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Today in history: February 28

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

Today is Tuesday, Feb. 28, the 59th day of 2006. There are 306 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Feb. 28, 1849, the ship California arrived at San Francisco, carrying the first of the gold-seekers.

On this date:
In 1827, the first U.S. railroad chartered to carry passengers and freight, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, was incorporated.

In 1844, a 12-inch gun aboard the USS Princeton exploded, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas W. Gilmer and several others.

In 1861, the Territory of Colorado was organized.

In 1951, the committee headed by Sen. Estes Kefauver, D-Tenn., issued a preliminary report saying at least two major crime syndicates were operating in the U.S.

In 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule that contains the human genes.

In 1974, the United States and Egypt re-established diplomatic relations after a seven-year break.

In 1975, more than 40 people were killed in London’s Underground when a subway train smashed into the end of a tunnel.

In 1986, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot to death in central Stockholm.

In 1993, a gun battle erupted at a compound near Waco, Texas, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents tried to serve warrants on the Branch Davidians; four agents and six Davidians were killed as a 51-day standoff began.

In 1995, Denver International Airport opened after 16 months of delays and $3.2 billion in budget overruns.

Ten years ago: President Clinton and the Congress agreed on a sanctions bill aimed at driving foreign investors from Cuba. Britain’s Princess Diana agreed to divorce Prince Charles. Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” won best rock album and album of the year at the Grammy Awards; Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” won for record and song of the year.

Five years ago: A powerful earthquake rocked the Northwest, shattering windows, showering bricks onto sidewalks and sending frightened people running into the streets in Seattle and Portland, Ore. A train collision in northeast England killed 10 people and injured more than 70.

One year ago: In Santa Maria, Calif., the prosecution and defense gave opening statements in the sexual molestation trial of Michael Jackson, who was later acquitted. U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow discovered the bodies of her husband and mother inside her Chicago home. (An unemployed electrician confessed to the murders in a suicide note.) A suicide car bombing targeted at security recruits killed 125 people in Hillah, Iraq. Lebanon’s pro-Syrian prime minister, Omar Karami, resigned amid large anti-Syria street demonstrations in Beirut.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Charles Durning is 83. Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Josef Stalin, is 80. Actor Gavin MacLeod is 75. Actor Don Francks is 74. Actor-director-dancer Tommy Tune is 67. Auto racer Mario Andretti is 66. Singer Joe South is 66. Actor Frank Bonner is 64. Actress Kelly Bishop is 62. Football player Bubba Smith is 61. Actress Stephanie Beacham is 59. Actress Mercedes Ruehl is 58. Actress Bernadette Peters is 58. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried is 51. Basketball player Adrian Dantley is 50. Actor John Turturro is 49. Rock singer Cindy Wilson is 49. Actress Rae Dawn Chong is 45. Actor Robert Sean Leonard is 37. Rock singer Pat Monahan (Train) is 37. Actress Maxine Bahns is 35. Country singer Jason Aldean is 29. Actor Bobb’e J. Thompson (“The Tracy Morgan Show”) is 10.

Thought for Today: “In science, all facts, no matter how trivial or banal, enjoy democratic equality.” — Mary McCarthy, American author and critic (1912-1989).