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Today in History

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today is Tuesday, Feb. 28, the 59th day of 2012. There are 307 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Feb. 28, 1942, the heavy cruiser USS Houston and the Australian light cruiser HMAS Perth came under attack by Japanese forces during the World War II Battle of Sunda Strait; both were sunk shortly after midnight. (The Houston lost 693 men while the Perth lost 353.)

On this date:

In 1844, a 12-inch gun aboard the USS Princeton exploded as the ship was sailing on the Potomac River, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas W. Gilmer and several others.

In 1849, the California gold rush began in earnest as regular steamship service started bringing gold-seekers to San Francisco.

In 1861, the Territory of Colorado was organized.

In 1911, President William Howard Taft nominated William H. Lewis to be the first black Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

In 1951, the Senate committee headed by Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., issued an interim report saying at least two major crime syndicates were operating in the U.S.

In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announced they had discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule that contains the human genes.

In 1960, a day after defeating the Soviets at the Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., the United States won its first Olympic hockey gold medal by defeating Czechoslovakia's team, 9-4.

In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai issued the Shanghai Communique, which called for normalizing relations between their countries, at the conclusion of Nixon's historic visit to China.

In 1975, more than 40 people were killed in London's Underground when a subway train smashed into the end of a tunnel.

In 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death in central Stockholm. (The killing remains unsolved.)

In 1993, a gun battle erupted at a compound near Waco, Texas, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to serve warrants on the Branch Davidians; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.

In 1997, in North Hollywood, Calif., two heavily armed and armored robbers bungled a bank heist and came out firing, unleashing their arsenal on police, bystanders, cars and TV choppers before they were killed.

Ten years ago: The body of a young girl found outside San Diego was positively identified as that of seven-year-old Danielle van Dam, who'd disappeared from her bedroom about a month earlier; a neighbor, David Westerfield, was later convicted of her murder and sentenced to death. Hindus in western India retaliated for a train attack that claimed some 60 lives by setting fire to Muslims' homes, then keeping firefighters away for hours. Soap opera actress Mary Stuart, who had starred in "Search for Tomorrow" for some 35 years, died in New York at age 75.

Five years ago: A federal judge in Miami ruled that suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla was competent to stand trial on terrorism support charges, rejecting arguments that he was severely damaged by 31/2 years of interrogation and isolation in a military brig. Wall Street rebounded fitfully from the previous session's 416-point plunge in the Dow industrials as investors took comfort from comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that he still expected moderate economic growth. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. died in New York at age 89.

One year ago: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stayed loyal to him risked losing their wealth and facing prosecution for human rights abuses. Actress and World War II pin-up bombshell Jane Russell died in Santa Maria, Calif., at age 89. French actress Annie Girardot died in Paris at age 79.

Today's Birthdays: Producer Saul Zaentz is 91. Actor Charles Durning is 89. Architect Frank Gehry is 83. Actor Gavin MacLeod is 81. Actor Don Francks is 80. Actor-director-dancer Tommy Tune is 73. Hall of Fame auto racer Mario Andretti is 72. Singer Joe South is 72. Actor Frank Bonner is 70. Actress Kelly Bishop is 68. Actress Stephanie Beacham is 65. Writer-director Mike Figgis is 64. Actress Mercedes Ruehl is 64. Actress Bernadette Peters is 64. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is 64. Actress Ilene Graff is 63. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is 59. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is 57. Basketball Hall-of-Famer Adrian Dantley is 56. Actor John Turturro is 55. Rock singer Cindy Wilson is 55. Actress Rae Dawn Chong is 51. Actress Maxine Bahns is 43. Actor Robert Sean Leonard is 43. Rock singer Pat Monahan is 43. Author Daniel Handler (AKA "Lemony Snicket") is 42. Actor Rory Cochrane is 40. Actress Ali Larter is 36. Country singer Jason Aldean is 35. Actor Geoffrey Arend is 34. Actress Michelle Horn is 25. Actor Bobb'e J. Thompson is 16.

Thought for Today: "If we are to survive, we must have ideas, vision, and courage. These things are rarely produced by committees. Everything that matters in our intellectual and moral life begins with an individual confronting his own mind and conscience in a room by himself." -- Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917-2007).

Copyright 2012, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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