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Today in history: March 27

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

Today is Monday, March 27, the 86th day of 2006. There are 279 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On March 27, 1977, 582 people were killed when a KLM Boeing 747, attempting to take off, crashed into a Pan Am 747 on the Canary Island of Tenerife.

On this date:
In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sighted Florida.

In 1625, Charles I ascended the English throne upon the death of James I.

In 1794, President Washington and Congress authorized creation of the U.S. Navy.

In 1836, the first Mormon temple was dedicated, in Kirtland, Ohio.

In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans became the first U.S. team to win the Stanley Cup as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens.

In 1958, Nikita Khrushchev became Soviet premier in addition to First Secretary of the Communist Party.

In 1964, Alaska was rocked by a powerful earthquake that killed 114 people.

In 1968, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit the earth, died in a plane crash.

In 1980, 137 workers died when a North Sea floating oil field platform, the Alexander I. Keilland, capsized during a storm.

In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration approved the anti-impotence drug Viagra, made by Pfizer.

Ten years ago: An Israeli court convicted Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s confessed assassin of murder, then sentenced former law student Yigal Amir to life in prison.

Five years ago: In its first specific accusation against a detained U.S.-based scholar, China said Gao Zhan had confessed to spying for foreign intelligence agencies. (Gao, who had been detained Feb. 11, was released the following July.) California regulators approved electricity rate hikes of up to 46 percent. An empty train riding on the wrong side of the tracks crashed into a crowded commuter train in central Belgium, killing eight people.

One year ago: Pope John Paul II delivered an Easter Sunday blessing to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, but the ailing pontiff was unable to speak and managed only to greet the saddened crowd with a sign of the cross. In a live Internet interview with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson declared himself “completely innocent” of child molestation charges, and said he was the victim of a conspiracy.

Today’s Birthdays: Blues musician Robert Lockwood Jr. is 91. Former newspaper columnist Anthony Lewis is 79. Dance company director Arthur Mitchell is 72. Actor Julian Glover is 71. Actor Jerry Lacy is 70. Actor Austin Pendleton is 66. Actor Michael York is 64. Rock musician Tony Banks (Genesis) is 56. Actress Maria Schneider is 54. Rock musician Andrew Farriss (INXS) is 47. Movie director Quentin Tarantino is 43. Rock musician Derrick McKenzie (Jamiroquai) is 42. Actress Talisa Soto is 39. Actress Pauley Perrette is 37. Singer Mariah Carey is 36. Rock musician Brendan Hill (Blues Traveler) is 36. Actress Elizabeth Mitchell is 36. Hip-hop singer Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) is 31. Actress Emily Ann Lloyd is 23. Actress Taylor Atelian is 11.

Thought for Today: “Out of love you can speak with straight fury.” — Eudora Welty, American author (1909-2001).