Today is Wednesday, Dec. 23, the 357th day of 2009 with eight to follow.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Venus, Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include Egyptologist Jean Francois Champollion, who deciphered the Rosetta Stone, in 1790; Mormon church founder Joseph Smith in 1805; poet Harriet Monroe, founder of Poetry magazine, in 1860; Manhattan restaurateur Vincent Sardi Sr. in 1885; British film executive J. Arthur Rank in 1888; actor James Gregory in 1911; former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1918 (age 91); actor Harry Guardino in 1925; Japanese Emperor Akihito in 1933 (age 76); marathon runner Bill Rodgers in 1947 (age 62); and actors Susan Lucci in 1946 (age 63) and Corey Haim in 1972 (age 37).
On this date in history:
In 1620, construction began of the first permanent European settlement in New England, one week after the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth harbor in present day Massachusetts.
In 1783, Gen. George Washington resigned his commission with the U.S. Army and retired to Mount Vernon, Va. He became the new nation's first president in 1789.
In 1913, the U.S. Federal Reserve System was established.
In 1928, the National Broadcasting Company established a permanent U.S. coast-to-coast radio hookup.
In 1947, the transistor was invented, leading to a revolution in communications and electronics.
In 1948, former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo of Japan and six other Japanese war leaders were hanged in Tokyo under sentence of the Allied War Crimes Commission.
In 1973, the shah of Iran announced that the petroleum-exporting states of the Persian Gulf would double the price of their crude oil.
In 1987, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yaeger landed the experimental aircraft Voyager at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., completing a record nine-day, 25,012-mile global flight without refueling.
In 1992, the first U.S. casualties of the U.S.-led relief operation in Somalia occurred when a vehicle hit a land mine near the city of Badera, killing one civilian and injuring three others.
In 1995, more than 500 people, including entire families, were killed in Mandi Dabwali, India, when fire engulfed a tent set up for a school ceremony.
In 1997, Terry Nichols, the second defendant in the Oklahoma City bombing trial, was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter by a federal jury in Denver.
In 2002, North Korea, preparing to resume development of nuclear weapons, said it was reopening a plutonium reprocessing plant.
In 2003, the first case of mad cow disease was reported in the United States when a Holstein in Washington state tested positive for the ailment.
In 2004, China reported its Bohai Bay Basin in the north may contain 20.5 billion tons of offshore oil reserves.
In 2006, the U.N. Security Council banned Iranian export and import of nuclear-related material and technology and froze some financial assets related to the nuclear program. Iran promptly condemned the sanctions.
In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said a "full scale war" was raging in Gaza against Palestinian insurgents. Olmert dismissed earlier talk of a cease-fire.
In 2008, officials in Guinea's army announced the country's government had been dissolved and the constitution suspended after the death of President Lansana Conte, who had ruled the African nation for 24 years.
Also in 2008, nearly 200 passengers trapped for hours on the world's biggest Ferris wheel in Singapore had to be lowered to the ground by safety harness from the 42-story ride after it suddenly shuddered to a stop.
A thought for the day: Anatole France wrote, "People who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way of taking advantage of them."