a stampede at a stadium in Glasgow, Scotland, as they attempt to leave a game after a late goal by the home team. Initial reports suggested that the disaster was caused by fans returning to their seats after hearing of the last goal, but in fact it was simply the crush of spectators all leaving at the same time on the same stairway that led to tragedy. This was not the first time that disaster had struck the stadium.

Ibrox Stadium was built on the south side of Glasgow in 1900 and suffered its first serious incident only two years later. Just minutes into a match between England and Scotland on April 5, 1902, the weight of the fans on the stadium’s wooden west terrace caused a partial collapse of the structure. Dozens of spectators fell 45 feet to the ground. To make matters worse, the collapse caused a general panic and hundreds of people were injured in the subsequent rush to the exits.

In September 1961, a crush of fans on stairway 13 killed two people and injured scores of others. This same stairway was the site of eight serious injuries at a match in September 1967 and 24 more injuries in January 1969. Still, no design or safety changes had been made to the stairway by the time the Rangers played a home match against Celtic on January 2, 1971, in front of 80,000 fans.

The game was a scoreless tie until Celtic took the lead with minutes left. However, Ranger Colin Stein scored the equalizer with just seconds remaining and the excited home crowd exited quickly on the cold, misty afternoon. At the top of stairway 13, a few metal railings bent and collapsed with the weight of the crowd, and people began to fall forward down the stairs. Sixty-six people–65 men and one woman, 18-year-old Margaret Ferguson–were suffocated and crushed to death in the resulting chaos. Another 145 were seriously injured.

This was the worst soccer disaster in Scottish history and the worst ever in the United Kingdom until 96 people died in Hillsborough in 1989.

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President Harrison welcomes Alice Sanger as first female staffer


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Year
1890
Month Day
January 02

President Benjamin Harrison welcomes Alice Sanger as the first female White House staffer on January 2, 1890.

During an otherwise uneventful presidency remarkable only for allowing Congress a free-for-all in spending public funds, Alice Sanger’s appointment may have been an olive branch to the growing women’s suffrage movement that had gathered momentum during Harrison’s presidency. 

In 1890, two of the most influential organizations involved in the women’s suffrage movement, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association, combined forces and became the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). NAWSA represented a coalition of women’s suffrage activists, social reformers and temperance advocates. Their demands included stronger female property rights, employment and educational opportunities for women, improved divorce and child custody laws and reproductive freedom.

Whether or not Sanger actively supported women’s suffrage has been lost in the historical record, however, Harrison’s appointment of Sanger indicated a cautious step toward strengthening female representation in government.

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Secretary Fall resigns in Teapot Dome scandal


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Year
1923
Month Day
January 02

Albert Fall, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, resigns in response to public outrage over the Teapot Dome scandal. Fall’s resignation illuminated a deeply corrupt relationship between western developers and the federal government.

Born in Kentucky in 1861, Albert Fall moved to New Mexico in 1887 because doctors told him the dry desert air would improve his health. Fall thrived in his new home, quickly building up a large ranching operation near Las Cruces and investing in silver mining and other ventures. By the turn of the century, Fall was a well-respected and powerful western businessman, and he used his considerable resources to win a seat in the U.S. Senate when New Mexico became a state in 1912.

In Washington, D.C., Fall quickly discovered the enjoyable prerogatives of power. He made several powerful allies, including President Warren G. Harding, who appointed him secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior in 1921. As secretary of the interior, Fall was responsible for managing the government’s vast western land holdings in the public interest. Unfortunately, Fall’s close ties with western developers tempted him to abuse his position. Ostensibly acting to ensure adequate oil supplies for the navy in the event of war, Fall set aside a large oil deposit in Wyoming known as Teapot Dome. Secretly, he then began to sign leases with big western oilmen allowing them to exploit the supposed reserve.

