Today is Tuesday, Dec. 18, the 353rd day of 2012 with 13 to go.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Evening stars include Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Mars.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include Britain's Joseph Grimaldi, known as the "greatest clown in history," in 1778; British Methodist leader and hymnist Charles Wesley in 1788; English physicist Joseph Thomson, discoverer of the electron, in 1856; Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1863; British short story writer Saki (H.H. Munro) in 1870; Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1878; Swiss modernist painter Paul Klee in 1879; baseball Hall of Fame member Tyrus "Ty" Cobb in 1886; film director George Stevens ("Shane," "A Place in the Sun," "Giant") in 1904; West German statesman Willy Brandt (Nobel Peace Price laureate) and writer Alfred Bester, both in 1913; actors Betty Grable in 1916 and Ossie Davis in 1917; chef Jacques Pepin in 1935 (age 77); Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1943 (age 69); South African activist Steve Biko and film director Steven Spielberg (age 66), both in 1946; movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin in 1950 (age 62); actors Ray Liotta in 1954 (age 58), Brad Pitt in 1963 (age 49) and Katie Holmes in 1978 (age 34); and singer Christina Aguilera in 1980 (age 32).
On this date in history:
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States.
In 1912, after three years of digging in the Piltdown gravel pit in Sussex, England, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson announced the discovery of two skulls that appeared to belong to a primitive hominid and ancestor of man. The find turned out to be a hoax.
In 1989, a pipe bomb killed Savannah, Ga., City Councilman Robert Robinson, hours after a bomb was discovered at the Atlanta federal courthouse. A racial motive was cited in a rash of bomb incidents.
In 1991, General Motors announced it would close 21 plants and eliminate 74,000 jobs in four years to offset record losses.
In 1997, South Koreans elected longtime leftist opposition leader Kim Dae-jong president, marking the first time that a member of the opposition defeated a candidate of the New Korea Party and its predecessors.
Also in 1997, the 6-mile-long Tokyo Bay tunnel connecting Kawasaki and Kisarazu opened. The project took 8 1/2 years to complete and cost $17 billion.
In 2004, the United States officially forgave all of the $4.1 billion owed the government by Iraq and urged other creditors to do the same.
In 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 77, was hospitalized after suffering what was described as a mild stroke.
And, in 2005, Bolivia elected Eso Morales as its first Indian president.
In 2006, Robert Gates was sworn in as the U.S. Defense secretary. He served until July 1, 2011.
In 2008, Rwandan Col. Theoneste Bagosora was convicted of genocide by a U.N. court for his involvement in the 1994 massacre of 800,000 people.
In 2010, the U.S. Congress voted to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. U.S. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law Dec. 22.
In 2011, gas prices in the United States fell more than 5 cents over the previous two weeks as crude oil prices dropped. The average regular gasoline was $3.24 a gallon.
Also in 2011, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the leading anti-Communist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s, died at the age of 75.
A thought for the day: Anatole France said, "To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything."