The almanac

By United Press International   |   Dec. 29, 2008 at 3:30 AM

Today is Monday, Dec. 29, the 364th day of 2008 with two to follow.

The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, 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; band leader Clyde "Sugar Blues" McCoy in 1903; former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley in 1917; actors Ed Flanders ("St. Elsewhere") in 1934, Mary Tyler Moore in 1936 (age 72) and Jon Voight in 1938 (age 70); singer Marianne Faithfull in 1946 (age 62); actors Ted Danson in 1947 (age 61) and Jon Polito in 1950 (age 58); and comedian Paula Poundstone in 1959 (age 49).

On this date in history:

In 1170, Anglican churchman/politician Thomas 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.

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 U.S. 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, actor 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 Texas farming community of Cross Plains was demolished.

In 2006, AT&T won U.S. approval to complete an $85 billion takeover of BellSouth Corp. after it made a series of consumer-friendly concessions.

In 2007, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, reported that car bombs and suicide attacks dropped by 60 percent in the past six months. He also said that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia remained the greatest threat to Iraq's security.

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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