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Today in history: April 21

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

Today is Friday, April 21, the 111th day of 2006. There are 254 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On April 21, 1789, John Adams was sworn in as the first vice president of the United States.

On this date:
In 1649, the Maryland Toleration Act, which provided for freedom of worship for all Christians, was passed by the Maryland assembly.

In 1836, an army of Texans led by Sam Houston defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto, assuring Texas independence.

In 1910, author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, died in Redding, Conn.

In 1918, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, the German ace known as the “Red Baron,” was killed in action during World War I.

In 1940, the quiz show that asked the “64-dollar question,” “Take It or Leave It,” premiered on CBS Radio.

In 1960, Brazil inaugurated its new capital, Brasilia, transferring the seat of national government from Rio de Janeiro.

In 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke explored the surface of the moon.

In 1975, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu resigned after 10 years in office.

In 1976, full-scale testing of the swine flu vaccine began in Washington, D.C.

In 1986, a vault in Chicago’s Lexington Hotel that was linked to Al Capone was opened during a live TV special hosted by Geraldo Rivera; aside from a few bottles and a sign, the vault was empty.

Ten years ago: President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin traded warm compliments and played down nagging differences, insisting their election-year summit in Moscow was not being influenced by presidential politics. Oddsmaker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder died at age 76.

Five years ago: Western Hemisphere leaders meeting in Quebec ratified a plan barring undemocratic nations from a massive free trade zone they hoped would expand prosperity across their 34 nations. For a second day, protesters clashed with nightstick-wielding police who fired water cannons and rubber bullets. The Los Angeles Xtreme beat the San Francisco Demons 38-6 in the first — and last — XFL championship game.

One year ago: A commercial helicopter contracted by the U.S. Defense Department was shot down by missile fire north of Baghdad; 11 people, including six American bodyguards for U.S. diplomats, were killed. Army Sgt. Hasan Akbar was convicted by a military jury at Fort Bragg, N.C., of premeditated murder and attempted murder in an attack that killed two of his comrades and wounded 14 others in Kuwait. Zhang Chunqiao, one of the Gang of Four that terrorized China during the Cultural Revolution, died at age 88.

Today’s Birthdays: Ice skater Werner Groebli (“Mr. Frick”) is 91. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is 80. Actress-comedian-writer Elaine May is 74. Actor Charles Grodin is 71. Singer-musician Iggy Pop is 59. Singer-songwriter Paul Davis is 58. Actress Patti LuPone is 57. Actor Tony Danza is 55. Actress Andie MacDowell is 48. Rock singer Robert Smith (The Cure) is 47. Rock musician Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) is 47. Actor John Cameron Mitchell is 43. Rapper Michael Franti (Spearhead) is 38. Comedian Nicole Sullivan is 36.

Thought for Today: “Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.” — Mark Twain (1835-1910).