Today is Wednesday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2003 with 14 to follow.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto. The evening stars are Venus, Mars, Mercury, Neptune and Uranus.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include American Revolutionary War soldier Deborah Sampson, who fought as a man under the alias Robert Shurtleff, in 1760; poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1807; conductor Arthur Fiedler in 1894; novelist Erskine Caldwell in 1903; composer/bandleader Ray Noble also in 1903; Western swing bandleader/violinist Spade Cooley in 1910; columnist William Safire in 1929 (age 74); publisher Bob Guccione in 1930 (age 73; British singer/actor Tommy Steele in 1936 (age 67); actor Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters") in 1945 (age 58; comedian Eugene Levy in 1946 (age 57); and actor Bill Pullman in 1954 (age 49).
On this date in history:
In 1790, the Aztec Calendar or Solar Stone was uncovered by workmen repairing Mexico City's Central Plaza.
In 1903, Orville Wright made history's first sustained airplane flight, lasting 12 seconds and covering 120 feet near Kitty Hawk, N.C. His brother Wilbur flew 852 feet later that day.
In 1925, Army Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, outspoken advocate of a separate U.S. Air Force, was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the good of the armed services. He was awarded the Medal of Honor 20 years after his death.
In 1939, the Nazi warship Graf Spee was scuttled off the coast of Uruguay as British vessels pursued it.
In 1944, the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans who had been relocated from the West Coast shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were told they would be allowed to return home in less than three weeks, on Jan. 2.
In 1967, the Clean Air Act was passed by Congress.
In 1981, American Brig. Gen. James Dozier was kidnapped in Rome by Italy's Red Brigades. He was freed 42 days later in a raid by Italian anti-terrorist forces.
In 1986, a Las Vegas federal jury awarded entertainer Wayne Newton $19.3 million in his defamation suit against NBC. A judge later reduced the award to $5.3 million.
Also in 1986, a federal jury in Detroit cleared automaker John DeLorean of all 15 charges in his fraud and racketeering trial.
In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a radical Roman Catholic priest and opponent of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was elected president of Haiti in a landslide victory. It was the first free election in Haiti's history.
In 1990, Secretary of State Baker told NATO that Iraq might withdraw from Kuwait around the Jan. 15 deadline. NATO rejected the partial solution.
In 1991, 15 people were killed and 20 wounded in clashes between Soviet troops and guerrillas in a disputed Armenian enclave.
In 1992, Israel tried to deport hundreds of Palestinians to Lebanon but Beirut closed the border, trapping them in the Israeli-controlled "security zone."
Also in 1992, President Bush formally signed the North American Free Trade Treaty simultaneously with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
In 1993, President Clinton acknowledged the $500 million gift of philanthropist Walter Annenberg to public-education reform.
In 1994, North Korea said it shot down a U.S. Army helicopter in North Korean airspace, killing one pilot. The second pilot was reportedly uninjured but was held in North Korea.
In 1996, the United Nations elected Kofi Annan of Ghana the new secretary-general.
In 1997, New Jersey became the first state in the United States to permit homosexual couples to adopt children.
In 1998, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said 1998 was the warmest year ever recorded.
In 2001, U.S. officials said they believed they had destroyed Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan but it became evident in a few days that hundreds of bin Laden's men were escaping through the mountains into Pakistan. And, the whereabouts of bin Laden himself were not known.
In 2002, President Bush ordered the Pentagon to proceed with construction by 2004 of a limited missile defense shield.
A thought for the day: in "Hawthorne," Henry James wrote, "It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature."