The almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 30, 2008 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Tuesday, Dec. 30, the 365th day of 2008 with one 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 Capricorn. They include British author Rudyard Kipling in 1865; Canadian economist and humorist Stephen Leacock in 1869; Japan's World War II Prime Minister Hideki Tojo in 1884; TV personality Bert Parks in 1914; rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley in 1928; actor Jack Lord in 1920; Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax in 1935 (age 73); actor/dancer Russ Tamblyn in 1934 (age 74); actor Joseph Bologna in 1934 (age 74); two members of the pop group The Monkees, Mike Nesmith in 1942 (age 66) and Davy Jones in 1945 (age 63); "Today" co-host Matt Lauer in 1957 (age 51); actress Tracey Ullman in 1959 (age 49); and golfer Tiger Woods in 1975 (age 33).

On this date in history:

In 1853, the United States bought 45,000 square miles of land along the Gila River from Mexico for $10 million. The area is now southern Arizona and New Mexico.

In 1862, the Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C., during a storm. Sixteen members of the crew were lost.

In 1903, flames swept the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, killing 602 people. The fire led to safety regulations for theaters around the world.

In 1916, Grigory Rasputin, a self-fashioned Russian holy man, was killed by Russian nobles eager to end his influence over the royal family.

In 1922, at the first Soviet Congress, Russia, Ukraine and two other Soviet republics signed a treaty, creating the Soviet Union.

In 1965, former Philippines Senate President Ferdinand Marcos was inaugurated president of the Southeast Asian archipelago nation.

In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam and announced that peace talks with the Hanoi government would resume in Paris in January.

In 1979, Broadway composer Richard Rodgers died in New York City at age 77. He first collaborated with lyricist Lorenz Hart and later with Oscar Hammerstein II in a string of memorable musicals ("Oklahoma," "South Pacific," "Sound of Music.").

In 1986, Exxon Corp. became the first major international oil company to withdraw from South Africa because of that nation's racial policies.

In 1992, Ling-Ling, the giant female panda who delighted visitors to Washington's National Zoo for more than two decades, died of heart failure.

In 1993, Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations.

In 1995, North Korea released a U.S. Army pilot whose helicopter had been shot down 13 days earlier over North Korean territory.

In 1999, a mentally ill man broke into George Harrison's mansion and attacked the former Beatle and his wife. Harrison suffered serious stab wounds but recovered.

In 2002, a university student, thought to be linked to a terrorist group, allegedly killed three U.S. missionaries working at a Baptist hospital in Yemen. A fourth person was wounded.

In 2003, the Bush administration said it would ban the use of Ephedra, a popular herbal supplement taken by millions to lose weight or enhance athletic performance. The drug had been linked to heart attacks, strokes and sudden deaths.

In 2004, the official death toll from the 11-country Asian earthquake and tsunami soared to 123,000. Indonesia was the hardest hit by the magnitude 9 quake and counted 80,000 dead.

Also in 2004, Artie Shaw, the clarinet virtuoso and leader of one of the biggest of the Swing Era big bands, died at age 94.

In 2005, despite opposition to the anti-torture provision, U.S. President George Bush signed into law the new $453 billion military spending bill.

In 2006, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging in Baghdad before sunrise. He had been convicted of the 1982 massacre of 148 Shiite men and boys in Dujail and sentenced to death.

Also in 2006, car bombs struck markets in a Shiite area of Baghdad and in a southern Shiite town, killing at least 68 people.

And in 2006, Former President Gerald Ford's body was moved to Washington and taken to the U.S. Capitol to lie in state, beginning a period of official mourning. Ford died earlier in the week at 93.

In 2007, security was high in Iraq as supporters of deposed President Saddam Hussein marked the first anniversary of his death. Saddam was executed after his conviction for crimes against humanity.

A thought for the day: poet Robert Browning wrote, "'Tis not what man does which exalts him, but what man would do!"

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