updated 1/24/2007 12:01:29 AM ET 2007-01-24T05:01:29

Today is Wednesday, Jan. 24, the 24th day of 2007. There are 341 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Jan. 24, 1848, James W. Marshall discovered a gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in northern California, a discovery that led to the gold rush of ’49.

On this date:
In 1742, Charles VII was crowned Holy Roman Emperor during the War of the Austrian Succession.

In 1924, the Russian city of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) was renamed Leningrad in honor of the late revolutionary leader (however, it has since been renamed St. Petersburg).

In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill concluded a wartime conference in Casablanca, Morocco.

In 1965, Churchill died in London at age 90.

In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down laws that denied welfare benefits to people who had resided in a state for less than a year.

In 1978, a nuclear-powered Soviet satellite, Cosmos 954, plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated, scattering radioactive debris over parts of northern Canada.

In 1987, gunmen in Lebanon kidnapped educators Alann Steen, Jesse Turner and Robert Polhill and Mitheleshwar Singh (all were eventually released).

In 1989, confessed serial killer Theodore Bundy was put to death in Florida’s electric chair.

In 1993, retired Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall died in Bethesda, Md., at age 84.

In 2003, the new Department of Homeland Security officially opened as its head, Tom Ridge, was sworn in.

Ten years ago: The White House released guest lists showing that in the year and a half before his re-election, President Clinton had invited more than 400 of his party’s top financial supporters to coffee klatches for informal chats about his policies. Publix Super Markets, accused of relegating women to dead-end, low-paying jobs, agreed to pay $81.5 million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit.

Five years ago: A House committee opened hearings into the collapse of energy giant Enron Corp. Officials of Enron’s accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, claimed fired auditor David Duncan was solely responsible for the massive destruction of Enron documents; Duncan refused to answer questions, invoking the Fifth Amendment. John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban,” made his first court appearance in suburban Washington, D.C.

One year ago: Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito won a 10-8 party-line approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Armed men seized two German engineers from a car in northern Iraq (both were later released). Tap dancer Fayard Nicholas died at age 91; actor Chris Penn died at age 40.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Ernest Borgnine is 90. Evangelist Oral Roberts is 89. Actor Jerry Maren (“The Wizard of Oz”) is 88. Actor Marvin Kaplan (“Top Cat”) is 80. Cajun musician Doug Kershaw is 71. Singer-songwriter Ray Stevens is 68. Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond is 66. Singer Aaron Neville is 66. Actor Michael Ontkean is 61. Actor Daniel Auteuil is 57. Country singer-songwriter Becky Hobbs is 57. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff is 56. Bandleader-musician Jools Holland is 49. Rhythm-and-blues singer Theopolis Peoples is 46. Country musician Keech Rainwater (Lonestar) is 44. Comedian Phil LaMarr is 40. Olympic gold-medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton is 39. Rhythm-and-blues singer Pat Brown (Society of Soul) is 37. Actor Matthew Lillard is 37. Actress Merrilee McCommas is 36. Actress Tatyana Ali is 28. Actress Mischa Barton is 21.

Thought for Today: “The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.” — Brooks Atkinson, American drama critic (1894-1984).

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