Today is Monday, Dec. 13, the 348th day of 2004 with 18 to follow.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Pluto, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars. The evening stars are Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include clergyman Phillips Brooks, who wrote the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem," in 1835; World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York in 1887; actor Van Heflin in 1910; former Secretary of State George Shultz in 1920 (age 84); comedian/actor Dick Van Dyke in 1925 (age 79); actor Christopher Plummer in 1929 (age 75); singer/actor John Davidson in 1941 (age 62); rock singer Ted Nugent in 1948 (age 56); and actors Wendy Malick in 1950 (age 54), Steve Buscemi in 1958 (age 46) and Jamie Foxx in 1967 (age 37).
On this date in history:
In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand.
In 1816, the nation's first savings bank, the Provident Institution for Savings, opened in Boston.
In 1862, an estimated 11,000 Northern soldiers were killed or wounded in a battle with Confederate troops outside Fredericksburg, Va.
In 1982, the Sentry armored car company in New York discovered the overnight theft of $11 million from its headquarters. It was the biggest cash theft in U.S. history.
In 1990, the last of the U.S. hostages being held by Iraq, five diplomats in Kuwait, flew to freedom.
Also in 1990, troops were rushed to Soviet Georgia and a state of emergency was imposed after inter-ethnic violence killed three people.
In 1991, the leaders of the Central American countries held a summit meeting and agreed to pledge $4.5 billion to fight poverty.
In 1992, Ricky Ray, 15, one of three hemophiliac brothers barred from attending a Florida school because they had the AIDS virus, died.
In 1998, in a non-binding plebiscite giving Puerto Ricans the opportunity to express a preference as to the future of political status of the island, the "none of the above" option was supported by 50 percent of voters -- indicating that most wished to retain Puerto Rico's current status as a U.S. commonwealth.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Florida presidential vote recount, in effect giving the presidency to George W. Bush more than a month after the balloting. Winning Florida meant Bush had enough electoral votes to defeat Al Gore, who had won the popular vote.
In 2001, as the extensive manhunt continued for Osama bin Laden, the U.S. government released a tape of the suspected mastermind of the Sept.11 terrorist attacks in which he spoke of the attacks and voiced pleasure and surprise that so many of the "enemy" had died.
Also in 2001, calling it a Cold War relic, President George W. Bush announced the U.S. was pulling out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, opening the way for the Defense Department to test and deploy a missile defense system without restraints.
And in 2001, 14 people were killed when gunmen tried to storm the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi.
In 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law, under fire for allegedly protecting priests accused of abusing minors, resigned as archbishop of Boston.
Also in 2002. Henry Kissinger resigned as head of the new National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, saying compliance with disclosure rules could jeopardize his consulting firm.
Further in 2002, President George W. Bush, saying he feared terrorists might use the smallpox virus as a weapon, ordered mandatory smallpox vaccinations for all military personnel and offered it to emergency workers on a voluntary basis.
In 2003, a bearded and apparently disoriented Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi president, was captured by U.S. troops in a small underground hideout southeast of his home town of Tikrit, ending a massive 8-month manhunt.
A thought for the day: Willa Cather said, "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."