updated 10/4/2006 12:10:58 AM ET 2006-10-04T04:10:58

Today is Wednesday, Oct. 4, the 277th day of 2006. There are 88 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit.

On this date:
In 1777, George Washington’s troops launched an assault on the British at Germantown, Pa., resulting in heavy American casualties.

In 1822, the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, was born in Delaware, Ohio.

In 1931, the comic strip “Dick Tracy,” created by Chester Gould, made its debut.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini conferred at Brenner Pass in the Alps, where the Nazi leader sought Italy’s help in fighting the British.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI became the first reigning pontiff to visit the Western Hemisphere as he addressed the U.N. General Assembly.

In 1966, the kingdom of Lesotho gained its independence from Britain.

In 1970, rock singer Janis Joplin, 27, was found dead in her Hollywood hotel room.

In 1976, agriculture secretary Earl Butz resigned in the wake of a controversy over a joke he’d made about blacks.

In 1978, funeral services were held at the Vatican for Pope John Paul I.

In 1980, some 520 people were forced to abandon the cruise ship Prisendam in the Gulf of Alaska after the Dutch luxury liner caught fire; no deaths or serious injury resulted.

Ten years ago: A judge in Philadelphia issued an injunction preventing Major League baseball umpires from striking for the remainder of the postseason over an incident in which Roberto Alomar of the Baltimore Orioles spat on umpire John Hirschbeck.

Five years ago: A Russian airliner flying from Israel to Siberia was accidentally shot down by a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile over the Black Sea, killing all 78 people aboard. Barry Bonds hit his 70th home run to tie Mark McGwire’s 1998 record in a 10-2 victory over Houston. Rickey Henderson homered to pass Ty Cobb and become baseball’s career leader in runs scored with 2,246 during San Diego’s 6-3 win over Los Angeles.

One year ago: President Bush defended his Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, from suggestions by some skeptical Republicans that she was not conservative enough, and insisted Miers shared his strict-constructionist views. (Miers ended up withdrawing.) Hurricane Stan slammed into Mexico’s Gulf coast. Americans John L. Hall and Roy J. Glauber and German Theodor W. Haensch won the 2005 Nobel Prize in physics.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Charlton Heston is 83. Country singer Leroy Van Dyke is 77. Actress Felicia Farr is 74. Actor Eddie Applegate is 71. Author Anne Rice is 65. Actress Lori Saunders (“Petticoat Junction”) is 65. Actor Clifton Davis is 61. Actress Susan Sarandon is 60. Playwright Lee Blessing is 57. Actor Armand Assante is 57. Actor Alan Rosenberg is 56. Producer Russell Simmons is 49. Musician Chris Lowe (The Pet Shop Boys) is 47. Country musician Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard (Sawyer Brown) is 46. Actor David W. Harper is 45. Singer Jon Secada is 45. TV personality John Melendez (“The Tonight Show”) is 41. Actor Liev Schreiber is 39. Actor Abraham Benrubi is 37. Country singer-musician Heidi Newfield (Trick Pony) is 36. Rock musician Andy Parle is 36. Actress Alicia Silverstone is 30. Actor Phillip Glasser is 28. Actress Rachael Leigh Cook is 27. Actor Jimmy Workman is 26. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jessica Benson (3lw) is 19. Actor Michael Charles Roman is 19.

Thought for Today: “You do not know what life means when all the difficulties are removed! I am simply smothered and sickened with advantages. It is like eating a sweet dessert the first thing in the morning.” — Jane Addams, social worker and Nobel Peace laureate (1860-1935).

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