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Today in history: Germany declares war on France and Belgium


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On this date, Aug. 3, in history:

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In 1460, King James II of Scotland died in a cannon explosion.

In 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain, with 119 men and three ships — the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria — on his first voyage to the New World. Supported by the king and queen of Spain, he sailed in search for a new passage to China. Instead, he came upon many West Indies islands.

In 1527, Captain John Rut wrote the first recorded letter from the New World to the old. He sent a report to England’s King Henry the Eighth about conditions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1583, the first English settlement in North America was founded at St. John’s, after Sir Humphrey Gilbert proclaimed England’s authority over Newfoundland. On his return voyage home, Gilbert and his ship were lost at sea.

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In 1751, the first printing press in Canada was set up in Halifax by Bartholomew Green.

In 1778, the La Scala opera house opened in Milan.

In 1811, Elisha Graves Otis, who invented the elevator brake, was born near Halifax, Vt. His safety device, first demonstrated publicly in 1854, made skyscrapers a practical reality.

In 1847, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Buffalo were connected by telegraph.

In 1858, English explorer John Speke discovered Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile River.

In 1860, Joseph Howe was elected premier of Nova Scotia.

In 1876, the first telephone call from one building to another took place in Mount Pleasant, Ont. Alexander Graham Bell called his uncle in Brantford, Ont.

In 1902, Martin Noth, German Lutheran Old Testament scholar, was born. His contributions include his theory that before Israel had a king, it was a tribal federation with its worship focused on a central sanctuary rather than on several shrines.

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In 1914, Germany declared war on France and Belgium at the outset of the First World War.

In 1916, Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement was hanged in London after being convicted of treason for plotting to win Irish independence by revolution. Casement, who was knighted for his work in the British consular service, had sought German aid for a rebellion that was planned for Easter of 1916. But the seizure of a rebel arms shipment and Casement’s capture doomed the uprising to failure.

In 1924, author Leon Uris was born in Baltimore, Md.

In 1940, Latvia became the 14th Soviet republic.

In 1949, the National Basketball Association was formed by a merger of the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League.

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In 1958, the American atomic submarine Nautilus became the first vessel to cross the North Pole underwater.

In 1960, the African country of Niger achieved full independence from French rule.

In 1961, Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas was elected national leader of the newly formed New Democratic Party at its founding convention in Ottawa. The Baptist minister was a skilled orator who popularized the concept of the welfare state.

In 1972, Britain’s 42,000 striking dockworkers, who had brought port operations to a halt and caused a state of emergency in the country, went back to work.

In 1977, the Canadian government rejected aboriginal demands for their own political territory in the Northwest Territories. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said Ottawa would never agree to a political territory based solely on race.

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In 1980, the Moscow Summer Olympics, boycotted by the United States and many other western countries, ended. Russia and East Germany captured most of the medals. The boycott of the Games was part of the U.S. response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc boycotted the next Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles in 1984.

In 1981, 13,000 U.S. air traffic controllers went on strike, despite President Ronald Reagan’s warning that they would be fired if they did not return to work. Reagan carried out his threat.

In 1987, the Iran-Contra hearings ended with none of the 29 witnesses tying U.S. President Ronald Reagan directly to the diversion of arms-sales profits to Nicaraguan rebels.

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In 1990, the parliament of newly democratic Hungary chose Arpad Goencz as its new president. He had been sentenced to life in prison for his part in the country’s anti-Communist uprising in 1956.

In 1996, Donovan Bailey anchored Canada’s victory in the men’s 400-metre relay final at the Atlanta Olympics. The 100-metre champ was joined on the medal podium by Robert Esmie, Glenroy Gilbert and Bruny Surin.

In 1999, the Toronto Dominion Bank announced it would take over Canada Trust in an $8 billion deal.

In 1999, arbitrators ruled the U.S. government had to pay the heirs of Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder $16 million for his movie footage that captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In 2000, the Queen Mother was named an honorary companion of the Order of Canada.

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In 2004, the Statue of Liberty on New York’s Liberty Island reopened for business with new security measures, after being closed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

In 2005, Second World War veteran Ernest “Smoky” Smith, the last Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, died at age 91.

In 2005, over 40 cars of a CN Rail train derailed, spilling thousands of litres of oil and a toxic pole-treating chemical in Lake Wabamun, Alta.

In 2006, four Canadian soldiers from Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were killed and 10 others injured in Taliban ambush in Pashmul, Afghanistan. (The four soldiers were Sgt. Vaughn Ingram, Cpl. Bryce Keller, Cpl. Christopher Reid, and Pte. Kevin Dallaire).

In 2008, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning author whose books chronicled the horrors of the Soviet gulag system, died from a chronic heart condition. He was 89.

