The Almanac

By United Press International

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 8, the 343rd day of 2004 with 23 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 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 74); comedian Flip Wilson in 1933; actor James MacArthur in 1937 (age 67); Irish flutist James Galway in 1939 (age 65); actor David Carradine in 1940 (age 64); rock musicians Jim Morrison in 1943 and Gregg Allman in 1947 (age 57); actresses Kim Basinger in 1953 (age 51) and Teri Hatcher in 1964 (age 40); and Irish pop singer/songwriter Sinead O'Connor in 1966 (age 38).


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 1987, at a summit meeting in Washington, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the first treaty between the two superpowers to reduce their massive nuclear arsenals.

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, also known as 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.

In 2002, Iraq said all its chemical and biological weapons programs ended in 1991 and that the country had never reached the assembly or testing stage for nuclear weapons.

In 2003, Rep. William Janklow, R-S.D. and former governor, was convicted of second degree manslaughter in the traffic death of a motorcyclist. He said he would resign from Congress in January.

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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