Today is Friday, Dec. 30, the 364th day of 2011 with one 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 British author Rudyard Kipling in 1865; Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock in 1869; Japan's World War II Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in 1884; TV personality Bert Parks in 1914; actor Jack Lord in 1920; rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley in 1928; actor/dancer Russ Tamblyn and actor Joseph Bologna, both in 1934 (age 77); singer Del Shannon, also in 1934; baseball Hall of Fame member Sandy Koufax in 1935 (age 76); folk singer Noel Paul Stookey in 1937 (age 74); television director James Burrows in 1940 (age 71); two members of the pop group The Monkees, Mike Nesmith in 1942 (age 69) and Davy Jones in 1945 (age 66); singer/songwriter Patti Smith in 1946 (age 65); rock musician Jeff Lynne in 1947 (age 64); television personality Meredith Vieira in 1953 (age 58) and "Today" co-host Matt Lauer in 1957 (age 54); actor Tracey Ullman in 1959 (age 52); political commentator Sean Hannity in 1961 (age 50); golfer Tiger Woods in 1975 (age 36); and basketball star LeBron James in 1984 (age 27).
On this date in history:
In 1853, the United States bought 45,000 square miles of land along the Gila River from Mexico for $10 million. The area is now southern Arizona and New Mexico.
In 1862, the Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.
In 1903, flames swept the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing 602 people. The fire led to safety regulations for theaters around the world.
In 1916, Grigori Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, was killed by Russian nobles eager to end his influence over the royal family.
In 1922, at the first Soviet Congress, Russia, Ukraine and two other Soviet republics signed a treaty, creating the Soviet Union.
In 1965, former Philippines Senate President Ferdinand Marcos was inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation.
In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam and announced that peace talks with the Hanoi government would resume in Paris in January.
In 1979, Broadway composer Richard Rodgers died in New York City at age 77. He first collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart and later with Oscar Hammerstein II for a string of memorable musicals ("Oklahoma," "South Pacific," "Sound of Music.").
In 1986, Exxon Corp. became the first major international oil company to withdraw from South Africa because of that country's racial policies.
In 1992, Ling-Ling, the giant female panda who delighted visitors to Washington's National Zoo for more than two decades, died of heart failure.
In 1993, Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations.
In 1999, a mentally ill man broke into George Harrison's mansion and attacked the former Beatle and his wife. Harrison suffered serious stab wounds but recovered.
In 2004, the official death toll from the 11-country Asian earthquake and tsunami soared to 123,000. Indonesia was the hardest hit by the magnitude-9 quake and counted 80,000 dead.
Also in 2004, Artie Shaw, the clarinet virtuoso and leader of one of the biggest of the Swing Era big bands, died at age 94.
In 2006, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging in Baghdad before sunrise. He had been convicted of the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiite men and boys in Dujail and sentenced to death.
Also in 2006, car bombs struck markets in a Shiite area of Baghdad and in a southern Shiite town, killing at least 68 people.
In 2008, Illinois Gov. Ron Blagojevich, facing possible impeachment on accusations of trying to sell the vacant U.S. Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama, named Roland Burris, the 71-year-old former state attorney general, as Obama's successor.
In 2009, a suicide bomber, identified as a Jordanian informant, killed at least eight U.S. civilians, all but one of them CIA agents, at a base in Afghanistan, deadliest assault on the agency since the terrorist attacks on America Sept. 11, 2001.
Also in 2009, a New Mexico-born Muslim imam who lived in Yemen for several years was linked to the man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day and with al-Qaida.
In 2010, the U.S. Labor Department reported initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to 388,000, lowest figure since July, 2008. The jobless rate at year's end, also fell, to 9.4 percent.
Stock market investors had a banner year though annual trading activity declined 16 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average finished with an 11 percent increase for the year while the Nasdaq Composite and the Standard and Poor's 500 also had healthy gains.
Also in 2010, former Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted by a Tel Aviv court of rape, sexual assault and other charges and drew a seven-year prison sentence.
A thought for the day: poet Robert Browning wrote, "'Tis not what man does which exalts him, but what man would do!"
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