Today is Sunday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2011. There are 13 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
On this date:
In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1892, Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, widowed the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt at her Washington home.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)
In 1957, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first public, full-scale commercial nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went on line. (It was taken out of service in 1982.)
In 1958, the world's first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed "Chatterbox," was launched by the United States aboard an Atlas rocket.
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 1971, the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced in Chicago the founding of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).
In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)
In 1980, former Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin died at age 76.
Ten years ago: A federal judge in Philadelphia threw out Mumia Abu-Jamal's death sentence and ordered a new sentencing hearing for the former Black Panther alternately portrayed as a vicious cop-killer and a victim of a racist frame-up. (This month, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams decided to stop pursuing execution for Abu-Jamal in the 1981 shooting death of police officer Daniel Faulkner.)
Five years ago: Robert Gates was sworn in as U.S. defense secretary. President George W. Bush signed legislation to let America share its nuclear know-how and fuel with India. The NBA suspended seven players for their roles in a brawl between Denver and New York; each team was fined $500,000. Animator Joe Barbera died in Los Angeles at age 95.
One year ago: The U.S. Senate approved repeal of the military's 17-year "don't ask, don't tell" ban on openly gay troops in a 65-31 vote. (President Barack Obama later signed it into law.) Skier Lindsey Vonn was named the 2010 Female Athlete of the Year as chosen by members of The Associated Press.
Today's Birthdays: Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 84. Actor-producer Roger Smith is 79. Blues musician Lonnie Brooks is 78. Actor Roger Mosley is 73. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 68. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 68. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 65. Blues artist Ron Piazza is 64. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 61. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 61. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 58. Actor Ray Liotta is 56. Comedian Ron White is 55. Actor Brad Pitt is 48. Professional wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is 47. Actor Shawn Christian is 46. Actress Rachel Griffiths is 43. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 43. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 41. Rapper DMX is 41. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 40. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 39. Actor Josh Dallas is 33. Actress Katie Holmes is 33. Singer Christina Aguilera is 31. Christian rock musician Dave Luetkenhoelter (Kutless) is 29. Actress Ashley Benson is 22.
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).
(Above Advance for Use Sunday, Dec. 18)
Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.