Today is Wednesday, Dec. 29, the 363rd day of 2021. There are two days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 29, 1940, during World War II, Germany dropped incendiary bombs on London, setting off what came to be known as “The Second Great Fire of London.”

On this date:

In 1170, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was slain in Canterbury Cathedral by knights loyal to King Henry II.

In 1812, during the War of 1812, the American frigate USS Constitution engaged and severely damaged the British frigate HMS Java off Brazil.

In 1845, Texas was admitted as the 28th state.

In 1851, the first Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in the United States was founded in Boston.

In 1890, the Wounded Knee massacre took place in South Dakota as an estimated 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops sent to disarm them.

In 1916, James Joyce’s first novel, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” was first published in book form in New York after being serialized in London.

In 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, crashed into the Florida Everglades near Miami International Airport, killing 101 of the 176 people aboard.

In 1989, dissident and playwright Vaclav Havel (VAHTS’-lahv HAH’-vel) assumed the presidency of Czechoslovakia.

In 1992, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo commuted the prison sentence of Jean Harris, the convicted killer of “Scarsdale Diet” author Herman Tarnower.

In 1996, guerrilla and government leaders in Guatemala signed an accord ending 36 years of civil conflict.

In 2006, word reached the United States of the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (because of the time difference, it was the morning of Dec. 30 in Iraq when the hanging took place). In a statement, President George W. Bush called Saddam’s execution an important milestone on Iraq’s road to democracy.

In 2007, the New England Patriots ended their regular season with a remarkable 16-0 record following a 38-35 comeback victory over the New York Giants. (New England became the first NFL team since the 1972 Dolphins to win every game on the schedule.)

Ten years ago: Fed-up voters in Jamaica threw out the ruling party and delivered a landslide triumph to the opposition People’s National Party and its leader, former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. The No. 15 Baylor Bears, led by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, pulled out an Alamo Bowl victory in the highest-scoring regulation bowl game in history, beating the Washington Huskies 67-56 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Five years ago: The United States struck back at Russia for hacking the U.S. presidential campaign with a sweeping set of punishments targeting Russia’s spy agencies and diplomats. Tennis star Serena Williams announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian — on Reddit. (The couple married on Nov. 16, 2017.)

One year ago: A Colorado National Guardsman who’d been sent to help out at a nursing home struggling with a COVID-19 outbreak was reported to be the first in the U.S. to have a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus that had been circulating in England. Just days before he would have been sworn in as a new Republican member of the U.S. House from Louisiana, Luke Letlow died at the age of 41 from complications related to COVID-19. A statue of Abraham Lincoln with a freed slave appearing to kneel at his feet was removed from its downtown Boston perch. French designer Pierre Cardin died at 98. Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the singing McGuire Sisters, died at her estate in Las Vegas at 89.

Today’s Birthdays: Country singer Rose Lee Maphis is 99. Actor Inga Swenson is 89. Retired ABC newscaster Tom Jarriel is 87. Actor Barbara Steele is 84. Actor Jon Voight is 83. Singer Marianne Faithfull is 75. Retired Hall of Fame Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. is 75. Actor Ted Danson is 74. Singer-actor Yvonne Elliman is 70. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, is 68. Actor Patricia Clarkson is 62. Comedian Paula Poundstone is 62. Rock singer-musician Jim Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain) is 60. Actor Michael Cudlitz is 57. Rock singer Dexter Holland (The Offspring) is 56. Actor-comedian Mystro Clark is 55. Actor Jason Gould is 55. News anchor Ashleigh Banfield is 54. Movie director Lilly Wachowski is 54. Actor Jennifer Ehle is 52. Actor Patrick Fischler is 52. Rock singer-musician Glen Phillips is 51. Actor Kevin Weisman is 51. Actor Jude Law is 49. Actor Maria Dizzia is 47. Actor Mekhi Phifer (mih-KY’ FY’-fuhr) is 47. Actor Shawn Hatosy is 46. Actor Katherine Moennig is 44. Actor Diego Luna is 42. Actor Alison Brie is 39. Country singer Jessica Andrews is 38. Actor Iain de Caestecker is 34. Actor Jane Levy is 32. Singer-actor-dancer Ross Lynch is 26. Rock musician Danny Wagner is 23.

