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Today in history: March 23

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

Today is Thursday, March 23, the 82nd day of 2006. There are 283 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On March 23rd, 1775, Patrick Henry made his famous call for American independence from Britain, telling the Virginia Provincial Convention, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

On this date:
In 1792, Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major (the “Surprise” symphony) was performed publicly for the first time, in London.

In 1806, 200 years ago, explorers Lewis and Clark, having reached the Pacific coast, began their journey back east.

In 1919, Benito Mussolini founded his Fascist political movement in Milan, Italy.

In 1933, the German Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act, which effectively granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial legislative powers.

In 1942, during World War II, the U.S. government began evacuating Japanese-Americans from their West Coast homes to detention centers.

In 1956, 50 years ago, Pakistan became an independent republic within the British Commonwealth.

In 1965, America’s first two-person space flight began as Gemini Three blasted off from Cape Kennedy with astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young aboard.

In 1983, President Reagan first proposed developing technology to intercept enemy missiles — a proposal that came to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as “Star Wars.”

In 1983, Dr. Barney Clark, recipient of a permanent artificial heart, died at the University of Utah Medical Center after 112 days with the device.

In 2003, a U.S. Army maintenance convoy was ambushed in Iraq; eleven soldiers were killed, seven were captured, including Private First Class Jessica Lynch, who was rescued on April first.

Ten years ago: Taiwan held its first direct presidential elections; incumbent Lee Teng-hui was the victor.

Five years ago: Russia’s orbiting Mir space station ended its 15-year odyssey with a fiery plunge into the South Pacific. Russia said it was expelling 50 U.S. diplomats in retaliation for the expulsion of 50 Russians by the U.S. Newspaper columnist Rowland Evans died in Washington D.C at age 79. Greenpeace International co-founder David McTaggart died in Umbria, Italy, at age 68.

One year ago: A federal appeals court refused to reinsert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube and the Florida Legislature decided not to intervene in the epic struggle over the brain-damaged woman; Schiavo’s parents then filed a request with the Supreme Court. An explosion at a BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 people. Truck driver Tyrone Williams was convicted in a federal court in Houston for his role in the 2003 deaths of 19 illegal immigrants he was smuggling across Texas.

Today’s Birthdays: Comedian Marty Allen is 84. Movie director Mark Rydell is 72. Singer-producer Ric Ocasek is 57. Singer Chaka Khan is 53. Actress Amanda Plummer is 49. Actress Hope Davis is 42. Comedian John Pinette is 42. Actor Richard Grieco is 41. Country musician Kevin Griffin (Yankee Grey) is 41. Rock singer-musician Damon Albarn (Blur) is 38. Actress-singer Melissa Errico is 36. Rock musician John Humphrey (The Nixons) is 36. Actress Keri Russell is 30. Actress Nicholle Tom is 28. Country singer Paul Martin (Marshall Dyllon) is 28.

Thought for Today: “I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little more, as I grow older.” — Michel de Montaigne, French essayist (1533-1592).