updated 12/22/2006 2:07:01 PM ET 2006-12-22T19:07:01

Today is Friday, Dec. 22, the 356th day of 2006. There are nine days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 22, 1944, during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, U.S. Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe rejected the Germans’ demand that the Americans 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 1807, Congress passed the Embargo Act, barring all U.S. trade with foreign countries.

In 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major had their world premieres in Vienna, Austria.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Union Gen. William T. Sherman sent a message to President Lincoln: “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 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for a wartime conference with President Franklin Roosevelt.

In 1963, an official 30-day mourning period following the assassination of President Kennedy came to an end.

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.

In 1991, the body of Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage murdered by his captors, was found dumped along a highway in Lebanon.

Ten years ago: Peruvian guerrillas holding more than 360 hostages at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima freed all but 140 of their captives. Eight workers were killed in an explosion at the Wyman Gordon Forgings metal-fabricating plant in northwest Houston.

Five years ago: 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 fellow passengers. (Reid, who later pleaded guilty, is serving a life sentence in federal prison.) Hamid Karzai was sworn in as prime minister of Afghanistan’s interim government.

One year ago: Congress completed work on a one-month extension of the Patriot Act and sent it to President Bush. New York transit workers ended their three-day strike without a new contract. Astronomers announced the discovery of two more rings encircling the planet Uranus, the first additions to the planet’s ring system in nearly two decades.

Today’s Birthdays: Lady Bird Johnson is 94. Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 84. Actor Hector Elizondo is 70. Country singer Red Steagall is 68. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 62. ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer is 61. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 60. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 58. Singer Robin Gibb is 57. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 55. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 53. Rapper Luther Campbell is 46. Country singer-musician Chuck Mead (BR549) is 46. Actor Ralph Fiennes is 44. Actress Lauralee Bell is 38. Actress Dina Meyer is 38. Actress Heather Donahue is 32. Actor Chris Carmack is 26.

Thought for Today: “A thousand probabilities do not make one fact.” — Italian proverb.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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