Today is Saturday, Dec. 6, the 341st day of 2008 with 25 to follow.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include England's King Henry VI in 1421; French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac in 1778; pioneer Western movie star William S. Hart in 1870; poet Joyce Kilmer in 1886; lyricist Ira Gershwin in 1896; photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1898; actress Agnes Moorehead in 1900; jazz pianist Dave Brubeck in 1920 (age 88); comedian Wally Cox in 1924; actors James Naughton in 1945 (age 63) and Tom Hulce in 1953 (age 55); comedian Steven Wright in 1955 (age 53); and actress Janine Turner in 1962 (age 46).
On this date in history:
In 1811, the first in a series of earthquakes rocked the Midwest, in and around New Madrid, Mo.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.
In 1907, in West Virginia's Marion County, an explosion in a network of mines owned by the Fairmont Coal Company in Monongah killed 361 coal miners. It was the worst mining disaster in U.S. history.
In 1917, more than 1,600 people died in an explosion when a Belgian relief ship and a French munitions vessel collided in the harbor at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In 1922, the Irish Free State, forerunner of the modern Republic of Ireland, was officially proclaimed.
In 1933, Americans crowded into liquor stores, bars and cafes to buy their first legal alcoholic beverages in 13 years, following repeal of Prohibition.
In 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a message to Japanese Emperor Hirohito expressing hope that gathering war clouds would be dispelled. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor the next day.
In 1969, an all-star concert headlined by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., was marred by tragedy when a spectator was stabbed to death by members of the Hell's Angels, who had been hired as security guards for the event.
In 1973, Gerald Ford was sworn in as U.S. vice president under Richard Nixon, replacing Spiro Agnew, who had resigned in the face of income tax evasion charges.
In 1975, the U.S. Senate authorized a $2.3 billion emergency loan to save New York City from bankruptcy.
In 1990, Saddam Hussein asked the Iraqi parliament to authorize the release of all hostages being held by Iraq. The legislature acted the next day and all Americans who wished to leave were out a week later.
In 1991, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued sweeping changes in food labeling rules that required more detailed listing of contents.
In 1997, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East was hit by one of the largest earthquakes recorded, measuring 8.5 to 9 in magnitude. But, there were no reported deaths in the sparsely populated area.
In 2002, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "gravely disturbed" by Israel's Gaza attack that left 10 Palestinians dead, including two U.N. Relief Works Agency employees.
In 2003, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., denying she had planned to run for president, blasted U.S. President George Bush for trying to wreck the United States.
Also in 2003, U.S. Embassy officials confirmed that U.S. troops apparently accidentally bombed a house near Ghazni, Afghanistan, killing nine children and one adult.
In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed a sweeping intelligence bill that would create a national intelligence director and enact other major recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission.
In 2005, two suicide bombers targeted a Baghdad police academy, reportedly killing at least 43 officers and cadets and injuring 73 others.
Also in 2005, at least 128 people were killed when an Iranian military aircraft hit a 10-story residential building in Tehran and exploded shortly after takeoff.
In 2006, Robert Gates was confirmed as the secretary of defense by the U.S. Senate on a 95-2 vote.
In 2007, news reports said the CIA had destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two al-Qaida suspects in 2005. Meanwhile, U.S. Congressional intelligence committees voted to outlaw harsh methods of interrogation including waterboarding and other severe techniques reported to be in use.
Also in 2007, a coal mine gas explosion in China's Shanxi Province killed at least 70 people and left 26 others trapped underground. The head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said the initial investigation indicated the blast was caused by illegal mining activities.
A thought for the day: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Houghwout Jackson wrote, "The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion, it will cease to be free for religion."