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December 20, 1996 – Carl Sagan; the Science and Astronomy Popularizer, who hosted the PBS series Cosmos, died this day. Sagan is best known as a science popularizer and communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them. Carl Sagan argued the now accepted hypothesis that the high surface temperatures of Venus can be attributed to and calculated using the greenhouse effect.
There was other news. The hostage situation at the Japanese Embassy in Lima Peru was growing more tense. The Red Cross reported that hundreds of hostages, being held in the Embassy were running out of water and food. In addition to that, there was crowding, excessive heat and deteriorating health among the hostages. Japanese Television network NHK appealed to the Peruvian government to turn the electricity and telephone back on. Some hostages appeared at a barred window with a sign written in Japanese pleading with the Peruvian Police to turn the water, light and telephone back on. The government was taking a harsh position with the rebels, who were holding the hostages in return for the freeing of comrades currently in prison.
And President Clinton was preparing to announce the rest of his 2nd term cabinet at a news conference to be held within hours of this broadcast. Among the new appointees was Federico Peña, outgoing Transportation Secretary to become the new Energy Secretary, and in the Transportation Secretary slot, Rodney Slater who formerly headed the Federal Highway Commission, Andrew Cuomo for Housing Secretary and several others. Busy day on the Hill.
And that’s a small slice of what was going on in the world, this December 20, 1996 as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.