The almanac

By United Press International

Today is Wednesday, May 20, the 140th day of 2009 with 225 to follow.

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


Those born on this date are under the sign of Taurus. They include William Thornton, architect of the Capitol building in Washington, in 1759; Dolley Madison, wife of the fourth U.S. president James Madison, in 1768; French novelist Honore de Balzac in 1799; English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill in 1806; German Emile Berliner, inventor of the flat phonograph record, in 1851; actor James Stewart in 1908; Israeli military commander and politician Moshe Dayan in 1915; comedian George Gobel in 1919; actor Anthony Zerbe in 1936 (age 73); British singer/songwriter Joe Cocker in 1944 (age 65); singer/actress Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian, in 1946 (age 63); Ronald Prescott Reagan, son of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, in 1958 (age 51); and actor Bronson Pinchot in 1959 (age 50).


On this date in history:

In 1506, Christopher Columbus died in Spain.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh took off from New York in his single-engine monoplane, "The Spirit of St. Louis," bound for Paris. He landed 33 1/2 hours later, completing the first solo, non-stop trans-Atlantic flight.

In 1974, Judge John Sirica ordered U.S. President Richard Nixon to turn over tapes and other records of 64 White House conversations on the Watergate affair.

In 1989, Chinese Premier Li Peng declared martial law in Beijing in response to heightened student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

In 1991, national elections in India sparked political violence that left 40 dead and hundreds injured.

In 1993, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the so-called motor voter bill, making it easier to register to vote.

In 1999, a high school student in Georgia opened fire on his classmates, wounding six of them before surrendering to school authorities.

The same day, U.S. President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton met in Littleton, Colo., with students, teachers and families of the victims of the previous month's deadly shootings at Columbine High School.

In 2002, East Timor, a small Pacific Coast nation, gained its independence from Indonesia.

In 2004, U.S. forces and Iraqi police raided the Baghdad offices of key U.S. ally and Shiite leader Ahmed Chalabi. He had been accused of having misinformed the Pentagon about the situation in pre-war Iraq and was accused in one report of passing U.S. intelligence to Iran.


In 2006, in an unprecedented move, the FBI searched the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., in an ongoing bribery investigation.

Also in 2006, Iraq's parliament approved a new Cabinet although three key ministerial posts -- defense, security and interior -- were left open so opposing parties could work out a compromise.

In 2006 sports, Barbaro, the unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner, entered the Preakness a heavy favorite but pulled up shortly after it began when he fractured his left hind leg. It ended his racing career and eventually, led to his death. The race was won by Bernardini, owned by the Dubai royal family.

In 2007, the U.S. military placed the Iraq war combat death toll for Americans at 3,422.

Also in 2007, spring flooding caused by ice jams on four rivers forced the evacuation of more than 3,500 people in the Russian Yakutia Republic.

In 2008, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., 76, a champion of liberal causes in the Senate for more than four decades, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He had been hospitalized in Boston three days earlier after suffering a seizure at the family compound in Hyannis Port.

Also in 2008, for the first time in eight years, Israel and Syria returned to the bargaining table to try to work out a peace deal.


A thought for the day: Friedrich Nietzsche said, "Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies."

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