The Almanac

By United Press International   |   Dec. 8, 2002 at 3:30 AM

Today is Sunday, Dec. 8, the 342nd day of 2002 with 23 to follow.

The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The evening stars are Mercury, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include Mary Queen of Scots in 1542; Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, in 1765; General Motors founder William Durant in 1861; Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in 1865; Mexican muralist Diego Rivera in 1886; humorist and artist James Thurber in 1894; actor Lee J. Cobb in 1911; entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. in 1925; actor Maximilian Schell in 1930 (age 72); comedian Flip Wilson in 1933; actor James MacArthur in 1937 (age 65); Irish flutist James Galway in 1939 (age 63); actor David Carradine in 1940 (age 62); rock musicians Jim Morrison in 1943 and Gregg Allman in 1947 (age 55); actresses Kim Basinger in 1953 (age 49) and Teri Hatcher in 1964 (age 38); and Irish pop singer/songwriter Sinead O'Connor in 1966 (age 36).

On this date in history:

In 1886, delegates from 25 unions founded the American Federation of Labor, forerunner of the modern AFL-CIO, in Columbus, Ohio.

In 1941, the United States, Britain and Australia declared war on Japan.

In 1949, the Chinese Nationalist government, defeated by the Communists, retreated from the mainland to the island of Taiwan.

In 1980, former Beatle John Lennon was shot to death outside his apartment building in New York City. He was 40.

In 1986, Secretary of State George Shultz told the House Foreign Affairs Committee the transfer of Iran arms money to the Nicaraguan Contras was illegal.

In 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist when the republics of Russia, Byelorussia (now known as Belarus) and Ukraine signed an agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Also in 1991, Kimberly Bergalis died. She was the first patient believed to have contracted the AIDS virus from a health care professional.

In 1993, President Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In 1997, the Union Bank of Switzerland and the Swiss Bank Corp. announced plans to merge, creating the world's second largest bank with assets of some $600 billion.

Also in 1997, Jenny Shipley was sworn in as the first woman prime minister of New Zealand.

A thought for the day: Saki, the pen name for Hector Hugh Munro, said, "A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation."

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