January 3 - First Acid Test at
the Fillmore, San Francisco.
The swinging sixties were in
full flow but in some corners of the world the peace and love
mantra of the flower-power generation could not be heard.
Even as hippies in London and San Francisco were weaving daisies
into their hair, in China Mao Tse-Tung launched the Cultural
Revolution, a 10-year political campaign aimed at rekindling
revolutionary Communist fervor. Brandishing their copies of Mao's
Little Red Book of quotations, students of the Communist Party -
the so-called Red Guards - pursued an ideological cleansing
campaign in which they renounced and attacked anyone suspected of
being an intellectual, or a member of the bourgeoisie. Thousands
of Chinese citizens were executed, and millions more were yoked
into manual labor in the decade that followed.
Meanwhile, the US government, under president Lyndon B Johnson,
was escalating its military presence in Vietnam. By the year's
end, American troop levels had reached 389,000, with more than
5,000 combat deaths and over 30,000 wounded. The war was a brutal
and dirty one, with many US casualties caused by sniper fire,
booby traps and mines. The Americans responded by sending B-52
bombers over North Vietnam, and by launching the infamous Search
and Destroy policy on the ground. "To know war," Johnson
said in his State of the Union address before Congress, in January
1966, "is to know that there is still madness in this world".
Musically, 1966 was a vintage year. Jim Reeves' Distant Drums knocked the Small Faces' All or Nothing
off the top spot. Other number ones in the year included Frank
Sinatra's Strangers in the Night, Good Vibrations by the Beach
Boys, the Walker Brothers' The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore and
The Green, Green Grass of Home by Tom Jones. The Beatles and the
Rolling Stones also continued their dominance of the music scene,
with Yellow Submarine, Eleanor Rigby, Paperback Writer and Paint
it Black all topping the charts.
A Man for all Seasons won Best Picture at the 1966 Oscars, and its
star Paul Scofield won Best Actor. Other films released this year
included Georgy Girl, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Alfie and
the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
On the small screen, viewers were subjected to the rants of Alf
Garnet in Till Death us do Part; while US audiences were
introduced to the delights of the Monkees and Star Trek. And
dynamic duo, Batman and Robin, thwarted lute playing electronics
genius the Minstrel as he tried to sabotage the computer systems
at the Gotham City Stock Exchange.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by
Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga as a member of the cultural nationalist
After murdering both his wife and
mother, serial sniper Charles Whitman ascended to the observation
deck at Austin's University of Texas tower killing fourteen people
and injuring thirty-one others during a ninety-minute shooting
spree. He was eventually shot and killed himself after a civilian
and two police officers stormed the tower and overpowered him.
Media icon Walt Disney, who turned
the whimsical cartoon world of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck into a
million dollar a year entertainment empire, died of cancer at the
age of sixty-five.
On July 29th, Mickey Mantle hit his
four-hundred ninety-fourth homerun off of Chicago White Sox ace
Bruce Howard moving himself ahead of fellow Yankee Lou Gehrig for
sixth place on the all-time list
Britain and China sign an agreement on the future of Hong Kong. On
July 1, 1997, when Britain's lease over the colony expires, it will
revert to Chinese rule. Hong Kong is to be a special administrative
zone with "a high degree of autonomy except in foreign and defense
affairs," with a capitalist system until at least 2047.
Prime Minister Indira Ghandi, the
dominant figure in Indian politics for over two decades, was
assassinated by Sikh separatists. The assassins were two members of
her own bodyguard who riddled her body with gunfire as she walked
from her home to her office. Other guards killed one assassin and
wounded the other. Resolutely pursuing her goal of a united India,
Ghandi had ordered the attack on the Sikh's Golden Temple in Punjab,
a center for Sikh separatist activities. Her assassination was Sikh
retaliation for that attack.
Straphanger Bernhard Goetz shoots
four youths on a New York City subway train. He claims they
threatened him with screwdrivers and demanded $5. One of the youths
was paralyzed from the waist down.
Recording artist Marvin Gaye is
shot and killed during a domestic dispute with his father.
