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Today in history: December 14

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 14, the 348th day of 2005. There are 17 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 14, 1799, the first president of the United States, George Washington, died at his Mount Vernon home at age 67.

On this date:
In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state.

In 1861, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, died in London.

In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first man to reach the South Pole, beating out an expedition led by Robert F. Scott.

In 1939, the Soviet Union was dropped from the League of Nations.

In 1945, Josef Kramer, known as “the beast of Belsen,” and 10 others were hanged in Hameln for crimes committed at the Belsen and Auschwitz Nazi concentration camps.

In 1962, the U.S. space probe Mariner 2 approached Venus, transmitting information about the planet.

In 1975, six South Moluccan extremists surrendered after holding 23 hostages for 12 days on a train near the Dutch town of Beilen.

In 1980, fans around the world paid tribute to John Lennon, six days after he was shot to death in New York City.

In 1985, Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to lead a major American Indian tribe as she took office as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

In 1985, former New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs during the 1961 season, died in Houston at age 51.

Ten years ago: Presidents Alija Izetbegovic of Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Franjo Tudjman of Croatia signed the Bosnian peace treaty in Paris. AIDS patient Jeff Getty received the first-ever bone-marrow transplant from a baboon (however, the experimental procedure at a San Francisco hospital was criticized by animal rights activists. The transplant failed, but Getty survived).

Five years ago: President-elect George W. Bush conferred by phone with congressional leaders of both parties and planned a goodwill tour of Washington, D.C.; he also received a flood of congratulatory calls from world leaders on his first full day as president-elect. U.S. businessman Edward Pope was pardoned and released by Russia after being convicted of espionage. The Federal Trade Commission unanimously approved the $111 billion merger of America Online and Time Warner.

One year ago: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the fifth time since June 2004. President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three figures who were central to his Iraq policy: former CIA Director George Tenet, former Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer and retired General Tommy Franks.

Today’s Birthdays: Jazz musician Clark Terry is 85. Former “60 Minutes” executive producer Don Hewitt is 83. Actor-playwright George Furth is 73. Actor Hal Williams is 67. Actress Patty Duke is 59. Pop singer Joyce Vincent-Wilson (Tony Orlando and Dawn) is 59. Entertainment executive Michael Ovitz is 59. Actress Dee Wallace is 57. Rhythm-and-blues singer Lewis McNeir (The Four Tops) is 56. Rock musician Cliff Williams (AC/DC) is 56. Rock singer-musician Mike Scott (The Waterboys) is 47. Singer-musician Peter “Spider” Stacy (The Pogues) is 47. Actress Cynthia Gibb is 42. Rhythm-and-blues singer Brian Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 30. Actress Tammy Blanchard is 29.

Thought for Today: “True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success; the glorious inequality of talent, of genius; for inequality, not mediocrity, individual superiority, not standardization, is the measure of the progress of the world.” — Felix Emmanuel Schelling, American educator and scholar (1858-1945).