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Today in History - Dec. 23

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

Today is Saturday, Dec. 23, the 357th day of 2006. There are eight days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 23, 1823, the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore was published in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel.

On this date:
In 1783, George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va.

In 1805, Joseph Smith Jr., principal founder of the Mormon religious movement, was born in Sharon, Vt.

In 1893, the Engelbert Humperdinck opera “Haensel und Gretel” was first performed, in Weimar, Germany.

In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.

In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo.

In 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.

In 1980, a state funeral was held in Moscow for former Premier Alexei N. Kosygin, who had died Dec. 18 at age 76.

In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first nonstop, non-refueled round-the-world flight as it landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In 1987, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination of President Ford in 1975, escaped from the Alderson Federal Prison for Women in West Virginia. (She was recaptured two days later.)

In 1995, a fire in Dabwali, India, killed 540 people, including 170 children, during a year-end party being held near the children’s school.

Ten years ago: Russian President Boris Yeltsin returned to his office at the Kremlin after a six-month bout with a heart ailment. President Clinton expressed gratitude to the nation’s armed forces as he visited Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Five years ago: Israel barred Yasser Arafat from making his annual Christmas Eve visit to Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus. Argentina’s interim president, Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, was inaugurated. Time magazine named New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani its person of the year.

One year ago: South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk resigned from his university, which said he had fabricated his stem-cell research once hailed as a breakthrough. An Azerbaijan Airlines passenger plane with 23 people aboard crashed on the Caspian Sea coast, killing all aboard.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Gerald S. O’Loughlin is 85. Actor Ronnie Schell is 75. Emperor Akihito of Japan is 73. Actor Frederic Forrest is 70. Actor James Stacy is 70. Rock musician Jorma Kaukonen is 66. Rock musician Ron Bushy is 65. Actor-comedian Harry Shearer is 63. Actress Susan Lucci is 60. Singer-musician Adrian Belew is 57. Rock musician Dave Murray (Iron Maiden) is 50. Singer Terry Weeks is 43. Rock singer Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) is 42. Actor Corey Haim is 35. Rock musician Jamie Murphy is 31. Actress Estella Warren is 28.

Thought for Today: “Rosiness is not a worse windowpane than gloomy gray when viewing the world.” — Grace Paley, American writer (1922- ).