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This week in history: June 30-July 6

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25 years ago: Political crisis deepens in Poland


On June 30, 1989, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski announced he would step down from the Polish presidency in the vote to be held by the newly elected National Assembly. The June 4 parliamentary election had been a rout for Communist Party candidates, with Solidarity winning 99 of 100 seats in the Senate, and all the contested seats in the lower house. Communist Party candidates won only one of the 35 seats reserved for country-wide voting. In a runoff June 18 to fill those seats still vacant, voter turnout plunged to only 25 percent, and those voting still refused to give any support to the Stalinists.

50 years ago: US Civil Rights Act signed into law

Johnson signing Civil Rights Act

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, which banned racial segregation in most public facilities. The votes in the House and the Senate played out largely along regional lines, with the bitter opposition of southern Democrats overcome by a combination of northern Democrats and Republicans.

Segregation had been a pillar of capitalist rule in the US for decades, and it was only relinquished in the face of a mass working class movement in the South and in the northern urban centers. Demonstrations continued this week in 1964 in the face of a racist terror across the US South. With the support of the Democratic Party-controlled Southern state governments, violence by the Ku Klux Klan and right-wing vigilantes became epidemic. The racist terror was directed especially at civil rights demonstrators seeking to test out provisions of the new legislation.

100 years ago: Germany backs Austro-Hungarian preparations for war against Serbia

Kaiser Wilhelm II

On July 5, 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany pledged his country’s unconditional support for any action Austria-Hungary would take against Serbia. Existing tensions in the Balkans had dramatically escalated the previous week with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo.

This week in history…

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In 2003, forces led by the USA invaded Iraq without the backing of the United Nations. The invasion was based on intelligence which supposedly indicated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This intelligence was later found to be inaccurate and no such weapons were ever found. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died during the invasion and subsequent occupation. In 2004 the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, declared the invasion illegal.

invade (verb): enter an area with force (usually for the purposes of taking it over)
weapons of mass destruction (noun): bombs etc that can kill hundreds of people
backing (noun): support
inaccurate (adjective): not correct; not precise
invasion (noun): forceful entry into an area
subsequent (adjective): occurring later in time; following

So-called Shock and Awe attack on the city of Baghdad that heralded the start of the American-led invasion of Iraq