Today is Friday, March 9, the 69th day of 2012 with 297 to follow.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Neptune and Saturn. The evening stars are Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus and Venus.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Pisces. They include explorer Amerigo Vespucci in 1454; Leland Stanford, railroad builder and founder of California's Stanford University, in 1824; English novelist and poet Victoria Sackville-West in 1892; actor Will Geer in 1902; composer Samuel Barber in 1910; detective novelist Mickey Spillane in 1918; Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, in 1934; actors Joyce Van Patten in 1934 (age 78), Marty Ingels in 1936 (age 76), Raul Julia in 1940 and Trish Van Devere in 1943 (age 69); country singer Mickey Gilley in 1936 (age 76); rock 'n' roll singer Mark Lindsay in 1942 (age 70); former world chess champion Bobby Fischer in 1943; rock musician Robin Trower in 1945 (age 67); actors Linda Fiorentino in 1960 (age 52), Juliette Binoche in 1964 (age 48) and Emmanuel Lewis in 1971 (age 41); Olympic gold medal skier Julia Mancuso in 1984 (age 28); and rapper/actor Bow Wow in 1987 (age 25).
On this date in history:
In 1841, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, with only one dissent, that the African slaves who seized control of the Amistad slave ship had been illegally forced into slavery and thus were free under U.S. law.
In 1862, the opposing ironclad ships, the Union's Monitor and the Confederate's Merrimac (renamed the Virginia), battled to a draw off Hampton Roads, Va.
In 1864, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was appointed commander in chief of Union forces in the U.S. Civil War.
In 1917, several hundred Mexican guerrillas under the command of Francisco "Pancho" Villa crossed the U.S.-Mexican border and attacked the small border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 17 Americans.
In 1945, 343 American airplanes bombed Tokyo with incendiary bombs, killing 83,000 people and destroying some 250,000 buildings over 16 square miles.
In 1959, Barbie, the perennially popular doll, debuted in stores.
In 1986, the module containing the bodies of the seven astronauts killed in the Jan. 28 explosion of the shuttle Challenger was located off Florida.
In 1990, Haitian dictator Gen. Prosper Avril stepped down from power under pressure and the military agreed to turn the nation over to civilian rule.
In 1992, a federal judge in New York announced a final $1.3 billion agreement to settle the civil suits growing out of the 1989 collapse of Drexel Burham Lambert, once the most powerful firm on Wall Street.
In 2004, John Allen Muhammad was sentenced to death for his part in one of 10 Washington-area sniper killings in 2002.
Also in 2004, a government report warned that obesity could become the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.
In 2005, Dan Rather stepped down as anchor and managing editor of "CBS Evening News." His action followed acknowledgment of major flaws in a broadcast about U.S. President George Bush's National Guard service.
In 2006, scientists reported evidence of water on a Saturn moon.
In 2007, the Justice Department accused the FBI of misusing the USA Patriot Act in gathering information on thousands of U.S. citizens and foreign nationalists allegedly with suspected links to terrorism.
In 2008, Pakistani leaders voted to strip President Pervez Musharraf of certain crucial powers and reinstate the Supreme Court he had fired a week earlier.
Also in 2008, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected to a second term. During his first term he removed Spanish troops from Iraq and legalized same-sex marriage.
In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted the U.S. limit on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, calling it an important advancement in the cause of science in America.
Also in 2009, the U.N. reported the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe had claimed an estimated 4,000 lives with nearly 90,000 others having contracted the disease.
In 2010, a magnitude-6 earthquake struck six towns in the mountainous Turkish province of Karakocan. At least 57 people died and 71 others were injured.
Also in 2010, the Israeli government announced plans to go ahead with construction of 1,600 homes in a Jewish settlement in mostly Arab East Jerusalem despite U.S. opposition.
In 2011, a suicide bomber killed and wounded dozens of mourners at a funeral in northwestern Pakistan, the second straight day of such violence in the country.
Also in 2011, the archbishop of Philadelphia placed 21 Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children on administrative leave.
A thought for the day: Mickey Spillane said: "Wherever I go everybody knows me but here's why ... I'm a merchandiser, I'm not just a writer. I stay in every avenue you can think of."