Today is Thursday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2014. There are 13 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 18, 1944, in a pair of related rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Korematsu v. United States, upheld, 6-3, the government’s wartime evacuation of people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens, from the West Coast (the decision was limited to the exclusion policy, and did not take up the issue of internment), while in Ex parte Endo, the justices unanimously agreed that “concededly loyal” Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained. (Both rulings came a day after the U.S. Department of War said it was lifting the internment policy.)
On this date:
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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, Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1912, fossil collector Charles Dawson reported to the Geological Society of London his discovery of supposed early human remains at a gravel pit in Piltdown. (More than four decades later, Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax.)
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 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 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.
In 1992, Kim Young-sam was elected South Korea’s first civilian president in three decades.
Ten years ago: The former Iraqi general known as “Chemical Ali,” Ali Hassan al-Majid, went before a tribunal of judges in the first investigative hearings of former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Al-Majid was executed in Jan. 2010.) Former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet was hospitalized after suffering a stroke.
Five years ago: The infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis’ cynical slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland was stolen. (The sign was later recovered; six suspects in the theft were later jailed.) Jon and Kate Gosselin officially divorced after 10 years of marriage, eight children and a year of tabloid headlines.
One year 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.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is 87. Actor-producer Roger Smith is 82. Blues musician Lonnie Brooks is 81. Actor Roger Mosley is 76. Rock singer-musician Keith Richards is 71. Writer-director Alan Rudolph is 71. Movie producer-director Steven Spielberg is 68. Blues artist Ron Piazza is 67. Movie director Gillian Armstrong is 64. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin is 64. Rock musician Elliot Easton is 61. Actor Ray Liotta is 59. Comedian Ron White is 58. Actor Brad Pitt is 51. Professional wrestler-turned-actor “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is 50. Actor Shawn Christian is 49. Actress Rachel Griffiths is 46. Singer Alejandro Sanz is 46. Country/rap singer Cowboy Troy is 44. Rapper DMX is 44. International Tennis Hall of Famer Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is 43. DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit) is 42. Pop singer Sia is 39. Country singer Randy Houser is 38. Actor Josh Dallas is 36. Actress Katie Holmes is 36. Singer Christina Aguilera is 34. Christian rock musician Dave Luetkenhoelter (Kutless) is 32. Actress Ashley Benson is 25. Actress-singer Bridgit Mendler is 22. Actress Isabella Cramp (TV: “The Neighbors”) is 10.
Thought for Today:
“It’s a complex fate, being an American.” – Henry James, American author (1843-1916)