Investigators say the singer had beaten his father before the
shooting, and traces of cocaine are found during an autopsy. A judge
places Marvin Gay Sr. (the singer had added an e to his name) on
The Soviet Union announces May 7
it will pull out of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games to be held in Los
Angeles. The Soviets cite "undisguised threats" against their
athletes and officials. Bulgaria and East Germany also say they will
not attend. The United States had boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in
Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The Indian army stormed the Sikh
Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, in an effort to crush a
two-year-old terrorist campaign by Sikh separatists. Three hundred
died and hundreds were wounded in the daylong gun battle. The Sikh
separatists had been using the temple as a refuge and a fortress.
The Sikhs fundamentalist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale was
killed. The government of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi used
force in its effort to keep the Indian federation together, but the
action sparked a violent backlash by militant Sikhs.
Dec. 3, Bhopal, India: toxic gas,
methyl isocyanate, seeped from Union Carbide insecticide plant,
killed more than 2,000, injured about 150,000.
Apple introduces the user-friendly
Macintosh personal computer.
R. Bruce Merrifield (US), for
research that revolutionized the study of proteins.
Carlo Rubbia (Italy) and Simon van der Meer (Netherlands), for their
role in discovering three subatomic particles, a step toward
developing a single theory to account for all natural forces.
Fiction: Ironweed, William Kennedy
Music: Canti del Sole, Bernard Rands
Drama: Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet
Vanessa Williams (NY) / Suzette Charles (NJ)
In 2004, the United States' major preoccupation was the ongoing
war in Iraq. Hopes that Saddam Hussein's capture in Dec. 2003 would
stem the country's turmoil faded with a dramatic upsurge in
In October, U.S. officials estimated there were between 8,000 and
12,000 hardcore insurgents, and a total of more than 20,000 “active
sympathizers.” As of mid-December, more than
1,300 U.S. troops had died and 9,000 had been wounded in action.
No official tally of Iraqi casualties exists, but most estimates
range between 10,000 and 15,000 civilian deaths since the start of
The deteriorating security
situation was harshly criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike,
who questioned whether the Pentagon had adequately prepared for an
insurgency and deployed enough troops. Reconstruction efforts,
hampered by bureaucracy and security concerns, had also fallen
woefully short of expectations.
Electricity and clean water were still below prewar levels, and half
of Iraq's employable population was still without work. As a senior U.S. military officer put it, “We can either
put Iraqis back to work, or we can leave them to shoot RPGs
[rocket-propelled grenades] at us.”
In 2004, a global nuclear black
market was uncovered when A. Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's
nuclear bomb, was exposed in Feb. 2004 for having sold nuclear
secrets to North Korea, Iran, and Libya in the 1980s and 1990s.
While much of the world reviled his incalculable damage to global
security, President Pervez Musharraf swiftly pardoned him—Khan
remains such a national hero in Pakistan that Musharraf did not risk
a stronger rebuke. Also convenient for Musharraf was Khan's claim
that he alone and not Pakistan's military or government was involved
in the selling of these ultra-classified secrets. The claim was met
with widespread skepticism outside Pakistan. Khan's nuclear
trafficking was revealed after an illegal shipment of centrifuge
parts to Libya was intercepted in Oct. 2003. Libya's Qaddafi quickly
admitted his clandestine pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and
submitted to full UN weapons inspections. The International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded that Libya had been in the very
nascent stages of building a nuclear bomb. Libya's nuclear
confession, as well as its admission of guilt and offers of
compensation for its sponsorship of terrorist acts, including the
1988 Lockerbie bombing, allowed it to shed its decades-old pariah
status—years of international sanctions were lifted.
On March 11, 2004, Spain's most
horrific terrorist attack occurred: 202 people were killed and 1,400
were injured in bombings at Madrid's railway station. The government
at first blamed ETA, the Basque terrorist organization, but evidence
quickly surfaced implicating al-Qaeda. In presidential elections
just days later, Prime Minister Aznar's Popular Party suffered a
stinging defeat, and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of the Socialist
Party became the new prime minister. Many Spaniards blamed Aznar's
staunch support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda
In April, worldwide outrage followed the release of photos in the
American media depicting the appalling physical abuse and sexual
degradation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, which a U.S.
military report described as acts of “purposeless sadism.”
A July military report identified 94 more suspected or confirmed
cases of abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the
deaths of at least 39 prisoners. Further
investigations are underway. In August, the Pentagon-sponsored
Schlesinger report rejected the idea that the abuse was simply the
work of a few aberrant soldiers, and asserted that there were
“fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the
soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon.”
On May 17, same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts after
the state's supreme court ruled in Nov. 2003 that barring gays and
lesbians from marrying violated the state constitution. (San
Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y. also performed same-sex marriages for
a brief time, but these were later nullified.) A strong backlash
around the country followed, with conservatives vowing to undo the
work of “activist judges.” Although there was little support for a
proposed federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, all
11 state referendums banning gay marriage passed in November
elections. Most states already had Defense
of Marriage laws in place.
The controversial decision to classify detainees in the war in
Afghanistan as enemy combatants, and not as prisoners of war subject
to the Geneva Conventions, meant the U.S. could employ more coercive
interrogation techniques, indefinitely detain prisoners, and deny
them the rights to due process. White House Council Alberto Gonzales
maintained that terrorism was “a new kind of war” that rendered
portions of the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's claim
that the executive branch has unreviewable authority in time of war,
ruling that detainees were legally entitled to challenge their
imprisonment. By December, of the roughly 560 enemy combatants
who had been held for three years at the U.S. naval base at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only four had been formally charged.
On July 9, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a
unanimous, bipartisan “Report on Pre-War Intelligence on Iraq,”
evaluating the intelligence assessments that formed the basis for
the Bush administration's justifications for the war. It strongly
criticized the CIA and other intelligence agencies, concluding that
“most of the major key judgments” on Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction were either “overstated, or were not supported by the
underlying intelligence report.” It
disputed the CIA's assertions that Iraq was reconstituting its
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. It also
concluded that there were “no operational links” between al-Qaeda
and Saddam Hussein, another casus belli put forth by the Bush
administration. In October, the Iraq Survey Group's final report
confirmed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction nor a
formal plan to revive its WMD program. In
response, President Bush began emphasizing that the removal of
Iraq's repressive dictatorship was grounds enough for waging war,
and contended that “America is safer today with Saddam Hussein in
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget
deficit reached a record $413 billion in 2004. The nonpartisan CBO also estimated that two-thirds of the 2004
deficit were the result of tax cuts. The
Bush administration countered that the president's tax cuts had in
fact kept the country's recession shallow and brief and were now
stimulating the economy. In September, Congress renewed its faith in
tax cuts by approving the extension of several cuts due to expire by
2006. Critics, including fiscally conservative Republicans, argued
that it was unsound to offer tax cuts while the country was in the
midst of an expensive war, a jobless recovery, and an unprecedented
In August, the Census Bureau reported that the number of
Americans living in poverty had increased by 1.3 million in 2003,
while the ranks of those without health insurance had increased by
1.4 million, the third straight annual increase in both categories.
In November, Yasir Arafat, the
Palestinian leader for more than four decades, died. In recent years
he had been largely viewed by the international community as an
impediment to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, and the prospect of
new Palestinian leadership was viewed by some as a fresh opportunity
for the peace process.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a 9.0 magnitude
earthquake—the largest earthquake in 40 years—occurred in the Indian
Ocean, off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The earthquake triggered the deadliest tsunami in world history, so
powerful that the waves caused loss of life on the coast of Africa
and were even detected on the East Coast of the United States. More
than 226,000 people have died from the disaster, a half a million
have been injured, thousands still remain missing, and millions were
Eleven countries bordering the
Indian Ocean—all relatively poor and vulnerable—suffered
devastation. Hardest hit were Indonesia (particularly the province
of Aceh), Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and the Maldives. The
catastrophic damage includes the destruction of entire cities, the
contamination of farmland and forests, and the depletion of fishing
stocks. Some areas are facing the prospect of epidemics and
starvation. Even countries with relatively low death tolls have
suffered enormous damage—the Maldives, for example, had less than
100 deaths, yet the tsunami left 14 of the archipelago's islands
uninhabitable, requiring its inhabitants to be permanently
evacuated, and another 79 islands without safe drinking water.