1980s

Terrorist Bomber Begins His Deadly Rampage - 12/17/1989

On this fateful day in 1989, Robert Vance, who is a judge, was sitting with his wife in the kitchen of their home when he opened a package addressed to him that exploded and killed him immediately. The same day, another mailed bomb killed an attorney, Robert Robinson, in his office in Savannah, Georgia. Two days later, bomb packages were sent to the federal courthouse in Atlanta and to the Jacksonville, Mississippi office of the NAACP. If not for the timely intervention of the police, the NAACP vice-president would have suffered the same fate as Robert Vance. In addition, Robert Vance is one of the few judges in American history to have been killed as the result of his judicial service. Immediately, the FBI assigned a team to find the terrorist, naming their operation VANPAC (for Vance package bomb). The team utilized almost every forensic technique accessible: from DNA profiles were made using the spit on the stamps and both the paint on the containers and the nails used in building the bomb were traced back to the manufacturer. Initially, the investigators thought it was the handy work of a white supremacist campaign, but when no group claimed responsibility, they began to suspect it was the work of a loner.Later, an FBI agent recalled that Walter LeRoy Moody had been convicted in 1972 for setting off a pipe bomb with a similar pattern to that of the 1989 bombs. Searching Moody's home there was no evidence that linked to the VANPAC bombs, however bomb specialists compared his 1972 bomb with the VANPAC explosives and verified that there was little uncertainty that a similar man had made them all. Roy Moody was a loner filled with grudge against the judicial system for sentencing him to five years in prison for setting off a bomb that caused a first and second degree burns on his wife. A ruling he tried appealing at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals but was unsuccessful.A federal jury found Moody guilty on charges relating to bombing and in June of 1991, he was sentenced to seven life terms plus 400 years in prison. The murder case was finally arranged after his second wife agreed to testify against her husband. She explained in detail about the room she was not allowed to enter, how she disguised in order to buy bomb ingredients for him and how she helped him mail packages that she was not allowed to check. In 1997, an Alabama judge sentenced Moody to the electric chair for Vance's murder.

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1980s

Da Vinci Notebook Sells For Over 5 Million – 12/12/1980

American oil tycoon Armand Hammer purchases a notebook at an auction on December 12th, 1980 for $5,126,000; it held writings of the famous artist Leonard de Vinci. The manuscript was one of 30 books that were somewhat the same of books created by Leonardo created while alive on different subjects around 1508. The contents held 72 loose pages featuring roughly 300 detailed drawings and notes relating to the concept of water and on its motion. Experts have commented on how da Vinci referred to it when painting the background for the Mona Lisa; now viewed today as his masterwork. Written in chalk and brown ink, the text appeared from right to left which was an example of mirror-writing technique; this was a technique Leonardo favored. The notebook was discovered by painter Giuseppi Ghezzi in a chest of paperwork that was owned by Guglielmo Della Porto in 1690; he was a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had learned about da Vinci’s work. Thomas Coke, known as the first earl of Leicester, purchased the manuscript in 1717 and placed it at his family estate in England with his recognized collection of art. The notebook would become known as the Leicester Codex over 200 years later as it eventually appeared on auction in London’s Christie as the Lord Coke of present was compromised regarding paying taxes on inheritance of collection of art and the estate; therefore, he had no choice but to sell. The press and art experts guessed that the notebook would fetch a price from $7 to $20 million days prior to the auction. Interestingly, the starting bid was $1.4 million and within minutes, several others began to bid where the amount being raised each time was $100,000. The final price tag of $5.12 million was the largest price tag ever spent for a manuscript during this period in time; the legendary Gutenberg Bible copy sold in 1978 for merely $2 million. Hammer would say later “I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more. There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this.” Unfortunately for Lord Coke, he was only “reasonably happy” with the fetching price because he said the proceeds would not be enough to pay off the amount he owed.Hammer is the president of a corporation named Occidental Petroleum and before adding his trophy to his valuable art collection, changed the notebook’s name to the Hammer Codex. The notebook and his other various works eventually went to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) after his death in 1990. The museum offered to sell the manuscript several years later saying it had no choice being the funds were needed to pay for legal costs incurred when the niece and only heir of Hammer’s late wife, Frances, went after the estate insinuating he robbed Frances of what was rightfully her part of his fortune. The Hammer Codex was eventually bought at the steep and new record price of $30.8 million at an auction in New York by an unknown bidder later to be identified as Bill Gates; Microsoft’s billionaire founder. Gates restored the manuscript back to the Leicester Codex and presently has let several museums borrow the manuscript for the public to view.

