Today is Friday, Dec. 7, the 342nd day of 2012. There are 24 days left in the year.
Today’s highlight in history:
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as part of its plan to conquer Southeast Asian territories; the raid, which claimed some 2,400 American lives, prompted the United States to declare war against Japan the next day.
On this date:
In 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1796, electors chose John Adams to be the second president of the United States.
In 1808, electors chose James Madison to be the fourth president of the United States.
In 1836, Martin Van Buren was elected the eighth president of the United States.
In 1842, the New York Philharmonic performed its first concert.
In 1909, chemist Leo H. Baekeland received a U.S. patent for Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic.
In 1911, China abolished the requirement that men wear their hair in a queue, or ponytail.
In 1946, fire broke out at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta; the blaze killed 119 people, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff.
In 1972, America’s last moon mission to date was launched as Apollo 17 blasted off from Cape Canaveral. Imelda Marcos, wife of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos, was seriously wounded by an assailant who was then shot dead by her bodyguards.
In 1982, convicted murderer Charlie Brooks Jr. became the first U.S. prisoner to be executed by injection, at a prison in Huntsville, Texas.
In 1987, 43 people were killed after a gunman aboard a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner in California apparently opened fire on a fellow passenger, the pilots and himself, causing the plane to crash. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev set foot on American soil for the first time, arriving for a Washington summit with President Ronald Reagan.