Today is Sunday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2009. 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 during ceremonies in New Orleans.
On this date:
In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, R.I.
In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.
In 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his "March to the Sea."
In 1945, the Office of Price Administration announced the end of tire rationing, effective Jan. 1, 1946.
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 1976, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died at age 74.
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 1998, Nkem Chukwu gave birth in Houston to five girls and two boys, 12 days after giving birth to another child, a girl. (However, the tiniest of the octuplets died a week later.)
Ten years ago: The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples of the opposite sex. Country music legend Hank Snow died in Nashville, Tenn., at age 85.
Five years ago: In a sobering assessment of the Iraq war, President George W. Bush acknowledged during a news conference that Americans' resolve had been shaken by grisly scenes of death and destruction, and he pointedly criticized the performance of U.S.-trained Iraqi troops. Attorneys presented opening statements in the Robert Blake murder trial in Los Angeles.
One year ago: A Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 taking off from Denver veered off the runway into a ravine, injuring 37 people. Olga Lepeshinskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina for three decades during Soviet times, died in Moscow at age 92. Filmmaker Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") died in Lyme, Conn., at age 83.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Audrey Totter is 92. Comedian Charlie Callas is 82. Actor John Hillerman is 77. Actress Kathryn Joosten is 70. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 65. Rock musician Peter Criss is 64. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 63. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 63. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 61. Actress Jenny Agutter is 57. Actor Michael Badalucco is 55. Actress Blanche Baker is 53. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 52. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 52. Actor Joel Gretsch is 46. Country singer Kris Tyler is 45. Rock singer Chris Robinson (Black Crowes) is 43. Actress Nicole deBoer is 39. Movie director Todd Phillips is 39. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 27. Actor Jonah Hill is 26. Singer JoJo is 19.
Thought for Today: "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. ... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." _ C.S. Lewis, British author (1898-1963).