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1980s

Iran-Contra Scandal Exposed - 11/27/1986

On this day in 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese reported that the returns from the illegal weapons sold to Iran were diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua. This happened three weeks after a Lebanese magazine exposed that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran. The Lebanese magazine called "Ash" on November 3, reported that the United States had been selling weapons to Iran secretly in order to secure the release of seven American prisoners held by Iranian groups in Lebanon. This came as a surprise to officials that were not part of the inner caucus of President Ronald Reagan's administration and against the stated policy of the administration. This act contradicts the U.S. arms ban against Iran, and the weapon deals opposed President Reagan's stance on not negotiating with terrorist. Controversy over Reagan's administration undisclosed dealings with Iran worsened when on November 25, Attorney General Meese reported that the proceeds from the weapons sold was redirected to sponsor Nicaraguan rebels "The Contras" who were fighting a guerrilla tactics war against the elected radical government of Nicaragua. This revelation caused uproar in the Congress who in 1982 passed the Boland Amendment barring the use of federal money "to fund the toppling of the Nicaraguan government." On that same day, the Iran-Contra link was exposed, forcing President Reagan to receive the resignation of Vice Admiral John Poindexter, the government's national security adviser and fired Poindexter aide Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. Both men played key parts in the Iran-Contra deal. President Reagan claimed responsibility for the sold arms deals in exchange for the U.S. prisoners but claimed not to be aware of any funds diversion to sponsor the Contras.Lawrence Walsh was given orders to investigate the matter in December 1986, and in the late spring of 1987 Congress held a TV broadcast of the hearings on the Iran-Contra deal. The investigations uncovered that North and other officials in Reagan's administration had tried to conceal their unlawfully dealings with the Contras and Iran. Investigations further revealed that eleven White House, State Department, and officials of the intelligence unit were found guilty on charges ranging from perjury, to withholding evidence from Congress, and plan to defraud United States. Walsh final report explained that neither President Reagan nor Vice President George Bush disregarded any laws regarding the affair, though Reagan had first set the path for the illegal acts whereby others follow suit by his continued support for the Contras even after Congress had banned it.President George Bush gave presidential pardon to six people who played a major role in the Iran-Contra scandal when he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton on Christmas Eve in 1992. Out of the six was the former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and former head of CIA operations Duane Clarridge, both had trails for fabrication of truth pending.

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1980s

Poland's Solidarity Movement Leader Walesa, Released From Jail - 11/13/1982

On this day, the leader of the banned Solidarity movement in communist Poland Lech Walesa made a return back home after being in detention for 11 months in a remote hunting lodge towards the Soviet border. Prior to his release, hundreds of supporters had already pegged their tent outside his home, waiting for his arrival when news reached them that he was in the process of being released. On this exact day, as Walesa made his appearance, the crowd who had gathered lifted him high above and carried him to the entrance of his apartment where his wife was standing to welcome him back home, and then proceeded into the second story window from where he addressed his followers. Born in Poland in 1943, Walesa worked as an electrician at the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk where he was later fired for his involvement in agitation for union in 1976. In August 1980, following a protest by workers of the shipyard in Gdansk after food prices increased, Walesa joined the thousands of workers inside the shipyard. His involvement led to him being chosen as the chairman of the strike committee, and their demands were met within three days. Following his success, Walesa then helped in organizing other strikes in Gdansk and later demanded the Polish government to allow the free formation of trade unions and giving them the right to strike. Eventually, the government agreed to their demands and on August 30, trade unions were legalized and freedom to express one's religious and political views was given. The met demands paved way for millions of Polish workers and farmers to form unions and Solidarity movement was formed as a national federation of unions, with Walesa as its chairman. Walesa leadership skills made the organization grew in size and political strength, making it a major threat to the Polish government authorities. On December 13, 1981, Solidarity was banned, Walesa and other union leaders were arrested and martial law was declared in Poland.The public outcry forced the government to release Walesa in November 1982, while Solidarity was still outlawed. The following year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Walesa, but he declined to receive it in Norway fearing he may be forced to exile. Working underground as the leader of the Solidarity movement, he was constantly subjected to harassment.The economic recession that hit Poland in 1988 resulting in labor strikes forced the authorities to renegotiate with Walesa, and in April of 1989, Solidarity movement regained freedom and some of its members were allowed to contest at the upcoming elections. This gave way for a Solidarity-led coalition government in September of that same year, and Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Walesa's right hand became the premier. In 1990, Poland held her first presidential election in which Walesa emerge as the winner.Poland witness successful reforms during President Walesa's regime, however, he was more of an effective labor leader than he was a president. He was defeated in his reelection bid in 1995 by the communist former head of the Democratic Left Alliance Aleksander Kwasniewski.

