Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 18, 2019, the U.S. House impeached President Donald Trump on two charges, sending his case to the Senate for trial; the articles of impeachment accused him of abusing the power of the presidency to investigate rival Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election and then obstructing Congress’ investigation. (The trial would end in acquittal by the Senate.)
On this date:
In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1863, in a speech to the Prussian Parliament, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck declared, “Politics is not an exact science.”
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
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 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 1956, Japan was admitted to the United Nations.
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 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 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.
In 2003, two federal appeals courts ruled the U.S. military could not indefinitely hold prisoners without access to lawyers or American courts.
Ten years ago: The last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war. Vaclav Havel, 75, the dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia’s first democratically elected president, died in the northern Czech Republic.
Five years ago: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a military camp in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, killing at least 52 soldiers; the Islamic State group’s Yemen-based affiliate claimed responsibility. Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor died at her Los Angeles home at age 99.
One year ago: The U.S. added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal, as the Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health; a vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech was already being dispensed. Vice President Mike Pence became the highest ranking U.S. official to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in a live-television event aimed at reassuring Americans the shot was safe. The National Hockey League and players reached a tentative deal to hold a 56-game season in 2021 beginning in mid-January.
Today’s Birthdays: Actor Roger Mosley is 83. Rock musician Keith Richards is 78. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 78. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 75. Blues artist Rod Piazza is 74. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 71. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 71. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 68. Actor Ray Liotta is 67. Comedian Ron White is 65. R&B singer Angie Stone is 60. Actor Brad Pitt is 58. Professional wrestler-turned-actor “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is 57. Actor Shawn Christian is 56. Actor Rachel Griffiths is 53. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 53. Actor Casper Van Dien is 53. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 51. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 50. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 49. Pop singer Sia is 46. Country singer Randy Houser is 45. Actor Josh Dallas is 43. Actor Katie Holmes is 43. Actor Ravi Patel is 43.
Singer Christina Aguilera is 41. Actor Ashley Benson is 32. NHL defenseman Victor Hedman is 31. Actor-singer Bridgit Mendler is 29. Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is 24. Electro-pop singer Billie Eilish is 20. Actor Isabella Crovetti is 17.