Today is Saturday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2009 with 334 to follow.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Saturn. The evening stars are Venus, Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Aquarius. They include Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1797; western novelist Zane Grey in 1872; actress Tallulah Bankhead in 1902; radio and television personality Garry Moore in 1915; Jackie Robinson, the first black to play major league baseball, in 1919; actor/singer Mario Lanza in 1921; actress Carol Channing in 1921 (age 88); novelist Norman Mailer in 1923; civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks in 1925 (age 84); actresses Jean Simmons in 1929 (age 80), Suzanne Pleshette in 1937 and Jessica Walter in 1941 (age 68); Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1938 (age 71); former baseball stars Ernie Banks in 1931 (age 78) and Nolan Ryan in 1947 (age 62); and actress Minnie Driver in 1970 (age 39).
On this date in history:
In 1929, the Soviet Union expelled communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He later was assassinated in Mexico.
In 1945, U.S. Army Pvt. Eddie Slovik, 24, was executed by firing squad for desertion. His was the first U.S. execution for desertion since the Civil War.
In 1950, U.S. President Harry Truman announced he had ordered development of the hydrogen bomb.
In 1958, Explorer 1, the first successful U.S. satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
In 1982, the Israeli Cabinet agreed to a multi-national peacekeeping force to act as a buffer between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula.
In 1990, the first McDonald's restaurant opened in Moscow.
In 1995, after the U.S. Congress failed to act quickly, U.S. President Bill Clinton used his emergency authority to provide financially troubled Mexico with a $20 billion loan.
In 1996, a suicide bombing at Sri Lanka's main bank killed nearly 100 people and injured more than 1,000.
In 1999, a team of international scientists reported it traced the predominant strain of the AIDS virus to a subspecies of chimpanzee that lived in parts of Africa.
In 2000, Illinois Gov. George Ryan halted all executions in his state after several death row inmates were found to be innocent of the crimes for which they were about to be put to death.
Also in 2000, the European Union warned that its members would diplomatically isolate Austria if its anti-immigrant Freedom Party, led by avowed Nazi sympathizer Jorg Haider, entered a coalition government.
In 2001, a Scottish court meeting in the Netherlands convicted a Libyan man in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, including 11 on the ground.
In 2003, 18 people on a bus were killed when a bomb destroyed a bridge near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
In 2005, a U.S. judge in Washington ruled the process for determining "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was unconstitutional.
In 2006, Samuel Alito was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court by a 58-42 vote. He succeeded retiring Justice Sandra O'Connor.
In 2007, more than 1.5 million Iraqi civilians were reported to have been forced to abandon their homes by rising violence in the war-torn country.
Also in 2007, arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents were issued by a Munich court related to the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen for terror interrogation.
In 2008, in the U.S. presidential primaries, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continued to vie for the Democratic nomination while John Edwards pulled out. On the Republican side, John McCain, once struggling to stay in the race, made his move with wins in South Carolina and Florida as Rudy Giuliani ended his bid.
Also In 2008, a senior commander of al-Qaida who recruited and trained operatives, Abu Laith al-Libi, was reported killed in a U.S. missile strike in northwest Pakistan.
A thought for the day: it was Dag Hammarskjold who said, "Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was."