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Today in History - Dec. 21

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

Today is Thursday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2006. There are 10 days left in the year. Winter arrives at 7:22 p.m. ET.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 21, 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Mass.

On this date:
In 1804, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli was born in London.

In 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published, in the New York World.

In 1942, the Supreme Court ruled all states had to recognize divorces granted in Nevada.

In 1945, Gen. George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.

In 1948, the state of Eire, or Ireland (formerly the Irish Free State), declared its independence.

In 1968, Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon.

In 1971, the U.N. Security Council chose Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as Secretary General.

In 1976, the Liberian-registered tanker Argo Merchant broke apart near Nantucket Island almost a week after running aground, spilling 7.5 million gallons of oil into the North Atlantic.

In 1988, 270 people were killed when a terrorist bomb exploded aboard a Pan Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.

In 1995, the city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control.

Ten years ago: After two years of denials, House Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted violating House ethics rules. AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”

Five years ago: The Islamic militant group Hamas announced it was suspending suicide bombings and mortar attacks in Israel. President Bush signed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which required the African nation to adopt land ownership protections in order to continue receiving U.S. aid. Emmy-winning sports broadcaster and author Dick Schaap died in New York at age 67.

One year ago: The Senate rejected opening an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling. The Senate approved a six-month extension of the USA Patriot Act to keep the anti-terror law from expiring on Dec. 31, 2005.

Today’s Birthdays: Former Austrian president and former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim is 88. Country singer Freddie Hart is 80. Actor Ed Nelson is 78. Talk show host Phil Donahue is 71. Movie director John Avildsen is 71. Actress Jane Fonda is 69. Actor Larry Bryggman is 68. Singer Carla Thomas is 64. Musician Albert Lee is 63. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 62. Actor Samuel L. Jackson is 58. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is 56. Singer Betty Wright is 53. Tennis star Chris Evert is 52. Actress Jane Kaczmarek is 51. Country singer Lee Roy Parnell is 50. Entertainer Jim Rose is 50. Actor-comedian Ray Romano is 49. Country singer Christy Forester (The Forester Sisters) is 44. Rock musician Murph (Dinosaur Jr.) is 42. Actor-comedian Andy Dick is 41. Rock musician Gabrielle Glaser is 41. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is 40. Actress Karri Turner (“JAG”) is 40. Actress Khrystyne Haje is 38. Country singer Brad Warren (The Warren Brothers) is 38. Actress Julie Delpy is 37. Singer-musician Brett Scallions is 35. Rock singer Lukas Rossi (Rock Star Supernova) is 30. Country singer Luke Stricklin is 24.

Thought for Today: “Winter comes but once a year,

And when it comes it brings the doctor good cheer.”

— Ogden Nash, American humorist (1902-1971).