updated 12/22/2004 12:02:40 AM ET 2004-12-22T05:02:40

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 22, the 357th day of 2004. 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. Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe reportedly replied “Nuts!” when the Germans demanded that the Americans surrender.

On this date:
In 1775, a Continental naval fleet was organized in the rebellious American colonies.

In 1807, Congress passed the Embargo Act, designed to force peace between Britain and France by cutting off all trade with Europe.

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 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 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 Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage murdered by his captors, was found dumped along a highway in Lebanon.

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 fellow passengers.

Ten years ago: North Korea handed over the body of American pilot David Hilemon, killed when his helicopter was shot down over the communist country three days earlier. House Democrats chastised Speaker-to-be Newt Gingrich for accepting a $4.5 million book advance from Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Five years ago: President 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.

One yearago: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake hit California’s central coast, killing two people. A federal judge ruled the Pentagon couldn’t enforce mandatory anthrax vaccinations for military personnel. Colombian rebels freed four Israelis and a Briton held hostage for 101 days.

Today’s birthdays: Lady Bird Johnson is 92. Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 82. Actor Hector Elizondo is 68. Country singer Red Steagall is 66. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 60. ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer is 59. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 58. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 56. Singer Robin Gibb is 55. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 53. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 51. Rapper Luther Campbell is 44. Country musician Chuck Mead (BR549) is 44. Actor Ralph Fiennes is 42. Actress Lauralee Bell is 36. Actress Dina Meyer is 36. Actress Heather Donahue is 30. Actor Chris Carmack (“The O.C.”) is 24.

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