Today in History 12/5/19

Published 9:20 am Thursday, December 5, 2019

Today is Thursday, Dec. 5, the 339th day of 2019. There are 26 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa’s first black president, died at age 95.

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On this date:

In 1791, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna, Austria, at age 35.

In 1848, President James K. Polk triggered the Gold Rush of ’49 by confirming that gold had been discovered in California.

In 1901, movie producer Walt Disney was born in Chicago.

In 1932, German physicist Albert Einstein was granted a visa, making it possible for him to travel to the United States.

In 1933, national Prohibition came to an end as Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing the 18th Amendment.

In 1945, five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers mysteriously disappeared after taking off from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a training mission with the loss of all 14 crew members; “The Lost Squadron” contributed to the legend of the Bermuda Triangle.

In 1952, the Great Smog of London descended on the British capital; the unusually thick fog, which contained toxic pollutants, lasted five days and was blamed for causing thousands of deaths.

In 1994, Republicans chose Newt Gingrich to be the first GOP speaker of the House in four decades.

In 1998, James P. Hoffa claimed the Teamsters presidency after challenger Tom Leedham conceded defeat in the union’s presidential election.

In 2002, Strom Thurmond, the oldest and (until Robert Byrd overtook him) longest-serving senator in history, celebrated his 100th birthday on Capitol Hill. (In toasting the South Carolina lawmaker, Senate Republican leader Trent Lott seemed to express nostalgia for Thurmond’s segregationist past; the resulting political firestorm prompted Lott to resign his leadership position.)

In 2003, the two makers of flu shots in the United States, Chiron and Aventis Pasteur, announced they had run out of vaccine and would not be able to meet a surge in demand.

In 2008, the Labor Department reported that an alarming half-million jobs had vanished in Nov. 2008 as unemployment hit a 15-year high of 6.7 percent. A judge in Las Vegas sentenced O.J. Simpson to 33 years in prison (with eligibility for parole after nine) for an armed robbery at a hotel room. (Simpson was released to parole on Oct. 1, 2017.)

Ten years ago: A jury in Perugia, Italy convicted American student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, of murdering Knox’s British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and sentenced them to long prison terms. (After a series of back-and-forth rulings, Knox and Sollecito were definitively acquitted in 2015 by Italy’s highest court.) A nightclub blaze in Perm, Russia, killed more than 150 people. Spain won the Davis Cup for the second straight year.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama announced his choice of Ashton Carter to be the new U.S. secretary of defense. NASA’s newest space vehicle, Orion, accomplished its first test flight, shooting out more than 3,600 miles from Earth for a hyperfast, hot return. Rolling Stone magazine issued an apology and cast doubt on its story of a young woman who said she’d been gang-raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia. The magazine said it had since learned of “discrepancies” in her account.

One year ago: Former President George H.W. Bush was mourned at a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral attended by President Donald Trump and former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter along with their spouses; former president George W. Bush was among the speakers, eulogizing his dad as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.” Canadian authorities said they had arrested the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies for possible extradition to the United States on fraud charges. (Meng Wanzhou awaits extradition hearings scheduled for January, 2020.) Wisconsin Republican lawmakers passed measures to weaken the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

Today’s Birthdays: Singer Little Richard is 87. Author Joan Didion is 85. Author Calvin Trillin is 84. Actor Jeroen Krabbe is 75. Opera singer Jose Carreras is 73. Pop singer Jim Messina is 72. College Football Hall of Famer and former NFL quarterback Jim Plunkett is 72. World Golf Hall of Famer Lanny Wadkins is 70. Actress Morgan Brittany is 68. Actor Brian Backer is 63. Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Art Monk is 62. Country singer Ty England is 56. Rock singer-musician John Rzeznik (The Goo Goo Dolls) is 54. Country singer Gary Allan is 52. Comedian-actress Margaret Cho is 51. Writer-director Morgan J. Freeman is 50. Actress Alex Kapp Horner is 50. Actress Kali Rocha is 48. Rock musician Regina Zernay (Cowboy Mouth) is 47. Actress Paula Patton is 44. Actress Amy Acker is 43. Actor Nick Stahl is 40. Actor Adan Canto is 38. Rhythm-and-blues singer Keri Hilson is 37. Actor Gabriel Luna is 37. Actor Frankie Muniz is 34. Actor Ross Bagley is 31. Milwaukee Brewers All-Star outfielder Christian Yelich is 28.

Thought for Today: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” — Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860).