Today is Monday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2009. There are 10 days left in the year. Winter arrives at 12:47 p.m. EST. See also: UPI Almanac.Today's Highlight in History:
On December 21st, 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.
On this date:
In 1804, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli was born in London. Disraeli once defined a bore as "one who has the power of speech but not the capacity for conversation."
In 1879, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was born Josef Dzhugashvili in Gori, Georgia. [Or not, depending on the calendar. — Ed.]
In 1891, the first basketball game, invented at Springfield College in Massachusetts by James E. Naismith, was played.
In 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium.
In 1913, the first crossword puzzle was printed, in the New York World.
In 1945, General George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.
In 1948, the state of Eire, or Ireland (formerly the Irish Free State), passed an act declaring itself a republic.
In 1958, three months after the most recent French constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle was elected to a seven-year term as the first president of the Fifth Republic of France.
In 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon.
In 1969, Vince Lombardi coached his last football game as his team, the Washington Redskins, lost to the Dallas Cowboys 20-10.
In 1971, the U.N. Security Council chose Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as Secretary-General.
In 1975, the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal led a raid on a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people and took 63 others hostage, including 11 oil ministers.
In 1976, the Liberian-registered tanker Argo Merchant broke apart near Nantucket Island almost a week after running aground, spilling 7 1/2 millions of gallons of oil into the North Atlantic.
In 1978, police in Des Plaines, Ill., arrested John W. Gacy Jr. and began unearthing the remains of 33 men and boys whom Gacy was later convicted of murdering.
In 1987, in New York, three white teen-agers from the Howard Beach section of Queens were convicted of manslaughter in the death of a black man who was chased onto a highway, where he was struck by a car; a fourth defendant was acquitted.
In 1988, 270 people were killed when a terrorist bomb exploded aboard a Pam Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.
In 1991, eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
In 1992, 54 people were killed when a chartered jetliner carrying 340 people on a holiday to southern Portugal crashed in bad weather.
In 1994, more than 40 people were injured when an incendiary device exploded on a crowded subway in New York's lower Manhattan. Police later arrested one of the burn victims who reportedly was carrying a firebomb that went off.
In 1995, a commuter train rammed the rear of a passenger train in heavy fog near Cairo, Egypt, killing 75 people. The city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control.
In 1997, President Clinton, accompanied by his wife and daughter, left for Bosnia to spread holiday cheer and to carry the news that he wanted U.S. troops to remain there indefinitely as the region recovered from its devastating war. A fire swept through Tokyo's Tsukji wholesale fish market, destroying more than 100 shops and stores.
In 1998, Israel's parliament voted overwhelmingly for early elections, signaling the demise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ailing hard-line government. A Chinese court sentenced two dissidents (Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai) to long prison terms for trying to organize an opposition party. (Xu was released in December 2002; Wang, in March 2004.)
In 1999, amid heightened concerns about the possibility of a holiday terrorist attack, security was ordered tightened at American airports and the Pentagon said it was taking "appropriate action" to protect U.S. forces overseas.
In 2002, a military helicopter crash in Afghanistan killed seven German peacekeepers who were on board and two children on the ground; a US soldier was killed in combat. President Bush received a smallpox vaccination, fulfilling a promise he'd made when he ordered inoculations for about a-half million US troops.
In 2003, the government raised the national threat level to orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack. (It was lowered back to yellow on Jan. 9, 2004.) More than 150 people were killed in mudslides in the Philippines. Soviet diplomat Oleg Troyanovsky died at age 84.
In 2004, a suicide bombing at a mess hall tent near Mosul, Iraq, killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. service members and three American contractors. Two French reporters held hostage for four months in Iraq were released. The Associated Press told the Bowl Championship Series to stop using its college football poll to determine which teams would play for the national title and in the most prestigious bowl games. The NFL fined Jacksonville safety Donovin Darius $75,000 for a hit across the neck of Green Bay's Robert Ferguson that left the wide receiver temporarily paralyzed. U.S. President George W. Bush's approval rating slipped 6 percentage points to 49 percent, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said, making Bush the first incumbent president to have an approval rating less than 50 percent one month after winning re-election.
