This Day in History, August 31
Today is the 244th day of 2012. There are 122 days left in the year.
1962: Trinidad and Tobago becomes an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. Eric Williams, widely regarded as the Father of The Nation, is the first prime minister, serving from 1956, (before independence) until his death in 1981.
1888: Mary Ann Nicholls is found murdered in London's East End. She is the first victim of Jack the Ripper.
1900: British forces under Frederick Roberts occupy Johannesburg, South Africa.
1922: Czech-Serb-Croat Alliance is signed at Marienbad.
1923: Italy starts a brief occupation of the Greek island of Corfu after the murder of a boundary delegation.
1947: The US Investigating Committee recommends that Great Britain give up control of Palestine.
1957: Malaysia gains independence as Federation of Malaya.
1971: Cuba terminates the Mariel airlift which brought 246,000, Cuban refugees from Havana to Florida since December 1965.
1977: Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith's party wins the election and gains all 50 white seats in Parliament. The vote gives him a mandate to negotiate with black leaders on greater political representation for the country's six million blacks.
1980: Polish labour leaders sign agreements with the Communist Government establishing for th efirst time in a Soviet-bloc nation the rights to strike and to establish free trade unions.
1982: El Salvador Defence Minister Jose Guillermo Garcia Merino discloses that the armed forces have suffered 3,657 casualties in a year; bringing the number of people killed by rightists during the three-year civil war to more than 35,000.
1986: Moscow's secret police hold US news correspondent Nicholas Daniloff on spying allegations. His wife calls it a frame-up.
1987: Government and opposition officials in South Korea agree on revising constitution to clear way for direct presidential elections and other reforms.
1990: After Armenian Republic's Parliament declares a state of emergency, 250 militant nationalists give up their weapons.
1991: Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan become the ninth and 10th Soviet republics to declare independence.
1994: Irish Republican Army declares an open-ended cease-fire in its 24-year campaign against British rule of Northern Ireland.
1995: A bomb-laden car explodes in a crowded square outside Algeria's national police headquarters, killing 10 and injuring 15.
1996: Iraq captures Irbil in northern Iraq, a key city inside the Kurdish "safe haven" protected by US-led forces. It is Saddam Hussein's largest military action since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
1997: Typhoon Rex veers away from Japan's main island of Honshu, but the record rainfall it spawned forces thousands to flee their homes. Flooding and landslides caused by the rains kill 14 people and injure 45.
1998: North Korea launches a new, more powerful long-range ballistic missile that crosses over Japan's main island and crashes into the Pacific Ocean. The test draws strong protests from Japan and the United States.
2002: A Russian Mi-24 assault helicopter is shot down by a missile in Chechnya. Both of the gunship's pilots are killed. Chechen rebels claim responsibility.
2004: Militants in Iraq kill 12 Nepalese contract workers, in a gruesome video discovered on an Islamic Web site, showing one of them beheaded and the 11 others shot in a methodical series of execution-style slayings.
2005: Panicked by rumours of a suicide bomber, thousands of Shiite pilgrims break into a stampede on a bridge in Baghdad during a religious procession, crushing one another or plunging into the Tigris river. Nearly 1,000 die, mostly women and children.
2007: The 25th anniversary of "Elk Cloner", regarded as the first virus to hit personal computers worldwide.
2008: Practitioners of the ancient Greek religion gather among the ruined temples at the Acropolis, praying to Athena to stop the removal of sculptures and pieces of the temples to museums. Participants claim it is the first such gathering since the religion was abolished late in the 4th century.
2009: Riot police briefly detain about 15 people trying to hold an anti-Kremlin demonstration in central Moscow to defend Russians' constitutional right to assembly.
2010: Palestinian gunmen open fire on an Israeli car in the West Bank and kill four passengers on the eve of a new round of Mideast peace talks in Washington. The Islamic militant group Hamas claims responsibility.
2011: Bahraini security forces clash with anti-government protesters after morning prayers, and a 14-year-old boy dies after being hit by a police tear gas canister.
Theophile Gautier, French author (1811-1872); Maria Montessori, Italian doctor and educator (1870-1952); William
Saroyan, US writer (1908-1981); Buddy Hackett, US actor/comedian (1924-2003); Van Morrison, Irish singer (1945-);
Itzhak Perlman, Israeli violinist (1945-); Richard Gere, US actor (1949-).