Today in History: FEB 19, Castro steps down after 49 years

Today in History

Today is Sunday, Feb. 19, the 50th day of 2023. There are 315 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Feb. 19, 2008, an ailing Fidel Castro resigned the Cuban presidency after nearly a half-century in power; his brother Raul was later named to succeed him.

On this date:

In 1473, astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland.

In 1807, former Vice President Aaron Burr, accused of treason, was arrested in the Mississippi Territory, in present-day Alabama. (Burr was acquitted at trial.)

In 1878, Thomas Edison received a U.S. patent for “an improvement in phonograph or speaking machines.”

In 1942, during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the relocation and internment of people of Japanese ancestry, including U.S.-born citizens.

In 1945, Operation Detachment began during World War II as some 30,000 U.S. Marines began landing on Iwo Jima, where they commenced a successful month-long battle to seize control of the island from Japanese forces.

In 1959, an agreement was signed by Britain, Turkey and Greece granting Cyprus its independence.

In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford, calling the issuing of the internment order for people of Japanese ancestry in 1942 “a sad day in American history,” signed a proclamation formally confirming its termination.

In 1985, the British soap opera “EastEnders” debuted on BBC Television.

In 1986, the U.S. Senate approved, 83-11, the Genocide Convention, an international treaty outlawing “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” nearly 37 years after the pact was first submitted for ratification.

In 1997, Deng Xiaoping (dung shah-oh-ping), the last of China’s major Communist revolutionaries, died at age 92.

In 2003, an Iranian military plane carrying 275 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in southeastern Iran, killing all on board.

In 2017, three former elite U.S. gymnasts, including 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” to say they were sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, a volunteer team physician for USA Gymnastics. (Nassar would be sentenced to decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.)

In 2019, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to develop plans for a new Space Force within the Air Force, accepting less than the full-fledged department he had wanted.

Ten years ago: The United Nations said the number of U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan had risen sharply in 2012 compared with 2011. A bail hearing began in Pretoria, South Africa, for double-amputee Olympian Oscar Pistorius, charged with killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day; the defense said Pistorius had mistaken Steenkamp for an intruder while prosecutors said he had deliberately opened fire on Steenkamp as she cowered behind a locked bathroom door.

Five years ago: Syrian government forces began a bombing campaign in the northeastern suburbs of Damascus, the last major stronghold for rebels in the area of the capital; the campaign left hundreds dead. President Donald Trump endorsed Mitt Romney in Utah’s Senate race, a sign that the two Republicans were burying the hatchet after a strained relationship. The U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team reached the title game, shutting out Finland 5-0 in the semifinals.

One year ago: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, facing a sharp spike in violence in and around territory held by Russia-backed rebels and increasingly dire warnings that Russia plans to invade, called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet him and seek a resolution to the crisis. Vice President Kamala Harris says the world had arrived at “a decisive moment in history” and that the United States was committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty against the threat of what the West called an imminent threat of invasion by Russia. (Russia would invade Ukraine on Feb. 24.) China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong captured the Olympic gold medal that eluded them by a razor-thin margin four years earlier, edging Russian rivals Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov to win the pairs figure skating competition at the Beijing Games.

Today’s birthdays: Singer Smokey Robinson is 83. Singer and actor Carlin Glynn is 83. Former Sony Corp. Chairman Howard Stringer is 81. Singer Lou Christie is 80. Rock musician Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell) is 75. Actor Stephen Nichols is 72. Author Amy Tan is 71. Actor Jeff Daniels is 68. Rock singer-musician Dave Wakeling is 67. Talk show host Lorianne Crook is 66. Actor Ray Winstone is 66. Actor Leslie David Baker is 65. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is 64. Britain’s Prince Andrew is 63. Tennis Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova is 61. Singer Seal is 60. Actor Jessica Tuck is 60. Rock musician Jon Fishman (Phish) is 58. Actor Justine Bateman is 57. Actor Benicio Del Toro is 56. Actor Bellamy Young is 53. Rock musician Daniel Adair is 48. Pop singer-actor Haylie Duff is 38. Actor Arielle Kebbel is 38. Christian rock musician Seth Morrison (Skillet) is 35. Actor Luke Pasqualino is 33. Actor Victoria Justice is 30. Actor David Mazouz (TV: “Gotham”) is 22. Actor Millie Bobby Brown is 19.

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