Today is Wednesday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2019. There are 13 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 18, 2000, the Electoral College cast its ballots, with President-elect George W. Bush receiving the expected 271; Al Gore, however, received 266, one fewer than expected, because of a District of Columbia Democrat who'd left her ballot blank to protest the district's lack of representation in Congress.
On this date:
In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
In 1916, during World War I, the 10-month Battle of Verdun ended with French troops succeeding in repulsing a major German offensive.
In 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" and sent it to the states for ratification.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler signed a secret directive ordering preparations for a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)
In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast while at the same time ruling that "concededly loyal" Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained.
In 1956, Japan was admitted to the United Nations.
In 1957, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went on line. (It was taken out of service in 1982.)
In 1969, Britain's House of Lords joined the House of Commons in making permanent a 1965 ban on the death penalty for murder.
In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)
In 1998, the House debated articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. South Carolina carried out the nation's 500th execution since capital punishment resumed in 1977.
In 2003, two federal appeals courts ruled the U.S. military could not indefinitely hold prisoners without access to lawyers or American courts.
Ten years ago: The infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis' cynical slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland was stolen. (The sign was later recovered; six suspects in the theft were later jailed.) Jon and Kate Gosselin officially divorced after 10 years of marriage, eight children and a year of tabloid headlines.
Five years ago: Sternly warning the West it could not defang the metaphorical Russian bear, President Vladimir Putin promised to shore up the plummeting ruble and revive the economy within two years. Mandy Rice-Davies, 70, a key figure in the "Profumo Scandal" that rocked Cold War Britain, died in London. Actress Virna Lisi, 78, died in Rome. "The Colbert (kohl-BEHR') Report" came to an end after nine years on Comedy Central (host Stephen Colbert went on to become the host of CBS' "Late Show.")
One year ago: President Donald Trump's charitable foundation reached a deal with New York's attorney general for the foundation to go out of business, even as Trump continued to fight allegations that he misused the foundation's assets. (In November 2019, a New York state judge ordered Trump to pay $2 million to an array of charities as a fine for misusing his foundation to further his political and business interests.) The Trump administration banned bump stocks, the firearm attachments that allowed semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns, and gave gun owners until late March to turn in or destroy the devices. The president authorized the Defense Department to create a new Space Command, an effort to better organize and advance the military's operations in space. Arizona's governor appointed U.S. Rep. Martha McSally to replace Sen. Jon Kyl in the seat that had belonged to the late John McCain, sending the GOP congresswoman back to Washington just a month after she lost a tight race for the state's other U.S. Senate seat.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Cicely Tyson is 95. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 92. Actor Roger Mosley is 81. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 76. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 76. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 73. Blues artist Rod Piazza is 72. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 69. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 69. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 66. Actor Ray Liotta is 65. Comedian Ron White is 63. R&B singer Angie Stone is 58. Actor Brad Pitt is 56. Professional wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is 55. Actor Shawn Christian is 54. Actress Rachel Griffiths is 51. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 51. Actor Casper Van Dien is 51. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 49. Rapper DMX is 49. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 48. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 47. Pop singer Sia is 44. Country singer Randy Houser is 43. Actor Josh Dallas is 41. Actress Katie Holmes is 41. Actor Ravi Patel is 41. Singer Christina Aguilera is 39. Christian rock musician Dave Luetkenhoelter (Kutless) is 37. Actress Ashley Benson is 30. NHL defenseman Victor Hedman is 29. Actress-singer Bridgit Mendler is 27. Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is 22. Electro-pop singer Billie Eilish is 18. Actress Isabella Cramp is 15.
Thought for Today: "Whoever wants to be a judge of human nature should study people's excuses." - Christian Friedrich Hebbel, German poet and dramatist (1813-1863).