Special Report

The Biggest News Story Every Year Since 1950

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

1987: Stock market tanks
> Date: Oct. 19
> Location: Worldwide

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 508 points, or more than 22%, on Oct. 19, 1987, later referred to as Black Monday — a greater percentage than the crash in 1929. Among the reasons cited for the drop were rising tensions in the Persian Gulf, concern over higher interest rates, and the belief that the bull market is ending. Computerized trading, relatively new at the time, accelerated trade orders, which sped up the market drop. As a result of the collapse, exchanges added so-called circuit breakers to halt trading when stocks fall too fast. This measure is designed to provide investors a cooling off period and avoid a panic.

Source: Air Force of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution / Wikimedia Commons

1988: End of fighting in Iran-Iraq war
> Date: July 20
> Location: Iraq-Iran border

From 1980 to 1988, neighboring Middle East countries Iran and Iraq were engaged in a protracted war. It began when Iraqi dictator Sadam Hussein launched an attack on Iran in 1980, sensing an opportunity in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Iraqi forces initially made incursions into Iranian land, but they lost the area gained in 1982 after Iran mobilized its military and repelled the Iraqi forces. Hussein sought a peace deal that year, but Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini refused. From 1982 to 1988, the fighting was characterized by sporadic missile launches, attacks on each others’ oil tankers, and the use of chemical weapons, mostly by the Iraqis. By 1988, Iran’s economy was in dire straits, forcing Iran to agree to a UN-brokered ceasefire. The two countries signed an official peace treaty in 1990. Anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million troops were killed in the war, as well as up to 100,000 Kurds.

Source: University of Minnesota Institute of Advanced Studies / The National Guard

1989: The Berlin Wall falls
> Date: Nov. 9
> Location: Berlin, East and West Germany

Cracks in the monolithic Soviet bloc started to appear in the 1980s, and the very symbol of communist repression came crashing down in November, when the Berlin Wall was breached, ending a 28-year division of the city. On Nov. 9, a spokesman for East Berlin’s Communist Party said citizens of East Germany would be free to cross the country’s borders. Almost immediately Berliners started slamming the wall with axes and sledgehammers. By nightfall, the celebration turned into what one observer called “the greatest street party in the history of the world,” and the city was reunited. East and West Germany reunited one year later.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

1990: Democracy in Poland
> Date: Jan. 28
> Location: Poland

With the hold of the Soviet Union and communism on East Europe loosening, Poland’s ruling communist party voted to dissolve and become more moderate. In the following elections, Lech Wałęsa, leader of the Solidarity Movement and the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, won the election and became president.

Source: U.S. Air Force

1991: America goes to war in Middle East
> Date: Jan. 17
> Location: Saudi Arabia and Kuwait

After Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the United States sent forces to defend neighboring Saudi Arabia from being overrun and to protect its oil assets there, calling it Operation Desert Shield. With Saudi Arabia secured, the United States implemented Operation Desert Storm to push Iraqi forces back across the border with Kuwait in a military operation that lasted until a ceasefire took effect in April.

Source: Keystone / Getty Images

1992: Cold War ends
> Date: Feb. 1
> Location: Camp David, Maryland

Just weeks after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on Dec. 26, 1991, U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, met at Camp David to formally declare the end of the Cold War that began shortly after the end of World War II. The meeting came days after both countries announced they would stop aiming nuclear missiles at each other. Russia declared its 11 former communist satellite republics – from Armenia to Uzbekistan – independent.

Source: sinonimas / Getty Images

1993: The EU becomes reality
> Date: Nov. 1
> Location: Brussels

The Treaty of the European Union, also known as the Maastricht Treaty, went into effect in November, after years of political wrangling. Among other concessions, the treaty allowed the U.K. and Denmark to opt out of the common euro currency. The treaty opened the way to removing border controls among member states and invited new members to join the union.

Source: Sgt. Marv Krause. United States Air Force / Wikimedia Commons

1994: Rwandan genocide
> Date: April-July
> Location: Rwanda

For decades, Rwanda was embroiled in a conflict between the country’s two major ethnic groups — the Hutus and the Tutsis. Over 100 days, an estimated 800,000 people were killed, mostly Tutsis, but some moderate Hutus as well. When a Tutsi militant group eventually gained control of the country, some 2 million Rwandans fled to nearby African nations. In 2008, three former Rwandan officials were convicted by an international court of organizing the genocide.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1995: Domestic terror strikes Oklahoma
> Date: April 19
> Location: Oklahoma City

In the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history, anti-government radicals Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. They timed the truck-bomb attack for a weekday morning in order to maximize casualties. For the murder of at least 168 people, including 19 children who were in a childcare center in the building, and the injury of hundreds of others, an unremorseful McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Source: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

1996: The dawn of cloning
> Date: July 5
> Location: Midlothian, Scotland, U.K.

Dolly the Sheep entered the annals of bioengineering history when scientists at Scotland’s Roslin Institute became the first to not only successfully clone a mammal, but also the first to do so using an adult cell rather than an embryonic one. After 277 cell fusions that developed 29 embryos, the team managed to turn an udder cell into a virtually identical biological carbon copy of the sheep from which it came.

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