The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
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1986
The Space shuttle Challenger explosion

1/1 -- Spain and Portugal join the European Common Market.

1/28 -- The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board, including Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher and the first private citizen to fly in the shuttle. The explosion is caused by a faulty joint seal on a solid-fuel booster rocket.

2/6 -- Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, 34, resigns and is given sanctuary in France after a repressive 15-year reign.

2/24 -- By acquiring Eastern Airlines for $676 million, Texas Air becomes the largest airline in the U.S.

2/25 -- Corazone Aquino, 53, wife of murdered leader Benigno Corazon, becomes president of the Philippines in the wake of a revolt that occurred when dictator Ferdinand Marco attempted to steal an election. Deserted by the military, Marco and his wife Imelda seek sanctuary in the United States.

2/28 -- Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme is assassinated in Stockholm. (In 1988, Carl Gustav Christer Pettersson will be arrested and convicted, but his conviction will be overturned in 1989).

3/15 -- In France, Paris mayor Jacques Chirac is elected to head a Conservative parliament and share power with Socialist President Jacques Mitterand.

4/14 -- The U.S. retaliates against Libya for the bombing of a Berlin disco that killed one American serviceman. American planes from British bases and carriers in the Mediterranean Sea bomb five sites in Libya. An American F-111 with two airmen is lost during the attack, which claims 15 Libyan lives.

4/14 -- Black civil rights leader Desmond Tutu, 54, is elected Anglican Archbishop of South Africa.

4/26 -- The Soviet Union's Chernobyl power plant in the Ukraine explodes, dispensing radioactive fallout across much of Europe. Large tracts of Ukrainian land will remain uninhabitable for thousands of years.

5/1 -- Over q.5 million South African blacks go on strike to protest apartheid.

5/6 -- Michael Jackson is paid $15 million to become a sponsor for Pepsi, the biggest sponsorship deal of its kind to date.

5/12 -- the Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Dennis B. Levine of making $12.6 million by trading on insider information.

5/25 -- To raise money for the homeless, five million Americans form a Hands Across America human chain across the continent.

6/4 -- Former American naval analyst Jonathan Pollard, 31, pleads guilty to giving classified information to the Israelis.

6/12 -- South Africa declares a second state of emergency.

6/16 -- Millions of South African blacks go on strike to commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising.

6/17 -- Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger retires, and President Reagan nominates conservative Justice William Rehnquist to replace him, and another conservative, Antonin Scalia to the court.

6/25 -- Following an intense lobbying effort by the White House, Congress agrees to provide the Nicaraguan Contras with $100 million military and non-military aid.

6/16 -- Millions of South African blacks refuse to go to work following the government's declaration of a state of emergency and the arrest of over 1,000 black activists.

6.30 -- The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that homosexual activity between consenting adults in the privacy of the home is not protected by the Constitution.

7/3 -- A four-day celebration of Independence Day and the refurbished Statue of Liberty begins in New York.

7/25 -- Experts predict that a severe drought that has been punishing southern and mid-Atlantic states will cause an estimated $2 billion in crop and livestock losses.

8/26 -- An underwater volcanic eruption emits toxic gas that kills over 1,500 people in Cameroon.

8/30 -- American journalist Nicholas Daniloff is seized by Soviet authorities and accused of being a spy, seven days after the FBI arrest a Soviet diplomat to the UN on charges of espionage. In September Daniloff will be exchanged for the diplomat, though the White House denies it negotiated a swap.

9/8 -- Paul Simon's Graceland shows up on Billboard's Top Album chart -- and will still be there 97 weeks later.

9/26 -- President Reagan vetoes legislation that would impose economic sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies, but the veto is overridden (Oct. 3) by the Senate with a 78-21 vote.

10/3 -- L.A. Law premieres on NBC and will become one of the top television series for the remainder of the decade.

10/5 -- Pilot Eugene Hasenfus is captured by the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and admits that the CIA has been involved in privately arming the Contra rebels. Hasenfus is tried in Managua and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

10/12 -- The summit between President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at Reykjavik, Iceland collapses when Reagan refuses to give up the Strategic Defense Initiative -- a condition made by Gorbachev for an arms control agreement.

10/22 -- President Reagan signs into law legislation that restructures the federal income tax system, consolidating 15 tax brackets into two -- 15 and 28% -- and eliminating many tax breaks for the rich while removing the lowest bracket earners from the tax rolls.

11/1 -- A fire at a pharmaceutical firm's warehouse in Basel results in the dumping of 1,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the Rhine, contaminating water supplies.

11/3 -- A report in the Lebanese magazine Al Shiraa indicates that the U.S. has been supplying Iran with military equipment. In the days to come the Reagan adminis- tration's secret dealings with Iran -- tradings arms for hostages -- is exposed.

11/4 -- The Democrats recapture control of the U.S. Senate during the midterm elections, and also strengthen their hold on the House of Representatives.

11/7 -- President Reagan signs into law the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which allows millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. legally while imposing criminal sanctions against employers who hire undocumented workers.

11/14 -- Arbitrageur Ivan Boesky pleads guilty to insider trading.

11/22 -- Defeating Trevor Berbick in a Las Vegas bout, Mike Tyson becomes boxing's heavyweight champion at age 20.

11/30 -- Cary Grant dies, age 80, in Davenport, Iowa.

12/19 -- With President Reagan's popularity plummeting, and 78% of Americans believing there is a White House cover-up underway, Lawrence E.Walsh is named independent counsel to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal.

This year...A Beirut magazine claims that the U.S. has sent spare parts and ammunition to Iran in hopes that Iranian moderates would arrange the release of American hostages; it is later learned that profits from these sales have been diverted to the Nicaraguan Contras.....Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov is allowed to return from exile in Gorky.....The U.S. national debt tops $2 trillion.....Burroughs Corp. acquires Sperry for $4.8 billion; Unilever acquires Cheseborough-Pond's for $3.1 billion; May Stores buys Associated Dry Goods for $2.7 billion; Chairman Edward Finkelstein takes the Macy's department store chain private with a $3.7 billion leveraged buyout.....Swiss physicist K. Alex Miller and German physicist J. Georg Bednorz of IBM's Research Laboratory in Zuruch, win the Nobel Prize for discovering zero resistivity in a ceramic material that permits superconductivity at a much higher temperature than ever before, allowing for more energy-efficient motors and computers.....World oil prices plummet to $7.20 a barrel in July.....The U.S. FDA approves the world's first genetically engineered vaccine (for hepatitis B); the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture approves the release of the first genetically altered virus, used to fight swine herpes, and the first genetically altered plants (high-yield tobacco plants).....Nintendo video games debut in the U.S. and the company posts sales of $300 million this year (and $830 million next year).