TODAY’S HIGHLIGHT 2013: Pope Benedict XVI does what no pope has done in more than half a millennium, announcing his resignation and sending the already troubled Roman Catholic church scrambling to replace the leader of its one billion followers. OTHER EVENTS 1254: The British Parliament first convenes.
1531: King Henry VIII is recognised as Supreme Head of the Church in England.
1744: Naval battle of Toulon begins between Britain and combined Franco-Spanish fleet.
1798: French forces take Rome.
1812: Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signs a redistricting law that favours his party — giving rise to the term “gerrymandering”.
1888: King Lobengda of Matabele, Rhodesia, accepts British protection.
1889: Constitution is granted in Japan, with two-chamber Diet, but Emperor retains extensive powers.
1922: Nine-power treaty is signed in Washington for securing China’s independence and maintaining “open door” policy.
1929: Italy signs the Lateran Treaty establishing an independent Vatican City.
1944: US carrier planes strike heavy blows against Japanese positions in Marshall Islands in Pacific during World War II.
1945: US President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin sign the Yalta Agreement during World War II.
1956: Referendum in Malta favours integration with Britain.
1967: Military rule is imposed in Beijing during civil strife in China.
1968: Communist troops execute 300 civilians in South Vietnam and bury them in a mass grave during fighting for city of Hue.
1975: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female head of the British Conservative Party.
1979: Followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seize power in Iran, nine days after the religious leader returns to his home country following 15 years of exile.
1986: Jewish dissident Anatoly Scharansky walks to freedom in Berlin after almost nine years in Soviet captivity on espionage charges.
1989: Barbara Harris becomes the first consecrated female Episcopal bishop in United States. 1990: African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela is released after 27 years in South African prisons.
1994: A NATO-enforced cease-fire takes hold in Sarajevo.
1999: The US Justice Department closes the books on a $1.6 billion reparations programme for ethnic Japanese interned in American camps during World War II.
2000: Britain strips Northern Ireland’s Protestant-Catholic government of power in a bid to prevent its collapse over the Irish Republican Army’s refusal to disarm.
2002: Jordan’s State Security Court sentences US-born Raed Hijazi to death by hanging for plotting attacks on US and Israeli targets in Jordan during New Year’s 2000 celebrations.
2006: Adventurer Steve Fossett completes the longest non-stop flight in aviation history with an emergency landing in England, flying 26,389 miles (42,460 kilometres) in about 76 hours but stopping early because of mechanical problems.
2008: Rebel soldiers shoot and critically wound East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta and open fire on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao who escaped the attack unhurt, in a failed coup attempt in the recently independent nation.
2010: Iranian security forces unleash a crushing sweep against opposition protesters as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad uses the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution to defy the West and boast his country is now a “nuclear state”.
2011: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns and hands power to the military after protesters flood the streets of Cairo and other cities.
2012: Gunmen assassinate an army general in Damascus in the first killing of a high-ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March.
2015: The Republican-controlled US Congress approves a Bill to construct the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, setting up a confrontation with President Barack Obama who has threatened to veto the measure. TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS Thomas A Edison, US inventor (1847-1931); Sidney Sheldon, US author (1917-2007); Burt Reynolds, US actor (1936- ); Tina Louise, US actress (1934- ); Sergio Mendes, Brazilian musician (1941- ); Sheryl Crow, US singer (1962- ); Jennifer Aniston, US actress (1969- ); Brandy, US singer/actress (1979- ) — AP