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 Encyclopaedia Britannica

*1959American sprinter Florence Griffith Joyner, considered one of the fastest women in track and holder from 1988 of the world record in the 100 metres (10.49 seconds) and 200 metres (21.34 seconds), was born this day in 1959. 
*1804Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman and novelist who was twice prime minister (1868, 1874–80), was born. 
TodayFIRST DAY OF WINTER. The shortest day is in the first day of winter, around December 21st or 22nd, north of the equator. That's called the winter solstice. 
2002Larry Mayes was released after spending 21 years in prison for a rape that maintained that he never committed. He was the 100th person in the U.S. to be released after DNA tests were performed. 
2001The Islamic militant group Hamas released a statement that said it was suspending suicide bombings and mortar attacks in Israel.  
1998A Chinese court sentenced two dissidents to long prison terms for attempting to organize an opposition party. A third man was sentenced to 12 years in prison on December 22, 1998.  
1998Israel's parliament voted overwhelmingly for early elections. It was the signal to the demise of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line government.  
1998The first vaccine for Lyme disease was approved.  
1996After two years of denials, U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted violating House ethics rules.  
1995The city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control.  
1991Eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States.  
1990In a German television interview, Saddam Hussein declared that he would not withdraw from Kuwait by the UN deadline.  
1988Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, apparently because of a terrorist bombing; in 2003 the government of Libya accepted responsibility for the explosion and in 2004 agreed to compensate the families of the victims. 
1981Cincinnati defeated Bradley 75-73 in seven overtimes. The game was the longest collegiate basketball game in the history of NCAA Division I competition.  
1978Police in Des Plaines, IL, arrested John W. Gacy Jr. and began unearthing the remains of 33 men and boys that Gacy was later convicted of killing.  
1971The U.N. Security Council chose Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as secretary-general.  
1968Apollo 8 was launched from Cape Kennedy (Cape Canaveral) and eventually completed 10 lunar orbits. The craft landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27. 
1958Charles de Gaulle was elected to a seven-year term as the first president of the Fifth Republic of France.  
1951Joe DiMaggio announced his retirement from major league baseball.  
1948The state of Eire (formerly the Irish Free State) declared its independence.  
1945U.S. Gen. George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.  
1944Horse racing was banned in the United States until after the end of World War II.  
1937Walt Disney debuted the first, full-length, animated feature in Hollywood, CA. The movie was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."  
1925Eisenstein's film "Battleship Potemkin" was first shown in Moscow.  
1914Marie Dressler, Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand and Mack Swain appeared in the first six-reel, feature-length comedy. The film was entitled "Tillie’s Punctured Romance".  
1913The "New York World" Sunday edition included a crossword puzzle as an added feature of the "Fun" supplement. It was the first crossword puzzle to be published.  
1909McKinley and Washington schools of Berkeley, CA, became the first authorized, junior-high schools in the U.S.  
1898On this day in 1898, having recently discovered polonium, future Nobel Prize winners Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the radioactive chemical element radium, a silvery white metal that would be used to treat cancer. 
1879Ibsen's "A Doll's House" was first performed in Copenhagen, Denmark, with a revised happy ending.  
1864General William Tecumseh Sherman captured Savannah, Georgia, during his “March to the Sea” in the American Civil War. 
1849The first ice-skating club in America was formed in Philadelphia, PA.  
1845The Battle of Firoz Shah began between British and Sikh forces during the First Sikh War. 
1620The "Mayflower", and its passengers, pilgrims from England, landed at Plymouth Rock, MA.  
Asterisks (*) denotes birthday

Famous Birthdays
1969 - Jack Noseworthy
1966 - Kiefer Sutherland
1965 - Andy Dick
1959 - Florence Griffith Joyner
1957 - Ray Romano
1955 - Jane Kaczmarek
1954 - Chris Evert
1948 - Samuel L. Jackson
1940 - Frank Zappa
1937 - Jane Fonda
1935 - Phil Donahue
1926 - Joe Paterno
1922 - Paul Winchell
1879 - Joseph Stalin

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