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Today in History - Dec. 16

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

Today is Saturday, Dec. 16, the 350th day of 2006. There are 15 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 16, 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea overboard to protest tea taxes.

On this date:
In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.

In 1770, composer Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany.

In 1905, the entertainment trade publication Variety came out with its first weekly issue.

In 1944, the World War II Battle of the Bulge began as German forces launched a surprise counterattack against Allied forces in Belgium.

In 1950, President Truman proclaimed a national state of emergency in order to fight “Communist imperialism.”

In 1956, Cardinal Francis Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, personally denounced the yet-to-be released movie “Baby Doll,” saying Catholics would be committing a sin if they saw it.

In 1960, 134 people were killed when a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided over New York City.

In 1986, Ronald W. Pelton, a former National Security Agency employee convicted of selling defense secrets to the Soviet Union, was sentenced by a judge in Baltimore to life in prison.

In 1991, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.

In 2000, President-elect Bush selected Colin Powell to become the first black secretary of state.

Ten years ago: Underscoring the importance of parents’ rights to their children, the Supreme Court said that states must let parents appeal orders terminating such rights even when they cannot afford court fees. Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, condemned to death for a 1979 coup and a deadly military crackdown, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Five years ago: After nine weeks of fighting, Afghan militia leaders claimed control of the last mountain bastion of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida fighters, but bin Laden himself was nowhere to be seen. The first U.S. commercial food shipments since 1963 arrived in communist Cuba. Cleveland Browns fans threw thousands of bottles onto the field after officials overturned a last-minute call, a decision that helped the Jacksonville Jaguars win the game 15-10.

One year ago: In a stinging defeat for President Bush, Senate Democrats blocked passage of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home. (The result was a revised Patriot Act signed by Bush in March 2006.) Actor John Spencer, who’d played the powerful chief of staff on TV’s “The West Wing,” died in Los Angeles at age 58. Singer-actor Enzo Stuarti died in Midland, Texas, at age 86. Jessica Simpson filed for divorce from Nick Lachey.

Today’s Birthdays: Author Sir Arthur C. Clarke is 89. Civil rights attorney Morris Dees is 70. Actress Joyce Bulifant is 69. Actress Liv Ullmann is 68. CBS news correspondent Lesley Stahl is 65. TV producer Steven Bochco is 63. Pop singer Benny Andersson (ABBA) is 60. Actor Ben Cross is 59. Rock singer-musician Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) is 57. Rock musician Bill Bateman (The Blasters) is 55. Actress Alison LaPlaca is 47. Actor Sam Robards is 45. Actor Jon Tenney is 45. Actor Benjamin Bratt is 43. Country singer-songwriter Jeff Carson is 43. Rhythm-and-blues singer Michael McCary is 35. Country musician Chris Scruggs is 24. Actress Hallee Hirsh is 19.

Thought for Today: “There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.” — Helen Keller, American author and lecturer (1880-1968).