The almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 5, the 339th day of 2007 with 26 to follow.

The moon is waning. The morning stars are Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Jupiter, 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; U.S. Army Gen. George Custer in 1839; film director Fritz Lang in 1890; Walt Disney in 1901; U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., in 1902; film director Otto Preminger in 1906; singer Little Richard (Richard Penniman) in 1932 (age 75); author Joan Didion in 1934 (age 73); opera tenor Jose Carreras in 1946 (age 61); rock singer Jim Messina in 1947 (age 60); comedian Margaret Cho in 1968 (age 39); and actor Frankie Muniz ("Malcolm In The Middle") in 1985 (age 22).


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

In 1933, prohibition of liquor in the United States was repealed when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1945, five U.S. 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 arrest of Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, lasted until Dec. 20, 1956, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling integrated 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 U.S. 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, Iraqi 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, U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., celebrated his 100th birthday on Capitol Hill. Thurmond, who retired the following year, had served the Senate since 1954, making him both the longest-serving and oldest member of Congress. He died June 27, 2003.

In 2004, the U.S. Congress said it was considering a proposal to withhold millions of dollars in foreign aid unless countries agree to shield Americans from prosecution of war crimes.

In 2005, the bipartisan Sept, 11 commission said the United States remained vulnerable to terrorist strikes four years after the 2001 attacks with "many obvious steps" not taken.


In 2006, Fiji's prime minister was placed under house arrest as the Pacific island nation's military announced it had taken control of the government.

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

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