updated 4/12/2006 12:01:32 AM ET 2006-04-12T04:01:32

Today is Wednesday, April 12, the 102nd day of 2006. There are 263 days left in the year. The Jewish holiday Passover begins at sunset.

Today’s Highlight in History:
Four hundred years ago, on April 12, 1606, England's King James I decreed the design of the original Union Flag (also referred to as the Union Jack), which combined the flags of England and Scotland.

On this date:
In 1861, the American Civil War began as Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

In 1862, Union volunteers led by James J. Andrews stole a Confederate train near Marietta, Ga., but were later caught. (This episode inspired the Buster Keaton comedy “The General.”)

In 1934, “Tender Is the Night,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was first published.

In 1945, President Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Warm Springs, Ga., at age 63; he was succeeded by Vice President Harry S. Truman.

In 1955, the Salk vaccine against polio was declared safe and effective.

In 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly in space, orbiting the earth once before making a safe landing.

In 1981, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight.

In 1983, Chicagoans went to the polls to elect Harold Washington the city's first black mayor.

In 1985, Sen. Jake Garn of Utah became the first senator to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifted off.

In 1989, radical activist Abbie Hoffman was found dead at his home in New Hope, Pa., at age 52.

Ten years ago: President Clinton named U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor to succeed the late Ron Brown as commerce secretary.

Five years ago: The 24 crew members of a U.S. spy plane arrived in Hawaii after being held for 11 days in China. Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken declared a state of emergency amid the worst outbreak of racial violence in the city since the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. The Philippine military rescued U.S. hostage Jeffrey Schilling from Muslim rebels who had threatened to behead him.

One year ago: Three men with suspected al-Qaida ties, already in British custody, were charged with a years-long plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other East Coast financial institutions. President Bush visited soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, marking the two-year anniversary of the end of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Today’s Birthdays: Country singer Ned Miller is 81. Actress Jane Withers is 80. Opera singer Montserrat Caballe is 73. Actor Charles Napier is 70. Jazz musician Herbie Hancock is 66. Actor Frank Bank (“Leave It to Beaver”) is 64. Rock singer John Kay (Steppenwolf) is 62. Actor Ed O'Neill is 60. Author Tom Clancy is 59. Actor Dan Lauria is 59. Talk show host David Letterman is 59. Author Scott Turow is 57. Singer David Cassidy is 56. Rhythm-and-blues singer JD Nicholas (The Commodores) is 54. Singer Pat Travers is 52. Actor Andy Garcia is 50. Movie director Walter Salles is 50. Country singer Vince Gill is 49. Actress Suzzanne Douglas is 49. Rock musician Will Sergeant (Echo & the Bunnymen) is 48. Rock singer Art Alexakis (Everclear) is 44. Country singer Deryl Dodd is 42. Folk-pop singer Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) is 42. Figure skater Elaine Zayak is 41. Rock singer Nicholas Hexum (311) is 36. Actor Nicholas Brendon is 35. Actress Shannen Doherty is 35. Rock musician Guy Berryman (Coldplay) is 28. Actress Claire Danes is 27.

Thought for Today: “Eternal truths will be neither true nor eternal unless they have fresh meaning for every new social situation.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945).

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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