Today is Tuesday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2011. There are 11 days left in the year. The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins at sunset.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 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.
On this date:
In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, R.I.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.
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 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 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 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples of the opposite sex.
Ten years ago: Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned, hours after his economy minister, following two days of anti-government unrest that left about two dozen people dead and more than 200 injured. The U.N. Security Council authorized a multinational force for Afghanistan. Microsoft admitted its new Windows XP operating system software was vulnerable to hacking. Comedian Foster Brooks, known for his "Lovable Lush" fake drunk act, died in Encino, Calif., at age 89.
Five years ago: Acknowledging deepening frustration over Iraq, President George W. Bush told a news conference he was considering an increase in American forces and warned that the next year would bring more painful U.S. losses. Recently sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced visit to Iraq.
One year ago: In the biggest anti-terrorist sweep in Britain in nearly two years, police arrested a dozen men accused of plotting a large-scale terror attack on targets inside the United Kingdom. Former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was freed more than seven months after his kidnapping by suspected leftist rebels. "Barney Miller" actor Steve Landesberg died in Los Angeles.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Audrey Totter is 94. Actor John Hillerman is 79. Actress Kathryn Joosten is 72. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 67. Rock musician Peter Criss is 66. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 65. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 65. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 63. Actress Jenny Agutter is 59. Actor Michael Badalucco is 57. Actress Blanche Baker is 55. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 54. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 54. Actor Joel Gretsch is 48. Country singer Kris Tyler is 47. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 45. Actress Nicole deBoer is 41. Movie director Todd Phillips is 41. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 29. Actor Jonah Hill is 28. Singer JoJo is 21.
Thought for Today: "All the mistakes I ever made were when I wanted to say 'No' and said 'Yes."' -- Moss Hart (1904-1961).