The almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Saturday, Dec. 13, the 348th day of 2008 with 18 to follow.

The moon is waning. 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 clergyman Phillips Brooks, who wrote the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem," in 1835; World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York in 1887; actor Van Heflin in 1910; former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz in 1920 (age 87); comedian/actor/dancer Dick Van Dyke in 1925 (age 83); actor Christopher Plummer in 1929 (age 79); singer/actor John Davidson in 1941 (age 67); rock singer Ted Nugent in 1948 (age 60); and actors Wendie Malick in 1950 (age 58), Steve Buscemi in 1957 (age 51) and Jamie Foxx in 1967 (age 41).


On this date in history:

In 1642, Dutch navigator Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand.

In 1816, the United States' first savings bank, the Provident Institution for Savings, opened in Boston.

In 1862, an estimated 11,000 northern soldiers were killed or wounded in a battle with Confederate troops outside Fredericksburg, Va.

In 1982, the Sentry armored car company in New York discovered the overnight theft of $11 million from its headquarters. It was the biggest cash theft in U.S. history at the time.

In 1990, the last of the U.S. hostages being held by Iraq, five diplomats in Kuwait, flew to freedom.

Also in 1990, troops were rushed to Soviet Georgia and a state of emergency was imposed after ethnic violence killed three people.

In 1992, Ricky Ray, 15, one of three hemophiliac brothers barred from attending a Florida school because they had the AIDS virus, died.

In 1998, in a non-binding referendum giving Puerto Ricans the opportunity to express a political preference, most voters indicated they wished to remain a U.S. commonwealth.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Florida presidential vote recount, in effect giving the presidency to Republican George W. Bush more than a month after the balloting. Winning Florida meant Bush had enough electoral votes to defeat Democrat Al Gore, who had won the popular vote.


In 2001, as the extensive manhunt continued for Osama bin Laden, the U.S. government released a tape of the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which he spoke of the attacks and voiced pleasure and surprise that so many of the "enemy" had died.

Also in 2001, calling it a Cold War relic, President George W. Bush announced the United States was pulling out of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, opening the way for the Defense Department to test and deploy a missile defense system without restraints.

And in 2001, 14 people were killed when gunmen tried to storm the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi.

In 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law, under fire for allegedly protecting priests accused of abusing minors, resigned as Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston.

Also in 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush, saying he feared terrorists might use the smallpox virus as a weapon, ordered mandatory smallpox vaccinations for all military personnel and offered it to emergency workers on a voluntary basis.

In 2003, a bearded and apparently disoriented Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi president, was captured by U.S. troops in a small underground hideout southeast of his home town of Tikrit, ending an eight-month manhunt.


In 2004, the Pentagon acknowledged investigations into the death of eight prisoners in Afghanistan, five more than it disclosed in May.

Also in 2004, Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko was said to be convinced government authorities were behind the poisoning attempt on his life during his presidential campaign.

In 2005, Indonesian health officials confirmed the country's ninth death from bird flu.

In 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush, under pressure to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, said they will stay until "the job is done" and Iraq is democratic and stable, adding, "We're not going to give up."

In 2007, a landmark report implicated 89 U.S. major league baseball players, some of them the most dominant figures of the era, in the use of steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Also in 2007, a federal jury in Miami acquitted one of seven Florida men charged with conspiring to bomb Chicago's Sears Tower and was unable to reach a verdict on the rest. A mistrial was declared for the other six.

A thought for the day: Willa Cather said, "The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman."

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