Today is Saturday, Dec. 18, the 353rd day of 2004 with 13 to go.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Pluto, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars. The evening stars are Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include German composer Carl Maria von Weber in 1786; Joseph Grimaldi, known as the "greatest clown in history," in 1778; English physicist Joseph Thompson, discoverer of the electron, in 1856; British short story writer Saki (H.H. Munro) in 1870; Swiss modernist painter Paul Klee in 1879; baseball pitcher Tyrus "Ty" Cobb in 1886; film director George Stevens in 1904; actress Betty Grable in 1916; West German statesman Willy Brandt in 1913; actor Ossie Davis in 1917 (age 87); Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1943 (age 61); film director Steven Spielberg in 1947 (age 57); movie critic Leonard Maltin in 1950 (age 54); actors Ray Liotta in 1955 (age 49), Brad Pitt in 1964 (age 40) and Katie Holmes in 1978 (age 26); and singer Christina Aguilera in 1980 (age 24).
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.
In 1915, President Wilson, a widower for one year, married the widow Edith Bolling Galt.
In 1972, the United States resumed heavy bombing and mining operations against North Vietnam after the communists refused to agree to end the war.
In 1985, Congress approved the biggest overhaul of farm legislation since the Depression, trimming price supports.
In 1989, a pipe bomb killed Savannah, Ga., City Councilman Robert Robinson, hours after a pipe bomb is discovered at the Atlanta federal courthouse. A racial motive was cited in a rash of bomb incidents.
Also in 1989, the Romanian government sealed the borders amid reports of a deadly crackdown on dissidents.
In 1990, Moldavia became the sixth Soviet republic to refuse to participate in a 10-day meeting in a mounting affront to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1991, General Motors announced it would close 21 plants and eliminate 74,000 jobs in the next four years to offset record losses.
In 1993, Vice President Gore wrapped up a tour of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia -- during which he signed a series of agreements.
In 1996, new rating codes were announced for American television programs.
In 1997, South Koreans elected longtime leftist opposition leader Kim Dae Jong president, marking the first time in the nation's history that a member of the opposition had defeated a candidate of the New Korea Party and its predecessors.
Also in 1997, the six-mile-long Tokyo Bay tunnel connecting the cities of Kawasaki and Kisarazu opened. The project took 8 1/2 years to complete and cost $17 billion.
In 2002, insurance giant Conseco filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, third largest such action in U.S. history behind only Enron and Worldcom.
Also in 2002, Lebanon's information minister said state television network would not broadcast U.S.-supplied television spots aimed at repairing America's image in the Arab world because they were inaccurate.
A thought for the day: Anatole France said, "To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything."