Today is Sunday, Dec. 18, the 353rd day of 2016 with 13 to go.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Jupiter and Saturn. The evening stars are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Neptune, and Uranus.
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 81); Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1943 (age 73); South African activist Steve Biko and film director Steven Spielberg (age 70), both in 1946; movie critic/historian Leonard Maltin in 1950 (age 66); actors Ray Liotta in 1954 (age 62), Brad Pitt in 1963 (age 53) and Katie Holmes in 1978 (age 38); wrestler and actor Steve Austin in 1964 (age 52); and singer Christina Aguilera in 1980 (age 36).
On this date in history:
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery in the United States.
In 1912, an investigation of J.P. Morgan & Co. as well as 17 other financial firms detailed the control of more than $23.5 billion of the nation's wealth. The Pujo Committee was set up to look into what was believed to be a cabal of Wall Street heavyweights who were exerting unfair control over the nation's finances.
In 1916, the Battle of Verdun ends following the French victory over German forces under the command of Chief of staff Erich von Falkenhayn. Total casualties, for both sides, during the 303 day war are estimated to range between 714,231 to more than 1,250,000.
In 1972, following the collapse of peace talks with North Vietnam, President Richard Nixon announced the beginning of Operation Linebacker II, a "maximum effort" bombing campaign against targets in Hanoi and Haiphong.
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. He was sentenced to life in prison. Malvo's adult companion in the shootings, John Muhammad, had been convicted earlier. Muhammad was executed in 2009.
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 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 prohibited openly gay men and women from serving in the military. President Obama signed the measure into law four days later.
A thought for the day: Anatole France said, "If 50 million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."