The almanac

By United Press International
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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 5, the 340th day of 2012, with 26 to follow.

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


Those born on this date are under the sign of Sagittarius. They include Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, in 1782; U.S. Army Gen. George Custer in 1839; film director Fritz Lang in 1890; German physicist Werner Heisenberg and entrainment entrepreneur Walt Disney, both in 1901; U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., in 1902; film director Otto Preminger in 1905; singer Little Richard (Richard Penniman) in 1932 (age 80); author Joan Didion in 1934 (age 78); writer Calvin Trillin in 1935 (age 77); songwriter J.J. Cale 1938 (age 74); opera tenor Jose Carreras in 1946 (age 66); rock 'n' roll Hall of Fame member Jim Messina and football Hall of fame member Jim Plunkett, both in 1947 (age 65); comedian Margaret Cho in 1968 (age 44); and actor Frankie Muniz in 1985 (age 27).


On this date in history:

In 1776, the first scholastic fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at William and Mary College in Virginia.

In 1848, U.S. President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in California, leading to the "gold rush" of 1848 and '49.

In 1933, prohibition of liquor in the United States was repealed when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In 1945, five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers disappeared on a routine flight in the area of the Atlantic known as the Bermuda Triangle.

In 1955, in one of the early civil rights actions in the South, blacks declared a boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Ala., demanding seating on an equal basis with whites. The boycott, prompted by the arrest of Rosa Parks, a black woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.

Also in 1955, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization merged after 20 years of rivalry to form the AFL-CIO.

In 1991, British media magnate Robert Maxwell disappeared while on his yacht off the Canary Islands.

Also in 1991, convicted mass murderer Richard Speck died, one day short of his 50th birthday and 25 years after killing eight student nurses in Chicago.


In 1993, Rafael Caldera Rodriguez was elected president of Venezuela.

In 2001, factions in war-shaken Afghanistan agreed on an interim government, naming Hamid Karzai as their new leader.

In 2002, U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., celebrated his 100th birthday on Capitol Hill. Thurmond, who retired the following year, had served the Senate since 1954, making him both the longest-serving and oldest member of Congress. He died June 27, 2003.

In 2007, a man opened fire in a popular Omaha mall, killing eight and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself.

In 2008, about 533,000 non-farm U.S. jobs were lost in November, the highest number since 1974, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate increased 0.2 of a percentage point to 6.7 percent.

In 2009, an explosion and blaze ignited by fireworks killed 107 people and injured 130 others at a Russian nightclub in the Urals. The owner and the manager were charged with causing deaths by breaching fire safety regulations.

Also in 2009, American exchange student Amanda Knox of Seattle was convicted by an Italian jury of killing former roommate Meredith Kercher of England during what prosecutors called a sexual game that turned deadly. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison but was freed two years later when an appeals court overturned her conviction.


In 2010, the head of Iran's atomic agency says the country was converting its own yellow cake uranium, which, he said, means its nuclear program has become self-sufficient.

In sports, Russia and Qatar were chosen first-time hosts for the World Cup soccer tournament in 2018 and 2022, respectively.

In 2011, tension rose in Egypt as the first parliamentary election since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak resulted in a runoff. The ruling military council and the Muslim Brotherhood party, which led after the first round of a three-stage runoff, meanwhile accused each other of plotting a dictatorship.

Also in 2011, officials in Paris said talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, involving bailout money and perhaps budgetary policy, could lead to a $2.7 trillion eurozone rescue package.

A thought for the day: Archibald MacLeish said of Americans, "They were the first self-constituted, self-declared, self-created people in the history of the world."

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