Today's Highlights in History:
On Dec. 28, 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. Alexander Solzhenitsyn published "The Gulag Archipelago," an expose of the Soviet prison system.
On this date:
In 1612, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observed the planet Neptune, but mistook it for a star. (Neptune wasn't officially discovered until 1846 by Johann Gottfried Galle.)
In 1832, John C. Calhoun became the first vice president of the United States to resign, stepping down because of differences with President Andrew Jackson.
In 1846, Iowa became the 29th state to be admitted to the Union.
In 1856, the 28th president of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, was born in Staunton, Va.
In 1879, a section of the Tay Bridge in Dundee, Scotland, collapsed as a train was traveling over it, sending an estimated 75 people to their deaths in the river below.
In 1912, San Francisco's Municipal Railway began operations with Mayor James Rolph Jr. at the controls of Streetcar No. 1 as 50,000 spectators looked on.
In 1917, the New York Evening Mail published "A Neglected Anniversary," a facetious essay by H.L. Mencken supposedly recounting the history of bathtubs in America.
In 1937, composer Maurice Ravel died in Paris at age 62.
In 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.
In 1961, the Tennessee Williams play "Night of the Iguana" opened on Broadway. Former first lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, died in Washington at age 89.
In 1972, Kim Il Sung, the premier of North Korea, was named the country's president under a new constitution.
In 1987, the bodies of 14 relatives of Ronald Gene Simmons were found at his home near Dover, Ark., after Simmons shot and killed two other people in Russellville. (Simmons was executed in 1990.)
Ten years ago: Libya, for the first time, allowed U.N. nuclear officials to inspect four sites related to its nuclear weapons program.
Five years ago: A bomb-loaded SUV exploded at a military checkpoint in Afghanistan, claiming the lives of 14 school children in a heartbreaking flash captured by a U.S. security camera. The Detroit Lions completed an awful 0-16 season — the NFL's worst ever — with a 31-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
One year ago: Russia's President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
Today's Birthdays: Comic book creator Stan Lee is 91. Former United Auto Workers union president Owen Bieber is 84. Actor Martin Milner is 82. Actress Nichelle Nichols is 81. Actress Dame Maggie Smith is 79. Rock singer-musician Charles Neville is 75. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is 69. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is 67. Rock singer-musician Edgar Winter is 67. Actor Denzel Washington is 59. Country singer Joe Diffie is 55. Country musician Mike McGuire (Shenandoah) is 55. Actor Chad McQueen is 53. Country singer-musician Marty Roe (Diamond Rio) is 53. Actor Malcolm Gets is 49. Actor Mauricio Mendoza is 44. Comedian Seth Meyers is 40. Actor Brendan Hines is 37. Actor Joe Manganiello (TV: "True Blood") is 37. Actress Vanessa Ferlito (TV: "Graceland") is 36. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Legend is 35. Actress Sienna Miller is 32. Pop singer Kasey Sheridan (Dream) is 27. Actor Thomas Dekker is 26. Actress Mackenzie Rosman is 24. Pop singer David Archuleta (TV: "American Idol") is 23.
Thought for Today: "Our chief defect is that we are more given to talking about things than to doing them." — Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian statesman (1889-1964).