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Today in History, December 21

AAP logoAAP 20/12/2016

Highlights in history on this date:

1620 - Pilgrims go ashore from ship Mayflower at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in United States.

1817 - Governor Lachlan Macquarie formally adopts name "Australia" for British colony.

1832 - Egyptian forces rout Turkish army at Battle of Konieh.

1846 - First surgical operation under anaesthesia in Britain is performed at University College Hospital, London by Robert Liston who amputated the leg of a servant.

1851 - French plebiscite supports new constitution drawn up by Louis Napoleon.

1898 - Radium is discovered by scientists Pierre and Marie Curie.

1913 - First crossword puzzle is published in weekend edition of New York World, compiled by Liverpool-born Arthur Wynne.

1914 - First feature-length US silent film comedy, Tillie's Punctured Romance, is released.

1934 - Bolivia's President Daniel Salamanca is overthrown in military coup.

1937 - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, first full-length feature cartoon in colour, by Walt Disney, is premiered in Los Angeles.

1940 - Death of US author F Scott Fitzgerald.

1942 - British 8th Army reoccupies Benghazi in Africa in World War II.

1945 - General George Patton, brilliant tank commander referred to by his men as "Old Blood and Guts", dies after a car accident in Germany.

1948 - Republic of Ireland Bill is signed by president of Eire, ending the association with Britain.

1953 - Iran's former Premier Mohammed Mosadegh is sentenced to three years in prison for trying to lead revolt against shah.

1958 - Charles De Gaulle is elected the first president of fifth Republic of France with 78.5 per cent of the votes cast by the electoral college.

1960 - Saudi Arabia's Premier Emir Faisal resigns, and King Saud takes over government.

1963 - Sir Jack Hobbs, English cricketer, dies.

1967 - Louis Washkansky, first man to undergo heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, 18 days after surgery.

1968 - Apollo 8 is launched from Cape Kennedy on its way to man's first orbit of the moon.

1971 - Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim is chosen secretary-general of United Nations.

1972 - East and West Germany formally sign treaty ending more than two decades of official enmity.

1973 - The first peace conference between Israel and her Arab neighbours opens in Geneva attended by Jordan, Israel, Egypt, the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Nations.

1975 - Terrorists raid meeting of Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna; 11 delegates and others are taken hostage, and two guards are killed.

1978 - Police in Illinois arrested John W Gacy Jr and begin unearthing the remains of 33 men and boys that he murdered.

1979 - Peace agreement signed, ending seven-year Rhodesian guerrilla war and 15-year rebellion against the British crown.

1985 - South African dissident Winnie Mandela is forcibly removed by police from her Soweto home and arrested a day later for defying government restrictions.

1988 - A Pan Am jet explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people in the air and on the ground. Libyan agents are tried for the bombing.

1989 - Nicolae Ceausescu declares state of emergency in Timosoara, Romania, after tens of thousands of protesters fill the streets in mass demonstrations.

1990 - Albanian government orders removal of all statues and symbols bearing Josef Stalin's name.

1991 - Eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaim the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

1992 - A chartered Dutch jumbo jet with 340 people aboard breaks apart and bursts into flames while trying to land in Faro, Portugal, in a storm. Fifty-two travellers and two crew members are killed.

1993 - Russian President Boris Yeltsin dissolves the powerful Security Ministry, saying the successor to the KGB secret police failed to warn him of dangerous political currents in Russia.

1995 - Hindmarsh Island Royal Commission report finds secret women's business a total fabrication by Aboriginal groups; The city of Bethlehem passes from Israeli to Palestinian control; At least 75 people are killed and 76 injured in Badrshein, Egypt, when a train slams into the Cairo-to-Luxor express.

1996 - After holding seven UN military observers and 16 other people hostage for a day, Tajik gunmen release all but two.

1998 - After a quick trial, Chinese dissidents Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai are sentenced to more than a decade behind bars for trying to register the China Democracy Party.

2000 - Security forces and hundreds of leftist prisoners wielding makeshift flame-throwers face off for a third day in Turkish jails in a conflict that has left at least 19 people dead.

2001 - Six Palestinians are killed in the Gaza Strip and dozens injured in clashes with Palestinian security forces that erupted at the funeral of a youth killed by Palestinian police the previous day. The violence marks the deadliest fighting among Palestinians since 1994.

