Today in History for 15th July 2018

Historical Events

1840 – Great Britain, Russia, Austria and Prussia sign Quadruple Alliance
1902 – Ranjitsinhji scores 180 before lunch, for Sussex v Surrey
1940 – Physicist Donald Kerst becomes the first person to accelerate electrons using electromagnetic induction, reaching energies of 2.3 MeV, when his betatron device (for particle acceleration) becomes operational
1960 – UN troops arrive in Congo to help deal with the political crisis after Moïse-Kapenda Tshombé’s declaration of independence for Katanga province
1968 – Commercial air travel begins between US and USSR
1978 – 107th British Golf Open: Jack Nicklaus shoots a 281 at St Andrews

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Famous Birthdays

1856 – Owen Dunell, cricketer (South Africa’s 1st Test captain)
1884 – Enrique Soro Barriga, composer
1931 – Clive Cussler, Aurora Illinois, American writer (Raise The Titanic, Sahara)
1933 – Julian Bream, guitarist
1961 – Forest Whitaker, actor and director (The Last King of Scotland, Platoon), born in Longview, Texas
1964 – Shari Headley, American actress (All My Children, Coming to America), born in Queens, New York

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Famous Deaths

1738 – Antonio Maria Pacchioni, Baroque composer, dies at 84
1857 – Carl Czerny, Austrian pianist/composer, dies at 66
1929 – Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, playwright/poet, dies
1987 – Jack O’Hagan, cricketer and composer (Our Don Bradman), dies at 88
2006 – Robert H. Brooks, founder of Hooters of America (b. 1937)
2017 – Babe Parilli, American football player, dies at 87

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Today in History for 14th July 2018

Historical Events

1798 – US Sedition Act prohibits “false, scandalous and malicious” writing against government
1921 – Sacco and Vanzetti Trial: Sacco and Vanzetti are convicted murder and sentenced to death
1951 – “Courtin’ Time” closes at National Theater NYC after 37 performances
1962 – US performs nuclear Test at Nevada Test Site
1969 – “Easy Rider”, directed by Dennis Hopper, starring himself, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson, is released
1992 – 63rd All Star Baseball Game: AL wins 13-6 at Jack Murphy Stadium, SD

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Famous Birthdays

1721 – John Douglas, Scottish Anglican bishop and man of letters (d. 1807)
1903 – Ken Murray, American comedian (Ken Murray Show, Judy Garland Show), born in NYC, New York
1912 – Northrop Frye, Canadian literary critic (d. 1991)
1967 – Leonardo Lavalle, Mexican tennis star
1967 – Glen Scrivener, CFL defensive tackle (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)
1969 – Jose Hernandez, Hato Rey Puerto Rico, infielder (Chicago Cubs)

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Famous Deaths

937 – Arnulf, Duke of Bavaria
1766 – František Maxmilián Kaňka, Czech architect (b. 1674)
1949 – Frank Hearne, cricketer (2 Tests for England, 4 Tests for South Africa), dies
1950 – Āpirana Ngata, Māori New Zealand politician and lawyer known for promoting and protecting Māori culture and language, dies at 76
1967 – Tudor Arghezi, Romanian writer (b. 1880)
1990 – Philip Leacock, dies of collapsed lungs at 73

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Helmut Schmidt, Germany’s Anglophile Chancellor

Helmut Schmidt, Germany’s Anglophile Chancellor

Mathias Haeussler

The West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt was an admirer of Britain from an early age. But his vision of European integration was not that of his British counterparts. 

