The almanac

By United Press International   |   Feb. 18, 2012 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Saturday, Feb. 18, the 49th day of 2012 with 317 to follow.

The moon is waning. The morning stars are Mars and Saturn. The evening stars are Mercury, Neptune, Venus, Jupiter 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 Merle Oberon in 1911, Jack Palance in 1919 and George Kennedy in 1925 (age 87); game show host Bill Cullen in 1920; author and magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown in 1922 (age 90); novelists Len Deighton in 1929 (age 83) and Toni Morrison in 1931 (age 81); cartoonists Gahan Wilson in 1930 and Johnny Hart in 1931; filmmaker Milos Forman in 1932 (age 80); Yoko Ono, wife of John Lennon, in 1933 (age 79); actors Cybill Shepherd in 1950 (age 62) and John Travolta in 1954 (age 58); film director John Hughes in 1950; game show icon Vanna White in 1957 (age 55); actors Greta Scacchi in 1960 (age 52), Matt Dillon in 1964 (age 48) and Molly Ringwald in 1968 (age 44); and rapper and record producer Dr. Dre in 1965 (age 47).

On this date in history:

In 1841, the first filibuster in the U.S. Senate began. It ended March 11.

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 1884, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain was published.

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

In 1954, the Church of Scientology was established in Los Angeles.

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

In 1979, Snow fell in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for the first known time.

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 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 and killed at least 20 people as Shiites began observing the holy period of Ashura. Dozens more Iraqis died in similar sectarian 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 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.

In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a $75 billion plan to help struggling homeowners refinance mortgages and prevent foreclosure. He claimed the plan would help housing prices return to earlier values and improve struggling neighborhoods.

In 2010, a man reportedly holding a grudge against the U.S. government and its tax system crashed his light plane into an office of the Internal Revenue Service in Austin, Texas, killing himself and two others.

In 2011, Bahraini troops opened fire on anti-government protesters with death toll reports ranging as high as 30. Another 24 demonstrators were reported killed in Libya.

Also in 2011, the United States cast a veto to kill a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring Israel's West Bank settlement construction to be illegal. The other 14 council members voted for the proposal.

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

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