Today is Thursday, Dec. 28, the 362nd day of 2017. There are three days left in the year.
Today’s highlight: On Dec. 28, 1917, the New York Evening Mail published “A Neglected Anniversary,” a facetious essay by H.L. Mencken supposedly recounting the history of bathtubs in America, starting with the “first” one in Cincinnati in 1842. Among the spoof’s other straight-faced claims: that Millard Fillmore was the first president to have a bathtub installed in the White House. (Mencken was astonished when people took his “tissue of absurdities” seriously.)
On this date:
In 1612, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observed the planet Neptune, but mistook it for a star. (Neptune wasn’t officially discovered until 1846 by Johann Gottfried Galle.)
In 1832, John C. Calhoun became the first vice president of the United States to resign, stepping down because of differences with President Andrew Jackson.
In 1846, Iowa became the 29th state to be admitted to the Union.
In 1856, the 28th president of the United States, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, was born in Staunton, Virginia.
In 1895, the Lumiere brothers, Auguste and Louis, held the first public showing of their movies in Paris.
In 1937, composer Maurice Ravel died in Paris at age 62.
In 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.
In 1961, the Tennessee Williams play “Night of the Iguana” opened on Broadway. Former first lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson, died in Washington at age 89.
In 1973, the book “Gulag Archipelago,” Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s expose of the Soviet prison system, was first published in Paris.
In 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American “test-tube” baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.
In 1987, the bodies of 14 relatives of Ronald Gene Simmons were found at his home near Dover, Arkansas, after Simmons shot and killed two other people in Russellville. (Simmons, who never explained his motives, was executed in 1990.)
In 1997, one woman was killed when a United Airlines jumbo jet en route from Narita, Japan, to Honolulu encountered severe turbulence over the Pacific.
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush used a “pocket veto” to reject a sweeping defense bill because he objected to a provision that would have exposed the Iraqi government to expensive lawsuits seeking damages from the Saddam Hussein era. Six French charity workers sentenced to eight years’ forced labor in Chad for allegedly trying to kidnap 103 children were transferred to French custody. (The workers were later pardoned by Chad’s president and set free.) David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, reached an interim agreement with the Writers Guild allowing his talk show as well as Craig Ferguson’s to return to the air with their full writing staffs during a Hollywood writers’ strike.
Five years ago: Dockworkers along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico agreed to extend their contract for more than a month, averting a strike that could have crippled major ports from Boston to Houston and bottled up billions of dollars’ worth of cargo. (A new contract was ratified in April 2013.) Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning Americans from adopting Russian children.
One year ago: Actress Debbie Reynolds, who lit up the screen in “Singin’ in the Rain” and other Hollywood classics, died at age 84 a day after losing her daughter, Carrie Fisher, who was 60. Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic said she was retiring from tennis after a series of injuries meant she could no longer play at the highest level.
Today’s birthdays: Comic book creator Stan Lee is 95. Former United Auto Workers union president Owen Bieber is 88. Actress Nichelle Nichols is 85. Actress Dame Maggie Smith is 83. Rock singer-musician Charles Neville is 79. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is 73. Former Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is 71. Rock singer-musician Edgar Winter is 71. Funk musician Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste (The Meters) is 69. Actor Denzel Washington is 63. Country singer Joe Diffie is 59. Country musician Mike McGuire (Shenandoah) is 59. Actor Chad McQueen is 57. Country singer-musician Marty Roe (Diamond Rio) is 57. Actor Malcolm Gets is 54. Actor Mauricio Mendoza is 48. Actress Elaine Hendrix is 47. Talk show host Seth Meyers is 44. Actor Brendan Hines is 41. Actor Joe Manganiello is 41. Actress Vanessa Ferlito is 40. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Legend is 39. Rapper-musician-producer Terrace Martin is 39. Actor Andre Holland is 38. Actress Sienna Miller is 36. Actress Beau Garrett (TV: “The Good Doctor”) is 35. Pop singer Kasey Sheridan (Dream) is 31. Actor Thomas Dekker is 30. Actress Mackenzie Rosman is 28. Pop singer David Archuleta is 27. Actress Mary-Charles Jones (TV: “Kevin Can Wait”) is 16. Actor Miles Brown is 13.
Thought for today: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” — Carl Sagan, American astronomer (1934-1996).
— Associated Press