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Today in history: December 22

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

Today is Thursday, Dec. 22, the 356th day of 2005. 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 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: The Senate approved a wide-ranging Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s welfare system, 52-47, but without enough votes to override President Clinton’s promised veto. Actress Butterfly McQueen, who’d played the scatterbrained slave Prissy in “Gone With the Wind,” died at age 84.

Five years ago: President-elect Bush chose John Ashcroft to be his attorney general. President Clinton granted Christmastime clemency to 62 people, including former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, who’d been convicted of misuse of public funds. Madonna and film director Guy Ritchie wed in Scotland. Three armed robbers stormed into Stockholm’s National Museum and made off with a Rembrandt self-portrait and two masterpieces by Renoir (10 people were later sentenced to prison for their roles in the theft; all three paintings have been recovered).

One year 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 meets 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.

Today’s Birthdays: Lady Bird Johnson is 93. Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 83. Actor Hector Elizondo is 69. Country singer Red Steagall is 67. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 61. ABC News correspondent Diane Sawyer is 60. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 59. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 57. Singer Robin Gibb is 56. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 54. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 52. Rapper Luther Campbell is 45. Country singer-musician Chuck Mead (BR549) is 45. Actor Ralph Fiennes is 43. Actress Lauralee Bell is 37. Actress Dina Meyer is 37. Actress Heather Donahue is 31. Actor Chris Carmack is 25.

Thought for Today: “Time is the thief you cannot banish.” — Phyllis McGinley, American poet and author (1905-1978).