Today in History

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 7, the 341st day of 2011. There are 24 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as part of a plan to preempt any American military response to Japan's planned conquest of Southeast Asian territories; the raid, which claimed some 2,400 American lives, prompted the United States to declare war against Japan the next day.

On this date:

In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

In 1796, electors chose John Adams to be the second president of the United States.

In 1808, electors chose James Madison to be the fourth president of the United States.

In 1836, Martin Van Buren was elected the eighth president of the United States.

In 1909, chemist Leo H. Baekeland received a U.S. patent for Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic.

In 1911, China abolished the requirement that men wear their hair in a queue, or ponytail.

In 1946, fire broke out at the Winecoff (WYN'-kahf) Hotel in Atlanta; the blaze killed 119 people, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff.

In 1972, America's last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral.

In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash.

In 1993, gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train, killing six people and wounding 19. (Ferguson was later sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison.)

Ten years ago: Taliban forces abandoned their last bastion in Afghanistan, fleeing the southern city of Kandahar. Americans held services on the 60th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Space shuttle Endeavour docked with the international space station, delivering a new three-member crew to relieve a crew in place since August. The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 5.7 percent in November, the highest in six years.

Five years ago: President George W. Bush gave a chilly response to the Iraq Study Group's proposals for reshaping his policy, objecting to talks with Iran and Syria, refusing to endorse a major troop withdrawal and vowing no retreat from embattled U.S. goals in the Mideast. The U.S. military transferred the first group of Guantanamo Bay detainees to a new maximum-security prison on the naval base. Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, the first woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, died in Bethesda, Md., at age 80.

One year ago: Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, died at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C., at 61 after fighting breast cancer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to authorities in London, where he was jailed for nine days before being freed on bail as he fought extradition to Sweden for questioning in a rape investigation. Mike Tyson, three-division champion Julio Cesar Chavez of Mexico and Russian-born Kostya Tszyu, a junior welterweight champion, were selected for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Museum; also selected were Mexican trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, referee Joe Cortez, and "Rocky" actor and screenwriter Sylvester Stallone.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Eli Wallach is 96. Linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky is 83. Bluegrass singer Bobby Osborne is 80. Actress Ellen Burstyn is 79. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is 74. Broadcast journalist Carole Simpson is 71. Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is 64. Actor-director-producer James Keach is 64. Country singer Gary Morris is 63. Singer-songwriter Tom Waits is 62. Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, is 59. Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird is 55. Actress Priscilla Barnes is 54. Former "Tonight Show" announcer Edd Hall is 53. Rock musician Tim Butler (The Psychedelic Furs) is 53. Actor Jeffrey Wright is 46. Actor C. Thomas Howell is 45. Producer-director Jason Winer is 39. NFL player Terrell Owens is 38. Rapper-producer Kon Artis is 37. Pop singer Nicole Appleton (All Saints) is 36. Latin singer Frankie J is 35. Country singer Sunny Sweeney is 35. Actress Shiri Appleby is 33. Pop-rock singer/celebrity judge Sara Bareilles (TV: "The Sing-off") is 32. Singer Aaron Carter is 24.

Thought for Today: "War is the unfolding of miscalculations." -- Barbara Tuchman, American historian (1912-1989).

Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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