Today is Saturday, Dec. 20, the 354th day of 2014 with 11 to follow.
The moon is waning. Morning stars are Jupiter and Saturn. Evening stars are Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Uranus and Venus.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include author and decorator Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl) in 1865; industrialist Harvey Firestone in 1868; baseball Hall of Fame member Branch Rickey in 1881; philosopher Susanne K. Langer in 1895; actor Irene Dunne in 1898; nuclear physicist Robert Van de Graaff in 1901; movie director George Roy Hill ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting") in 1921; actor John Hillerman in 1932 (age 82); psychic Uri Geller and TV series creator Dick Wolf, both in 1946 (age 68); musician Alan Parsons in 1948 (age 66); actor Jenny Agutter in 1952 (age 62); "American Idol" winner David Cook in 1982 (age 32); and actor Jonah Hill in 1983 (age 31).
On this date in history:
In 1803, the United States formally took over territory acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1812, Sacagawea, the Indian woman who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition, died.
In 1864, Union Gen. William T. Sherman completed his Civil War "march to the sea" across the South and arrived in Savannah, Ga.
In 1946 the first Indochina war began with Vietnamese troops under Ho Chi Minh clashing with the French at Hanoi.
In 1956, a Montgomery, Ala., public bus boycott officially ended but not until it had given a major boost to the civil rights struggle in the South. The boycott had been called in reaction to the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.
In 1987, a passenger ferry struck by an oil tanker sank in the Philippines and nearly 1,600 people died in what was called the century's worst peacetime maritime disaster.
In 1989, the United States invaded Panama to oust Manuel Noriega and install the duly elected civilian government.
In 1990, Eduard Shevardnadze abruptly resigned as Soviet foreign minister, warning that a "dictatorship is coming." (The Soviet Union formally broke up a year later and Shevardnadze became leader of his native Georgia.)
In 1995, 160 people were killed when an American Airlines 757 crashed into a mountain shortly before it was scheduled to land in Cali, Colombia.
In 1998, a Houston woman, Nkem Chukwu, gave birth to seven babies after delivering the first of her octuplets 12 days earlier. The six girls and two boys were the only known set of octuplets to be born alive in the United States. (The smallest baby, a girl, died a week later.)
In 2001, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua resigned amid mass protests.
In 2011, the Kepler, NASA's orbiting space observatory, discovered the first two Earth-size planets outside the solar system but scientists said both orbit too close to a sun-like star to have water on the surface.
In 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he opposes the Muslim practice of wearing headscarves, or hijabs, in his country's schools. "Why should we adopt outside tradition?" he said.
In 2013, a Canada's Supreme Court struck down the country's anti-prostitution laws, calling them "grossly disproportionate." (The government instituted a new law in 2014 that targets pimps and people who buy sexual services.)
A thought for the day: "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -- Albert Einstein