Today is Thursday, Dec. 20, the 355th day of 2012. There are 11 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 1812, German authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of the first edition of their collection of folk stories, titled "Children's and Household Tales."
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 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 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his "March to the Sea."
In 1912, the play "Peg O' My Heart," a "comedy of youth" by John Hartley Manners starring his wife, actress Laurette Taylor, opened on Broadway.
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 1972, the Neil Simon play "The Sunshine Boys" opened on Broadway.
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: 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. Ted Williams' eldest daughter, Bobby-Jo Williams Ferrell, dropped her objections to her siblings' decision to have the Hall of Famer's body frozen at a cryonics lab in Arizona.
Five years ago: Police used chemical spray and stun guns on protesters outside a New Orleans City Council meeting where members unanimously supported demolition of 4,500 public housing units for redevelopment. Thieves broke into the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil and made off with paintings by Pablo Picasso and Candido Portinari. (The works were recovered in Jan. 2008.) A British judge acquitted the only man charged with murder in Northern Ireland's deadliest terror attack: the 1998 car bombing that killed 29 people in the town of Omagh. Utah opened the bowl season with a wild 35-32 victory over the Navy Midshipmen in the Poinsettia Bowl.
One year ago: Lori Berenson, an American paroled after 15 years behind bars in Peru for aiding leftist guerrillas, arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport for her first visit home since her arrest in 1995. (After a 17-day visit, Berenson returned to Peru to serve out the rest of her parole.) LSU's Les Miles was selected The Associated Press college football coach of the year. Soccer player Abby Wambach was voted the AP Female Athlete of the Year.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Audrey Totter is 95. Actor John Hillerman is 80. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 68. Rock musician Peter Criss is 67. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 66. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 66. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 64. Actress Jenny Agutter is 60. Actor Michael Badalucco is 58. Actress Blanche Baker is 56. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 55. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 55. Actor Joel Gretsch is 49. Country singer Kris Tyler is 48. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 46. Actress Nicole deBoer is 42. Movie director Todd Phillips is 42. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 30. Actor Jonah Hill is 29. Singer JoJo is 22.
Thought for Today: "Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." -- G.K. Chesterton, English poet-essayist (1874-1936).