The almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Monday, Dec. 8, the 343rd day of 2008 with 23 to follow.

The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, 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 78); comedian Flip Wilson in 1933; actors David Carradine in 1936 (age 72) and James MacArthur in 1937 (age 71); Irish flutist James Galway in 1939 (age 69); rock musicians Jim Morrison in 1943 and Gregg Allman in 1947 (age 61); actresses Kim Basinger in 1953 (age 55) and Teri Hatcher in 1964 (age 44); and Irish pop singer/songwriter Sinead O'Connor in 1966 (age 42).


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, U.S. 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, U.S. President Ronald 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.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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 2004, International Business Machines Corp. reported it was selling its personal computer business to Chinese rival Lenovo Group for $1.25 billion in cash and stock.

In 2005, a suicide bomber detonated explosives on a crowded bus in Baghdad, killing at least 30 people and wounding 27 others.

Also in 2005, a Southwest Airlines jetliner overshot a runway at Chicago's Midway International Airport in a snowstorm, crashing through a fence into a city street. A 6-year-old boy in a car hit by the plane was killed and at least 11 others were hurt.

In 2007, dozens of dead and injured seabirds coated in black goo were the most visible victims of a 58,000-gallon oil spill in San Francisco Bay that fouled miles of coastline. The spill, which scientists say could threaten wildlife for years, was caused when a South Korea-bound container ship hit a tower supporting the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in dense fog.

Also in 2007, Afghanistan was in official mourning after a suicide bombing at a school in the north killed at least 52 people and injured 102 others. The dead included 18 schoolchildren.


And, the president of Georgia declared a 15-day state of emergency after thousands of demonstrators marched on the capital. Mikheil Saakashvili said he would take part in a special election 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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