Today is Saturday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2010 with 14 to follow.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter and Venus. Evening stars are Mercury, Saturn and Mars.
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 and composer/bandleader Ray Noble, both in 1903; Western swing bandleader/violinist Spade Cooley in 1910; writer William Safire in 1929; publisher Bob Guccione in 1930; British singer/actor Tommy Steele in 1936 (age 75); political commentator Chris Matthews and actor Ernie Hudson, both in 1945 (age 66); comedian Eugene Levy in 1946 (age 65); actors Bill Pullman and Barry Livingston, both in 1953 (age 58) and Milla Jovovich in 1975 (age 36); and boxer Manny Pacquiao in 1978 (age 33).
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, U.S. Army Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell, outspoken advocate of a separate 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 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were told they would be allowed to return home on Jan. 2.
In 1967, the Clean Air Act was passed by the U.S. Congress.
In 1975, a federal jury in Sacramento, Calif., sentenced Lynette Alice "Squeaky" Fromme to life in prison for her attempted assassination of U.S. President Gerald R. Ford. She was released from prison in August 2009.
In 1981, U.S. Army 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 reduced the award to $5.3 million.
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.
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, U.S. President George H.W. Bush formally signed the North American Free Trade Treaty simultaneously with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
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 as secretary-general.
In 1997, New Jersey became the first state in the United States to permit same-sex couples to adopt children.
In 2001, U.S. officials said they believed they had destroyed Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida 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.
In 2005, an anti-illegal immigration bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives called for hundreds of miles of border fences and new regulations for employers.
In 2006, two large Virginia Episcopal parishes and several smaller churches in the state, reportedly upset over the consecration of an openly gay bishop and same-sex weddings in some congregations, voted to secede from the worldwide organization.
Also in 2006, gunmen carried out a mass kidnapping at the Iraqi Red Crescent aid office in Baghdad, capturing as many as 30 employees and visitors.
In 2007, Iran received its first nuclear fuel from Russia for use in the joint nuclear power plant being built in Bushehr, despite U.S. objections. Iran, meanwhile, announced plans for a second nuclear plant.
In 2009, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke won the approval of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee for a second four-year term as head of the Fed.
Also in 2009, China increased Internet censorship, limiting citizens' ability to start Web sites or visit hundreds of sites offering entertainment.
In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama signed legislation that extended Bush-era tax cuts for two years and gave the unemployed 13 months more of benefits.
Also in 2010, more than 12,000 people have died in 2010 as a result of Mexico's drug wars, officials said.
A thought for the day: in "Hawthorne," Henry James wrote, "It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature."