Today is Friday, Dec. 23, the 356th day of 2011 with eight 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 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; New York restaurateur Vincent Sardi Sr. in 1885; actor James Gregory in 1911; former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1918 (age 93); actor Harry Guardino in 1925; bowling Hall of Fame member Dick Weber in 1929; Japanese Emperor Akihito in 1933 (age 78); football Hall of Fame member Paul Hornung in 1935 (age 76); rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame member Jorma Kaukonen in 1940 (age 71); singer-songwriter Tim Hardin in 1941; actor/comedian Harry Shearer in 1943 (age 68); marathon runner Bill Rodgers in 1947 (age 64); football Hall of Fame member Jack Ham and television executive Leslie Moonves, both in 1948 (age 63); political commentator William Kristol in 1952 (age 59); actors Susan Lucci in 1946 (age 65) and Corey Haim in 1971; rock musician Eddie Vedder in 1964 (age 47); French first lady Carla Bruni in 1967 (age 44).
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 new nation's first president in 1789.
In 1913, the U.S. Federal Reserve System was established.
In 1928, the National Broadcasting Company established a permanent U.S. coast-to-coast radio hookup.
In 1947, the transistor was invented, leading to a revolution in communications and electronics.
In 1948, former Prime Minister 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 1992, the first U.S. casualties of the U.S.-led relief operation in Somalia occurred when a vehicle hit a land mine near Badera, killing one civilian and injuring three others.
In 1995, more than 500 people 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 by a federal jury in Denver.
In 2002, North Korea, preparing to resume development of nuclear weapons, said it was reopening a plutonium reprocessing plant.
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 ailment.
In 2004, China reported its Bohai Bay Basin in the north may contain 20.5 billion tons of offshore oil reserves.
In 2006, the U.N. Security Council banned Iranian export and import of nuclear-related material and technology and froze some financial assets related to the nuclear program. Iran promptly condemned the sanctions.
In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said a "full scale war" was raging in Gaza against Palestinian insurgents. Olmert dismissed earlier talk of a cease-fire.
In 2008, officials in Guinea's army announced the country's government had been dissolved and the constitution suspended after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled the African nation for 24 years.
In 2009, Mexico City voters approved a sweeping gay rights measure allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.
In 2010, as the U.S. unemployment rate jumped from 9.6 percent to 9.8, U.S. consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in November and disposable income was up 0.3 percent or $37.8 billion.
Also in 2010, parcel bombs exploded at the Chilean and Swiss embassies in Rome, injuring two. The "Informal Anarchic Federation" claimed responsibility for the devices.
A thought for the day: Anatole France wrote, "People who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way of taking advantage of them."