In 2006, at Camp Pendleton, California, four Marines were charged with murder in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha; four Marine officers were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths. (Charges were later dropped against two of the Marines accused of murder. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich has pleaded not guilty to voluntary manslaughter; one of the officers was acquitted and charges against the others were dropped.) Final results showed opponents of Iran's ultra-conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, winning nationwide elections for local councils.
In 2007, a suicide attacker detonated a bomb at a mosque outside the home of Pakistan's former interior minister, killing at least 50 people.
In 2008, a multi-faith ceremony was held to mark the reopening of the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai, India, three weeks after it was targeted in a militant rampage. Detroit became the first 0-15 team when it was routed 42-7 by the New Orleans Saints.
Today's Birthdays December 21: Country singer Freddie Hart & College Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno are 83. Actor Ed Nelson is 81. Talk show host Phil Donahue is 74. Movie director John Avildsen is 74. Actress Jane Fonda is 72. Actor Larry Bryggman is 71. Singer Carla Thomas is 67. Musician Albert Lee is 66. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 65. Actor Josh Mostel is 63. Actor Samuel L. Jackson is 61. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is 59. Singer Betty Wright is 56. Tennis Hall-of-Famer Chris Evert is 55. Actress Jane Kaczmarek is 54. Country singer Lee Roy Parnell is 53. Entertainer Jim Rose is 53. Actor-comedian Ray Romano is 52. Country singer Christy Forester (The Forester Sisters) is 47. Rock musician Murph (The Lemonheads; Dinosaur Jr.) is 45. Actor-comedian Andy Dick is 44. Rock musician Gabrielle Glaser is 44. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is 43. Actress Karri Turner is 43. Actress Khrystyne Haje is 41. Country singer Brad Warren (The Warren Brothers) is 41. Actress Julie Delpy is 40. Country singer-musician Rhean Boyer (Carolina Rain) is 39. Contemporary Christian singer Natalie Grant is 38. Actor Glenn Fitzgerald is 38. Singer-musician Brett Scallions is 38. Rock singer Lukas Rossi (Rock Star Supernova) is 33.
Not Just Disraeli: Austrian President Kurt Waldheim (1918); composer-performer, smart-ass potty-mouth Frank Zappa
In 1933, five-year-old Shirley Temple signed a movie contract with Fox. Her age was later changed to make her appear a year younger.
In 1937, the first feature-length animated cartoon in Technicolor, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," had its world premiere in Los Angeles.
In 1940, author F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Hollywood, Calif., at age 44.
In 1964, the book "Ode to a High-Flying Bird" by Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts was published. It was a tribute to jazz great Charlie (Bird) Parker.
In 1967, the comedy-drama "The Graduate," starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, was released.
In 1968, Janis Joplin made her first appearance after leaving Big Brother and the Holding Company. She performed in Memphis at the second annual "Yuletide Thing" event sponsored by Stax-Volt Records. Also in 1968, Crosby, Stills and Nash performed together for the first time. [P. U. — Ed.]
In 1970, Elvis Presley paid a visit to President Nixon at the White House.
In 1992, bluesman Albert King died at a Tennessee hospital at the age of 69. He had fallen into a coma after suffering a heart attack.
In 1996, singer Tony Bennett was rushed to a hospital in Washington after his hernia erupted while visiting the White House for a holiday dinner. He had to have emergency surgery but recovered without problems; singer Lionel Richie married former dancer and fashion designer Diane Alexander in New York.
In 2005, Elton John and his longtime partner, David Furnish, held a civil union ceremony in Windsor, England, the first day that same-sex partnerships became legal in Britain. Also in 2005, singer Howie Day was arrested for rowdy behavior on a flight from Dallas to Boston. He was sentenced to probation and rehab and was ordered to write letters of apology to the crew and passengers. [Who the fuck is Howie Day? — Ed.]
In 2008, playwright Dale Wasserman, who'd written the book for the Tony-winning musical "Man of La Mancha," died in Paradise Valley, Ariz., at age 94.
Thought for Today: "Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it." — Richard Adams, English author. And: "The time will come when winter will ask us: 'What were you doing all the summer?'" — Bohemian proverb.