updated 10/4/2007 12:00:57 AM ET 2007-10-04T04:00:57

Today is Thursday, Oct. 4, the 277th day of 2007. There are 88 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

Fifty years ago, on Oct. 4, 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial 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 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 1957, Jimmy Hoffa was elected president of the Teamsters Union.

In 1957, the situation comedy “Leave It to Beaver” premiered on CBS-TV.

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

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, a funeral mass was held at the Vatican for Pope John Paul I.

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

Ten years ago: Hundreds of thousands of men attended a Promise Keepers rally on the mall in Washington, D.C.

Five years ago: John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban,” received a 20-year sentence after a sobbing, halting plea for forgiveness before a federal judge in Alexandria, Va. In a federal court in Boston, Richard Reid pleaded guilty with a laugh to trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes as he declared his hatred for America and his loyalty to Osama bin Laden.

One year ago: Ousted Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, a company officer and three investigators were charged with violating California privacy laws in a corporate spying scandal. (The charges were later dropped, with a judge calling their conduct a “betrayal of trust and honor” that nonetheless did not rise to the level of criminal activity.) American Roger D. Kornberg won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. New York Times correspondent R.W. Apple Jr. died in Washington at age 71.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Charlton Heston is 84. Country singer Leroy Van Dyke is 78. Actress Felicia Farr is 75. Actor Eddie Applegate is 72. Author Anne Rice is 66. Actress Lori Saunders (“Petticoat Junction”) is 66. Actor Clifton Davis is 62. Actress Susan Sarandon is 61. Blues musician Duke Robillard is 59. Playwright Lee Blessing is 58. Actor Armand Assante is 58. Actor Alan Rosenberg is 57. Producer Russell Simmons is 50. Musician Chris Lowe (The Pet Shop Boys) is 48. Country musician Gregg “Hobie” Hubbard (Sawyer Brown) is 47. Actor David W. Harper is

46. Singer Jon Secada is 46. TV personality John Melendez (“The Tonight Show”) is 42. Actor Liev Schreiber is 40. Actor Abraham Benrubi is 38. Country singer-musician Heidi Newfield is 37. Rock musician Andy Parle is 37. Actress Alicia Silverstone is 31. Actor Phillip Glasser is 29. Actress Rachael Leigh Cook is 28. Actor Jimmy Workman is 27. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jessica Benson (3lw) is 20. Actor Michael Charles Roman is 20.

Thought for Today: “Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” — Ben Hecht, American screenwriter (1894-1964).

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