Today is Thursday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2009.
Highlights in history on this date:
1494 – Forces of France’s King Charles VIII enter Rome.
1526 – Croat nobility chooses Habsburg rule and Croatia becomes part of the Habsburg monarchy.
1775 – The British repel an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec. Montgomery is killed.
1799 – The Dutch East India Company’s territories in Indonesia are taken over by the Dutch Administration in Batavia, now Jakarta.
1810 – Russia’s Czar Alexander introduces new tariffs aimed at French goods.
1851 – Austrian Constitution is abolished.
1857 – Britain’s Queen Victoria decides to make Ottawa the capital of Canada.
1879 – U.S. inventor Thomas A. Edison gives first demonstration of his electric incandescent light at Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1919 – Britain, Japan and United States sign an agreement on East Siberia.
1956 – President Sukarno proclaims a state of siege in Sumatra, Indonesia.
1961 – Lebanon’s army prevents coup attempt in Beirut by Syrian Popular Party; the U.S. Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.
1963 – Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland is dissolved.
1964 – Indonesia’s President Sukarno threatens to quit the United Nations if Malaysia is given a seat on the U.N. Security Council.
1966 – United States says it will halt bombing of North Vietnam when Hanoi gives assurance that it will discuss peace terms seriously.
1968 – U.N. Security Council censures Israel unanimously for helicopter commando raid on airport at Beirut, Lebanon.
1974 – Private U.S. citizens are allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.
1978 – Taiwanese diplomats strike their colors for the final time from the embassy flagpole in Washington, marking the end of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
1986 – A fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills 97 and injures 140 people.
1987 – Violent protests erupt in Jerusalem’s West Bank as Palestinians prepare to observe the Jan. 1 anniversary of the PLO’s main guerrilla group.
1988 – India and Pakistan agree not to attack each others’ nuclear facilities.
1990 – Israeli air force attacks a PLO base near Sidon, Lebanon killing 12 guerrillas belonging to Yasser Arafat’s Al Fatah faction.
1991 – Representatives of North Korea and South Korea agree not to use nuclear weapons.
1992 – Clans allied with the two main warlords in Mogadishu, Somalia, shell one another with mortars as U.S. President George Bush visits a U.S. Navy ship offshore.
1993 – The teenage granddaughter of Cuban leader Fidel Castro arrives in the United States for a reunion with her mother, who defected from Cuba the previous week.
1994 – A New Year’s Eve assault by Russian forces on Grozny, Chechnya, produces one of the bloodiest days of the war. Both sides claim success.
1996 – For the first time in Peru’s two-week hostage crisis, Tupac Amaru guerrillas allow journalists inside the Japanese ambassador’s residence.
1997 – Hong Kong authorities finish up the slaughter of 1.3 million chickens and other fowl to prevent an outbreak of a deadly strain of bird flu in humans.
1998 – Eleven European nations usher in the New Year and the euro.
1999 – Russian President Boris Yeltsin announces his resignation.
2000 – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak draws the bottom line in any peace deal with the Palestinians: no transfer of sovereignty over Jerusalem’s revered Temple Mount to the Palestinians, and no right of return for Palestinian refugees.
2001 – Pakistan arrests the leader and more than two dozen members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of two Muslim militant groups that India blamed for an attack on Parliament that killed 14 people.
2002 – Asylum-seekers being detained at the Villawood detention center in western Sydney, Australia riot, set fires and attack guards in an apparent attempt to break out.
2003 – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that an outbreak of influenza reached epidemic levels in 45 states and has already killed at least 42 children.
2004 – Locked doors at a nightclub in Buenos Aires, Brazil, block or slow the exit of many concertgoers fighting to escape a fire that kills 186 people and injures hundreds.
2005 – British subway workers walk out in a 24-hour strike, disrupting the London Underground as tens of thousands of revelers throng in the capital to celebrate the New Year.
2006 – Nine bombs explode across Bangkok as the Thai capital celebrates New Year’s Eve, killing two people and capping a year of unrest in Thailand, including a military coup and an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency in the south.
2007 – Parliamentary elections in Pakistan are set to be postponed by several weeks a day after Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal Zardari, is chosen to succeed her as chairman of her opposition party and despite opposition demands elections go ahead as planned on Jan. 8.
2008 – The alleged ringleaders of a Chinese counterfeiting gang that sold at least $2 billion worth of bogus Microsoft Corp. software are sentenced to prison terms of up to 6 1/2 years, in what is believed to be the harshest penalties yet under China’s tightened piracy laws.
Jacques Cartier, French explorer (1491-1557); Henri Matisse, French artist-sculptor (1869-1954); Nathan Milstein, Russian-born violinist (1903-1992); Gottfried August Burger, German poet (1748-1794); Anthony Hopkins, English actor (1937–); Sarah Miles, British actress (1941–); Donna Summer, U.S. singer (1948–); Ben Kingsley, British actor (1943–).