Tuesday, Dec. 28, the 362nd day of 2021. There are three days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 28, 2014, the war in Afghanistan, fought for 13 bloody years and still raging, came to a formal end with a quiet flag-lowering ceremony in Kabul that marked the transition of the fighting from U.S.-led combat troops to the country’s own security forces.

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 1895, the Lumiere brothers, Auguste and Louis, held the first public showing of their movies in Paris.

In 1908, a major earthquake followed by a tsunami devastated the Italian city of Messina, killing at least 70,000 people.

In 1945, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1972, Kim Il Sung, the premier of North Korea, was named the country’s president under a new constitution.

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.

In 1975, the “Hail Mary pass” entered the football lexicon as Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach tossed the ball to Drew Pearson for an improbable 50-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left to help the Cowboys come back to edge the Minnesota Vikings 17-14.

In 1981, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first American “test-tube” baby, was born in Norfolk, Virginia.

In 1991, nine people died in a crush of people trying to get into a rap celebrity basketball game at City College in New York.

In 2007, Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was laid to rest as the country’s army tried to quell a frenzy of rioting in the wake of her assassination.

In 2015, a grand jury in Cleveland declined to indict a white rookie police officer in the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a Black youngster who was shot while playing with what turned out to be a pellet gun.

Ten years ago: North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, escorted his father’s hearse in an elaborate state funeral, bowing somberly and saluting in front of tens of thousands of citizens who wailed and stamped their feet in grief for Kim Jong Il. Turkish warplanes mistakenly killed 35 smugglers and other villagers in an operation targeting Kurdish rebels in Iraq. Kaye Stevens, a singer and actor who performed with the Rat Pack and was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” died in The Villages, Florida, at age 79.

Five years ago: Film star 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 (ee-VAH’-noh-vich) said she was retiring from tennis after a series of injuries meant she could no longer play at the highest level.

One year ago: Residents and staff members at a Seattle-area nursing home that had the first deadly COVID-19 outbreak in the United States began receiving vaccines. A Chinese court sentenced a former lawyer who had reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble.” A white Columbus, Ohio, police officer, Adam Coy, was fired after bodycam footage showed him fatally shooting Andre Hill – a Black man who was holding a cellphone – and failing to administer first aid for several minutes. (Coy is scheduled to face trial for murder in 2022.) “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin was released from prison after spending two months behind bars for paying a half million dollars in bribes to get her two daughters into college.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Nichelle Nichols is 89. Actor Dame Maggie Smith is 87. Former Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., is 75. Rock singer-musician Edgar Winter is 75. Actor Denzel Washington is 67. TV personality Gayle King is 67. Actor Chad McQueen is 61. Country singer-musician Marty Roe (Diamond Rio) is 61. Actor Malcolm Gets is 58. Actor Mauricio Mendoza is 52. Actor Elaine Hendrix is 51. Political commentator Ana Navarro is 50. Talk show host Seth Meyers is 48. Actor Brendan Hines is 45. Actor Joe Manganiello is 45. Actor Vanessa Ferlito is 44. R&B singer John Legend is 43. Rapper-musician-producer Terrace Martin is 43. Actor Andre Holland is 42. Actor Sienna Miller is 40. Actor Beau Garrett (TV: “The Good Doctor”) is 39. Actor Thomas Dekker is 34. Actor Mackenzie Rosman is 32. Pop singer David Archuleta is 31. Actor Mary-Charles Jones (TV: “Kevin Can Wait”) is 20. Actor Miles Brown is 17.

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