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Today in history: January 24

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Tuesday, Jan. 24, the 24th day of 2006. 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 1908, the first Boy Scout troop was organized in England by Robert Baden-Powell.

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

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

In 1965, Winston 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 plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated, scattering radioactive debris over parts of northern Canada.

In 1985, the space shuttle Discovery was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the first secret, all-military shuttle mission.

In 1989, confessed serial killer Ted 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 and its chief, Tom Ridge, was sworn in.

Ten years ago: The FDA approved Olestra, the nation’s first zero-calorie artificial fat. Specialist Michael New was discharged from the U.S. Army after a court-martial jury convicted him for refusing to wear a UN beret for a peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia.

Five years ago: The last two of seven escaped convicts from Texas were captured in Colorado after 42 days on the run; four others were captured earlier, and one committed suicide. Lucent Technologies said it would eliminate up to 16,000 jobs.

One year ago: Authorities in Iraq said Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, an al-Qaida lieutenant in custody, had confessed to masterminding most of the car bombings in Baghdad. The United Nations broke with years of protocol and commemorated the 60-year anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, directly linking its own founding with the end of the Holocaust in some of the strongest language ever.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Ernest Borgnine is 89. Evangelist Oral Roberts is 88. Actor Marvin Kaplan (“Top Cat”) is 79. Cajun musician Doug Kershaw is 70. Singer-songwriter Ray Stevens is 67. Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond is 65. Singer Aaron Neville is 65. Actor Michael Ontkean is 60. Actor Daniel Auteuil is 56. Country singer-songwriter Becky Hobbs is 56. Comedian Yakov Smirnoff is 55. Bandleader-musician Jools Holland is 48. Rhythm-and-blues singer Theopolis Peoples is 45. Country musician Keech Rainwater (Lonestar) is 43. Comedian Phil LaMarr is 39. Olympic gold-medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton is 38. Rhythm-and-blues singer Pat “Sleepy” Brown (Society of Soul) is 36. Actor Matthew Lillard is 36. Actress Merrilee McCommas is 35. Actress Tatyana Ali is 27. Actress Mischa Barton is 20.

Thought for Today: “God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends.” — Addison Mizner, American architect (1872-1933).