Today is Wednesday, July 4, the 186th day of 2012 with 180 to follow.
This is Independence Day in the United States.
The moon is waning. Morning stars are Venus, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus. Evening stars are Mercury, Saturn and Mars.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Cancer. They include author Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1804; distiller Hiram Walker in 1816; songwriter Stephen Foster ("Oh! Susannah," "Beautiful Dreamer") in 1826; circus operator James Bailey (Barnum and Bailey) in 1847; Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, in 1872; innovative cartoonist Rube Goldberg in 1883; Louis B. Mayer, film mogul and co-founder of MGM, in 1885; actor/politician George Murphy and organized crime figure Meyer Lansky in 1902; conductor Mitch Miller in 1911; Ann Landers, advice columnist, in 1918; her twin, also an advice columnist, Abigail Van Buren (born Pauline Phillips) in 1918 (age 94); former hotel executive Leona Helmsley in 1920; actor Eva Marie Saint in 1924 (age 88); playwright Neil Simon and actor Gina Lollobrigida, both in 1927 (age 85); Al Davis, Oakland Raiders owner, in 1929; New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in 1930; TV reporter Geraldo Rivera in 1943 (age 69); activist Ron Kovic in 1946 (age 66); Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in 1952 (age 60); and tennis player Pam Shriver in 1962 (age 50).
On this date in history:
In 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming U.S. independence from Britain.
In 1863, Union troops defeated Confederate forces in a battle at Vicksburg, Miss.
In 1895, the poem "America the Beautiful," by Wellesley College Professor Katherine Lee Bates, was published.
In 1914, director D.W. Griffith began filming his controversial film "The Birth of a Nation," which introduced important filmmaking techniques and influenced many other directors.
In 1939, Lou Gehrig delivers his "luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech in announcing his retirement from the New York Yankees. Gehrig had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a deliberating motor neuron disease.
In 1986, more than 250 sailing ships and the United States' biggest fireworks display honored the Statue of Liberty in its 100th birthday year.
In 1995, the British Parliament reconfirmed John Majors as prime minister.
In 1997, NASA's Pathfinder landed on Mars to become the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the planet in more than two decades.
Also in 1997, Mexico's top drug lord died in a Mexico City hospital following plastic surgery to change his appearance.
In 2002, a man opened fire near a ticket counter of El Al, the Israeli airline, at Los Angeles International Airport and killed two people before he was killed by a guard.
In 2003, three attackers killed 50 people and injured dozens of others when they opened fire at a Shiite mosque in Quetta, Pakistan.
In 2005, NASA's "Deep Impact" spacecraft wound up an 85 million-mile journey by intentionally slamming into the Tempel 1 comet to learn more about comets and other aspects of the solar system.
In 2006, North Korea test launched seven ballistic missiles in what it called "routine military exercises," kicking up a firestorm of anger with its neighbors and the United States. One missile, the only long-range one tested, reportedly was capable of hitting the western United States.
Also in 2006, the first U.S. space shuttle flight in almost a year began when the Discovery was launched from the space center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
In 2007, Palestinian militants holding BBC reporter Alan Johnston prisoner in Gaza released him after nearly four months of captivity.
Also in 2007, former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who had boycotted the proceedings as unfair, pleaded innocent to sex charges at his war crimes trial at The Hague.
And, the Russian resort city of Sochi was selected to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, marking the first time the country has been the site of the Winter Games.
In 2008, former arch-conservative U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, heralded as the last of the "Old South" politicians, died at age 86 after battling cancer and heart disease.
In 2010, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus took command of the Afghan war, acknowledging the "tough fight" ahead for NATO forces while pledging "we are in this to win."
In 2011, the U.S. Secret Service said it was investigating a breach of Fox News' Twitter feed in which a hacker announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had been assassinated.
A thought for the day: U.S. President Calvin Coolidge reportedly said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called upon to repeat it."