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Today in History

  • Today in History 

Today is Friday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2021. 

  • Today's Highlight in History: 

On Dec. 31, 2019, the health commission in the central Chinese city of Wuhan announced that experts were investigating an outbreak of respiratory illness and that most of the victims had visited a seafood market in the city; the statement said 27 people had become ill with a strain of viral pneumonia and that seven were in serious condition. 

  • On this date: 

In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an enabling act paving the way for Virginia's western counties to become the state of West Virginia, which took place in June 1863. 
In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light by illuminating some 40 bulbs at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. 
In 1904, New York's Times Square saw its first New Year's Eve celebration, with an estimated 200,000 people in attendance. 
In 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.
In 1972, Major League baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when a plane he chartered and was traveling on to bring relief supplies to earthquake-devastated Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from Puerto Rico. 
In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years. 
In 1978, Taiwanese diplomats struck their colors for the final time from the embassy flagpole in Washington, D.C., marking the end of diplomatic relations with the United States. 
In 1985, singer Rick Nelson, 45, and six other people were killed when fire broke out aboard a DC-3 that was taking the group to a New Year's Eve performance in Dallas.
In 1986, 97 people were killed when fire broke out in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Three hotel workers later pleaded guilty in connection with the blaze.) 
In 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation (he was succeeded by Vladimir Putin). 
In 2010, tornadoes fueled by unusually warm air pummeled the South and Midwest, killing a total of eight people in Arkansas and Missouri.

  • Ten years ago: President Barack Obama signed a wide-ranging defense bill into law despite having "serious reservations" about provisions that regulated the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists. A NASA probe fired its engine and slipped into orbit around the moon in the first of two back-to-back arrivals over the New Year's weekend.
  • Five years ago: Mariah Carey ushered in 2017 with a botched performance on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest" on ABC; Carey blamed the show's producers for technical difficulties, while Dick Clark Productions called Carey's claims "absurd." Actor William Christopher, best known for playing Father Francis Mulcahy on the TV series "M.A.S.H.," died in Pasadena, California, at age 84.
  • One year ago: Around the world on New Year's Eve, pandemic restrictions on open air gatherings saw people turning to virtual celebrations or made-for-TV fireworks displays. In New York's Times Square, the ball dropped as always, but police fenced off the site to prevent crowds from gathering. Authorities arrested a suburban Milwaukee pharmacist suspected of deliberately ruining hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine by removing them from refrigeration. (Steven Brandenburg, an admitted conspiracy theorist who believed vaccines were the product of the devil, would be sentenced to three years in prison.) Britain completed its economic break from the European Union. Stocks ended the year at record highs, even after a breathtaking nosedive in the markets in the spring as the coronavirus took hold. Former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh died at a retirement community near Pittsburgh; he was 88.
  • Today's Birthdays: TV producer George Schlatter is 92. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 84. Actor Tim Considine (TV: "My Three Sons") is 81. Actor Sarah Miles is 80. Actor Barbara Carrera is 80. Rock musician Andy Summers is 79. Actor Sir Ben Kingsley is 78. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 77. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 75. Actor Tim Matheson is 74. Pop singer Burton Cummings is 74. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 73. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 70. Actor James Remar is 68. Actor Bebe Neuwirth is 63. Actor Val Kilmer is 62. Singer Paul Westerberg is 62. Actor Don Diamont is 59. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 59. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 58. Actor Gong Li is 56. Author Nicholas Sparks is 56. Actor Lance Reddick is 52. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 49. Rock musician Mikko Siren (Apocalyptica) is 46. Donald Trump Jr. is 44. Rapper PSY (Park Jae-sang) is 44. Rock musician Bob Bryar is 42. Rock musician Jason Sechrist (Portugal. The Man) is 42. Actor Ricky Whittle is 42. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is 42. Actor/singer Erich Bergen is 36. DJ/vocalist Drew Taggart (The Chainsmokers) is 32. U.S. Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Alix Klineman is 32. U.S. Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is 26.