Today is Friday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2013 with 11 to follow.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Saturn. The evening stars are Neptune, Uranus and Venus.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include author and decorator Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl) in 1865; industrialist Harvey Firestone in 1868; baseball Hall of Fame member Branch Rickey in 1881; philosopher Susanne K. Langer in 1895; actor Irene Dunne in 1898; nuclear physicist Robert Van de Graaff in 1901; movie director George Roy Hill ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting") in 1921; actor John Hillerman in 1932 (age 81); psychic Uri Geller and TV series creator Dick Wolf, both in 1946 (age 67); musician Alan Parsons in 1948 (age 65); actor Jenny Agutter in 1952 (age 61); "American Idol" winner David Cook in 1982 (age 31); and actor Jonah Hill in 1983 (age 30).
On this date in history:
In 1803, the United States formally took over territory acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1812, Sacagawea, the Indian woman who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition, died.
In 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman completed his Civil War "march to the sea" across the South and arrived in Savannah, Ga.
In 1946 the first Indochina war began with Vietnamese troops under Ho Chi Minh clashing with the French at Hanoi.
In 1956, a Montgomery, Ala., public bus boycott officially ended but not until it had given a major boost to the civil rights struggle in the South. The boycott had been called in reaction to the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.
In 1987, a passenger ferry struck by an oil tanker sank in the Philippines and nearly 1,600 people died in what was called the century's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
In 1989, the United States invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega and install the duly elected civilian government. Twenty-three U.S. troops were killed.
In 1990, Eduard Shevardnadze abruptly resigned as Soviet foreign minister, warning against a dictatorship of hard-liners.
In 1995, 160 people were killed when an American Airlines 757 crashed into a mountain shortly before it was scheduled to land in Cali, Colombia.
In 1998, a Houston woman, Nkem Chukwu, gave birth to seven babies after delivering the first of her octuplets 12 days earlier. The six girls and two boys were the only known set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States. (The smallest baby, a girl, died a week later.)
In 1999, Macau reverted to Chinese rule.
In 2001, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned amid mass protests.
In 2009, a storm in the eastern United States broke December snowfall records in Philadelphia, with 22.9 inches of snow, and Washington, with 15 inches.
In 2011, the Kepler, NASA's orbiting space observatory, discovered the first two Earth-size planets outside the solar system but both orbit too close to a sun-like star to have water on the surface.
In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he opposes the Muslim practice of wearing headscarves, or hijabs, in his country's schools. "Why should we adopt outside tradition?" he said.
A thought for the day: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -- Albert Einstein