On this day…(22 December)

69 – Emperor Vitellius is captured and murdered at the Gemonian stairs in Rome.

1716 Lincoln’s Inn Theatre in London put on England’s first pantomime which included the characters Harlequin, Columbine and Pantaloon.

1790 – The Turkish fortress of Izmail is stormed and captured by Suvorov and his Russian armies.

1807 – The Embargo Act, forbidding trade with all foreign countries, is passed by the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson.

1809 – The Non-Intercourse Act, lifting the Embargo Act except for the United Kingdom and France, is passed by the U.S. Congress.

1851 – The first freight train is operated in Roorkee, India.

1942 – World War II: Adolf Hitler signs the order to develop the V-2 rocket as a weapon.

1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge – German troops demand the surrender of United States troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting the famous one word reply by General Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”

1956 – Colo is born, the first gorilla to be bred in captivity.

1964 – First flight of the SR-71 (Blackbird).

1965 – In the United Kingdom, a 70 mph speed limit is applied to all rural roads including motorways for the first time. Previously, there had been no speed limit.

1972 – Survivors found 10 weeks after plane crash in the Argentine Andes. The first news that anyone had survived came when two of the passengers reached civilisation yesterday after a 10 day trek to get help. The group later confirmed that they had eaten human flesh in order to survive.

1978 – The pivotal Third Plenum of the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is held in Beijing, with Deng Xiaoping reversing Mao-era policies to pursue a program for Chinese economic reform.

1989 – After a week of bloody demonstrations, Ion Iliescu takes over as president of Romania, ending Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Communist authoritarian regime.

1989 – Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opens after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.

1990 – The Parliament of Croatia adopts the current Constitution of Croatia.

1997 – Acteal massacre: Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.

2000 The American singer Madonna married British film maker Guy Ritchie at an exclusive ceremony in Skibo Castle near Dornoch in Sutherland, hours after their son was christened.

2001 – Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.

2010 – The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning on homosexuals serving openly in the United States military, is signed into law by President Barack Obama.

2012 – Winter Solstice. At 5.30 this morning the northern hemisphere reached it’s maximum tilt away from the sun, which now passes directly over the tropic of capricorn. The days are now getting longer. This is a good thing.

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