Today in History
Today is Monday, Dec. 7, the 342nd day of 2020. There are 24 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched an air raid on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as well as targets in Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippines and Wake Island; the United States declared war against Japan the next day.
On this date:
In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1909, in his State of the Union address, President William Howard Taft defended the decision to base U.S. naval operations in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, instead of in the Philippines.
In 1917, during World War I, the United States declared war on Austria-Hungary.
In 1972, America’s last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was stabbed and seriously wounded by an assailant who was shot dead by her bodyguards.
In 1982, convicted murderer Charlie Brooks Jr. became the first U.S. prisoner to be executed by injection, at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev set foot on American soil for the first time, arriving for a Washington summit with President Ronald Reagan.
In 1988, a major earthquake in the Soviet Union devastated northern Armenia; official estimates put the death toll at 25-thousand.
In 1993, gunman Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train, killing six people and wounding 19. (Ferguson was later sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison.)
In 2001, Taliban forces abandoned their last bastion in Afghanistan, fleeing the southern city of Kandahar.
In 2004, Hamid Karzai (HAH’-mihd KAHR’-zeye) was sworn in as Afghanistan’s first popularly elected president.
In 2017, Democratic Sen. Al Franken said he would resign after a series of sexual harassment allegations; he took a parting shot at President Donald Trump, describing him as “a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault.” Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said he would resign, after revealing that he discussed surrogacy with two female staffers.
In 2018, the man who drove his car into counterprotesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Virginia was convicted of first-degree murder; a state jury rejected defense arguments that James Alex Fields Jr. acted in self-defense. President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate William Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general. (Barr would be confirmed and sworn-in in February.)
Ten years ago: Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, died at her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at 61 after fighting breast cancer. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to authorities in London, where he was jailed for nine days before being freed on bail as he fought extradition to Sweden for questioning in a rape investigation.
Five years ago: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” an idea swiftly condemned by his rival GOP candidates for president and other Republicans. The federal government opened an investigation into the Chicago Police Department, the same day authorities announced they would not charge an officer in the shooting death of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson, a Black man who authorities said was armed with a gun as he ran away from officers.
One year ago: In a rare diplomatic breakthrough between Tehran and Washington, Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, who’d been held for three years in Iran on widely-criticized espionage charges, was freed as part of a prisoner exchange that saw the U.S. release a detained Iranian scientist. At the shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, Caroline Kennedy christened a new aircraft carrier named after her late father, President John F. Kennedy. A dozen frail survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor returned to honor those who died in the 1941 bombing that launched the U.S. into World War II.
Today’s Birthdays: Linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky is 92. Bluegrass singer Bobby Osborne is 89. Actor Ellen Burstyn is 88. Broadcast journalist Carole Simpson is 80. Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is 73. Actor-director-producer James Keach is 73. Country singer Gary Morris is 72. Singer-songwriter Tom Waits is 71. Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, is 68. Basketball Hall of Famer Larry Bird is 64. Actor Priscilla Barnes is 63. Former “Tonight Show” announcer Edd (cq) Hall is 62. Rock musician Tim Butler (The Psychedelic Furs) is 62. Actor Patrick Fabian is 56. Actor Jeffrey Wright is 55. Actor C. Thomas Howell is 54. Actor Kimberly Hebert Gregory (TV: “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World”) is 48. Producer-director Jason Winer is 48. Former NFL player Terrell Owens is 47. Rapper-producer Kon Artis is 46. Pop singer Nicole Appleton (All Saints) is 45. Latin singer Frankie J is 44. Country singer Sunny Sweeney is 44. Actor Chris Chalk is 43. Actor Shiri Appleby is 42. Pop-rock singer/celebrity judge Sara Bareilles (bah-REHL’-es) is 41. Actor Jennifer Carpenter is 41. Actor Jack Huston is 38. Singer Aaron Carter is 33.
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