Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 22, 2001, 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 is serving a life sentence in federal prison.)
On this date:
In 1858, opera composer Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy.
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 1940, author Nathanael West, 37, and his wife, Eileen McKenney, 27, were killed in a car crash in El Centro, Calif. while en route to the funeral of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had died the day before.
In 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived in Washington for a wartime conference with President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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 1984, New York City resident Bernhard Goetz (bur-NAHRD’ gehts) shot and wounded four youths on a Manhattan subway, claiming they were about to rob him.
In 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu (chow-SHES’-koo), the last of Eastern Europe’s hard-line Communist rulers, was toppled from power in a popular uprising. Playwright Samuel Beckett died in Paris at age 83.
In 1991, the body of Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an American hostage slain by his terrorist captors, was recovered after it had been dumped along a highway in Lebanon.
In 1992, a Libyan Boeing 727 jetliner crashed after a midair collision with a MiG fighter, killing all 157 aboard the jetliner, and both crew members of the fighter jet.
In 2003, a federal judge ruled the Pentagon couldn’t enforce mandatory anthrax vaccinations for military personnel.
In 2008, five Muslim immigrants accused of scheming to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix were convicted of conspiracy in Camden, N.J. (Four were later sentenced to life in prison; one received a 33-year sentence.)
Ten years ago: President Barack Obama signed a law allowing gays for the first time in history to serve openly in America’s military, repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. 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 (WOO’-burn), Massachusetts, at age 89.
Five years ago: Migration experts said more than a million people who had been driven out of their countries by war, poverty and persecution entered Europe in 2015. Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was named The Associated Press college football player of the year.
One year ago: Baba Ram Dass, a 1960s counterculture spiritual leader who experimented with LSD and traveled to India to find enlightenment, died at the age of 88. Afghanistan’s election commission said a preliminary vote count showed that incumbent President Ashraf Ghani had won reelection with 50.64% of the vote. (Both Ghani and rival Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory; they announced a power-sharing arrangement in May 2020 in which Ghani would remain president.)
Today’s Birthdays: Actor Hector Elizondo is 84. Country singer Red Steagall is 82. Former World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz is 77. Baseball Hall of Famer Steve Carlton is 76. Former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer is 75.
Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 72. Rock singer-musician Michael Bacon is 72. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 72. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 69. Actor BernNadette Stanis is 67. Rapper Luther “Luke” Campbell is 60. Actor Ralph Fiennes (rayf fynz) is 58. Actor Lauralee Bell is 52. Country singer Lori McKenna is 52. Actor Dina Meyer is 52. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is 50. Actor Heather Donahue is 47. Actor Chris Carmack is 40. Actor Harry Ford is 38. Actor Greg Finley is 36. Actor Logan Huffman is 31. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jordin Sparks is 31. Pop singer Meghan Trainor is 27.