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Today in history: April 26

/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, April 26, the 116th day of 2006. There are 249 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
Twenty years ago, on April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident occurred at the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union. An explosion and fire killed at least 31 people and sent radioactivity into the atmosphere.

On this date:
In 1785, American naturalist and artist John James Audubon was born in Haiti.

In 1865, John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was surrounded by federal troops near Bowling Green, Va., and killed.

In 1937, planes from Nazi Germany raided the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

In 1945, Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, the head of France’s Vichy government during World War II, was arrested.

In 1964, the African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged to form Tanzania.

In 1968, the United States exploded beneath the Nevada desert a 1-megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar.”

In 1970, the Broadway musical “Company” opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York.

In 1980, following an unsuccessful attempt by the United States to rescue the U.S. Embassy hostages in Iran, the Tehran government announced the captives were being scattered to thwart any future rescue effort.

In 1994, a Taiwanese jetliner crashed in Nagoya, Japan, killing 264 people.

In 2000, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean signed the nation’s first bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.

Ten years ago: After 16 days of bloodshed, Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas pledged to end the worst fighting in the Mideast in three years, agreeing to a U.S.-brokered truce.

Five years ago: Ukraine’s communist-dominated parliament dismissed reform-oriented Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and his government, plunging the nation into political chaos. Junichiro Koizumi was elected as prime minister of Japan in a vote by the lower house of Japan’s parliament.

One year ago: Syria’s 29-year military presence in Lebanon ended as Syrian soldiers completed a withdrawal brought about by international pressure and Lebanese street protests. Actress Maria Schell died in Preitenegg, Austria, at age 79.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress-comedian Carol Burnett is 73. Rhythm-and-blues singer Maurice Williams is 68. Songwriter-musician Duane Eddy is 68. Singer Bobby Rydell is 64. Actress Claudine Auger is 64. Rock musician Gary Wright is 63. Actor Giancarlo Esposito is 48. Rock musician Roger Taylor (Duran Duran) is 46. Actress Joan Chen is 45. Rock musician Chris Mars is 45. Actor-singer Michael Damian is 44. Actor Jet Li is 43. Rock musician Jimmy Stafford (Train) is 42. Actor-comedian Kevin James is 41. Actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste is 39. Country musician Joe Caverlee (Yankee Grey) is 38. Rapper T-Boz (TLC) is 36. Country musician Jay DeMarcus (Rascal Flats) is 35. Country musician Michael Jeffers (Pinmonkey) is 34. Rock musician Jose Pasillas (Incubus) is 30. Actor Tom Welling is 29. Actress Jordana Brewster is 26. Actress Marnette Patterson is 26. Actor Aaron Weeks is 20.

Thought for Today: “For those who do not think, it is best at least to rearrange their prejudices once in a while.” — Luther Burbank, American horticulturist (1849-1926).