When news of the secret leases leaked out, Fall claimed he had signed them with the best interests of the public in mind. Subsequent investigations, though, threw Fall’s integrity into question when they disclosed that many of his investments in New Mexico had recently collapsed, and he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Desperate for money, Fall had accepted “loans” of about $400,000 from the same oil men he granted access to Teapot Dome, two of whom were old friends from his New Mexico mining days. Fall insisted that the loans were unrelated to his granting of the Teapot Dome oil leases, but conservationists and government reformers were outraged. Such conflicts of interest were inevitable, they argued, when western developers were given control over federal agencies responsible for managing western natural resources.

Forced to resign his office in shame, Fall spent the rest of his life trying to rebuild his fortune and redeem his tarnished reputation. He died in near poverty in 1944.

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Georgia enters the Union


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Year
1788
Month Day
January 02

Georgia votes to ratify the U.S. Constitution, becoming the fourth state in the modern United States. Named after King George II, Georgia was first settled by Europeans in 1733, when a group of British debtors led by English philanthropist James E. Oglethorpe traveled up the Savannah River and established Georgia’s first permanent settlement–the town of Savannah. In 1742, as part of a larger conflict between Spain and Great Britain, Oglethorpe defeated the Spanish on St. Simons Island in Georgia, effectively ending Spanish claims to the territory of Georgia.

Georgia, rich in export potential, was one of the most prosperous British colonies in America and was thus slower than the other colonies to resent the oppressive acts of the Parliament and King George III. However, by the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Georgian Patriots had organized, and delegates were sent to the Second Continental Congress. During the war, Georgia was heavily divided between Loyalists and Patriots, and the British soon held most of the state. Savannah served as a key British base for their southern war operations, and the grim four-year British occupation won many Georgians over to the Patriot cause. In 1788, Georgia became the first southern state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

READ MORE: Interesting Facts About Georgia 

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First censuring of a U.S. senator


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Year
1811
Month Day
January 02

Senator Timothy Pickering, a Federalist from Massachusetts, becomes the first senator to be censured when the Senate approves a censure motion against him by a vote of 20 to seven. Pickering was accused of violating congressional law by publicly revealing secret documents communicated by the president to the Senate.

During the Revolutionary War, Pickering served as General George Washington’s adjutant general and in 1791 was appointed postmaster general by President Washington. In 1795, he briefly served as Washington’s secretary of war before being appointed secretary of state in 1795. He retained his post under the administration of President John Adams but was dismissed in 1800, when Adams, a moderate Federalist, learned that he had been plotting with Alexander Hamilton to steer the United States into war with revolutionary France. Returning to Massachusetts, he was elected a U.S. senator, but resigned after he was censured for revealing to the public secret foreign policy documents sent by the president to Congress. An outspoken opponent of the War of 1812, Pickering was elected as a representative from Massachusetts in 1813 and served two terms before retiring from politics.

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Russian fleet surrenders at Port Arthur


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Year
1905
Month Day
January 02

During the Russo-Japanese War, Port Arthur, the Russian naval base in China, falls to Japanese naval forces under Admiral Heihachiro Togo. It was the first in a series of defeats that by June turned the tide of the imperial conflict irrevocably against Russia.

In February 1904, following a Russian rejection of a Japanese plan to divide Manchuria and Korea into spheres of influence, Japan launched a surprise naval attack on Port Arthur, decimating the Russian fleet. In the subsequent fighting, Japan won a series of decisive victories over the Russians, who underestimated the military potential of its non-Western opponent.

In January 1905, the strategic naval base of Port Arthur fell to the Japanese; in March, Russian troops were defeated at Shenyang, China, by Japanese Field Marshal Iwao Oyama; and in May, the Russian Baltic fleet under Admiral Zinovi Rozhdestvenski was destroyed by Admiral Togo’s fleet near the Tsushima Islands. These three crucial defeats convinced Russia that further resistance against Japan’s imperial designs on East Asia was hopeless, and in August 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt mediated a peace treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Japan emerged from the conflict as the first modern non-Western world power and set its sights on greater imperial expansion. For Russia, however, the disastrous performance in the war was one of the immediate causes of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

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Reconquest of Spain


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Year
1492
Month Day
January 02

The kingdom of Granada falls to the Christian forces of King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I, and the Moors lose their last foothold in Spain.

