The almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 21, 2008 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Sunday, Dec. 21, the 356th day of 2008 with 10 to follow.

Winter begins at 7:04 a.m. EST.

Hanukkah begins at sundown.

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 British statesman Benjamin Disraeli in 1804; Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1879; Austrian President Kurt Waldheim in 1918; former talk show host Phil Donahue in 1935 (age 73); actress Jane Fonda in 1937 (age 71); rock musician Frank Zappa in 1940; Beach Boys guitarist Carl Wilson in 1946; actor Samuel L. Jackson in 1948 (age 60); former tennis star Chris Evert in 1954 (age 54); comedian Ray Romano in 1957 (age 51); track athlete Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1959; and actors Kiefer Sutherland in 1966 (age 42) and Andy Dick in 1965 (age 43).

On this date in history:

In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Mass., following a 63-day voyage from England aboard the Mayflower.

In 1913, the first crossword puzzle in an American newspaper appeared in The New York Sunday World.

In 1937, Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," the first full-length animated feature film, opened in Los Angeles.

In 1958, three months after a new French constitution was approved, Charles de Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic by a sweeping majority of French voters.

In 1968, Apollo 8, the first manned voyage to the moon, was launched.

In 1975, the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal led a raid on a meeting of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna. German and Arab terrorists stormed in with machine guns, killed three people and took 63 others hostage, including 11 oil ministers.

In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland, killing everyone aboard and 11 people on the ground for a total death toll of 270.

In 1990, a boat carrying about 100 U.S. sailors involved in Operation Desert Shield capsized off the Israeli coast. Twenty-one people died.

In 1991, 11 former Soviet republics declared an end to the Soviet Union and forged a commonwealth that guaranteed independence.

In 1992, 54 people were killed when a chartered jetliner carrying 340 people on a holiday to southern Portugal crashed in bad weather.

In 1993, Hungary's parliament endorsed the nomination of Peter Boross as president, succeeding Jozsef Antall, who died in office on Dec. 12.

In 1994, more than 40 people were injured when an incendiary device exploded on a crowded subway in New York's lower Manhattan. Police later arrested one of the burn victims who reportedly was carrying a firebomb that went off.

In 1995, a commuter train rammed the rear of a passenger train in heavy fog near Cairo, Egypt, killing 75 people.

In 1997, a fire swept through Tokyo's Tsukji wholesale fish market, destroying more than 100 shops and stores.

In 1998, the shaky coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed when Israel's parliament voted 81-30 to dissolve the government.

In 2002, U.S. President George Bush set in motion the first U.S. smallpox vaccination program in three decades. Bush had voiced fears terrorists might use the virus as a biological weapon.

In 2004, U.S. President George Bush's approval rating slipped 6 percentage points to 49 percent, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll said, making Bush the first incumbent president to have an approval rating less than 50 percent one month after winning re-election.

In 2005, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $445 million defense appropriations bill that included a provision against torture.

In 2006, four U.S. Marines were charged with murder in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in a 2005 assault in the town of Haditha.

Also in 2006, in a move to appease Russian interests, Britain, France and Germany dropped plans to ban travel for Iranian nuclear officials as part of U.N. sanctions.

In 2007, Pakistani officials said a suicide bomber's assassination attempt on a former official killed at least 50 people and hurt 80 others in a crowded mosque in the city of Lahore.

A thought for the day: Benjamin Disraeli defined a bore as "one who has the power of speech but not the capacity for conversation."

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