Today in History

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2018. 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, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia; although now considered a classic, it received a generally negative reception from critics.

In 1916, during World War I, the 10-month Battle of Verdun ended with French troops succeeding in repulsing a major German offensive.

In 1917, Congress passed the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" and sent it to the states for ratification.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler signed a secret directive ordering preparations for a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the West Coast while at the same time ruling that "concededly loyal" Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained.

In 1957, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went on line. (It was taken out of service in 1982.)

In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)

In 1987, Ivan F. Boesky was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in a major Wall Street insider-trading scandal. (Boesky served about two years of his sentence).

In 1992, Kim Young-sam was elected South Korea's first civilian president in three decades.

In 1998, the House debated articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. South Carolina carried out the nation's 500th execution since capital punishment resumed in 1977.

In 2000, The Electoral College cast its ballots, with President-elect George W. Bush receiving the expected 271; Al Gore, however, received 266, one fewer than expected, because of a District of Columbia Democrat who'd left her ballot blank to protest the district's lack of representation in Congress.

Ten years ago: A U.N. court in Tanzania convicted a former Rwandan army colonel, Theoneste Bagosora, of genocide and crimes against humanity for masterminding the killings of more than half a million people in a 100-day slaughter in 1994. (Bagosora was sentenced to life in prison, but had his sentence reduced in 2011 to 35 years.) W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who'd revealed himself as "Deep Throat" three decades after the Watergate scandal, died in Santa Rosa, Calif., at age 95. "Star Trek" actress Majel Barrett Roddenberry, widow of series creator Gene Roddenberry, died in Los Angeles at age 76.

Five years ago: A presidential advisory panel released a report recommending sweeping changes to government surveillance programs, including limiting the bulk collection of Americans' phone records by stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store that data in its own facilities. Ronnie Biggs, 84, known for his role in Britain's 1963 Great Train Robbery, died in London.

One year ago: An Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster route hurtled off an overpass south of Seattle and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below; three people were killed and dozens were hurt. (Investigators found that the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone.) A fire and blackout at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest, forced the cancellation of more than 1,500 flights just days before the start of the Christmas rush; airlines said some of the grounded travelers would have to wait days before there would be available seats on flights. The Los Angeles Lakers retired numbers 8 and 24, both of the jersey numbers worn by Kobe Bryant, the leading scorer in franchise history.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Cicely Tyson is 94. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 91. Actor Roger Mosley is 80. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 75. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 75. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 72. Blues artist Ron Piazza is 71. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 68. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 68. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 65. Actor Ray Liotta is 64. Comedian Ron White is 62. R&B singer Angie Stone is 57. Actor Brad Pitt is 55. Professional wrestler-turned-actor "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is 54. Actor Shawn Christian is 53. Actress Rachel Griffiths is 50. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 50. Actor Casper Van Dien is 50. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 48. Rapper DMX is 48. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 47. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 46. Pop singer Sia is 43. Country singer Randy Houser is 42. Actor Josh Dallas is 40. Actress Katie Holmes is 40. Actor Ravi Patel is 40. Singer Christina Aguilera is 38. Christian rock musician Dave Luetkenhoelter (Kutless) is 36. Actress Ashley Benson is 29. Actress-singer Bridgit Mendler is 26. Actress Isabella Cramp is 14.

Thought for Today: "It's a complex fate, being an American." -- Henry James, American author (1843-1916).