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December 22, 2014 08:06 GMT

Today is Monday, Dec. 22, the 356th day of 2014. There are nine days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 22, 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.

On this date:

In 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Union Maj. 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 1937, the first, center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River was opened to traffic. (The second tube opened in 1945, the third in 1957.)

In 1944, former silent film comedian Harry Langdon (once considered a rival to Charles Chaplin) died in Los Angeles at age 60.

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, Louisiana, 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 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 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 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.)

Ten years ago: Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, stung by criticism that he'd been insensitive to the needs of troops and their families, offered an impassioned defense, saying when he would meet wounded soldiers or relatives of those killed in battle, "their grief is something I feel to my core." Vancouver Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to assault, more than nine months after slugging Colorado forward Steve Moore from behind during a game.

Five years ago: Assailants gunned down the mother, aunt and siblings of a Mexican marine who was killed in a raid that took out one of Mexico's most powerful cartel leaders. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh (ehn-DAHM'-uh-kehn soo) became the first defensive player voted The Associated Press College Football Player of the Year.

One year ago: Mikhail Khodorkovsky (mih-hah-EEL' khoh-dohr-KAHV'-skee), the Russian oligarch who'd crossed President Vladimir Putin and ended up in jail for 10 years, told a press conference in Berlin that he planned to devote his life to securing the release of the country's political prisoners. President Barack Obama and the vacationing first family temporarily skipped the beach in Hawaii to attend the Oregon State-Akron game at the Diamond Head Classic tournament in Honolulu. (Oregon State, coached by first lady Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, lost to Akron, 83-71.)

Today's Birthdays: Former House Speaker Jim Wright is 92. Actor Hector Elizondo is 78. Country singer Red Steagall is 76. Former World Bank Group President Paul Wolfowitz is 71. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton is 70. Former ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer is 69. Rock singer-musician Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) is 66. Rock singer-musician Michael Bacon is 66. Baseball All-Star Steve Garvey is 66. Golfer Jan Stephenson is 63. Actress BernNadette Stanis is 61. Rapper Luther "Luke" Campbell is 54. Country singer-musician Chuck Mead is 54. Actor Ralph Fiennes is 52. Actress Lauralee Bell is 46. Country singer Lori McKenna is 46. Actress Dina Meyer is 46. Actress Heather Donahue is 41. Actor Chris Carmack is 34. Actor Logan Huffman is 25. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jordin Sparks is 25. Pop singer Meghan Trainor is 21.

Thought for Today: "My mistakes are my life." -- Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).


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