The almanac

By United Press International

Today is Wednesday, Dec. 31, the 366th and last day of 2008.

This is New Year's Eve.


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 French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1491; Charles Edward Stuart, Scotland's "Bonnie Prince Charlie," in 1720; French painter Henri Matisse in 1869; U.S. Army Gen. George Marshall, formulator of the Marshall Aid Plan for Europe following World War II, in 1880; songwriter Jule Styne ("Three Coins In the Fountain, "Let It Snow") in 1905; cowboy actor/singer Rex Allen in 1920; folk-blues singer Odetta (Holmes) in 1930; actors Anthony Hopkins in 1937 (age 71); Sarah Miles in 1941 (age 67) and Ben Kingsley in 1943 (age 65); singer John Denver in 1943; fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in 1945 (age 63); singer Donna Summer in 1948 (age 60); and actors Tim Matheson in 1947 (age 61), Bebe Neuwirth in 1958 (age 50) and Val Kilmer in 1959 (age 49).


On this date in history:

In 1879, Thomas Edison gave the first public demonstration of his incandescent lamp in Menlo Park, N.J.

In 1929, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians' first New Year's Eve broadcast from the Roosevelt Grill in New York City, which became an annual event, was heard over the CBS network.

In 1947, America's favorite Western movie couple, singing cowboy Roy Rogers and co-star Dale Evans, were married.

In 1970, six months after release of their "Let It Be" album, Paul McCartney filed suit in London seeking the legal dissolution of the Beatles' partnership.

In 1983, the court-ordered breakup of the American Telephone and Telegraph Co. took effect at midnight.

In 1984, the United States' first mandatory seat belt law went into effect in the state of New York at midnight.

In 1985, rock singer Rick Nelson, his fiancee and five band members were killed when a fire broke out on their chartered DC-3 in northeast Texas.

In 1994, Russian forces launched a full air and ground attack on Grozny, the capital city of the rebel republic of Chechnya.

In 1997, the Algerian government announced that more than 400 people had been massacred by Islamic extremists during the last nine days of December.


In 1999, Panama assumed full control of the Panama Canal.

In 2004, at least 175 youths were reported killed in an overnight fire at a popular Buenos Aires nightclub. About 600 more were injured in a mad rush for the exits.

Also in 2004, a bus slammed into an oil tanker in Pakistan, killing at least 31 people and seriously injuring 11.

In 2005, at least 844 U.S. military personnel died in Iraq, a year-end U.S. government report said. Of that toll, 425 deaths were blamed on roadside bombs.

In 2006, the toll of U.S. troops killed in Iraq passed the 3,000 mark. Pentagon figures indicated more than 22,000 others had been wounded.

Also in 2006, Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union bringing the number of countries to 27 and the number of citizens to 489 million.

In 2007, despite the worst fourth-quarter performance in 20 years, the Dow Jones industrial average closed Dec. 31 up 6.4 percent at 13,264.82. Subprime mortgage problems weighed heavily on financial stocks at year's end, crude oil prices rallied and the dollar declined.

Also in 2007, the death toll in Kenya's post-election violence reached at least 140 with the figure sure to go far beyond that. Tribal uprisings were triggered after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki narrowly won re-election over challenger Raila Odinga despite trailing by a wide margin earlier.


A thought for the day: William Shakespeare wrote, "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

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