2002 - A US soldier is killed in a battle with unidentified gunmen in the eastern province of Paktika, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, making him the first American killed in Afghanistan since May.

2003 - The Sudanese government and rebel group Sudan People's Liberation Army reach a tentative deal to evenly divide the country's oil wealth as part of negotiations to end its 20-year-old civil war.

2004 - Tens of thousands of Filipinos fill Manila's streets for the funeral of Fernando Poe Jr, the actor-turned-presidential candidate who came to symbolise the aspirations of the country's poor.

2005 - Britain's most famous gay couple - Sir Elton John and Canadian filmmaker David Furnish - tie the knot in a much-anticipated ceremony, capping the first week of legalised civil unions for same-sex couples in the United Kingdom.

2006 - In the biggest US criminal case involving civilian deaths to come out of the Iraq war, eight Marines are charged over the killings of 24 Iraqis during a bloody, door-to-door sweep in the town of Haditha, that came after their comrade was killed by a roadside bomb; Australian spinner Shane Warne announces his retirement from test cricket after the fifth Ashes Test at the SCG.

2007 - Ignoring works by Matisse, Renoir and Van Gogh, thieves steal two paintings - one by Pablo Picasso and another by Candido Portinari - in the first successful heist in the 60-year history of Brazil's premier modern art museum; Kevin Rudd makes his first visit as prime minister to Australian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2008 - Poland's president celebrates the start of Hanukkah by visiting Warsaw's main synagogue, a gesture the city's Jewish community greets as a historic step in its revival.

2009 - A huge funeral procession for Iran's most senior dissident cleric, Grand Ayatolloh Hossein Ali Montazeri, becomes a show of defiance against the country's rulers as mourners flashed green protest colours and chanted against the Islamic leadership in Iran's holy city of Qom.

2010 - Iraq seats a freely elected government after nine months of haggling, bringing together the main ethnic and religious groups in a fragile balance that could make it difficult to rebuild a nation devastated by war as American troops prepare for their final withdrawal.

2011 - The European Central Bank flips its credit tap wide open to help Europe's troubled banking system, allowing hundreds of nervous banks to take out a record 489 billion euros in loans and raising hopes the region's credit squeeze could ease.

2012 - Pope Benedict XVI presses his opposition to day marriage, denouncing what he described as people eschewing their God-given gender identities to suit their sexual choices in the face of gains by same-sex marriage proponents in the United States and Europe.

2013 - Families of some of the 270 people who died in the bombing of an airliner over Scotland 25 years ago gather for memorial services in the US and Britain.

2014 - At least 20 Islamist State members are killed in a bid to take over an air base in eastern Syria; Around 200 Palestinians leave Gaza and enter the Egyptian Sinai through the Rafah crossing after Cairo authorised a temporary reopening of the border.

2015 - FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA boss Michel Platini are suspended from all football-related activities for eight years, after a FIFA ethics committee's findings about a "disloyal payment" of $US2 million to Platini.

Today's Birthdays:

Leopold von Ranke, German historian (1795-1886); Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (1118-1170); Benjamin Disraeli, English statesman-author (1804-1881); Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan (1876-1948); Joseph Stalin, Soviet leader (1879-1953); Kurt Waldheim, former Austrian president and UN secretary-general (1918-2007); Kel Nagle, Australian champion golfer (1920-2015); Alicia Alonso, Cuban-born ballerina (1921-); Paul Winchell, US ventriloquist (1922-2005); Ed Nelson, US actor (1928-2014); Phil Donahue, US TV talk show host (1935-); Jane Fonda, US actress (1937-); Frank Zappa, American musician (1940-1993); Doug Walters, Australian cricketer (1945-); Samuel L. Jackson, American actor (1948-); Chris Evert, US tennis player (1954-); Florence Griffith-Joyner, US athlete (1959-1998); Kiefer Sutherland, US actor (1966-); Karrie Webb, Australian golfer (1974-); Toby Rand, Australian singer in the band Juke Kartel ( 1977-); Tom Sturridge English actor (1985-).

Thought For Today:

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them." - Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, French author and dramatist (1732-1799).

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