The almanac

By United Press International  |  Feb. 28, 2009 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Saturday, Feb. 28, the 59th day of 2009 with 306 to follow.

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

Those born on this day are under the sign of Pisces. They include French essayist Michel de Montaigne in 1533; American journalist and screenwriter Ben Hecht in 1894; chemist and physicist Linus Pauling, twice winner of the Nobel Prize, in 1901; movie director Vincente Minnelli in 1903; Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, in 1926 (age 83); actors Charles Durning in 1923 (age 86) and Gavin MacLeod in 1931 (age 78); dancer Tommy Tune in 1939 (age 70); former race car driver Mario Andretti in 1940 (age 69); singer/actress Bernadette Peters in 1948 (age 61); and actors John Turturro in 1957 (age 52) and Robert Sean Leonard in 1969 (age 40).

On this date in history:

In 1844, an explosion rocked the "war steamer" USS Princeton after it test-fired one of its guns. The blast killed or wounded a number of top U.S. government officials who were aboard.

In 1849, the first shipload of gold seekers arrived in San Francisco after a five-month journey from New York.

In 1942, Japanese forces landed in Java, the last Allied bastion in the Dutch East Indies.

In 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum became the most richly endowed museum on Earth when it received a $1.2 billion bequest left by Getty.

In 1983, the concluding episode of the long-running television series "M*A*S*H" drew what was then the largest TV audience in U.S. history.

In 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated on a street in Stockholm.

In 1990, the Soviet Parliament passed a law permitting the leasing of land to individuals for housing and farming. It was another radical change in the Stalinist scheme of a state-run economy.

In 1991, Iraq agreed to meet with the allies to arrange a permanent cease-fire.

In 1992, a judge in Rochester Hills, Mich., said euthanasia advocate Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian must stand trial for murder for helping two chronically ill women commit suicide.

Also in 1992, a bomb blamed on the IRA ripped through a London railway station, injuring at least 30 people and shutting down the British capital's rail and subway system.

In 1993, federal agents attempting to serve warrants on the Branch Davidian religious cult's compound near Waco, Texas, were met with a hail of bullets that left at least five dead and 15 wounded and marked the start of a month-and-a-half-long standoff.

Also in 1993, film actress Lillian Gish, a major star in the silents and whose career spanned more than 80 years, died at age 96; and actress/dancer Ruby Keeler, star of '30s musicals ("42nd Street"), died at age 82.

In 1994, NATO was involved in actual combat for the first time in its 45-year history when four U.S. fighter planes operating under NATO auspices shot down four Serb planes that had violated the U.N. no-fly zone in central Bosnia.

In 1996, Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana agreed to divorce after 15 years of marriage.

In 1997, the Democratic National Committee said it would return nearly $1.5 million in contributions that may have been illegal or improper.

Also in 1997, former FBI agent Earl Pitts pleaded guilty to spying and became only the second FBI agent convicted of espionage.

In 2000, bowing to international pressure, Jorg Haider resigned as leader of Austria's anti-immigrant Freedom Party. Haider had come under scrutiny for his reported admiration of Adolf Hitler.

In 2001, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the U.S. Pacific Northwest, injuring 250 people and causing more than $1 billion in damage.

In 2003, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a ban on all forms of human cloning, setting up a Senate debate on what would be appropriate research.

In 2004, documents provided by members of the Iraq Governing Council are said to indicate systematic skimming of billions of dollars by Saddam Hussein.

In 2005, at least 125 Iraqi police recruits and others were killed when a suicide bomber drove into a crowd outside a government office south of Baghdad.

In 2006, in another bloody day in Baghdad, at least 25 people died in an explosion outside a Shiite mosque and 33 more were killed in three other bombings.

In 2007, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Diego declared bankruptcy, halting trials on about 150 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests.

In 2008, rivals in the bitterly disputed Kenyan presidential election signed a power-sharing agreement in an effort to end a violent two-month aftermath in which an estimated 1.500 people died and as many as 600,000 were displaced.

Also in 2008, Prince Harry, third in line for the British throne, was pulled from the front lines in Afghanistan immediately after word got out that the prince, on army duty. He had spent 10 weeks in the war zone. The British media knew of the deployment but kept quiet until the story broke on a U.S Web site.

A thought for the day: it was Ben Hecht who wrote, "Do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doin' it."

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