Today is Thursday, Dec. 29, the 363rd day of 2011 with two to follow.
The moon is waxing. 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 Madame de Pompadour, mistress of French King Louis XV, in 1721; Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, who patented a waterproof fabric, in 1766; industrialist Charles Goodyear in 1800; Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States, in 1808; British statesman William Gladstone in 1809; band leader Clyde "Sugar Blues" McCoy in 1903; former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1917; golf course designer Pete Dye in 1925 (age 86); actors Inga Swenson in 1932 (age 79), Ed Flanders in 1934, Mary Tyler Moore in 1936 (age 75) and Jon Voight in 1938 (age 73); football Hall of Fame member Ray Nitschke in 1936; rock musician Rick Danko in 1942; singer Marianne Faithfull in 1946 (age 65); actors Ted Danson in 1947 (age 64) and Jon Polito in 1950 (age 61); singer Yvonne Elliman in 1951 (age 60); comedian Paula Poundstone in 1959 (age 52); and actor Jude Law in 1972 (age 39).
On this date in history:
In 1170, Anglican churchman/politician Thomas Becket was killed at England's Canterbury Cathedral.
In 1845, Texas was admitted into the United States as the 28th state.
In 1848, gaslights were installed at the White House for the first time.
In 1851, the first chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association -- YMCA -- opened in Boston.
In 1890, more than 200 Indian men, women and children were massacred by the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, S.D.
In 1940, London suffered its most devastating air raid when Germans firebombed the city.
In 1975, a terrorist bomb exploded at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, killing 11 people and injuring 75.
In 1983, the United States announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, charging the U.N. cultural and scientific organization was biased against Western nations.
In 1989, playwright Vaclav Havel was sworn in as the first non-communist president of Czechoslovakia since 1948.
In 1992, a Cuban airliner was hijacked to Miami as part of a mass defection. Forty-eight of the 53 people aboard sought and were granted political asylum.
In 2002, Kenyan voters ousted the party that had ruled the nation since 1963 in an election that ended the 24-year presidency of Daniel Arap Moi.
In 2003, five bodies were recovered from the Christmas Day mudslide in California's San Bernardino Mountains, running the total to 12 with two others missing.
In 2004, actor Jerry Orbach, star of stage, film and TV, best known for his starring role on TV's "Law and Order," died of prostate cancer at the age of 69.
In 2005, wind-driven grass fires in Texas and Oklahoma destroyed thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings and countless cattle. At least four people died. The Texas farming community of Cross Plains was demolished.
In 2006, AT&T won U.S. approval to complete an $85 billion takeover of BellSouth Corp. after it made a series of consumer-friendly concessions.
In 2008, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack told the Knesset that Israel was involved in "all-out war" with the militant group Hamas, the de facto ruler in Gaza. His remarks came as Israel pounded Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip from the air for a third day with the death toll topping 300.
Also in 2008, Somali President Abdullahi Yusef Ahmed resigned. He had been blamed for the country's deepening political crisis.
In 2009, a suicide bomber killed at least 43 people and hurt more than 100 others in an attack on a Shiite procession in Karachi, Pakistan, marking the holy event Ashura. The blast touched off a riot that resulted in the burning of a reported 1,000 shops.
In 2010, the number of U.S. bank failures hit an 18-year high -- 157 compared to 140 in 2009 -- and 2011 could be another bad year, figures from federal regulators indicated.
A thought for the day: poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."