In 1989, the East German government stunned the world by deciding to open its frontiers. East Germans had their first chance to travel to the west in 28 years, since the Berlin Wall was erected. Officials waived the requirement for visas to travel to West Berlin and thousands streamed across the gates to West Berlin for a night of celebration. An East German border trooper joked that the wall would soon be broken into pieces and sold as souvenirs. He was right. The next day people started dismantling the wall and taking pieces as mementoes.
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In 1674, the great English poet John Milton died in London. His most famous work was “Paradise Lost,” an epic poem about man's fall from God's grace.
In 1836, Christian business traveller Samuel Hill was born. In 1899, Hill, John Nicholson and W.J. Knights co-founded the Gideons, a Christian organization that ministers through distribution of the Scriptures. The Gideons have placed millions of Bibles and New Testaments in places such as motel and hotel rooms.
In 1860, John A. Macdonald introduced the first “speaking tour” to Canadian politics.
In 1864, the first shipment of lumber from British Columbia to Australia marked the beginning of a big export trade.
In 1872, the first train from Saint John, N.B., to Halifax inaugurated the Intercolonial Railway between the two provinces.
In 1872, fire destroyed nearly 800 buildings in Boston.
In 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated and Germany was proclaimed a republic, two days before the end of the First World War.
In 1928, the Imperial Privy Council ruled that gold and silver in land still held by the Hudson's Bay Company belonged to the Dominion government and not to the company.
In 1935, the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was formed by the unskilled workers in mass-production industries. It merged with AFL in 1955 to jointly face new developments such as automation.
In 1938, more than 30,000 Jews were arrested and synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed throughout Germany in what has become known as “Kristallnacht,” or “Night of the Broken Glass.” Around 2,000-2,500 deaths were directly or indirectly attributable to the pogrom.
In 1942, Werner Janowski, a German secret agent, was arrested after being landed at the Gaspe town of New Carlisle, Que., by submarine.
In 1945, Yugoslavia abolished the monarchy and established itself as a republic.
In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine.
In 1951, the first U.S. underground atomic bomb explosion took place in Frenchman Flat, Nev.
In 1953, Welsh author-poet Dylan Thomas died in New York at 39.
In 1963, twin disasters struck Japan as some 450 miners were killed in a coal-dust explosion, and about 160 people died in a train crash.
In 1965, the Canadian satellite, “Alouette Two” was launched.
In 1965, a failure of a relay device of Ontario Hydro's Queenston generating station triggered a massive power failure. The outage extended from the Atlantic coast of the United States to Chicago, and from southern Ontario to Florida, lasting up to 12 hours. Officials attributed the blackout to a failure on a 345,000-volt line south of Niagara Falls, N.Y.
In 1967, Aden and South Arabia became the independent state of South Yemen after 128 years of British rule.
In 1967, a “Saturn Five” rocket carrying an unmanned “Apollo” spacecraft blasted off from Cape Kennedy on a test flight.
In 1970, Charles de Gaulle, president of France from 1959 to 1969, died at the age of 79.
In 1971, Canadian Pacific announced the withdrawal of the Empress of Canada from transatlantic and cruise service.
In 1972, “Anik One,” Canada's first domestic communications satellite, roared into orbit atop a “Delta” rocket.
In 1979, the College of Cardinals in Rome disclosed that the Vatican's financial deficit was $20 million.
In 1990, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany, winning praise from German leaders for his role in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 1995, Bill Watterson announced he would end the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” as of Dec. 31. The strip, about the adventures of a six-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger, was distributed to nearly 2,400 newspapers worldwide.
In 1995, in a historic first public visit to Israel, Yasser Arafat offered his condolences to Leah Rabin, widow of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In 1998, a federal judge in New York approved a massive antitrust settlement in which leading brokerage firms promised to pay $1.03 billion to investors who had sued over a price-rigging scheme for stocks listed on the Nasdaq market.
In 2001, Canada 3000, the country's second-biggest airline, shut down its operations.
In 2003, at least 18 people, mostly Arab expatriates, including five children and a Canadian landed immigrant, were killed and 122 injured in a suicide bombing at a residential compound in Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. Seven Canadians were among the injured.
In 2004, “Halo 2,” one of the most eagerly anticipated video game releases ever, sequel to the hit Xbox game “Halo: Combat Evolved,” hit the shelves -- keeping many video game stores busy from before dawn until after dusk. “Halo 2” pre-sold some 1.5 million copies, more than any other game in history.
In 2005, suicide bombers struck three Western hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing at least 59 people and wounding 115 others. The terror group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility.
In 2005, Carolina's Erik Cole became the first player in NHL history to be awarded two penalty shots in one game. (Cole scored on the first, helping the Hurricanes defeat Buffalo 5-3.)
In 2006, journalist Ed Bradley died of leukemia in a New York hospital. He was 65. The award-winning television journalist broke racial barriers at CBS News and created a distinctive, powerful body of work during his 26 years on “60 Minutes.”
In 2007, Merck & Co. Inc. said it would pay US$4.85 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits in the United States over its anti-inflammatory painkiller medication Vioxx.
In 2009, the Conservatives scored two federal byelection wins, upsetting the Bloc Quebecois in eastern Quebec (Montamagny-L'Islet-Kamouraska-Riviere-du-loup) and cruising to an easy victory in Nova Scotia (Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley). The Bloc easily retained the riding of Hochelaga in Montreal's east end, while the New Democrats retained the riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam in B.C.
In 2009, Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean presided over the first presentations of the new Sacrifice Medal. Of the first 46 Sacrifice Medals, 21 were awarded posthumously to honour Canadian Forces personnel who lost their lives. Most were killed during tours in Afghanistan.
In 2010, Nova Scotia's Supreme Court found Nathan Rehberg guilty of publicly inciting hatred for his decision to burn a cross in front of a rural Halifax home of an interracial couple. On Nov. 5, Rehberg's younger brother, Justin, was also convicted of inciting hatred in connection with the same incident.
In 2010, 30-year-old Montreal author Johanna Skibsrud became the youngest recipient of the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel “The Sentimentalists.”