The Almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Sunday, Dec. 5, the 340th day of 2004 with 26 to follow.

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


Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, in 1782; Gen. George Custer in 1839; film director Fritz Lang in 1890; Walt Disney in 1901; Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., in 1902; film director Otto Preminger in 1906; singer Little Richard (Richard Penniman) in 1932 (age 72); author Joan Didion in 1934 (age 70); singer Chad Mitchell in 1936 (age 68); opera tenor Jose Carreras in 1946 (age 58); rock singer Jim Messina in 1947 (age 57); comedian Margaret Cho in 1968 (age 36); and actor Frankie Muniz ("Malcolm In The Middle") in 1985 (age 19).


On this date in history:

In 1776, the first scholastic fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at William and Mary College in Virginia.

In 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, leading to the "gold rush" of 1848 and '49.

In 1933, prohibition of liquor was repealed when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1945, five Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers disappeared on a routine flight in the area of the Atlantic known as the Bermuda Triangle.

In 1955, in one of the early civil rights actions in the South, blacks declared a boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Ala., demanding seating on an equal basis with whites. The boycott, prompted by the Dec. 1, 1955, arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, lasted until Dec. 20, 1956, when a U.S Supreme Court ruling was implemented, integrating the city's public transit system.

Also in 1955, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization merged after 20 years of rivalry to form the AFL-CIO.

In 1990, the State Department said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had accepted the idea of direct high-level U.S.-Iraqi talks to resolve the Gulf crisis.


In 1991, British media magnate Robert Maxwell disappeared while on his yacht off the Canary Islands.

Also in 1991, convicted mass murderer Richard Speck died, one day short of his 50th birthday and 25 years after killing eight student nurses in Chicago.

In 1993, Rafael Caldera Rodriguez was elected president of Venezuela.

In 2001, factions in war-shaken Afghanistan agreed on an interim government, naming Hamid Karzai, a Pakistan tribal chief, as their new leader.

In 2002, Iraq President Saddam Hussein said U.N. inspectors were being given the "chance" to prove that Baghdad had not produced weapons of mass destruction.

Also in 2002, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., celebrated his 100th birthday on Capitol Hill surrounded by current and former Senate colleagues, Supreme Court justices, family and former staffers. Thurmond, who retired the following year, served the Senate since 1954, making him both the longest-serving and oldest member of Congress. He died on June 27, 2003.

In 2003, President George W. Bush lifted tariffs on imported steel, reversing one of his trade policies.

A thought for the day: Archibald MacLeish said of Americans, "They were the first self-constituted, self-created people in the history of the world."


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