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Today in History - December 31
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    Today is Monday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2007.
    Today’s Highlight in History:
    On Dec. 31, 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, N.J.
    On this date:
    In 1775, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed.
    In 1857, Britain’s Queen Victoria decided to make Ottawa the capital of Canada.
    In 1862, President Lincoln signed an act paving the way for West Virginia statehood.
    In 1877, President and Mrs. Hayes celebrated their silver anniversary (actually, a day late) by re-enacting their wedding ceremony in the White House.
    In 1946, President Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.
    In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.
    In 1978, Taiwanese diplomats struck their colors for the final time from the embassy flagpole in Washington, marking the end of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
    In 1985, singer Rick Nelson, 45, and six other people were killed when fire broke out aboard a DC-3 that was taking the group to a New Year’s Eve performance in Dallas.
    In 1986, 97 people were killed when fire broke out in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Three hotel workers later pleaded guilty in connection with the blaze.)
    In 1987, Robert Mugabe was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s first executive president.
    Ten years ago: Michael Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was killed in a skiing accident on Aspen Mountain in Colorado. Pianist Floyd Cramer died in Nashville, Tenn., at age 64. In Sorocaba, Brazil, riot troops stormed a prison where inmates were holding hundreds of hostages, quickly ending a three-day rebellion without any deaths.
    Five years ago: Emerging from holiday seclusion at his Texas ranch, President Bush told reporters an attack by Saddam Hussein or a terrorist ally ‘‘would cripple our economy.’’ Two U.N. nuclear inspectors expelled by North Korea arrived in China, leaving the communist nation’s nuclear program isolated from international scrutiny. An explosion at a clandestine fireworks factory in the Mexican port city of Veracruz ignited an entire city block, killing 28 people.
    One year ago: The death toll for Americans killed in the Iraq war reached 3,000. Hundreds of Iraqis flocked to the village of Ouja where Saddam Hussein was born to see the deposed leader buried in a religious compound 24 hours after his execution. Ordinary Americans paid their respects to former President Ford, walking slowly by his flag-covered casket in the U.S. Capitol.
    Today’s Birthdays: Folk and blues singer Odetta is 77. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 70. Actor Tim Considine (‘‘My Three Sons’’) is 67. Actress Sarah Miles is 66. Rock musician Andy Summers is 65. Actor Ben Kingsley is 64. Rock musician Peter Quaife (The Kinks) is 64. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 63. Actor Tim Matheson is 60. Pop singer Burton Cummings (The Guess Who) is 60. Singer Donna Summer is 59. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 59. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 56. Actor James Remar is 54. Actress Bebe Neuwirth is 49. Actor Val Kilmer is 48. Singer Paul Westerberg is 48. Actor Don Diamont is 45. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 45. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 44. Actress Gong Li is 42. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 35.
    Thought for Today: ‘‘The past at least is secure.’’ — Daniel Webster, American statesman (1782-1862).

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