Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 16, 1773, the Boston Tea Party took place as American colonists boarded a British ship and dumped more than 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor to protest tea taxes.
On this date:
In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became lord protector of England, Scotland and Ireland.
In 1809, the French Senate granted a divorce decree to Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine (the dissolution was made final the following month).
In 1811, the first of the powerful New Madrid earthquakes struck the central Mississippi Valley with an estimated magnitude of 7.7.
In 1863, philosopher and author George Santayana was born in Madrid, Spain.
In 1907, 16 U.S. Navy battleships, which came to be known as the "Great White Fleet," set sail on a 14-month round-the-world voyage to demonstrate American sea power.
In 1944, the World War II Battle of the Bulge began as German forces launched a surprise attack against Allied forces in Belgium (the Allies were eventually able to beat the Germans back).
In 1951, a Miami Airlines Curtiss C-46 Commando crashed just after takeoff from Newark Airport in New Jersey, killing all 56 people on board.
In 1960, 134 people were killed when a United Air Lines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided over New York City.
In 1962, Nepal's Panchayat Constitution was proclaimed.
In 1976, the government halted its swine flu vaccination program following reports of paralysis apparently linked to the vaccine.
In 1982, Environmental Protection Agency head Anne M. Gorsuch became the first Cabinet-level officer to be cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to submit documents requested by a congressional committee.
In 1991, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded its 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism by a vote of 111-25.
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush signed a number of measures into law, including legislation meant to stem the flood of junk e-mail known as "spam" and a bill to establish a national museum devoted to black history. President Bush told ABC News that Saddam Hussein deserved the "ultimate penalty" for his crimes. Germany and France, two of the most ardent opponents of the American-led war, agreed to relieve Iraq's debt burden. Actress Madlyn Rhue died in Los Angeles at age 68.
Five years ago: President-elect Barack Obama announced his choice of Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, to be his education secretary. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to authorize nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases on the coast of Somalia. The Cleveland Clinic announced its surgeons had performed the nation's first near-total face transplant on a severely disfigured woman. (The woman, Connie Culp, went public with her identity in May 2009.) Police in Hollywood, Fla., closed their investigation into the 1981 abduction-slaying of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, saying a serial killer who'd died more than a decade earlier in prison, Ottis Toole, was responsible.
One year ago: President Barack Obama visited Newtown, Conn., the scene of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre; after meeting privately with victims' families, the president told an evening vigil he would use "whatever power" he had to prevent future shootings. Two Topeka, Kan., police officers, Cpl. David Gogian and Officer Jeff Atherly, were shot to death in a grocery parking lot; the suspected gunman, David Tiscareno, was later killed after an armed standoff. Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in a landslide election victory after three years in opposition.
Today's Birthdays: Civil rights attorney Morris Dees is 77. Actress Joyce Bulifant is 76. Actress Liv Ullmann is 75. CBS news correspondent Lesley Stahl is 72. TV producer Steven Bochco is 70. Former Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons is 69. Pop musician Tony Hicks (The Hollies) is 68. Pop singer Benny Andersson (ABBA) is 67. Actor Ben Cross is 66. Rock singer-musician Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) is 64. Rock musician Bill Bateman (The Blasters) is 62. Actor Xander Berkeley is 58. Actress Alison LaPlaca is 54. Actor Sam Robards is 52. Actor Jon Tenney is 52. Actor Benjamin Bratt is 50. Country singer-songwriter Jeff Carson is 50. Actor-comedian JB Smoove is 48. Actor Daniel Cosgrove is 43. Rhythm-and-blues singer Michael McCary is 42. Actor Jonathan Scarfe is 38. Actress Krysten Ritter is 32. Country musician Chris Scruggs is 31. Actress Amanda Setton is 28. Actress Hallee Hirsh is 26. Actress Anna Popplewell is 25.
Thought for Today: "That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions." — George Santayana (1863-1952).