Aug 31: Poland, Brazil, Diana, Copyright and Mother Nature

August 31st is marked by two turning points in Polish history – the  Gleiwitz Incident which Hitler used as a pretext to invade and the birth of Solidarity, along with the impeachment and removal of Brazilian President Dilma.  Today also marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Princess Diana and the anniversary of George Harrison’s copyright infringement ruling and devastation from a South Carolina earthquake and a New England hurricane.


Charleston Earthquake

An earthquake with an estimated moment magnitude of 6.9–7.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme) struck Charleston, South Carolina killing 60 deaths and approximately $6 million in damage to 2,000 buildings.   It remains one of the most powerful and damaging earthquakes to hit the east coast.  The shock was felt as far away as Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Cuba.



 Gleiwitz Incident 

German operatives dressed in Polish uniforms seized a German-language radio station in Gleiwitz, Poland and broadcast a short anti-German message in Polish. The Germans’ goal was to make the attack and the broadcast look like the work of anti-German Polish saboteurs.  Hitler used the attack as a pretext to invade Poland the next day.


Hurricane Carol Pounds New England

Hurricane Carol caused $461 million in damage mostly in New England, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane at the time. There were 65 deaths in New England, and about 1,000 injured people. Despite the high damage, advance warning allowed for many fewer deaths than the total of 488 fatalities during the 1938 New England hurricane, which affected the same area with similar strength.  Following the storm, Carol was retired, becoming the first name to be removed from the naming lists in the Atlantic basin.


George Harrison Loses Copyright Case Over “My Sweet Lord”

“My Sweet Lord” was George Harrison’s first and last number one hit.  The song hit number one on the US and UK charts when it was released in 1970 and hit number one n the UK charts following Harrison’s death in 2001.  It was also the first number one song for a former Beatle.    Unfortunately, the song would trigger a 17-year legal battle over whether the song plagiarized the Chiffon’s 1963 hit “He’s So Fine”.

On this day in 1976, a federal judge found that Harrison had “subconsciously” copied the Chiffons’ hit, finding “it is perfectly obvious to the listener that in musical terms, the two songs are virtually identical.”  In the end, Harrison obtained the rights to “He’s So Fine” after paying $587,000.  The episode led Harrison to record, “This Song” lampooning the lawsuit which includes  Monty Python’s Eric Idle calling out a falsetto “Could be ‘Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch’ – No, sounds more like ‘Rescue Me’!”



Polish Government Recognizes Solidarity

After a prolonged “illegal” strike at the Gdansk shipyard, the Polish government entered into an agreement that recognized the union and agreed to their demands that addressed working conditions and political reforms.  It is widely seen as the beginning of the end of communism in Poland.  The strike leader, Lech Walesa, would become the first President of post-communist Poland.


Death of a Princess

England’s beloved Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris as her driver sped away to escape paparazzi.  The accident also claimed the life of her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul.



Brazil Removes President Dilma

Dilma Vana Rousseff, the former Chief of Staff to Brazilian President Lula and the nation’s first woman President, was removed from office midway through her second term by the Brazilian Senate following an impeachment vote.  Dilma was charged with frontloading funds for government social programs and issuing spending budget decrees without congressional approval ahead of her 2014 reelection.

Dilma denied the charges, which were never leveled at prior administration, leaving some to call the Senate action a legislative coup.  Her successor, Michel Temer has battled corruption charges throughout his tenure and had an approval rating of only seven percent in June 2017.  In July 2017, former President Lulu was convicted of money laundering.




First Chicago College All-Star Game

In the First Chicago College All-Star Game, college all-stars tied the Chicago Bears before 79,432 fans.  The annual charity exhibition would continue until 1976 and match the College All-Stars against the Super Bowl Champion.  The NFL led the series 31–9–2 with the last College All-Star win coming in 1963 against the Green Bay Packers.

Cover Image CC BY 2.0: : Maxwell Hamilton from Greater London, England United Kingdom – Flowers for Princess Diana’s Funeral


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