The almanac

By United Press International  |  Feb. 29, 2008 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Friday, Feb. 29, the 60th day of 2008 with 306 to follow.

This is Leap Year Day, which occurs only once every four years.

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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Pisces. They include English religious leader Ann Lee, founder of the American Shaker sect, in 1736; operatic composer Gioacchino Antonio Rossini in 1792; American inventor John Holland, who pioneered the modern submarine, in 1840; film director William Wellman ("The Ox Bow Incident") in 1896; big band leader Jimmy Dorsey in 1904; astronaut Jack Lousma in 1936 (age 72); and actors Dennis Farina in 1944 (age 64) and Antonio Sabato Jr. in 1972 (age 36).

On this date in history:

In 1704, in the bloodiest event of the so-called Queen Anne's War, Deerfield, a frontier settlement in western Massachusetts, was attacked by a French and Indian force. Some 100 men, women, and children were massacred as the town was burned to the ground.

In 1868, British statesman Benjamin Disraeli became prime minister for the first time.

In 1916, during World War I, German U-boat commanders were ordered to attack merchant shipping in the Atlantic without warning, a policy that killed thousands and helped draw the United States into the war.

On this day in 1940, the legendary Southern epic "Gone With The Wind" won eight Academy Awards, including best picture. But, the most momentous award that night went to the movie's Best Supporting Actress winner Hattie McDaniel, first African-American actor honored with an Oscar.

In 1948, the President's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders condemned racism as the primary cause of the recent surge of riots. The commission said in its report that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white -- separate and unequal."

In 1956, almost nine years after becoming an independent nation, Pakistan declared itself an Islamic republic.

In 1968, British astronomer Jocelyn Burnell announced the discovery of a pulsating radio source, or "pulsar," in the depths of outer space. Astrophysicists believe pulsars to be rapidly rotating neutron stars.

In 2000, George W. Bush, after losing to John McCain in Arizona and Michigan, won the important Virginia Republican primary and declared he had "taken a step" toward the White House.

In 2004, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigned and fled the country as rebel forces massed on the outskirts of the capital. U.S. President George Bush ordered Marines into Haiti after the ouster.

Also in 2004, the Iraqi Governing Council finished a draft constitution for final approval by the U.S. administrator.

And, Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," the finale of the epic fantasy trilogy, won all 11 Academy Award nominations it received, including best picture and director, a record sweep.

A thought for the day: in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, wrote, "Curtsy while you're thinking of something to say. It saves time."

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