The almanac

By United Press International  |  Jan. 31, 2012 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Tuesday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2012 with 335 to follow.

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

Those born on this date are under the sign of Aquarius. They include American patriot Gouverneur Morris, who wrote sections of the U.S. Constitution, in 1752; Austrian composer Franz Schubert in 1797; western novelist Zane Grey in 1872; comedian Eddie Cantor in 1892, actor Tallulah Bankhead in 1902; boxer Jersey Joe Walcott in 1914; radio and television personality Garry Moore in 1915; baseball Hall of Fame member Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major league baseball, in 1919; actor/singer Mario Lanza in 1921; actors Carol Channing in 1921 (age 91) and Joanne Dru in 1922; novelist Norman Mailer in 1923; civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks in 1925; actors Jean Simmons in 1929, Suzanne Pleshette in 1937, Jessica Walter in 1941 (age 71), Anthony LaPaglia in 1959 (age 53), and Minnie Driver in 1970 (age 42); Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in 1938 (age 74); baseball Hall of Fame members Ernie Banks in 1931 (age 81) and Nolan Ryan in 1947 (age 65); television news commentator Martha MacCallum in 1964 (age 48); and singer Justin Timberlake in 1981 (age 31).

On this date in history:

In 1929, the Soviet Union expelled communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky. He was assassinated in Mexico in August 1940.

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 1953, Nearly 2,000 people died when the North Sea flooded the Netherlands.

In 1958, Explorer 1, the first successful U.S. satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In 1961, NASA launches a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

In 1982, the Israeli Cabinet agreed to a multinational 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, 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 executions in the state after several death row inmates were found to be innocent of the crimes for which they were to be put to death.

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 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.

In 2010, U.S. stocks ended the first month of the new year on a downward trend, the Dow Jones industrial average registering a one-month decline of 3.5 percent and closed at 10,067.33, the Nasdaq Composite showing a 5.4 percent drop and the Standard and Poor's 500 down 3.7 percent.

In 2011, a U.S. judge in Florida ruled the healthcare reform law's requirement for mandatory health insurance was unconstitutional and struck down the entire law, saying the provision cannot be dealt with alone. The White House called the ruling "judicial overreaching."

Also in 2011, the Dow Jones industrial average closed out January at 11,891.93, a 2.72 percent increase for the month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also were up.

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."

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