. 14, the 349th day of 2012. There are 17 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 14, 1962, the U.S. space probe Mariner 2 passed Venus at a distance of just over 21,000 miles, transmitting information about the planet, such as its hot surface temperatures and predominantly carbon dioxide atmosphere.
On this date:
In 1799, the first president of the United States, George Washington, died at his Mount Vernon, Va., home at age 67.
In 1819, Alabama joined the Union as the 22nd state.
In 1861, Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, died at Windsor Castle at age 42.
In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen (ROH'-ahl AH'-mun-suhn) and his team became the first men to reach the South Pole, beating out a British expedition led by Robert F. Scott.
In 1918, "Il Trittico," a trio of one-act operas by Giacomo Puccini, premiered at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. (The third opera, "Gianni Schicchi (SKEE'-kee)," featured the aria "O Mio Babbino Caro," which was an immediate hit.)
In 1936, the comedy "You Can't Take It With You" by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart opened on Broadway.
In 1946, the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish U.N. headquarters in New York.
In 1961, a school bus was hit by a passenger train at a crossing near Greeley, Colo., killing 20 students.
In 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan concluded their third and final moonwalk and blasted off for their rendezvous with the command module.
In 1975, six South Moluccan extremists surrendered after holding 23 hostages for 12 days on a train near the Dutch town of Beilen (BY'-luhn).
In 1981, Israel annexed the Golan Heights, which it had seized from Syria in 1967.
In 1986, the experimental aircraft Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California on the first non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world.
Ten years ago: The Associated Press reported that FBI Director Robert Mueller said in an interview that nearly 100 terrorist attacks had been thwarted since 9/11. Jordanian police announced the arrest of two alleged al-Qaida members in the October killing of American diplomat Laurence Foley. (The two men were executed in 2006.)
Five years ago: A man accused of being the Phoenix Baseline Killer was sentenced to 438 years in prison for the sexual assaults of two sisters. (Mark Goudeau was tried in 2011 for the slayings of eight women and a man in 2005-2006; he was convicted and sentenced to death.)
One year ago: President Barack Obama, visiting Fort Bragg in North Carolina, saluted troops returning from Iraq, asserting that the nearly nine-year conflict was ending honorably. The House voted 283-136 to approve a massive $662 billion defense bill (the Senate followed suit the next day). The NFL renewed its television deals with CBS, Fox and NBC for nine years through the 2022 season.
Today's Birthdays: Jazz musician Clark Terry is 92. Singer-actress Abbe Lane is 81. Actor Hal Williams is 74. Actress-singer Jane Birkin is 66. Actress Patty Duke is 66. Pop singer Joyce Vincent-Wilson (Tony Orlando and Dawn) is 66. Entertainment executive Michael Ovitz is 66. Actress Dee Wallace is 64. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ronnie McNeir (The Four Tops) is 63. Rock musician Cliff Williams (AC/DC) is 63. Actor-comedian T.K. Carter is 56. Rock singer-musician Mike Scott (The Waterboys) is 54. Singer-musician Peter "Spider" Stacy (The Pogues) is 54. Actress Cynthia Gibb is 49. Actress Natascha McElhone is 43. Actress-comedian Michaela Watkins is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Brian Dalyrimple (Soul For Real) is 37. Actress KaDee Strickland is 37. Actress Tammy Blanchard is 36. Actress Sophie Monk is 33. Actress Vanessa Hudgens is 24.
Thought for Today: "You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories." — Stanislaw J. Lec, Polish author (1909-1966).
(Above Advance for Use Friday, Dec. 14)
Copyright 2012, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.