The Almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 21, 2005 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 21, the 355th day of 2005 with 10 to follow.

Winter begins at 1:35 p.m. EST.

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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include British statesman Benjamin Disraeli in 1804; Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1879; Austrian President Kurt Waldheim in 1918 (age 87); former talk show host Phil Donahue in 1935 (age 70); actress Jane Fonda in 1937 (age 68); rock musician Frank Zappa in 1940; Beach Boys guitarist Carl Wilson in 1946; actor Samuel L. Jackson in 1948 (age 57); editor Tina Brown in 1953 (age 52); tennis player Chris Evert in 1954 (age 51); comedian Ray Romano in 1957 (age 48); track athlete Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1960; and actor Andy Dick in 1966 (age 39).

On this date in history:

In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., following a 63-day voyage from England aboard the Mayflower.

In 1913, the first crossword puzzle in a U.S. newspaper appeared in The New York Sunday World.

In 1937, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full-length animated feature film, opened in Los Angeles.

In 1958, three months after a new French constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic by a sweeping majority of French voters.

In 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned voyage to the moon, was launched.

In 1975, the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal led a raid on a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people and took 63 others hostage, including 11 OPEC ministers.

In 1987, in a case that highlighted racial tensions, three young white men were convicted of manslaughter in an attack on a black man in New York's predominantly white Howard Beach section.

In 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 exploded in air and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing everyone aboard and 11 people on the ground for a total death toll of 270.

In 1989, Kentuckian Larry Mahoney was convicted on 27 counts of manslaughter in 1988 collision with church bus. It was the nation's deadliest drunken-driving accident.

In 1990, a boat carrying about 100 U.S. sailors involved in Operation Desert Shield capsized off the Israeli coast. Twenty-one died.

In 1991, 11 former Soviet republics declared an end to the Soviet Union and forged a commonwealth that guaranteed independence.

In 1992, 54 people were killed when a chartered jetliner carrying 340 people on a holiday to southern Portugal crashed in bad weather.

In 1993, Hungary's parliament endorsed the nomination of Peter Boross as president, succeeding Jozsel Antall, who died in office on Dec. 12.

In 1994, more than 40 people were injured when an incendiary device exploded on a crowded subway in lower Manhattan. Later that day, New York City police arrested one of the burn victims, saying the man had been carrying the firebomb when it went off.

In 1995, a commuter train rammed the rear of a passenger train in heavy fog near Cairo, Egypt, killing 75 people.

In 1997, a fire swept through Tokyo's Tsukji wholesale fish market, destroying more than 100 shops and stores.

In 1998, the shaky coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed when Israel's parliament voted 81-30 to dissolve the government.

In 2002, President George W. Bush received a smallpox vaccination one week after setting in motion the first sweeping national vaccination program in the United States in three decades. Bush had voiced fears terrorists might use the virus as a biological weapon.

In 2003, the United States raised its terror alert level to "high" from "elevated" after an increase in terrorists' communications. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said threat of attack was perhaps greater than anytime since Sept. 11, 2001.

Also in 2003, Time magazine named the U.S. military fighter its "Person of the Year."

In 2004, President George Bush's approval rating slipped 6 percent to 49 percent, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said, making Bush the first incumbent president to have an approval rating below 50 percent one month after winning re-election.

A thought for the day: Ambrose Bierce defined a bore as "a person who talks when you wish him to listen."

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