This Day in History

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In Alaska

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• In 1920, the famed mail steamer Dora was wrecked near Hardy Bay, Vancouver Island.

• In 1979, two days of snow and ice caused 200 traffic accidents in Anchorage (mostly fender benders). Gov. Jay Hammond declared the flood-plagued Willow Creek area a disaster area.

In the nation

• 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 during ceremonies in New Orleans.

• In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.

• 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 1946, the Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life," starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, had a preview showing for charity at New York's Globe Theatre, a day before its "official" world premiere.

• In 1996, President Clinton selected Federico Pena for energy secretary, Rodney Slater for transportation secretary, Andrew Cuomo for housing secretary and Alexis Herman for labor secretary. A judge in Orange County, Calif., gave O.J. Simpson full custody of his young children.

• In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples.

• In 2001, Microsoft admitted its new Windows XP operating system software was vulnerable to hacking.

• In 2005, New York City transit workers began a strike that shut down subways and buses for three days. A federal judge ruled that "intelligent design" could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district.

In the world

• 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 General Manuel Noriega.

• In 2001, 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.

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