Today is Sunday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2011 with 13 to go.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter and Venus. Evening stars are Mercury, Saturn and Mars.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include 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 Hall of Fame member Tyrus "Ty" Cobb in 1886; film director George Stevens ("Shane," "A Place in the Sun," "Giant") in 1904; West German statesman Willy Brandt and writer Alfred Bester, both in 1913; actors Betty Grable in 1916 and Ossie Davis in 1917; chef Jacques Pepin in 1935 (age 76); Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1943 (age 68); South African activist Steve Biko and film director Steven Spielberg (age 65), both in 1946; movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin in 1950 (age 61); actors Ray Liotta in 1954 (age 57), Brad Pitt in 1963 (age 48) and Katie Holmes in 1978 (age 33); and singer Christina Aguilera in 1980 (age 31).
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. The find turned out to be a hoax.
In 1989, a pipe bomb killed Savannah, Ga., City Councilman Robert Robinson, hours after a bomb was discovered at the Atlanta federal courthouse. A racial motive was cited in a rash of bomb incidents.
In 1991, General Motors announced it would close 21 plants and eliminate 74,000 jobs in four years to offset record losses.
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 6-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 2004, the United States officially forgave all of the $4.1 billion owed the government by Iraq and urged other creditors to do the same.
In 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 77, was hospitalized after suffering what was described as a mild stroke.
And, in 2005, Bolivia elected Eso Morales as its first Indian president.
In 2006, Robert Gates was sworn in as the U.S. Defense secretary. He served until July 1, 2011.
In 2008, Rwandan Col. Theoneste Bagosora was convicted of genocide by a U.N. court for his involvement in the 1994 massacre of 800,000 people.
In 2009, the United States and other world leaders took what U.S. President Barack Obama called a "meaningful and unprecedented" step by reaching a voluntary, non-binding agreement to fight global warming at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In 2010, the U.S. Congress voted in favor of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. U.S. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law Dec. 22.
A thought for the day: Anatole France said, "To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything."