Today is Friday, Dec. 21, the 356th day of 2012 with 10 to follow.
This is the first day of winter.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Evening stars include Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Mars.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include British theologian and American settler Roger Williams in 1603; British dog breeder John "Jack" Russell in 1795; British statesman Benjamin Disraeli in 1804; golf Hall of Fame member Walter Hagen in 1892; baseball Hall of Fame member Josh Gibson in 1911; former Austrian President and U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in 1918; former Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno in 1926, former talk show host Phil Donahue in 1935 (age 77); actor Jane Fonda in 1937 (age 75); rock musician Frank Zappa in 1940; Beach Boys guitarist Carl Wilson in 1946; actor Samuel L. Jackson in 1948 (age 64); film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1950 (age 62); former tennis star Chris Evert in 1954 (age 58); comedian Ray Romano in 1957 (age 55); Olympic gold medal-winning athlete Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1959; actors Andy Dick in 1965 (age 47) and Kiefer Sutherland in 1966 (age 46); and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in 1967 (age 45).
On this date in history:
In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., following a 63-day voyage from England aboard the Mayflower.
In 1913, the first crossword puzzle in an American newspaper appeared in The New York Sunday World.
In 1937, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full-length animated feature film, opened in Los Angeles.
In 1958, three months after a new French Constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic by a sweeping majority of French voters.
In 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned voyage to the moon, was launched.
In 1975, the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal led a raid on a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people and took 63 others hostage, including 11 oil ministers.
In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing everyone aboard and 11 people on the ground for a total death toll of 270.
In 1990, a boat carrying about 100 U.S. sailors involved in Operation Desert Shield capsized off the Israeli coast. Twenty-one people died.
In 1991, 11 former Soviet republics declared an end to the Soviet Union and forged a commonwealth that guaranteed independence.
In 1992, 54 people were killed when a chartered jetliner carrying 340 people on a holiday to southern Portugal crashed in bad weather.
In 1993, Hungary's Parliament endorsed the nomination of Peter Boross as president, succeeding Jozsef Antall, who died in office Dec. 12.
In 1994, more than 40 people were injured when an incendiary device exploded on a crowded subway in New York's lower Manhattan. Police arrested one of the burn victims who reportedly was carrying a firebomb that went off.
In 1995, a commuter train rammed the rear of a passenger train in heavy fog near Cairo, Egypt, killing 75 people.
In 1998, the shaky coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu collapsed when Israel's Parliament voted 81-30 to dissolve the government.
In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush's approval rating slipped 6 percentage points to 49 percent, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said, making Bush the first incumbent president to have an approval rating less than 50 percent one month after winning re-election.
In 2007, Pakistani officials said a suicide bomber's assassination attempt on a former official killed at least 50 people and hurt 80 others in a crowded mosque in Lahore.
In 2009, the U.S. government set a three-hour limit on the time airlines can keep passengers waiting on a tarmac without giving them food or letting them off the plane.
Also in 2009, a truck loaded with fertilizer barreled into a crowded market in the Nigerian town of Allo with an official death toll of 55.
In 2010, a Census Bureau report showed the United States with a population of 308,747,538. California remained the most populous state, followed by Texas and Florida.
Also in 2010, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was sworn in for a second term after a months-long political deadlock and set up a unity government with representatives from all major Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions.
In 2011, Syrian forces battled army defectors and anti-government activists in a blaze of violence with a reported 3-day death toll of 230 people. Western intelligence said more than 10,000 Syrian soldiers deserted.
A thought for the day: Benjamin Disraeli defined a bore as "one who has the power of speech but not the capacity for conversation."