The almanac

By United Press International  |  March 21, 2008 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Friday, March 21, the 81st day of 2008 with 285 to follow.

This is Good Friday.

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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Aries. They include composer Johann Sebastian Bach in 1685; Mexican revolutionary and president Benito Juarez in 1806; Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1839; theatrical impresario Florenz Ziegfeld in 1869; English theatrical director Peter Brook in 1925 (age 83); and actors James Coco in 1930, Al Freeman Jr. in 1934 (age 74), Timothy Dalton in 1946 (age 62), Gary Oldman in 1958 (age 50) and Matthew Broderick and Rosie O'Donnell, both in 1962 (age 46).

On this date in history:

In 1617, Pocahontas died in England at about age 22. Three years earlier, she had converted to Christianity, taken the name Rebecca and married Englishman John Rolfe.

In 1790, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia became the first U.S. secretary of state. He later was the third president of the United States.

In 1918, U.S. and German soldiers fought the key World War I battle of the Somme.

In 1945, 7,000 Allied planes dropped more than 12,000 tons of explosives on Germany during a single World War II daytime bombing raid.

In 1960, police opened fire on a group of unarmed black South African demonstrators in the black township of Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, killing 69 people and wounding 180 in a hail of submachine-gun fire.

In 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev pledged that Russia would cooperate with the United States in peaceful exploration of space. The joint American-Soviet Soyuz space mission was conducted in July 1975.

In 1965, more than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators, led by Martin Luther King Jr., began a four-day march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala., to demand federal protection of voting rights.

In 1984, the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk collided with a nuclear-powered Soviet submarine in the Sea of Japan.

In 1993, Nicaraguan rebels ended their 13-day seizure of the Nicaraguan Embassy, freeing the last 11 hostages under a deal that gave them asylum in the Dominican Republic.

In 1999, balloonists Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones landed near Cairo, Egypt, after becoming the first to circle the globe by balloon.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II, referring briefly to the sexual abuse scandal that had shaken the Roman Catholic clergy, said in a letter that "a dark shadow of suspicion" had fallen over all priests because of the behavior of those who had succumbed to "the most grievous forms" of evil.

Also in 2002, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board blamed the co-pilot for the Oct. 21, 1999, crash of an EgyptAir jetliner shortly after takeoff from New York for Cairo, killing all 217 aboard.

In 2003, some 1,300 missiles struck Baghdad after dark in part of what the Pentagon dubbed its "shock-and-awe" offensive as journalists imbedded with the troops reported from the battleground. Meanwhile, U.S. troops seized major oil fields near Basra.

Also in 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion budget embracing President George Bush's tax-cutting plan.

In 2004, the White House denied charges of a former anti-terror adviser that U.S. President George Bush wasn't properly focused on the threat of the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

Also in 2004, for the third consecutive year, Wal-Mart Stores was ranked No. 1 among the nation's largest companies on Fortune Magazine's 50th annual Fortune 500 list.

In 2005, a 17-year-old youth at the northern Minnesota Indian Reservation of Red Lake killed nine people, wounded 12 others and then killed himself.

Also in 2005, the number of undocumented residents in the United States totaled 11 million people, the Pew Hispanic Center said in a report.

In 2006, about 100 armed Iraqi insurgents stormed a jail north of Baghdad, killing 18 policemen and freeing 10 prisoners. Ten of the attackers were reported killed.

Also in 2006, one of Australia's worst storms in years, Cyclone Larry, left at least 1,000 people homeless in the Northern Queensland town of Innisfail and its surrounding region.

In 2007, some 400,000 public sector workers staged a general strike in Israel, shutting down airports, railways and sea ports over unpaid wages.

A thought for the day: Thomas Jefferson advised, "Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

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