Today is Thursday, Dec. 31, the 366th and final day of 2020.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 31, 2019, the health commission in the central Chinese city of Wuhan announced that experts were investigating an outbreak of respiratory illness and that most of the victims had visited a seafood market in the city; the statement said 27 people had become ill with a strain of viral pneumonia and that seven were in serious condition.
On this date:
In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, 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 Abraham Lincoln signed an enabling act paving the way for Virginia's western counties to become the state of West Virginia, which took place in June 1863.
In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light by illuminating some 40 bulbs at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
In 1904, New York's Times Square saw its first New Year's Eve celebration, with an estimated 200,000 people in attendance.
In 1951, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.
In 1972, Major League baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when a plane he chartered and was traveling on to bring relief supplies to earthquake-devastated Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from Puerto Rico.
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, D.C., marking the end of diplomatic relations with the United States.
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 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation (he was succeeded by Vladimir Putin).
In 2001, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spent his final day in office praising police, firefighters, and other city employees in the wake of 9/11, and said he had no regrets about returning to private life.
Ten years ago: Tornadoes fueled by unusually warm air pummeled the South and Midwest, killing a total of eight people in Arkansas and Missouri.
Five years ago: Belgian authorities announced the arrest of a 10th person in connection with the Nov. 2015 bloodbath in Paris. A towering inferno engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel in Dubai as officials went ahead with a massive New Year's fireworks display (there were no serious injuries reported). Death claimed singer Natalie Cole at age 65; actor Wayne Rogers at age 82; and actor Beth Howland at age 74.
One year ago: Dozens of Iraqi Shiite militiamen and their supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and set fire to a reception area; the mob had been angered over deadly U.S. airstrikes targeting the Iranian-backed militia. Pope Francis slapped the hand of a well-wisher who had grabbed him and yanked him toward her as he strolled in St. Peter's Square to admire the Vatican's Nativity scene; the pontiff apologized a day later for his "bad example." Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn (gohn), who had skipped bail while awaiting trial in Japan on allegations of financial misconduct, surfaced in Lebanon, saying that he had fled to avoid "political persecution." Wall Street finished its best year since 2013; the S&P 500 soared 28.9 percent during 2019, with technology stocks leading the gains.
Today's Birthdays: TV producer George Schlatter is 91. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 83. Actor Tim Considine (TV: "My Three Sons") is 80. Actor Sarah Miles is 79. Actor Barbara Carrera is 79. Rock musician Andy Summers is 78. Actor Sir Ben Kingsley is 77. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 76. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 74. Actor Tim Matheson is 73. Pop singer Burton Cummings is 73. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 72. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 69. Actor James Remar is 67. Actor Bebe Neuwirth is 62. Actor Val Kilmer is 61. Singer Paul Westerberg is 61. Actor Don Diamont is 58. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 58. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 57. Actor Gong Li is 55. Author Nicholas Sparks is 55. Actor Lance Reddick is 51. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 48. Rock musician Mikko Siren (Apocalyptica) is 45. Donald Trump Jr. is 43. Rapper PSY (Park Jae-sang) is 43. Rock musician Bob Bryar is 41. Rock musician Jason Sechrist (Portugal. The Man) is 41. Actor Ricky Whittle is 41. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is 41. Actor/singer Erich Bergen is 35. DJ/vocalist Drew Taggart (The Chainsmokers) is 31. Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas is 25.