On 5 July 1957 the Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Treaties of Rome, which are still at the heart of today’s European Union. Not all Germany’s parliamentarians played along. The young Helmut Schmidt – a brash, chain-smoking Social Democrat from Hamburg – refused to support the Treaties, largely because of British non-participation. ‘Much as I was convinced of the necessity of European integration’, he later reflected, ‘I then thought … that the EEC could never be successful in the absence of British experience and pragmatism.’At the time, Schmidt – who later became West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982 – reflected the views of many continental politicians who looked for British help and leadership in the rebuilding of Europe. Born in 1918 and growing up in the port city of Hamburg, Schmidt had been exposed to British life and culture from an early age: his first trip abroad had been a three-week school exchange to Manchester in July 1932. In the immediate postwar years, Schmidt’s political socialisation was decisively furthered by the British regional commissioner in Hamburg, Sir Vaughan Berry, who frequently initiated informal Anglo-German tea parties with politically interested young locals. Such contacts were part of the reason why Schmidt soon acquired a reputation as an unabashed ‘Atlanticist’, who prioritised the Federal Republic’s links to the Anglo-American world over Franco-German relations. On the eve of Schmidt’s election in May 1974, the British Foreign Office predicted golden times for the British-German relationship, hoping that Schmidt’s Germany might align itself more closely with Britain rather than France.Such hopes were misguided. During his eight years in office, Schmidt developed an exceptionally close partnership with the French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, which resulted in major European initiatives, such as the creation of the European Council and the European Monetary System. Britain, by contrast, often seemed aloof from and dejected by this revitalised Franco-German axis, as Schmidt clashed heavily and repeatedly with his British counterparts, such as Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher, over key issues of EC politics. In later years, he appeared scornful about Britain’s supposedly destructive role in the European politics of the 1970s, explaining Wilson’s and Thatcher’s sceptical attitude towards the EC through a more general British Euroscepticism, allegedly ingrained in British history and culture. ‘The Queen, the Commonwealth and the special relationship with the US is much more important than Europe’, he asserted in one of his last interviews in December 2013, exclaiming that de Gaulle had been ‘right’ in vetoing British membership during the 1960s.What changed? Yet, the real story of the British-German relationship during Schmidt’s years in office is more complicated than his cliché-laden recollections suggest. At the heart of Schmidt’s frequent clashes with his British counterparts was not a seemingly eternal British aversion to all things European, as Schmidt would have it. The history of British-German relations under Schmidt is not one of unilateral obstructionism, but one of mutual misperceptions and misunderstandings, which can be explained by the two countries’ different paths towards the European integration process after 1945.Many of the deeper reasons behind the frequent bilateral clashes over Europe in the 1970s can be found in the decades prior to Schmidt’s chancellorship. His initial Anglophilia was certainly sincere. In the early 1960s, he even wrote a couple of highly polemical newspaper articles in which he criticised the French and German governments for pushing ahead with the European integration process without British involvement: ‘Hitler also underestimated England’, one headline read. As Schmidt rose through Germany’s political ranks in the 1960s, however, he started to approach the European question from a more strategic angle, which made him realise the paramount importance of France to the European project. Much like Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first chancellor, Schmidt now argued that his country’s exposed geostrategic location at the centre of Europe and its unique historical burden made it a strategic necessity to embed its postwar foreign policy firmly into a multilateral European framework, thereby making Germany’s political and economic resurgence palatable to its neighbours. The relationship with France, Schmidt came to believe, was the foundation for Germany’s postwar rehabilitation. By the mid-1960s, Schmidt had therefore reversed his position on British EC membership almost completely. ‘Given its particular interests and its resulting tight bonds to France’, he wrote at the time of Britain’s second EC application in 1967, German simply could not ‘act as a battering ram and immediately open up the door to the EC for the English by exercising pressure on Paris’. But it was a position determined by Schmidt’s calculating head rather than his Anglophile heart: the EC was imaginable without Britain; it was unimaginable without France.A difficult role to define The British perspective on postwar European integration was rather different. In the 1950s, British reactions to the various integration initiatives contemplated on the continent had ranged from indifference to hostility: perhaps for them, but definitely not for us. Instead, Britain’s postwar strategy was based on consolidating and maintaining the country’s global role: not without reason, when roughly half of its trade was still conducted with the Commonwealth. Confronted with the country’s postwar decline and facing the realities of a rapidly emerging European trading bloc on the continent, however, Britain’s political leaders soon changed their minds and applied twice for EEC membership: under Harold Macmillan in 1961-3 and Harold Wilson in 1967. But these applications were driven largely by negative motivations: if you can’t beat them, join them. The subsequent vetoes by de Gaulle added insult to injury, leaving Britain without a progressive European policy for much of the 1960s. When Britain eventually joined the EC in January 1973, it therefore had to define its role in an institutional framework that had already consolidated itself and to accept rules and mechanisms that often seemed ill-suited to Britain’s interests and preferences.By the time of Schmidt’s election in May 1974, then, British and German attitudes towards