Today is Monday, Dec. 20, the 355th day of 2004 with 11 to follow.
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 author and decorator Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl) in 1865; industrialist Harvey Firestone in 1868; philosopher Susanne K. Langer in 1895; actress Irene Dunne in 1898; nuclear physicist Robert Van de Graaff in 1901; movie director George Roy Hill in 1922 (age 82); actor John Hillerman in 1932 (age 72); psychic Uri Geller in 1946 (age 58); and actors Jenny Agutter in 1952 (age 52) and Kiefer Sutherland in 1966 (age 38).
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 young Indian woman who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition, died.
In 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman completed his "march to the sea" across the South and arrived in Savannah, Ga.
In 1907, University of Chicago physics professor Albert Michelson became the first U.S. scientist to receive the Nobel Prize.
In 1946 the first Indochina war began with Vietnamese troops under Ho Chi Minh clashing with the French at Hanoi.
In 1956, the Montgomery, Ala., public bus boycott officially ended. 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 1976, longtime Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died at age 74.
In 1987, nearly 1,600 people died in the Philippines when a passenger ferry was struck by an oil tanker and sank. It was 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.
Also in 1990, the Pentagon said the U.S.-led forces of Operation Desert Shield could move against Iraq by Jan. 15.
In 1991, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo ended his 70-day flirtation with a White House bid, choosing instead to settle his state's budget woes rather than enter the presidential race.
Also in 1991, Philippines prosecutors filed nine counts of graft against former first lady Imelda Marcos, charging she used bogus front companies to bilk millions of dollars from the nation.
In 1992, a former Cuban military pilot who defected to the United States in 1991 flew a small plane back to Cuba to bring his wife and two sons safely to Florida.
In 1993, in Serbia, President Slobodan Milosevic's governing Socialist Party claimed victory in parliamentary elections held the day before.
In 1994, former President Carter announced that the warring parties in Bosnia had agreed to a four-month cease-fire starting on Dec. 23.
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.
Also in 1995, Buckingham Palace confirmed that Queen Elizabeth II had sent letters to her son, Prince Charles, and his estranged wife, Princess Diana, urging them to seek a divorce as quickly as possible.
Further in 1995, NATO assumed peacekeeping duties in Bosnia from the U.N.
In 1996, guerillas in Peru took an estimated 380 hostages at the Japanese Ambassador's residence.
In 1998, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein declared that the four-night U.S.-British bombing campaign of his country was a victory for Iraq over the "enemies of God and humanity."
Also in 1998, a Houston woman gave birth to seven more babies after delivering the first infant 12 days earlier. They were the only known set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States. The smallest baby died a week later.
In 1999, Macau reverted back to Chinese rule.
In 2001, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned amid mass protest demonstrations but chaos continued in his troubled country.
In 2002, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., resigned as Senate majority leader amid an intense furor growing from remarks that seemed to praise the 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy of Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.
In 2003, a New York Times/CBS News poll says most Americans would support a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages.
A thought for the day: Bertrand Russell said, "To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom."