Today is the 237th day of 2012.There are 129 days left in the year.
1991: Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as head of Communist Party and urges its leadership to disband the party; Ukraine becomes the seventh of 15 Soviet republics to declare independence.
1572: The slaughter of French Protestants at the hands of Catholics begins in Paris.
1814: British forces invade Washington and set fire to the Capitol and the White House.
1821: The Spanish captain general of Mexico, Juan O'Donoju, signs the Treaty of Cordoba, giving Mexico independence.
1932: Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly nonstop across the US, traveling from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, in 19 hours.
1949: NATO goes into effect.
1976: Two Soviet cosmonauts return to Earth after 48 days in orbit in space laboratory.
1981: Mark David Chapman is sentenced in New York to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of British rock star John Lennon.
1985: The pilot of a Chinese military aircraft crash lands his plane in South Korea and asks for political asylum in Taiwan. The plane's navigator and a farmer working in a rice paddy are killed.
1990: Irish hostage Brian Keenan is freed by Lebanese kidnappers after more than four years in captivity.
1992: South Korea and China establish diplomatic relations. The two have been ideological enemies since Korea was divided after World War II. China invaded South Korea during the Korean War and remains one of the staunchest allies of communist North Korea.
1994: The UN suspends efforts to repatriate Rwandan refugees after Hutu extremists mob the first group to agree to be brought home.
1997: More than one million people attend Pope John Paul II's mass at World Youth Day ceremony in Paris.
1998: Congo's Angolan allies drive rebels from a string of Atlantic coast towns in a stunning reversal of rebel gains.
1999: At least 100,000 public workers march in cities around South Africa, in the largest mass labour action since apartheid ended, to demand wage increases.
2004: Chechen suicide bombers destroy two Russian airliners killing a combined total of 90 passengers and crew.
2005: A Hong Kong judge sides with a 20-year-old gay man who challenged laws against homosexuality -- including one that demands a life sentence for sodomy when one or both men are younger than 21. The judge rules the laws are demeaning.
2006: Philippine lawmakers defeat an impeachment bid against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but a debilitating political crisis stemming from corruption accusations against her continues.
2007: Chinese authorities bar Yuan Weijing, the wife of imprisoned human rights activist Chen Guangcheng, from leaving the country to accept a humanitarian award on her husband's behalf.
2008: An Iran-bound passenger jet carrying 90 people crashes near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, killing at least 65 people.
2010: Scientists say they have identified a sun-like star with as many as seven different planets -- including one that might be the smallest ever found outside the solar system.
2011: The US says China is on track to achieve its goal of building a modern, regionally focused military by 2020, bolstered by the development of a new stealth fighter, an aircraft carrier and a record number of space launches over the past year.
George Stubbs, English painter (1724-1806); Max Beerbohm, English authorartist (1872-1956); William Gibbs, American naval architect (1886-1967); Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer (1899-1986); Angie Brooks, Liberian diplomat (1928-2007); Kenny Baker, English actor, Star Wars' R2D2 (1934-); Cal Ripken, US ex-baseball player (1960-).