the EC had evolved very differently over two decades. For 1970s Germany, EC membership had come to signify the country’s postwar political and economic rehabilitation; for Britain, by contrast, it seemed to symbolise the country’s postwar decline and transformation into a medium-sized European power. It did not help that Britain joined the EC on the eve of a global economic crisis, with rapidly rising food prices and double-digit inflation dominating much of Britain’s first decade inside the EC. Membership was not the economic panacea various governments had portrayed it to be.These factors pointed to future problems for the British-German relationship under Schmidt. He may have wrapped his personal attachment to the European integration process in less idealistic language than most, but he had nonetheless become firmly attached to the EC as the major strategic framework for Germany’s postwar rehabilitation. That is why he reacted strongly whenever he felt the EC’s cohesion or past achievements were under threat. British leaders, by contrast, lacked a comparably powerful imperative for EC membership. They approached the issue from a much more transactional and, at times, openly antagonistic angle – even if it meant prolonged crises with their European partners.Take Wilson’s ‘renegotiation & referendum’ ploy in 1974-5, for example. From Wilson’s perspective, it was a clever strategy to appease the formidable anti-EC wing of his Labour Party while, in the long run, ensuring Britain’s continuing membership. To Schmidt, however, Wilson’s approach seemed like a cynical prioritisation of narrow party political interests at the expense of his European partners. That is why he ganged up with Giscard to ensure that the renegotiations amounted to some cosmetic changes only. Wilson’s strategy paid off domestically, as the 1975 referendum result testifies. But the price was a fundamental deterioration of German trust in Britain’s commitment to Europe.Margaret Thatcher’s resolute attempts to reduce Britain’s disproportionately high contributions to the EC budget reveals similar dynamics. For Thatcher, the budget issue was a major obstacle that had to be solved first, if Britain was to play a full and active role inside the EC, whereas Schmidt regarded her single-minded pursuit of the budget question as a fundamental challenge to the EC’s principles and foundations. This is why Thatcher’s attempts to get Schmidt on her side backfired so dramatically, even though Germany would also probably have gained from any major reform of the EC’s financing structures. Schmidt, however, saw Germany’s high budget contributions as a short-term economic price for a long-term strategic gain: the EC’s political cohesion and stability. It was a logic that worked well from a German perspective; it failed to convince many British observers.Thatcher moves closer The irony is that Thatcher’s first years in office saw Britain move closer to Europe than ever before. At the same time that the prime minister was demanding ‘her money back’ in Brussels, she also worked tirelessly behind the scenes to foster joint European positions within the transatlantic alliance against the background of the so-called ‘second’ Cold War. In the major transatlantic crises over NATO’s dual-track decision, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Siberian gas pipeline project, Thatcher frequently defended European viewpoints in Washington – much to the dismay of her American counterpart Ronald Reagan. But it was the Iron Lady who usually caught the headlines in Germany and who stands tall as the supreme embodiment of British Euroscepticism, even today.The frequent fights between Schmidt and his British rivals did not therefore signify a more general British aversion to all things European, as Schmidt would suggest so frequently in later years. Indeed, Britain had played a vital and proactive role in the reconstruction of Europe ever since the late 1940s, as its role in the establishment of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) and NATO testifies. The reason why intra-EC tensions have nonetheless come to dominate perceptions of the British-German relationship after 1945 can again be found in the particular historical context of postwar Europe. For most Germans of Schmidt’s generation, the European project exerted a strong emotional pull that stretched far beyond the concrete advantages of a customs union: it offered a unique opportunity to rehabilitate and reinvent postwar Germany within a European framework and to distance itself from the horrors of the recent past. Wilson and Thatcher, by contrast, may have concluded rationally that EC membership was in Britain’s national interest, but they lacked any comparative emotive and personal attachment to the European project. The EC therefore remained only one of many possible arenas for European cooperation in 1970s Britain – and not one that suited the country particularly well. For most Germans, however, the EC had by that time become the only framework for European cooperation. Any criticisms of its institutions and policies were almost inevitably interpreted as more general attacks on the very principles of European cooperation and solidarity. This is the big European misunderstanding that lies at the heart of British-German relations under Schmidt.Today’s European Union bears rather little resemblance to the EC of the 1970s. Nonetheless, some of the key dynamics tearing Britain and Germany apart in the 1970s can still be witnessed in contemporary debates over ‘Brexit’: Britain is still ill at ease with many of the EU’s most basic institutional characteristics and principles, whereas Germany seems anxious to preserve the EU’s substance and cohesion, even at significant cost. It is thus tempting to read Schmidt’s journey as merely one episode of a much longer history where the European integration process has acquired an importance for Germany which – for various reasons – has never been replicated in Britain. Yet Schmidt’s story also shows that these different British and German perspectives were the result of the specific historical context of the immediate postwar decades and that they centred primarily on the concrete mechanisms and dynamics of the European Community in the 1970s. They should not be treated as evidence of an allegedly eternal British Euroscepticism, deeply rooted in British culture and history, contrary to Schmidt’s musings in later years.Mathias Haeussler is Lumley Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

