Today is Friday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2019. There are 11 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.
On this date:
In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union as all 169 delegates to a special convention in Charleston voted in favor of separation.
In 1924, Adolf Hitler was released from prison after serving nine months for his role in the Beer Hall Putsch.
In 1961, playwright-director Moss Hart, 57, died in Palm Springs, Calif.
In 1963, the Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners, who were allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector for the holidays.
In 1968, author John Steinbeck died in New York at age 66.
In 1978, former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was released from prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate cover-up.
In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.
In 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.
In 1995, an American Airlines Boeing 757 en route to Cali, Colombia, slammed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 163 people aboard. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO began its peacekeeping mission, taking over from the United Nations.
In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded heterosexual couples.
In 2002, Trent Lott resigned as Senate Republican leader two weeks after igniting a political firestorm with racially charged remarks. The nation's ten biggest brokerages agreed to pay $1.44 billion and fundamentally change the way they did business to settle allegations they'd misled investors by hyping certain companies' stocks.
In 2005, a federal judge ruled that "intelligent design" could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, delivering a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board.
Ten years ago: Relatives reported the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, 87, the spiritual father of Iran's reform movement. Actress Brittany Murphy, who'd starred in "Clueless" and "8 Mile," died at age 32. Character actor Arnold Stang died in Newton, Massachusetts, at age 91.
Five years ago: A gunman who'd announced online that he was planning to shoot two "pigs" in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two New York City officers in a patrol car; Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu to death before running to a subway station and killing himself.
One year ago: President Donald Trump announced that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who had differed with Trump on Syria, Afghanistan and ties to NATO, would retire at the end of February; in a resignation letter, Mattis said Trump deserved a defense chief "whose views are better aligned with yours." (Days later, Trump pushed Mattis out two months earlier than planned.) Trump declared that he would not sign a bill to keep funding the government because it failed to provide billions of dollars for his border wall with Mexico. The Trump administration announced that people seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico would no longer be released into the United States and would instead be forced to wait in Mexico. Drones buzzing over the runway forced the shutdown of London's Gatwick Airport during one of the busiest times of the year.
Today's Birthdays: Original Mouseketeer Tommy Cole (TV: "The Mickey Mouse Club") is 78. Rhythm and blues singer-musician Walter "Wolfman" Washington is 76. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 75. Rock musician Peter Criss is 74. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is 73. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 73. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 73. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 71. Actress Jenny Agutter is 67. Actor Michael Badalucco is 65. Actress Blanche Baker is 63. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 62. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 62. Actor Joel Gretsch is 56. Country singer Kris Tyler is 55. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 53. Actress Nicole deBoer is 49. Movie director Todd Phillips is 49. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 37. Actor Jonah Hill is 36. Actor Bob Morley is 35. Singer JoJo is 29. Actor Colin Woodell is 28.
Thought for Today: "All the mistakes I ever made were when I wanted to say 'No' and said 'Yes.'" - Moss Hart, American playwright and director (born 1904, died this date in 1961).