Today in history: May 3

/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, May 3, the 123rd day of 2006. There are 242 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On May 3, 1945, during World War II, Japanese forces on Okinawa launched their only major counteroffensive, but failed to break the American lines.

On this date:
In 1802, Washington, D.C., was incorporated as a city.

In 1916, Irish nationalist Padraic Pearse and two others were executed by the British for their roles in the Easter Rising.

In 1921, West Virginia imposed the first state sales tax.

In 1933, Nellie T. Ross became the first female director of the U.S. Mint.

In 1944, U.S. wartime rationing of most grades of meats ended.

In 1945, Indian forces captured Rangoon, Burma, from the Japanese.

In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks or members of other racial groups were legally unenforceable.

In 1971, anti-war protesters began four days of demonstrations in Washington aimed at shutting down the nation’s capital.

In 1979, Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher was chosen to become Britain’s first female prime minister as the Tories ousted the incumbent Labor government in parliamentary elections.

In 1986, in NASA’s first post-Challenger launch, an unmanned Delta rocket lost power in its main engine shortly after liftoff, forcing safety officers to destroy it by remote control.

Ten years ago: An international conference in Geneva ended 30 months of arduous negotiations over whether to ban land mines with a weak compromise treaty giving countries nine years to switch to detectable, self-destructive devices.

Five years ago: The United States lost its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission for the first time since the commission was formed in 1947. An estimated 36.4 million people tuned in to watch Tennessee nurse Tina Wesson win “Survivor: The Australian Outback” on CBS.

One year ago: The first democratically elected government in the history of Iraq was sworn in. Iran told a United Nations nonproliferation conference it would press on with its uranium-enrichment technology.

Today’s Birthdays: Broadway librettist Betty Comden is 87. Folk singer Pete Seeger is 87. Singer James Brown is 73. Singer Engelbert Humperdinck is 70. Singer Frankie Valli is 69. Sports announcer Greg Gumbel is 60. Pop singer Mary Hopkin is 56. Singer Christopher Cross is 55. Country musician Cactus Moser (Highway 101) is 49. Rock musician David Ball (Soft Cell) is 47. Country singer Shane Minor is 38. Actor Bobby Cannavale is 36. Music and film producer-actor Damon Dash is 35. Country singer Brad Martin is 33. Actor Dule Hill is 31. Actress Jill Berard is 16.

Thought for Today: “A man can become so accustomed to the thought of his own faults that he will begin to cherish them as charming little ’personal characteristics.”’ — Helen Rowland, American writer, journalist and humorist (1876-1950).