The almanac

By United Press International  |  Feb. 18, 2009 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Wednesday, Feb. 18, the 49th day of 2009 with 316 to follow.

The moon is waning. The morning stars are Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune and Saturn. The evening stars are Venus and Uranus.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Aquarius. They include stained glass artist Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1848; Italian automaker Enzo Ferrari in 1898; actors Jack Palance in 1919 and George Kennedy in 1925 (age 84); author and magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown in 1922 (age 87); novelist Toni Morrison in 1931 (age 78); filmmaker Milos Forman in 1932 (age 77); Yoko Ono, wife of John Lennon, in 1933 (age 76); actress Cybill Shepherd in 1950 (age 59); actor John Travolta in 1954 (age 55); game show hostess Vanna White in 1957 (age 52); and actors Greta Scacchi in 1960 (age 49), Matt Dillon in 1964 (age 45) and Molly Ringwald in 1968 (age 41).

On this date in history:

In 1856, The American Party, also known as the "Know-Nothing Party," nominated its first presidential candidate, former U.S. President Millard Fillmore. But, he carried only Maryland and the party soon vanished.

In 1861, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as provisional president of the Confederate States of America.

In 1865, after a long siege, Union naval forces captured Charleston, S.C.

In 1930, Pluto, once identified as the ninth planet of the solar system, was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.

In 1967, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb," died in Princeton, N.J., at the age of 62.

In 1991, one person was killed and 40 more injured when the IRA bombed two railroad stations in central London.

In 1993, a ferry carrying more than 800 people capsized off Haiti's western coast, killing at least 150 people and leaving several hundred more missing and presumed drowned.

In 2001, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, Robert Hanssen, was arrested at a park near his suburban Washington home and charged with spying for the Russians.

Also in 2001, Dale Earnhardt Sr., stock-car racing's top driver, was killed in a crash in the final turn of the final lap of the Daytona 500. He was 49.

In 2003, around 200 people died and many more were hurt in a South Korea subway fire set by a man authorities say apparently was upset at his doctors.

In 2004, 40 chemical and fuel-laden runaway rail cars derailed in northeastern Iran, producing a massive explosion that killed at least 265 people.

In 2005, a panel of experts voted to advise the FDA that popular painkillers Celebrex, Bextra and Vioxx can cause heart problems.

Also in 2005, at least four blasts rocked Baghdad as Shiites began observing the holy period of Ashura, killing at least 20 people. Dozens more Iraqis died in similar attacks the next day.

In 2006, the militant Hamas party took over the Palestinian legislature as a result of the January election.

Also in 2006, a reported 16 people died in rioting in Nigeria over published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that had enraged Muslims around the world, coming one week after deadly riots in Libya and Pakistan despite pleas for calm from Muslim governments.

In 2007, an explosion on a train in northern India and the resulting fire killed 66 people and injured more than 50 others. India's railways minister called it "an act of terrorism."

In 2008, opponents of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf won the majority of seats in the nation's parliamentary elections. The winner was the Pakistan People's Party, headed by Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto.

Also in 2008, two of four art masterpieces stolen from the Zurich museum a week earlier, the Monet and the van Gogh, were found in perfect condition in the back seat of an unlocked car in Zurich.

A thought for the day: George Washington said, "Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected."

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