Today is Tuesday, Dec. 22, the 356th day of 2009. There are 9 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
In 1944, during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe rejected a German demand for surrender, writing "Nuts!" in his official reply.
On this date:
In 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the commander in chief of the Continental Navy.
In 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, and Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the "Pastoral Symphony," had their world premieres in Vienna, Austria.
In 1858, opera composer Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy.
In 1864, during the Civil War, Union Gen. William T. Sherman wrote a message to President Abraham Lincoln which said in part: "I beg to present you as a Christmas-gift the city of Savannah."
In 1894, French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in a court-martial that triggered worldwide charges of anti-Semitism. (Dreyfus was eventually vindicated.)
In 1968, Julie Nixon married David Eisenhower in a private ceremony in New York.
In 1977, three dozen people were killed when a 250-foot-high grain elevator at the Continental Grain Company plant in Westwego, La., exploded.
In 1984, New York City resident Bernhard Goetz shot and wounded four youths on a Manhattan subway, claiming they were about to rob him.
In 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, the last of Eastern Europe's hard-line Communist rulers, was toppled from power in a popular uprising. Playwright Samuel Beckett died in Paris at age 83.
In 2001, Richard C. Reid, a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, tried to ignite explosives in his shoes, but was subdued by flight attendants and other passengers. (Reid is serving a life sentence.)
Ten years ago: President Bill Clinton urged Americans not to panic despite enhanced security measures prompted by fears of terrorism. An Algerian accused of trying to smuggle nitroglycerin and other bomb-making materials into the United States from Canada pleaded innocent in Seattle to all five counts of a federal indictment. (Ahmed Ressam was convicted in April 2001 of terrorist conspiracy and eight other charges.) Two astronauts from the shuttle Discovery went on a spacewalk to replace broken instruments in the Hubble Space Telescope.
Five years ago: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, stung by criticism that he'd been insensitive to the needs of troops and their families, offered an impassioned defense, saying when he would meet wounded soldiers or relatives of those killed in battle, "their grief is something I feel to my core." Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault, more than nine months after slugging Colorado forward Steve Moore from behind during a game.
One year ago: Five Muslim immigrants accused of scheming to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were convicted of conspiracy in Camden, N.J. (Four were later sentenced to life in prison; one received a 33-year sentence.) Toyota projected its first operating loss in 70 years due to the global economic slowdown. The president of Guinea, Lansana Conte, died nearly a quarter of a century after seizing power in a coup; he was believed to be in his 70s.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Barbara Billingsley is 94. Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 87. Actor Hector Elizondo is 73. Country singer Red Steagall is 71. Former World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz is 66. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 65. ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer is 64. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 63. Rock singer-musician Michael Bacon is 61. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 61. Singer Robin Gibb is 60. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 58. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 56. Rapper Luther Campbell is 49. Country singer-musician Chuck Mead is 49. Actor Ralph Fiennes is 47. Actress Lauralee Bell is 41. Country singer Lori McKenna is 41. Actress Dina Meyer is 41. Actress Heather Donahue is 35. Actor Chris Carmack is 29. Actor Logan Huffman is 20. Singer Jordin Sparks is 20.
Thought for Today: "Time is the thief you cannot banish." _ Phyllis McGinley, American poet and author (1905-1978).