The almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Saturday, Dec. 31, the 365th and last day of 2011.

This is New Year's Eve.


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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include French explorer Jacques Cartier in1491; 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 and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 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 74); Sarah Miles in 1941 (age 70) and Ben Kingsley in 1943 (age 68); singer John Denver in 1943; fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg in 1946 (age 65); rock singer Burton Cummings in 1947 (age 64); singer Donna Summer in 1948 (age 63); actors Tim Matheson in 1947 (age 64), Bebe Neuwirth in 1958 (age 53) and Val Kilmer in 1959 (age 52); and writer Nicholas Sparks in 1965 (age 46).


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 northeastern 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 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, the death toll in Kenya's post-election violence reached at least 140. Tribal uprisings were triggered after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki narrowly won re-election over Raila Odinga despite trailing by a wide margin earlier.

In 2008, the U.S. economy wound up a dismal year as signs of recession grew. Major U.S. stock market indexes had their worse single-year performances since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In 2009, with the U.S. economy still low and unemployment still high -- in the 10 percent neighborhood -- the U.S. stock market had what was called its best year since 2003. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 10,428.05, up 18.8 percent from the end of 2008. The Nasdaq Composite flourished with a one-year increase of 43.9 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500 showed a 23.4 percent gain for the 12-month period.


Also in 2009, year-end statistics reported a low of 149 U.S. military fatalities in Iraq for an overall toll of 4,370 troop deaths since the war began in 2003. In Afghanistan, the death count hit a high of 317 in 2009 for a cumulative total of 947.

In 2010, the second storm of a one-two blizzard punch targeted the Dakotas and western Minnesota with heavy, wind-whipped snow on New Year's Eve, causing a 100-vehicle accident on Interstate 94 near Fargo, N.D.

Also in 2010, Mexican soldiers seized more than 4 tons of marijuana over a week in Tijuana, bringing their 2010 total in Baja California to a record 300 tons.

And, Malaysia declared Dec. 31 a public holiday but not because it's New Year's Eve. Rather, it marked the day Malaysia won the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup soccer championship.

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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