Today is Friday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2001 with 10 to follow.
Winter begins today in the Northern Hemisphere at 2:21 p.m., EST.
The moon is waxing, moving toward its first quarter.
The morning star is Jupiter.
The evening stars are Mars and Saturn.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include British statesman Benjamin Disraeli in 1804; Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1879; Austrian President Kurt Waldheim in 1918 (age 83); former talk show host Phil Donahue in 1935 (age 66); actress Jane Fonda in 1937 (age 64); rock musician Frank Zappa in 1940; Beach Boys guitarist Carl Wilson in 1946; actor Samuel L. Jackson in 1948 (age 53); former "New Yorker" editor Tina Brown in 1953 (age 48); tennis player Chris Evert in 1954 (age 47); comedian Ray Romano in 1957 (age 44); track athlete Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1959; and actor Andy Dick in 1966 (age 35).
On this date in history:
In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., following a 63-day voyage from England aboard the Mayflower.
In 1913, the first crossword puzzle in an American newspaper appeared in The New York Sunday World.
In 1937, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" opened in Los Angeles, the first full-length animated feature film.
In 1968, Apollo VIII, the first manned voyage to the moon, was launched.
In 1987, in a case that highlighted racial tensions, three young white men were convicted of manslaughter in an attack on a black man in New York's predominantly white Howard Beach section. The victim was hit by a car and killed after being chased onto a busy highway.
In 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 exploded in midair and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing everyone aboard and 11 people on the ground for a total death toll of 270.
In 1989, Panama's U.S.-installed President Endara ordered a national curfew.
Also in 1989, Kentuckian Larry Mahoney was convicted on 27 counts of manslaughter in 1988 collision with church bus. It was the nation's deadliest drunken-driving accident.
In 1990, a boat carrying about 100 U.S. sailors involved in Operation Desert Shield capsized off the Israeli coast. 21 died.
In 1991, 11 former Soviet republics declared an end to the Soviet Union and forged a commonwealth that guaranteed independence.
Also in 1991, an Arab man was acquitted in New York of killing radical Jewish leader Meir Kahane.
In 1992, 54 people were killed when a chartered jetliner carrying 340 people on a holiday to southern Portugal crashed in bad weather.
In 1993, Hungary's parliament endorsed the nomination of Peter Boross as president, succeeding Jozsel Antall, who died in office on Dec. 12.
In 1994, more than 40 people were injured when an incendiary device exploded on a crowded subway in lower Manhattan. Later that day, New York City police arrested one of the burn victims, saying the man had been carrying the firebomb when it went off.
In 1995, a commuter train rammed the rear of a passenger train in heavy fog near Cairo, Egypt, killing 75 people.
In 1997, a disastrous fire swept through Tokyo's Tsukji wholesale fish market, destroying more than 100 shops and stores.
In 1998, the shaky coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed when the Knesset (Israel's parliament) voted 81-30 to dissolve the government.
A thought for the day: Ambrose Bierce defined a bore as "a person who talks when you wish him to listen."