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Today in History for 13th July 2018

Historical Events

1832 – Source of Mississippi River discovered by American geographer Henry Schoolcraft
1876 – 29th US Postmaster General: James N Tyner of Indiana takes office
1889 – 6th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis: Blanche Bingley beats Lena Rice (4-6 8-6 6-4)
1941 – 24th PGA Championship: Vic Ghezzi at Cherry Hills CC Denver
1962 – 91st British Golf Open: Arnold Palmer shoots a 276 at Royal Troon
1988 – Sting performs his 1st Rain Forest benefit concert

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Famous Birthdays

1859 – Sydney Webb, England, writer/husband of Beatrice Potter
1863 – Emma Mary Wooley, educator (Mary Anna Wells)
1900 – JH Scheps, Dutch 2nd-Member of parliament (social democratic)
1957 – Cameron Crowe, director (Jerry Maguire, Fast Times at Ridgemont High)
1967 – Tony Massenburg, NBA forward (Vancouver Grizzlies)
1980 – Lori Fredrickson, Aurora Ill, rhythmic gymnast (US team-96)

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Famous Deaths

574 – John III, Italian Pope (561-74), dies
1309 – Jan I van Nassau, bishop of Utrecht, dies
1760 – Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania’s ambassador to the Native Americans, dies at 63
1844 – Johann Baptist Gansbacher, Austrian composer, dies at 66
1863 – John S Bowen, US architect/Confederate gen-major, dies at 32
1988 – Samuel L Mendel, oldest US war veteran, dies at 104

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Today in History for 12th July 2018

Historical Events

1442 – King Alfonso V of Aragon becomes King of Naples
1700 – Gelderland accepts Gregorian calendar; yesterday is June 30, 1700
1863 – In New Zealand, British forces invade Waikato, home of the Maori King Movement, beginning a new phase of the wars between Maori and Colonial British
1928 – 1st televised tennis match
1987 – 8th U.S. Senior Golf Open: Gary Player
1996 – Start of 1st “Super 8’s” tournament in Kuala Lumpur

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Famous Birthdays

1938 – Wieger Mensonides, Dutch swimmer
1943 – Bruce Taylor, cricketer (big-hitting NZ all-rounder 1965-73)
1951 – Brian Grazer, American film producer
1972 – Travis Best, American basketball player (1995-2002 Indiana Pacers), born in Springfield, Massachusetts
1978 – Topher Grace, American actor
1981 – Adrienne Camp, South African singer/songwriter

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Famous Deaths

1536 – Desiderius Erasmus, humanist/priest (Novum instrumentum omne), dies at 69
1575 – Renée/Renata de France, duchess of Ferara/daughter of Louis XII, dies
1682 – Jean Picard, French astronomer, dies at 61
1845 – Henrik Wergeland, Norwegian author (b. 1808)
2008 – Tony Snow, former speechwriter for Presidents George H. W. Bush and press secretary for George W. Bush (b. 1955)
2017 – Chuck Blazer [Charles Gordon Blazer], American soccer administrator, dies from colorectal cancer at 72

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National Gallery: Melanesia

National Gallery: Melanesia

Rhys Griffiths

A geographical concept based on outdated European ideas of race – does ‘Melanesia’ exist?

