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This Week in History


The Cuban Missile Crisis

On Oct. 15, 1962, U.S. intelligence workers analyzing photos taken by a U-2 spy plane discovered that the Soviet Union was building medium-range missile sites in Cuba. Seven days later, President John F. Kennedy gave a televised address to announce the discovery to Americans and to proclaim that he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting offensive weapons to the islands. The President made it clear that America would not stop short of military action to end what he called a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”

For the next 13 days, Americans believed that nuclear war with the Soviet Union—a war that would leave major U.S. cities like Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles incinerated—was about to break out any second.

A Financial Failure

Do you think we’ve seen some financial turmoil this year? Let me tell you what happened 13 years ago this week, when one of the most highly touted investment vehicles ever created came a cropper.

On Sept. 22, 1998, Long-Term Capital Management shocked the financial markets when it revealed that it was at risk of imploding and destroying billions of investors’ dollars when it did.

The Bloodiest Battle In The US

It was 149 years ago this week that the bloodiest battle in American history took place. More than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in action in one day, on September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.

Words Of Wisdom

Happy birthday to one of my favorite curmudgeons. H.L. Mencken, a journalist and essayist who was known as “the Sage of Baltimore,” was born in Baltimore on Sept. 12, 1880. Mencken, who died on Jan. 29, 1956, is regarded as one of the most influential writers and critics of the past 100 years, although many of his pithiest warnings have been forgotten or ignored.

The Most Meaningless Holiday In America Is Now Over

Time was when Labor Day actually meant something — a day to celebrate "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor movement" in the United States. It started in the 1880s as a "day off" for the workingman. Congress voted to make it a national holiday in 1894. For most of the next century, it was a time for parades and picnics and even some pompous political speeches, all in honor of America’s workers. But that era has long since passed.

‘A Crime Against Humanity’

On Sept. 1, 1983, we learned a Soviet Union fighter jet had fired on a civilian airplane off the coast of Siberia. The attack reportedly killed all 269 passengers and crew, including a good friend, U.S. Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia.

A Bad Week For Metals

This has been a bad week for the private ownership of gold. On August 28, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order prohibiting the “hoarding” of gold by Americans. Private citizens were required to surrender any “gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates” they owned. The order also placed limits on the export of precious metals.

Farewell To The King

Was it really more than three decades ago that we learned that the King was dead? Yes, it was on August 16, 1977 that Elvis Presley was rushed from Graceland to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis. Doctors were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead of a “cardiac arrhythmia” at the age of 42. Thousands of fans kept a vigil outside of Graceland for three days before his burial. Thousands more lined the streets of Memphis on the day of his funeral.

The Day The Flood Began

The flood of “funny money” — that is, the Federal Reserve creating billions of dollars and then trillions of dollars in new currency, unbacked by even an ounce of silver or gold — can be traced back to Aug. 11, 1987. Because that is the day when Alan Greenspan replaced Paul Volcker as the head of the Federal Reserve.

When The Lamps Went Out In Europe

For most of the past century, this week was known as the time when “the lamps went out in Europe.” On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. On Aug. 2, 1914, Turkey signed a military pact with Germany. On Aug. 3, 1914, Germany declared war on France and invaded Belgium. On Aug. 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.

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