Located at the confluence of the Darro and Genil rivers in southern Spain, the city of Granada was a Moorish fortress that rose to prominence during the reign of Sultan Almoravid in the 11th century. In 1238, the Christian Reconquest forced Spanish Muslims south, and the kingdom of Granada was established as the last refuge of the Moorish civilization.

Granada flourished culturally and economically for the next 200 years, but in the late 15th century internal feuds and a strengthened Spanish monarchy under Ferdinand and Isabella signaled the end of Moorish civilization in Spain. On January 2, 1492, King Boabdil surrendered Granada to the Spanish forces, and in 1502 the Spanish crown ordered all Muslims forcibly converted to Christianity. The next century saw a number of persecutions, and in 1609 the last Moors still adhering to Islam were expelled from Spain.

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Opera star Maria Callas walks out of performance


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Year
1958
Month Day
January 02

On January 2, 1958, celebrated soprano Maria Callas walks off after the first act of a gala performance of Bellini’s Norma in Rome, claiming illness. The president of Italy and most of Rome’s high society were in the audience, and Callas, known for her volatile temperament, was sharply criticized. It was a characteristic move for the Greek-American diva, who packed as much drama into her personal life as she did on the stage.

Born in New York City in 1923 to Greek immigrants, Callas demonstrated her talent for singing at an early age. When she was 13, she went to Athens to study under the noted soprano Elvira de Hidalgo. Her first major operatic role came in 1947, when she appeared in La Gioconda in Verona. Acclaimed for a powerful soprano voice that lent itself to the difficult coloratura roles, she was soon appearing in opera houses around the world. Her talents made possible the revival of 19th-century bel canto works by Bellini and others that had not been performed for decades. In 1954, the “Divine Callas” made her American debut in Chicago in the title role of Norma, a performance she repeated before a record audience at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera.

Callas’ stormy personal life was closely watched and exaggerated by the press, as were her professional walkouts and tiffs with rivals. She divorced her husband of many years after becoming involved with Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, but he later left her when he fell in love with the widowed Jackie Kennedy. In the 1970s, Callas’ career rapidly declined, and she died in 1977 from unknown causes at the age of 53.

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U.S.-Russia detente ends


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Year
1980
Month Day
January 02

On January 2, 1980, in a strong reaction to the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter asks the Senate to postpone action on the SALT II nuclear weapons treaty and recalls the U.S. ambassador to Moscow. These actions sent a message that the age of detente and the friendlier diplomatic and economic relations that were established between the United States and Soviet Union during President Richard Nixon’s administration (1969-74) had ended.

Carter feared that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in which an estimated 30,000 combat troops entered that nation and established a puppet government, would threaten the stability of strategic neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan and could lead to the USSR gaining control over much of the world’s oil supplies. The Soviet actions were labeled “a serious threat to peace” by the White House. Carter asked the Senate to shelve ratification talks on SALT II, the nuclear arms treaty that he and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev had already signed, and the president called U.S. ambassador to Moscow Thomas J. Watson back to Washington for “consultation,” in an effort to let the Kremlin know that military intervention in Afghanistan was unacceptable.

When the Soviets refused to withdraw from Afghanistan, America halted certain key exports to the USSR, including grain and high technology, and boycotted the 1980 summer Olympics, which were held in Moscow. The United States also began to covertly subsidize anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s, the CIA secretly sent billions of dollars to Afghanistan to arm and train the mujahedeen rebel forces that were battling the Soviets. This tactic was successful in helping to drive out the Soviets, but it also gave rise to the oppressive Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist organization.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan, who favored a more aggressive anti-Communist foreign policy. Reagan dubbed the USSR the “evil empire” and believed it was America’s responsibility to save the world from Soviet repression. He dramatically increased U.S. defense spending and ramped up the nuclear arms race with the Soviets, whose faltering economy ultimately prevented them from keeping pace. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

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