The concept of ‘Melanesia’ begins with an 18th-century European theory: that the indigenous populations of the Pacific islands, now called Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Fiji, had darker skin and were thus a different race than the inhabitants of the islands grouped as Micronesia (‘small islands’) and Polynesia (‘many islands’). The anthropologist Paul Sillitoe describes Melanesia (‘black islands’) as a ‘historical category’ which, though subject to arbitrary boundaries (Australia is sometimes included, Fiji is sometimes not), has become legitimised by use. The Papuan philosopher and member of the Melanesian Alliance Party, Bernard Narokobi, wrote that, though Melanesian history lacks ‘the binding effect of the written word’ or ‘the naked power of the gun’ (a reference to centuries of foreign intervention reflected in the western gaze of many of the following images), a ‘common cultural and spiritual community’ does exist.STICKS AND STONESIn 1959, a group of French documentary filmmakers arrived on ‘an island where men still live in the Stone Age’. Like various explorers before them, the makers of The Sky Above, The Mud Below found that the past can be a foreign country in an almost literal sense. Across Melanesia, stone tools were still used in the 20th century, which, coupled with the region’s lack of organisation into the type of nations found in Polynesia, led to judgments of barbarity. Yet the region was among the first to develop agriculture.A MODERN BABELMelanesians may, as Sillitoe puts it, have ‘a certain ill-defined sameness’, but language is not the glue that binds: over 1,300 languages are spoken in the region, not including dialects. Papua New Guinea is considered the most linguistically diverse country in the world. Many of its more than 850 languages are creole: Unserdeutch (‘our German’), for example. This work by the Papuan artist Cecil King Wungi reflects this complexity. COLOUR CODEDHere, the Pacific islands are divided into broad, race-based subregions, which gloss over the minutiae of cultural and linguistic diversity. Previously, ‘Polynesia’, coined by the French scholar Charles de Brosses in 1756, was applied to all the Pacific islands. Another Frenchman, Jules Dumont d’Urville, first used ‘Melanesia’ in 1832. As the anthropologist Serge Tcherkézoff neatly puts it: ‘The history of contrast between Polynesia and Melanesia is the history of European ideas about “skin colours” between the 16th and 19th centuries.’ On this map the Melanesian islands are coloured brown, indicating a ‘crisphaired, dark-brown race’. RACE RANKINGIdeas of racial superiority were inherent in the division between Melanesia and Polynesia. Light-skinned Polynesians were considered more civilised and attractive than the darker Melanesians (described as ‘frizzy blacks’ by de Brosses), furthering an enduring tradition of European romanticisation of Polynesia (in Paul Gauguin’s Tahiti paintings, for example). The Melanesian islands were also ranked according to their perceived similarity to Polynesia, with Fiji often preferred due to its history of contact with Tonga. TRADING PLACEsAn oyster shell, or kin in the Melpa language spoken in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea, is mounted on resin coloured with red ochre. Like the tabua – the polished teeth of sperm whales found in Fiji – kin are an important currency used in trade and diplomacy. Writing in The Melanesian Way in the 1980s, Bernard Narokobi cited ‘intricate trade links’ as proof that Melanesians were ‘moving together long before Western contact’.JOHN FROMAn unexpected consequence of western contact, Melanesia’s ‘cargo cults’ are a form of religion unique to the region. Noticing that westerners regularly received shipments of cargo, a belief emerged among the islanders that performing certain rituals, such as building a runway, would also yield such riches. The exact origins of the cargo cult phenomenon are unclear, but they became well known after the Second World War. Among the most famous cults is the still active ‘John Frum’ cult in Vanuatu. The name possibly derives from a US GI stationed on the island during the war (e.g. ‘John from Texas’). Members of the cult believe that goods meant for them, intercepted by the Americans, will one day be returned. COLONIAL KINGA portrait of Seru Epenisa Cakobau, king of the first united kingdom of Fiji (1871-74). Cakobau (1815-83) was a cannibal warlord who declared war on Christians before converting in 1854. Beset by problems, Cakobau repeatedly asked the British to establish Fiji as a colony. Britain agreed in 1874 having previously thought Fiji too isolated to warrant colonisation. THE SEA BETWEENIslands in a vast ocean, canoes and boats play a big role in Melanesian history. In Fijian folklore, kaunitoni was a canoe that carried ancestral founders to the island. Pictured here is a decorated canoe in the Solomon Islands (named by the Spanish, who, finding gold on their arrival in 1568, thought they had discovered the source of King Solomon’s wealth). From 1865, boats facilitated the colonial practice of ‘blackbirding’, the transport of people through deception or force for the purposes of labour. Large numbers of Solomon Islanders and Vanuatuans were taken to Fiji to work on cotton plantations. GETTING AHEADThough not unique to Melanesia, the widespread practice of ‘headhunting’ has long repulsed (and fascinated) foreigners. In 1901, a British missionary, Harry Moore Dauncey, estimated seeing 10,000 skulls while accompanying a punitive raid of the Papuan island Goaribari (itself a reprisal for the islanders’ murder and consumption of missionaries). In his 1914 study of Melanesian society, the anthropologist W.H.R. Rivers noted that the ‘skull-cult’ was particularly prominent on the Solomon Islands: ‘As the symbol of a person … skulls of enemies have become the chief object of warfare.’ As seen here, veneration of skulls was still ‘alive’ in the late 20th century. DIVE INBased on obsolete ideas of race, why is ‘Melanesia’ still used? Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu became independent in the late 20th century, while New Caledonia will vote on independence in 2018 and Western New Guinea was annexed by Indonesia in 1962. For some Melanesians, the term has become a positive term of identity. Seen here, the ancient Vanuatuan ritual naghol (vine diving) survived the colonial era (despite attempts to eradicate it)and is now emulated worldwide as bungee jumping.UNDER THE SEANamed for a British royal in 1767, the Duke of York Islands hosted German trading stations, a nudist colony and Methodist missionaries in the 19th century. It was a period in which, as Bernard Narokobi writes, Melanesia was ‘invaded by a huge tidal wave from the West in the form of colonisation and Christianity’. But the islands also face literal climatic disasters; in addition to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, Melanesia is on the frontline of rising sea levels: 1,000 Duke of York islanders were evacuated in 2000. The islands continue to sink.

