Today is Friday, Dec. 16, the 350th day of 2011. There are 15 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 16, 1811, the first of the powerful New Madrid earthquakes, with an estimated magnitude of 7.7, struck the central Mississippi Valley. (There were, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, three main shocks in all; the second struck in Jan. 1812 and the third was in Feb. 1812.)
On this date:
In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
In 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest tea taxes.
In 1809, the French Senate granted a divorce decree to Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine (the dissolution was made final the following month).
In 1907, 16 U.S. Navy battleships, which came to be known as the "Great White Fleet," set sail on a 14-month round-the-world voyage to demonstrate American sea power.
In 1944, the World War II Battle of the Bulge began as German forces launched a surprise attack against Allied forces in Belgium (the Allies were eventually able to beat the Germans back).
In 1951, a Miami Airlines Curtiss C-46 Commando crashed just after takeoff from Newark Airport in New Jersey, killing all 56 people on board.
In 1960, 134 people were killed when a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided over New York City.
In 1971, Bangladesh won its nine-month war of liberation against Pakistani forces.
In 1976, the government halted its swine flu vaccination program following reports of paralysis apparently linked to the vaccine.
In 1991, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.
Ten 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.
Five years ago: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for elections to end his violent standoff with Hamas. Ten players, including NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony, were ejected for fighting during a wild brawl near the end of a game between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. (Denver won 123-100.) Terrell Owens spat in the face of Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall during the Cowboys' 38-28 victory over the Falcons. (Owens was fined $35,000 by the NFL.) Time magazine named everyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web its "Person of the Year."
One year ago: The House joined the Senate in passing a massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year's Day tax hike for millions of Americans. Interviewer Larry King, joined by a parade of former guests, concluded his CNN talk show after 25 years.
Today's Birthdays: Civil rights attorney Morris Dees is 75. Actress Joyce Bulifant is 74. Actress Liv Ullmann is 73. CBS news correspondent Lesley Stahl is 70. TV producer Steven Bochco is 68. Former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is 67. Pop musician Tony Hicks (The Hollies) is 66. Pop singer Benny Andersson (ABBA) is 65. Actor Ben Cross is 64. Rock singer-musician Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) is 62. Rock musician Bill Bateman (The Blasters) is 60. Actor Xander Berkeley is 56. Actress Alison LaPlaca is 52. Actor Sam Robards is 50. Actor Jon Tenney is 50. Actor Benjamin Bratt is 48. Country singer-songwriter Jeff Carson is 48. Actor Daniel Cosgrove is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Michael McCary is 40. Actor Jonathan Scarfe is 36. Country musician Chris Scruggs is 29. Actress Hallee Hirsh is 24. Actress Anna Popplewell is 23.
Thought for Today: "It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit." -- Sir Noel Coward, English actor, playwright, composer (born this date, 1899; died in 1973).