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This day in history

Thursday, Dec. 20, is the 355th day of 2012. There are 11 days left in the year.

Today’s birthdays: Actor John Hillerman is 80. 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. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 55. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 46. Movie director Todd Phillips is 42. Actor Jonah Hill is 29. Singer JoJo is 22.

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In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating in 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.

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.

In 1978, former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman left prison after serving 18 months for his role in the Watergate coverup.

In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with a tanker off Mindoro island.

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.

In 2002, Ted Williams’s 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.

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