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In 2010, British Petroleum began the successful “static kill” of the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico that caused the biggest offshore oil leak in U.S. history. The first step was to force a slow torrent of heavy mud down the broken wellhead to push the crude back to its underground source. The next day, BP pumped fresh cement to keep the oil from finding its way back out.

In 2010, Calgary-based Talisman Energy announced it would pay US$858 million for a 49 per cent interest in BP’s Colombian oil and gas exploration assets, while Ecopetrol SA would hold the other 51 per cent. BP was divesting up to $30 billion of assets to help it pay the huge price tag for the cleanup costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In 2010, a brazen daylight attack on Kandahar Airfield resulted in the deaths of up to 10 Taliban fighters as military officials called the attempt amateurish and desperate. Three Canadian soldiers received a commendation for their courage in responding to the attack.

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In 2010, the Manitoba government apologized for its part in uprooting members of the Sayisi Dene band in 1956 from their north-central homeland and relocating them to a Churchill community where they were unable to pursue their traditional lifestyle.

In 2010, a warehouse driver at a Manchester, Conn., beer distributorship went on a shooting rampage, killing eight people and injuring two before committing suicide. He had just left a disciplinary hearing where he was asked to resign because he stole beer from the company.

In 2011, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced that comedian Jerry Lewis was no longer its national chairman and he would not appear on that year’s telethon, ending a 45-year run in which he raised $1.66 billion. Lewis did not comment publicly on reasons for the split. Despite his absence, officials said the telethon on Sept. 4 raised nearly $61.5 million, an increase of about $2.6 million over 2010.

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In 2011, according to a study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, online advertising revenues pushed the Internet past daily newspapers as the second largest ad revenue source in Canada, after TV.

In 2014, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck China’s mountainous farming region of Ludian county, killing over 600 people and injuring 2,400 others.

In 2018, a 77-year-old man was killed when a powerful tornado touched down west of Lake Manitoba, lifting several homes off their foundations and sweeping one vehicle into the lake. The RCMP said the man was found dead outside what remained of his wrecked home in Alonsa.

In 2018, the federal government delivered $11 million to help the City of Toronto defray some of the costs associated with an influx of asylum seekers.

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In 2019, a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas left 22 dead and 24 injured after a lone gunman opened fire. The FBI was investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime — a charge that could see the gunman facing the death penalty. Authorities said following his arrest, the accused shooter, 21-year-old gun Patrick Crusius, told investigators that he allegedly set out to kill as many Mexicans as he could.

In 2019, the songwriter who co-founded Village People and co-wrote their classic hits Y-M-C-A, Macho Man and In the Navy died in Paris at the age of 82. Henri Belolo founded the six-member Village People with Jacques Morali and lead singer Victor Willis in 1977. In 1978, the group released the international hit “Y-M-C-A,” co-written by Belolo. It peaked at Number Two on the Billboard chart.

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In 2019, the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed eight new members in Canton, Ohio. Former players to be enshrined were tight end Tony Gonzalez, defensive backs Champ Bailey, Ed Reed and Ty Law, centre Kevin Mawae and senior selection Johnny Robinson, a defensive back who helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl 4. They are joined by two contributors: the late owner of the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen, and Gil Brandt, former personnel director for the Dallas Cowboys, now the NFL’s top draft consultant.

In 2020, Quebec increased the limits on indoor and outdoor public gatherings from 50 people to 250 people as part of measures to control COVID-19. The province’s health minister said despite the relaxed rules, COVID-19 continues to circulate in Quebec, especially among young people. Christian Dube asked all Quebecers to work together to reduce the number of new daily cases in case of a second wave.

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In 2020, Andrew Furey won his bid to become premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Furey, a physician and founder of a charity, beat out John Abbott in the contest to replace Premier Dwight Ball as Liberal leader. Before the result was even announced, Abbott issued a statement calling for an independent audit of the voting process.

In 2021, an investigation found that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple current and former state government employees. Two outside lawyers concluded that the Cuomo administration was a hostile work environment and that it was rife with fear and intimidation. Cuomo faced multiple allegations the previous winter that he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed women who worked with him or who he met at public events. Cuomo had always denied touching anyone inappropriately.

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In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cleared by the federal ethics watchdog over Liberal MPs using their office budgets to hire the services of a company run by one of his lifelong friends. Conservative MP Michael Barrett had asked Mario Dion to investigate after a report surfaced that most Liberal MPs hired two companies, including friend Tom Pitfield’s Data Sciences, to help them manage constituency casework. The ethics commissioner said the prime minister was not involved with the contract, and there was no reason to believe he was trying to further Pitfield’s private interests.

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