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Today in History for 11th July 2018

Historical Events

1346 – Charles IV of Luxembourg is elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
1792 – Prussia army moves into French territory
1944 – 12th All Star Baseball Game: NL wins 7-1 at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh
1984 – All star MVP: Gary Carter (Mont Expos) awarded for 2nd time
1991 – Calumet Farm, home to 8 Kentucky Derby winners, files bankruptcy
2001 – Iraq resumes oil exports, ending a 5-week halt in protest of a US and British-sponsored UN Security Council resolution

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Famous Birthdays

1824 – Adolphe-Abraham Samuel, composer
1893 – Jack Durston, cricketer (England fast bowler against Australia 1921)
1969 – David Tao, Taiwanese singer-songwriter
1970 – Justin Chambers, American actor
1975 – Rubén Baraja, Spanish footballer
1984 – Hitomi Hyuga, Japanese actress

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Famous Deaths

1540 – Jan Szapolyai, anti-king of Hungarian, dies
1909 – Simon Newcomb, celestial mechanics authority (Stars), dies at 74
1944 – Wolfgang Redlich, German major/pilot, dies in battle
1974 – Pär Lagerkvist, Swedish writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1891)
2007 – Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States (b. 1912)
2015 – Satoru Iwata, Japanese CEO of Nintendo (Nintendo DS and Wii), dies of cancer at 55

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