Today is Thursday, Dec. 30, the 365th day of 2004 with one to follow.
The moon is waning. 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 Capricorn. They include British author Rudyard Kipling in 1865; Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock in 1869; Japan's World War II Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in 1884; former Miss America Pageant master of ceremonies Bert Parks in 1914; rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley in 1928 (age 76); actors Jack Lord in 1930 and John Hillerman in 1932 (age 72); former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax and actor Russ Tamblyn, both in 1935 (age 69); actor Joseph Bologna in 1938 (age 66); two members of the pop group The Monkees, Mike Nesmith in 1942 (age 62) and Davy Jones in 1945 (age 59); "Today" co-host Matt Lauer in 1957 (age 47); actress Tracey Ullman in 1955 (age 44); and golfer Tiger Woods in 1975 (age 29).
On this date in history:
In 1853, the United States bought 45,000 square miles of land along the Gila River from Mexico for $10 million. The area is now southern Arizona and New Mexico.
In 1862, the Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.
In 1903, flames swept the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing 602 people. The fire led to safety regulations for theaters around the world.
In 1916, Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, was murdered by Russian nobles eager to end his influence over the royal family.
In 1922, at the first Soviet Congress, Russia, Ukraine and two other Soviet republics signed a treaty, creating the Soviet Union.
In 1965, former Philippines Senate president Ferdinand Marcos was inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation. Marcos' regime would span 20 years and become increasingly authoritarian and corrupt.
In 1972, President Nixon ordered a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam and announced that peace talks with the Hanoi government would resume in Paris in January.
In 1986, Exxon Corp. became the first major international oil company to withdraw from South Africa because of that nation's racial policies.
In 1990, European nations called for an emergency European Community summit to find a solution to the Persian Gulf crisis.
In 1991, a "seriously ill" Mother Teresa was hospitalized in La Jolla, Calif., with bacterial pneumonia and heart problems.
In 1992, Ling-Ling, the giant female panda who delighted visitors to Washington's National Zoo for more than two decades, died of heart failure.
In 1993, Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations.
In 1995, North Korea released a U.S. Army pilot whose helicopter had been shot down 13 days earlier over North Korean territory.
Also in 1995, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who was to be the next House Speaker, announced he would give up the $4.5 million advance from HarperCollins Publishing Inc., but would go ahead with the two books.
In 1999, a mentally ill man broke into George Harrison's mansion and attacked the former Beatle and his wife. Harrison suffered serious stab wounds but recovered.
In 2002, a university student, thought to be linked to a terrorist group, shot and killed three American missionaries working at a Baptist hospital in Yemen. A fourth person was wounded.
In 2003, the Bush administration said it would ban the use of Ephedra, a popular herbel supplement taken by millions to lose weight or enhance athletic performance. The drug had been linked to heart attacks, strokes and sudden deaths.
A thought for the day: poet Robert Browning wrote, "'Tis not what man does that exalts him, but what man would do!"