Today is Thursday, Oct. 15, the 289th day of 2020. There are 77 days left in the year.
In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte, the deposed Emperor of the French, arrived on the British-ruled South Atlantic island of St. Helena, where he spent the last 5 1/2 years of his life in exile.
In 1917, Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari (Margaretha ZelleGeertruida MacLeod), 41, convicted by a French military court of spying for the Germans, was executed by a firing squad outside Paris. (Maintaining her innocence to the end, Mata Hari refused a blindfold and blew a kiss to her executioners.)
In 1940, Charles Chaplin’s first all-talking comedy, “The Great Dictator,” a lampoon of Adolf Hitler, opened in New York.
In 1945, the former premier of Vichy France, Pierre Laval, was executed for treason.
In 1946, Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering fatally poisoned himself hours before he was to have been executed.
In 1954, Hurricane Hazel made landfall on the Carolina coast as a Category 4 storm; Hazel was blamed for some 1,000 deaths in the Caribbean, 95 in the U.S. and 81 in Canada.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill creating the U.S. Department of Transportation. The revolutionary Black Panther Party was founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California.
In 1969, peace demonstrators staged activities across the country as part of a “moratorium” against the Vietnam War.
In 1991, despite sexual harassment allegations by Anita Hill, the Senate narrowly confirmed the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, 52-48.
In 2001, Bethlehem Steel Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In 2003, eleven people were killed when a Staten Island ferry slammed into a maintenance pier. (The ferry’s pilot, who’d blacked out at the controls, later pleaded guilty to eleven counts of manslaughter.)
In 2017, actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted that women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted should write “Me too” as a status; within hours, tens of thousands had taken up the #MeToo hashtag (using a phrase that had been introduced 10 years earlier by social activist Tarana Burke.).
Ten years ago: The Obama administration reported that the federal deficit had hit a near-record $1.3 trillion for the just-completed budget year. Workers hugged, cheered and set off fireworks as a huge drill broke through a last stretch of rock deep in the Swiss Alps for construction of the 35.4-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel; the railway tunnel would go into operation in 2016.
Five years ago: President Barack Obama abandoned his pledge to end America’s longest war, announcing plans to keep at least 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the end of his term in 2017 and hand the conflict off to his successor. Ken Taylor, Canada’s ambassador to Iran who’d sheltered Americans at his residence during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, died in New York at age 81.
One year ago: Elizabeth Warren, carrying a new status as a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, came under attack from rivals at a debate in Ohio; they accused her of ducking questions about the cost of Medicare for All and her signature wealth tax plan. The Washington Nationals scored seven runs in the first inning on the way to a 7-4 win and a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series; the wild-card Nationals advanced to the World Series, where they would defeat the Houston Astros. Actor Felicity Huffman reported to a federal prison in California to start a two-week sentence for paying a college admissions consultant to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT answers. (She was released two days before the end of the sentence.) Newly-elected inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included, posthumously, Whitney Houston and The Notorious B.I.G.; they were joined by Depeche Mode, the Doobie Brothers, Nine Inch Hails and T-Rex.