Today is Wednesday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2011. There are 10 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 21, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional act authorizing the Navy Medal of Honor.
On this date:
In 1620, Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Mass.
In 1879, the Henrik Ibsen play "A Doll's House" premiered at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen.
In 1910, 344 coal miners were killed in Britain's Pretoria Pit Disaster.
In 1945, Gen. George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.
In 1948, the state of Eire, or Ireland, passed an act declaring itself a republic.
In 1958, Charles de Gaulle was elected to a seven-year term as the first president of the Fifth Republic of France.
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, off Massachusetts, 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 Pam Am Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, sending wreckage crashing to the ground.
In 1991, eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the death of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Ten years ago: The Islamic militant group Hamas announced it was suspending suicide bombings and mortar attacks in Israel. President George W. 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.
Five years ago: At Camp Pendleton, Calif., four Marines were charged with murder in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha; four Marine officers were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths. (Of the eight, six had charges dismissed, and one was acquitted of making false statements; Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who had his unpremeditated murder charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter, has yet to stand trial.) Final results showed opponents of Iran's ultra-conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, winning nationwide elections for local councils.
One year ago: The Census Bureau announced that the nation's population on April 1, 2010, was 308,745,538, up from 281.4 million a decade earlier. A divided Federal Communications Commission approved, 3-2, new rules known as "net neutrality" meant to prohibit broadband companies from interfering with Internet traffic flowing to their customers. The No. 1-ranked Connecticut women's basketball team topped the 88-game winning streak by John Wooden's UCLA men's team from 1971-74, beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62. Chip Kelly, in just his second season leading Oregon, was voted AP Coach of the Year.
Today's Birthdays: Country singer Freddie Hart is 85. Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is 85. Actor Ed Nelson is 83. Talk show host Phil Donahue is 76. Movie director John Avildsen is 76. Actress Jane Fonda is 74. Actor Larry Bryggman is 73. Singer Carla Thomas is 69. Musician Albert Lee is 68. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas is 67. Actor Josh Mostel is 65. Actor Samuel L. Jackson is 63. Movie producer Jeffrey Katzenberg is 61. Singer Betty Wright is 58. International Tennis Hall-of-Famer Chris Evert is 57. Actress Jane Kaczmarek is 56. Country singer Lee Roy Parnell is 55. Entertainer Jim Rose is 55. Actor-comedian Ray Romano is 54. Country singer Christy Forester (The Forester Sisters) is 49. Rock musician Murph (The Lemonheads; Dinosaur Jr.) is 47. Actor-comedian Andy Dick is 46. Rock musician Gabrielle Glaser is 46. Actor Kiefer Sutherland is 45. Actress Karri Turner is 45. Actress Khrystyne Haje is 43. Country singer Brad Warren (The Warren Brothers) is 43. Actress Julie Delpy is 42. Country singer-musician Rhean (rehn) Boyer (Carolina Rain) is 41. Contemporary Christian singer Natalie Grant is 40. Actor Glenn Fitzgerald is 40. Singer-musician Brett Scallions is 40. Rock singer Lukas Rossi (Rock Star Supernova) is 35. Rock musician Anna Bulbrook (Airborne Toxic Event) is 29. Country singer Luke Stricklin is 29.
Thought for Today: "It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them." -- Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, French author and dramatist (1732-1799).