The Almanac

By United Press International   |   Dec. 29, 2006 at 3:30 AM

Today is Friday, Dec. 29, the 363rd day of 2006 with two to follow.

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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include Madame de Pompadour, mistress of French King Louis XV, in 1721; Scottish chemist Charles Macintosh, who patented a waterproof fabric, in 1766; industrialist Charles Goodyear in 1800; Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States, in 1808; British statesman William Gladstone, in 1809; Clyde "Sugar Blues" McCoy, bandleader, trumpet, in 1903; former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1917; actors Ed Flanders ("St. Elsewhere") in 1934, Mary Tyler Moore in 1936 (age 70) and Jon Voight in 1938 (age 68); singer Marianne Faithfull in 1946 (age 60); actors Ted Danson in 1947 (age 59) and Jon Polito ("Homicide: Life on the Street") in 1950 (age 56); and comedian Paula Poundstone in 1959 (age 47).

On this date in history:

In 1170, Anglican churchman/politician Thomas a' Becket was killed at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

In 1845, Texas was admitted into the United States as the 28th state.

In 1848, gaslights were installed at the White House for the first time.

In 1851, the first Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) chapter opened in Boston.

In 1890, more than 200 Indian men, women and children were massacred by the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, S.D.

In 1940, London suffered its most devastating air raid when Germans firebombed the city.

In 1967, Paul Whiteman, the "King of Jazz" and most popular bandleader of the pre-swing era, died in Doylestown, Pa., at age 77.

In 1975, a terrorist bomb exploded at LaGuardia Airport in New York City, killing 11 people and injuring 75.

In 1983, the United States announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, charging the U.N. cultural and scientific organization was biased against Western nations.

In 1989, playwright Vaclav Havel was sworn in as the first non-communist president of Czechoslovakia since 1948.

In 1992, a Cuban airliner was hijacked to Miami as part of a mass defection. Forty-eight of the 53 people aboard sought and were granted political asylum.

Also in 1992, convicted "Scarsdale Diet Doctor" killer Jean Harris was granted clemency just minutes before undergoing open-heart surgery.

And in 1992, a suburban Chicago couple returning from a nine-day Mexican vacation were arrested for leaving their young daughters home alone. The couple would later give the children up for adoption.

In 2001, London scientists studying seized documents concluded that accused terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization had tried to develop a range of weapons that include a ''dirty'' nuclear bomb.

In 2002, Kenyan voters ousted the party that had ruled the nation since 1963 in an election that also ended the 24-year presidency of Daniel Arap Moi.

In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security announced that armed air marshals would be placed on certain foreign flights entering U.S. airspace that were believed to be at risk of terrorist attacks.

Also in 2003, five bodies were recovered from the Christmas Day mudslide in California's San Bernardino Mountains, running the total to 12 with two others missing.

In 2004, Jerry Orbach, star of stage, film and TV, best known for his starring role on TV's "Law and Order," died of prostate cancer at the age of 69.

In 2005, wind-driven grass fires in Texas and Oklahoma destroyed thousands of acres, hundreds of buildings and countless cattle. At least four people died. The entire Texas farming community of Cross Plains was demolished.

A thought for the day: poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."

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