Today is Wednesday, Dec. 18, the 352nd day of 2013 with 13 to go.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Saturn. The evening stars are Neptune, Uranus and Venus.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include British Methodist leader and hymnist Charles Wesley in 1707; Britain's Joseph Grimaldi, known as the "greatest clown in history," in 1778; English physicist Joseph Thomson, discoverer of the electron, in 1856; Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1863; British short story writer Saki (H.H. Munro) in 1870; Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1878; 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 (Nobel Peace Prize laureate) and writer Alfred Bester, both in 1913; actors Betty Grable in 1916 and Ossie Davis in 1917; chef Jacques Pepin in 1935 (age 78); Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1943 (age 70); South African activist Steve Biko and film director Steven Spielberg (age 67), both in 1946; movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin in 1950 (age 63); actors Ray Liotta in 1954 (age 59), Brad Pitt in 1963 (age 50) and Katie Holmes in 1978 (age 35); wrestler and actor Steve Austin in 1964 (age 49); and singer Christina Aguilera in 1980 (age 33).
On this date in history:
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States.
In 1989, a pipe bomb killed Savannah, Ga., City Councilman Robert Robinson hours after another bomb was discovered at the Atlanta federal courthouse. A racial motive was cited in those and other bombing 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 a member of the opposition defeated a candidate of the New Korea Party and its predecessors.
In 2003, teenager Lee Malvo was convicted of murder in Washington-area sniper attacks that killed 10 people in 2002. His adult companion, John Muhammad, was convicted earlier by a jury that recommended the death penalty.
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, Bolivia elected Evo Morales as its first Mestizo president.
In 2006, Robert Gates was sworn in as the U.S. Defense secretary. (He served until July 1, 2011.)
In 2007, African National Congress delegates chose Jacob Zuma as their leader, ousting South African President Thabo Mbeki who had controlled the party for 10 years.
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 2010, the U.S. Congress voted to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from serving in the military. (President Obama signed the measure into law four days later.)
In 2011, former Czech President Vaclav Havel, one of the leading anti-Communist dissidents of the 1970s and 1980s, died at the age of 75.
In 2012, a Death Penalty Information Center report said the United States had 43 executions in 2012, a drop of 56 percent from the peak in 1999.
A thought for the day: Anatole France said, "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."