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Sunday, December 21, 1997

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  • "The time has come to take leave, the time has come to hand over the baton in a relay that started more than 87 years ago."

    -- South African President Nelson Mandela

    Today's events

  • Voters in Lithuania head to polls to cast ballots in presidential elections.

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    On the horizon

  • On Monday, December 22, the Progress M-37 cargo ship is scheduled to dock with Mir space station.

  • On Tuesday, December 23, the National Menorah will be lit in Washington, D.C.

  • On Wednesday, December 24, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah begins.

  • On Thursday, December 25, much of the world celebrates Christmas.

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    On this day

  • In 1846, the first surgical operation under anaesthesia in Britain was performed at University College Hospital, London by Robert Liston, who amputated the leg of a servant.

  • In 1879, Josef Stalin born. After the death of Lenin, he transformed the Soviet Union by brutal industrialization and party purges. The country sustained massive losses but ultimately repulsed the German invasion in World War II, and Stalin's armies carried on to occupy most of Eastern Europe. He died in 1953.

  • In 1913, the first crossword puzzle was published in the weekend edition of the New York World, compiled by Liverpool-born Arthur Wynne.

  • In 1937, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full length feature cartoon in color premiered in Los Angeles.

  • In 1940, F. Scott Fitzgerald, U.S. short story writer and novelist, died. Famous for his depictions of the jazz age, he is best remembered for his novel "The Great Gatsby."

  • In 1945, Gen. George Patton, the brilliant tank commander in World War II and referred to by his men as "Old Blood and Guts," died after a car accident in Germany. ' In 1948, the Republic of Ireland Bill was signed by the President of Eire, ending the association with Britain.

  • In 1958, Charles De Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic of France with 78.5 percent of the votes cast by the electoral college.

  • In 1960, King Saud took over the government of Saudi Arabia after Crown Prince Faisal resigned as prime minister.

  • In 1968, Apollo 8, with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, was launched by a Saturn 5 booster from Cape Kennedy. Three days later they carried out the first manned flight around the moon.

  • In 1972, after nearly two decades of Cold War hostility, East and West Germany established diplomatic ties in a treaty which committed them to good-neighborly relations, paving the way for international recognition of East Germany.

  • In 1973, the first peace conference between Israel and its Arab neighbors opened in Geneva.

  • In 1975, terrorists of the "Arm of the Arab Revolution" led by "Carlos the Jackal" raided the OPEC headquarters in Vienna and held 11 oil ministers and their staff hostage.

  • In 1988, a bomb exploded aboard a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

  • In 1989, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu declared a state of emergency in the western district of Timis, where security police had earlier crushed anti-government riots.

  • In 1990, Albania tore down eastern Europe's last towering statues of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

  • In 1993, Russian President Boris Yeltsin abruptly abolished the former KGB security police.

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    Nelson Mandela stepped down on Saturday as the head of the African National Congress in South Africa. To learn more about the ANC, visit its Web site .


    Holidays and more

  • Actress Jane Fonda is 60.

  • Former tennis phenom Chris Evert is 43.

  • Former talk-show host Phil Donahue is 62.

  • Former President of Austria Kurt Waldheim is 79.

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    Sources: Associated Press,
    Chase's Calendar of Events 1997, J.P. Morgan

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