The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Table of Contents     1980   1981   1982   1983   1984   1985   1986   1987   1988
1989
Guards on the Berlin Wall shortly before it is torn down

1/4 -- U.S. fighter planes shoot down a pair of Libyan MIG-23s over international waters off the coast of Libya, whose government claims the attack was unprovoked. The U.S. claims the Libyan jets pursued the American aircraft with "hostile intent."

1/7 -- Japan's Emperor Hirohito dies, age 87, after a reign of 62 years. He is succeeded by his son Akihito, 55, who will rule from the Chrysanthemum Throne as the Heisei emperor.

1/10 -- Cuban troops begin withdrawing from Angola.

1/16 -- Three days of rioting begin in Miami after an Hispanic policeman shoots and kills an unarmed black man fleeing arrest.

1/20 -- George Bush is inagurated as the 41st president of the United States.

1/23 -- The U.S. Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a Virginia law requiring public works set-asides for minority-owned construction companies.

2/2 -- Paraguay's dictator Alfredo Stroessner is overthrown in a bloody coup after a 35-year reign. Gen. Andres Rodriguez wins the presidency in the country's first multi-candidate election since 1958. Rodriguez also denies allegations that he is a drug trafficker.

2/7 -- The U.S. Congress votes overwhelmingly to reject a proposal to give its members a raise after a public uproar over a plan for an automatic pay increase.

2/14 -- The Ayatollah Khomeini sentences author Salman Rushdie to death for publishing The Satanic Verses, which many Muslims consider insulting to the Prophet Muhammed. A few weeks later, Iran will sever relations with Great Britain when the latter refuses to denounce Rushdie, who resides in the UK.

3/24 -- The oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history -- more than 200,000 bbls (11 million gallons) of crude are dumped into the sound.

3/26 -- The Soviet people cast ballots in the first free national election since the October Revolution in 1917.

4/13 -- the U.S. Congress approves nearly $50 million in non-military aid to the Contras fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government.

5/7 -- Panamanian voters oust Manuel Noriega in free elections, but Noriega ignores the election results and retains power.

5/14 -- Argentine voters elect Peronist leader Carlos Menem president in the first peaceful transfer of power in that country since 1927. Menom promises to privatize industry and reform the tax system.

6/4 -- Chinese troops brutally wrest control of Tiananmen Square in Beijing from tens of thousands of citizens who for weeks had been protesting official corruption and demonstrating for democratic reforms. Hundreds of civilians are killed.

6/4 -- Iran's Ayatollha Khomeini dies, age 86. hashemi Rafsanjani becomes the new president of Iran.

6/10 -- Federal investigators report major mismanagement and fraud in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with contractors having embezzled millions of dollars due the government for the sale of foreclosed homes.

6/12 -- Washington's Corcoran Gallery closes an exhibit by the deceased Robert Mapplethorpe because it includes homoerotic photographs.

6/21 -- The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that flag-burning is a right protected by the First Amendment. President Bush asks for a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning. The Senate will reject such an amendment.

7/3 -- The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 upholding a Missouri law that placed state restrictions on abortion, but stops short of overturning the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Pennsylvania responds by adopting strict new laws regulating abortion. The U.S. Congress authorizes Medicare payments for abortions in victims of rape or incest, but President Bush vetoes the measure.

8/8 -- For the first time since the Challenger disaster in 1987 the U.S. launches a manned spaceflight, as the space shuttle Columbia blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

8/9 -- The Financial Institutions Rescue, Recovery and Enforcement Act bails out federally-insured savings and loans. The government will sell numerous thrifts to banks and private investors at fire-sale prices.

8/15 -- South Africa's President Pieter W. Botha, 73, resigns for health reasons and is succeeded by F.W. de Klerk, who permits anti-apartheid demonstrations and, in October, will release some political prisoners and meet with representatives of the outlawed African National Congress.

8/18 -- Poland ends 40 years of complete Communist rule when Party candidates are defeated in parliamentary elections. A new cabinet is headed by Solidarity leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki, 62. Communists retain control of the defense and interior ministries.

8/18 -- After the assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, Colombian President Virgilio Barco Vargas declares war on the Cali and Medellin drug cartels. The U.S. contributes military hardware. Colombian police will make 500 arrests and seize $250 million of property. The druglords respond with 265 bombings that kill 187 people. Drug kindpin Jose Gacha is gunned down by Colombian police in December, but at year's end Pablo Escobar Gaviria and three Ochoa brothers of the Medellin cartel remain at large.

8/23 -- Hundreds of thousands of people join hands in a human chain that stretches across Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as the three Balkan republics demand autonomy from Moscow.

8/24 -- Voyager 2 completes its 12-year exploration of the solar system, having sent back to Earth amazing photos of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.

8/30 -- New York hotelier Leona Helmsley is convicted on 33 counts of income tax evasion. She is sentenced to four years imprisonment and fined $7.1 million.

9/29 -- In what is the largest single drug seizure in history, federal agents discover 20 tons of cocaine (with a street value of $2 billion) in a warehouse in California's San Fernando Valley.

10/5 -- Former PTL evangelist Jim Bakker is convicted on 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy after bilking followers out of $158 million. He is sentenced to 45 years in prison and fined $500,000.

10/17 -- An earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale causes widespread destruction in the San Francisco Bay area, killing 67, most of whom died on Interstate 880 in Oakland when the upper level of a double-decker freeway collapses. This is the most destructive earthquake in North America since the one in 1906 which struck the same area.

10/18 -- East German Communist chief Erich Honecker, 77, is forced to resign. He is replaced by his security chief, hardline Stalinist Egon Krenz, who says there will be no power-sharing from pro-democracy factions.

10/23 -- Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze admits that the invasion of Afghanistan was illegal.

10/24 -- Evangelist Jim Bakker is sentenced to 45 years in prison upon conviction on two dozen counts of fraud and conspiracy after bilking followers of $157 million.

10/28 -- Czech authorities quell a demonstration and arrest leading dissidents, including playwright Vaclav Havel. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urges Czechoslovakia to respond to the need for change.

10/31 -- Congress and the White House agree on an increase in the minimum wage, from $3.35 to $3.80 an hour -- the first such increase since 1981.

11/5 -- Christian Maronite Rene Moawad is elected president of Lebanon in a special session of parliament.

11/7 -- The Communist government of East Germany collapses, and all restrictions on travel to West Germany are removed. The following day, hundreds of thousands of East Germans surge through an opening in the Berlin Wall, which begins to come down.

11/7 -- Virginia elects the nation's first black governor (L. Douglas Wilder) since Reconstruction. New York City elects its first black mayor (David Dinkins).

11/9 -- China's Deng Xiaoping, 85, resigns as Communist Party chairman. He is replaced by Jiang Zemin.

11/10 -- Bulgaria's president and Communist Party chief Todor Zhivkov, 78, resigns after 35 years in power. His successor, Foreign Minister Petar Mladenov, says there is no alternative to restructuring Bulgaria's economy and loosening the Communist hold on political power.

11/11 -- El Salvador's Marxist guerrillas launch a "final offensive" but fail to unseat President Alfredo Christiani.

11/16 -- The murder of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador by government forces trigger calls for the U.S. Congress to stop supporting the Salvadoran government.

11/22 -- Lebanese President Rene Moawad and 23 others are assassinated in Beirut. Moawad is replaced by Elias Hrawi, but militia commander Gen. Michael Aoun proclaims himself the legitimate president and launches an 11-month rebellion.

12/14 -- Soviet dissident and scientist Andrei Sakharov dies, age 68.

12/16 -- Beginning tonight, Romanian secret police shoot protestors by the thousands in Timosoara and then Bucharest.

12/21 -- When the Romanian army sides with pro-democracy demonstrators, dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is driven from power after a 24-year reign. He and his wife Elena are captured on the 22nd and executed on the 25th.

12/20 -- U.S. troops launch an invasion of Panama in an effort to capture General Manuel Noriega, that country's ruler, who was being sought in connection with charges of illegal trafficking in drugs. Panama offers a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Noriega, who seeks political asylum with Vatican officials in Panama City. (He will surrender to U.S. authorities in early January 1990.) The UN General Assembly condemns the invasion as a violation of international law. As many as 4,000 Panamanians are killed.

12/22 -- Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is officially opened, marking the uniting of the city after 44 years.

12/29 -- Following the creation of a new cabinet in the so-called "Velvet Revolution," playwright/dissident Vaclav Havel, 53, is made president of Czechoslovakia.

This year...Soviet troops complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan in February.....Soviet voters elect opposition candidates to the newly reconstituted parliament, including Boris Yeltsin.....Lech Walesa visits the United States in November.....Vietnamese troops leave Cambodia after an 11-year occupation; civil war erupts as the Khmer Rouge attempts to regain control of Cambodia.....Brazil conducts her first democratic elections in 29 years.....Lebanon's Christian and Muslim factions reach an accord in October.....Soviet coal miners strike in the Ukraine and elsewhere, in the biggest Soviet industrial walkout since the 1920s.....President Bush signs the Internment Compensation Act, which awards $20,000 to each surviving Japanese-American victim of the 1942 internment order issued by President Franklin Roosevelt.....The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes out the decade at 2753, up 584.63 from last year.....Real estate tycoon Donald Trump buys the Eastern Airlines shuttle and renames it the Trump Shuttle.....Ford Motor Co. acquires Jaguar Motors for $2.5 billion; Bristol-Meyers merges with Squibb, creating the second largest pharmaceutical concern in the world (Merck is the largest).....Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini offers a $3 million reward for the death of Salman Rushdie, author of the controversial The Satanic Verses.....Amy Tan writes The Joy Luck Club, while Allan Garganus writes Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, and E.L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate is published.....Cincinnati Reds player/manager Pete Rose is banned for life from baseball when evidence that he has bet on baseball games surfaces.....Former Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond king Michael Milkin is indicted with two others in March on 98 counts of conspiracy, stock manipulation, racketeering, and securities fraud.....Hurricane Hugo kills 70 and causes $4 billion in damage to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Carolinas.