Today is Thursday, Dec. 22, the 356th day of 2011. There are nine days left in the year. Winter arrives at 12:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 22, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for a wartime conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On this date:
In 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy.
In 1808, Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, and Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, had their world premieres in Vienna, Austria.
In 1864, during the Civil War, Union Gen. William T. Sherman said in a message to President Abraham Lincoln: "I beg to present you as a Christmas-gift the city of Savannah."
In 1894, French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in a court-martial that triggered worldwide charges of anti-Semitism. (Dreyfus was eventually vindicated.)
In 1910, a fire lasting more than 26 hours broke out at the Chicago Union Stock Yards; 21 firefighters were killed in the collapse of a burning building.
In 1944, during the World War II Battle of the Bulge, U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe rejected a German demand for surrender, writing "Nuts!" in his official reply.
In 1968, Julie Nixon married David Eisenhower in a private ceremony in New York.
In 1977, three dozen people were killed when a 250-foot-high grain elevator at the Continental Grain Company plant in Westwego, La., exploded.
In 1984, New York City resident Bernhard Goetz shot and wounded four youths on a Manhattan subway, claiming they were about to rob him.
In 1991, the body of Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage slain by his terrorist captors, was found dumped along a highway in Lebanon.
Ten years ago: Richard C. Reid, a passenger on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, tried to ignite explosives in his shoes, but was subdued by flight attendants and fellow passengers. (Reid, who later pleaded guilty, is serving a life sentence in federal prison.) Hamid Karzai (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeye) was sworn in as prime minister of Afghanistan's interim government.
Five years ago: Rape charges were dropped against three Duke University lacrosse players, but kidnapping and sexual offense charges remained. (Those charges were later dropped as well.) Space shuttle Discovery returned to Earth after a smooth, 13-day flight to rewire the international space station.
One year ago: President Barack Obama signed a law allowing gays for the first time in history to serve openly in America's military. The Senate ratified the New START treaty with Russia capping nuclear warheads for both nations and restarting on-site weapons inspections. Auburn's Cam Newton was named AP Player of the Year. "The Lone Ranger" announcer Fred Foy died in Woburn, Mass., at age 89.
Today's Birthdays: Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 89. Actor Hector Elizondo is 75. Country singer Red Steagall is 73. Former World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz is 68. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 67. ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer is 66. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 65. Rock singer-musician Michael Bacon is 63. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 63. Singer Robin Gibb is 62. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 60. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 58. Rapper Luther Campbell is 51. Country singer-musician Chuck Mead is 51. Actor Ralph Fiennes (rayf fynz) is 49. Actress Lauralee Bell is 43. Country singer Lori McKenna is 43. Actress Dina Meyer is 43. Actress Heather Donahue is 38. Actor Chris Carmack is 31. Actor Logan Huffman is 22. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jordin Sparks is 22.
Thought for Today: "Winter is not a season, it's an occupation." -- Sinclair Lewis, American author (1885-1951).