Today in History

By The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, Feb. 17, the 48th day of 2008. There are 318 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Feb. 17, 1801, the House of Representatives broke an electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, electing Jefferson president; Burr became vice president.

On this date:

In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union ship USS Housatonic was rammed and sunk in Charleston Harbor, S.C., by the Confederate hand-cranked submarine HL Hunley, which also sank.

In 1865, Columbia, S.C., burned as the Confederates evacuated and Union forces moved in. (It's not clear which side set the blaze.)

In 1897, the forerunner of the National PTA, the National Congress of Mothers, convened its first meeting, in Washington.

In 1904, the original two-act version of Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly" was poorly received at its premiere at La Scala in Milan, Italy.

In 1908, sportscaster Walter Lanier "Red" Barber was born in Columbus, Miss.

In 1933, Newsweek was first published by Thomas J.C. Martyn under the title "News-Week."

In 1947, the Voice of America began broadcasting to the Soviet Union.

In 1964, the Supreme Court, in Wesberry v. Sanders, ruled that congressional districts within each state had to be roughly equal in population.

In 1972, President Nixon departed on his historic trip to China.

In 1988, Lt. Col. William Higgins, a Marine Corps officer serving with a United Nations truce monitoring group, was kidnapped in southern Lebanon. (He was later slain by his captors).

Ten years ago: President Clinton, preparing Americans for possible air strikes against Iraq, said military force is never the first answer "but sometimes it's the only answer." A jury in Fort Worth, Texas, convicted former Naval Academy midshipman Diane Zamora of killing a 16-year-old romantic rival. (Zamora and her ex-boyfriend, former U.S. Air Force Academy cadet David Graham, are serving life sentences in the slaying of Adrianne Jones.) An Iranian crowd cheered as U.S. wrestlers carried the Stars and Stripes into an international meet in Tehran. The U.S. women's hockey team won the gold medal at Nagano, Japan, defeating Canada 3-1.

Five years ago: Twenty-one people were killed in a stampede at the crowded E2 nightclub in Chicago. European Union leaders declared their solidarity with the United States, warning Saddam Hussein that Iraq faced one "last chance" to disarm peacefully but calling war a last resort. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler died of heatstroke at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hospital, less than 24 hours after complaining of dizziness during a spring training workout. An estimated 40 million viewers tuned in to the finale of Fox's reality show "Joe Millionaire," in which Evan Marriott chose Zora Andrich.

One year ago: Senate Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate President Bush's deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad. At Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington was sentenced to eight years in military prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of an Iraqi civilian. Former French Cabinet minister Maurice Papon, convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews during World War II, died near Paris at age 96.

Today's Birthdays: Bandleader Orrin Tucker is 97. Actor Hal Holbrook is 83. Mystery writer Ruth Rendell is 78. Singer Bobby Lewis is 75. Comedian Dame Edna (AKA Barry Humphries) is 74. Country singer-songwriter Johnny Bush is 73. Football Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown is 72. Actress Mary Ann Mobley is 69. Actress Brenda Fricker is 63. Actress Rene Russo is 54. Actor Richard Karn is 52. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips is 46. Basketball player Michael Jordan is 45. Actor-comedian Larry, the Cable Guy is 45. TV personality Rene Syler is 45. Movie director Michael Bay is 44. Singer Chante Moore is 41. Rock musician Timothy J. Mahoney (311) is 38. Actor Dominic Purcell is 38. Actress Denise Richards is 37. Rock singer-musician Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) is 36. Actor Jerry O'Connell is 34. Country singer Bryan White is 34. Actress Kelly Carlson is 32. Actor Jason Ritter is 28. TV personality Paris Hilton is 27. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is 27.

Thought for Today: "Wounded vanity knows when it is mortally hurt; and limps off the field, piteous, all disguises thrown away. But pride carries its banner to the last; and fast as it is driven from one field unfurls it in another." -- Helen Hunt Jackson, American author (1831-1885).