Today is Thursday, Dec. 23, the 358th day of 2004 with eight 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 Capricorn. They include Egyptologist Jean Francois Champollion, who deciphered the Rosetta Stone, in 1790; Mormon church founder Joseph Smith in 1805; poet Harriet Monroe, founder of Poetry magazine, in 1860; Manhattan restaurateur Vincent Sardi Sr. in 1885; British film executive J. Arthur Rank in 1888; actor James Gregory in 1911; former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1918 (age 86); actor Harry Guardino in 1925; Japanese Emperor Akihito in 1933 (age 71); marathon runner Bill Rodgers in 1947 (age 57); and actors Susan Lucci in 1950 (age 54) and Corey Haim in 1972 (age 32).
On this date in history:
In 1620, construction began of the first permanent European settlement in New England, one week after the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth harbor in present day Massachusetts.
In 1783, Gen. George Washington resigned his commission with the U.S. Army and retired to Mount Vernon, Va. He became the nation's first president in 1789.
In 1913, the Federal Reserve System was established.
In 1928, the National Broadcasting Company established a permanent coast-to-coast radio hookup.
In 1947, the transistor was invented, leading to a revolution in communications and electronics.
In 1948, former Premier Hideki Tojo of Japan and six other Japanese war leaders were hanged in Tokyo under sentence of the Allied War Crimes Commission.
In 1973, the shah of Iran announced that the petroleum-exporting states of the Persian Gulf would double the price of their crude oil.
In 1991, floods in Texas killed 13 people.
In 1992, the first American casualties of the U.S.-led relief operation in Somalia occurred when a vehicle hit a landmine near the city of Badera, killing one civilian and injuring three others.
In 1993, President Clinton announced he would instruct his lawyers to give investigators all documents relating to the Whitewater scandal.
In 1994, major league baseball team owners declared an impasse in their negotiations with the players' association and unilaterally imposed a salary cap the players had rejected.
In 1995, more than 500 people, including entire families, were killed in Mandi Dabwali, India, when fire engulfed a tent set up for a school ceremony.
In 1997, Terry Nichols, the second defendant in the Oklahoma City bombing trial, was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter -- but not first-degree murder -- by a jury in Denver.
In 2002, North Korea, preparing to resume development of nuclear weapons, said it was reopening a plutonium reprocessing plant.
Also in 2002, Senate Republicans chose Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee to be their majority leader.
In 2003, a jury recommended life in prison without parole for Lee Malvo, the teenager convicted of taking part in the deadly month-long sniper attacks in the Washington area that killed 10 a year earlier. Malvo was 17 at the time of the attacks.
Also in 2003, the first case of mad cow disease was reported in the United States when a Holstein in Washington state tested positive for the deadly ailment.
A thought for the day: Anatole France wrote, "People who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way of taking advantage of them."