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1980s

Grisly Discovery Made In Resident’s Home By Police – 11/11/1988

One thing I have noticed over the years is hearing how the training of police officers is supposed to better prepare them to do their job successfully. Others will see that no matter what level of training is provided; it cannot prepare you for everything. Although I am not a police officer and what I hear is a combo of statements made that are based on news, social media, movies and some actual police officers; I feel that life provides situations that are too unpredictable to know how to react when it happens. After all, how could an officer be trained to handle something grisly that deals with the elderly?The scene is Sacramento, California and police are seen at the residential home of 59-year-old Dorothea Puente unearthing a corpse concealed in her lawn. This alone would be tragic to hear; however, an investigation of the home used to house elderly people would lead authorities to find six more individuals that were buried there. The grisly revelation would stay in the minds of investigators for the rest of their lives. Sadly, as with many cases, Dorothea was no stranger to law enforcement. She had a prison record and served time for picking up individuals in different bars where she would drug and rob them as well as committing check forgery. Being diagnosed as a schizophrenic did not help her any and when it came time for her release, Puente decided to open a boarding house to assist elderly people. Social worker Peggy Nickerson started working with Puente in 1986 by sending over19 clients to stay at her home. However, Nickerson grew concerned when finding out that some of the people staying there strangely could not be found. Peggy’s suspicions were justified as the odor of decaying flesh was reported by Dorothea’s neighbors coming from her vicinity. Unfortunately, Nickerson must have assumed something terrible must have happened to the missing residents as well as feeling guilty since she was the one who had sent them to Dorothea’s house in the first place.Considering Puente’s criminal background, this still would not be a simple open and shut case. While the unearthed bodies were tested and discovered to each have traces of a sedative called Dalmane, the primary cause of death was never determined by the coroner. Regardless, Dorothea Puente went on trial for murdering the missing elderly people. Finally, after lasting five months and presenting 3,100 pieces of evidence, the prosecution was successful in proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Dorothea Puente was responsible for murdering her residents for the probable motive of using their Social Security Checks for her own use. What stands out is that she was formally charged for actually nine counts of murder but only got convicted for three of them. Truth be told, investigators believed that Dorothea could have been responsible for murdering as many as 25 people.

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1980s

Iran-Contra Scandal Exposed – 11/3/1986

On November 3, 1986, the world discovered through a report released by the Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa that the United States was involved in a serious scandal – this has been selling weapons to Iran in exchange for the freedom of American hostages who were being held against their will by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. Much to their surprise, officials outside President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle would soon come to know this when this was confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources on November 6. This clearly contradicted the stated policy of the current administration and was in violation of the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. President Reagan promised that he would never tolerate negotiations with terrorists but the arms sales were in opposition of this vow.On November 25, Attorney General Edwin Meese exposed that the profit coming from the arms sale transaction were used to fund Nicaraguan rebels, known as the Contras, who at that time were caught up in a guerilla warfare against the leftist government of Nicaragua. His revelation made the dealings even more controversial for all the ones who were involved. The Congress went in an uproar – they believed that no such thing could happen after passing the Boland Amendment in 1982, which was intended to prevent the exploitation of federal money in overthrowing the Nicaraguan government.  On the day that Iran-Contra scandal was exposed, Vice Admiral John Poindexter submitted his resignation which was immediately approved by President Reagan. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a Poindexter aide, on the other hand was fired by Reagan. Both Poindexter and North were key figures in the Iran-Contra scandal. While Reagan accepted responsibility for the incident, he however denied any knowledge of the said deal.Lawrence Walsh was appointed as the special prosecutor in December 1986 for the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal. This was made into a public hearing and televised in the summer of 1987. Through the investigation, the people found out that North as well as other administration officials tried to cover up the unlawful transactions with the Contras and the Iran. A total of eleven White House, State Department, and intelligence officials were also accused guilty of the illegal dealings. They were charged with the following crimes – perjury, withholding information from Congress, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to Walsh’s final report, Reagan and Vice President George Bush did not in any way violate laws concerning the Iran-Contra dealings. However, he also determined that Reagan’s decision to order continued support of the Contras even when the Congress clearly banned this initiated the illegal acts of the others. The prosecutor’s report showed that there came a continued effort to deceive the Congress and the public in connection to the Iran-Contra dealing because Reagan and Bush became involved in dealings which encouraged it.President George Bush used his power to pardon people from crimes to six of the notable figures who were involved in the Iran-Contra affair on the Christmas Eve of 1992, just after he was defeated by Bill Clinton for the presidency. Two of them, Former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and former chief of CIA operations Duane Clarridge, were still being tried for perjury, but because of the pardon issued by Bush, were given the chance to enjoy freedom once again. 

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