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Today in history: August 11

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

Today is Friday, Aug. 11, the 223rd day of 2006. There are 142 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
Fifty years ago, on Aug. 11, 1956, abstract painter Jackson Pollock, 44, died in an automobile accident on Long Island, N.Y.

On this date:
In 1909, the SOS distress signal was first used by an American ship, the Arapahoe, off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

In 1934, the first federal prisoners arrived at the island prison Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay.

In 1942, during World War II, Vichy government official Pierre Laval publicly declared that “the hour of liberation for France is the hour when Germany wins the war.”

In 1954, a formal peace took hold in Indochina, ending more than seven years of fighting between the French and Communist Vietminh.

In 1962, the Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev on a 94-hour flight.

In 1965, rioting and looting that claimed 34 lives broke out in the predominantly black Watts section of Los Angeles.

In 1978, chiefs of state and foreign dignitaries arrived in Vatican City for the funeral of Pope Paul VI.

In 1991, Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon released two Western captives: Edward Tracy, an American held nearly five years, and Jerome Leyraud, a Frenchman who’d been abducted by a rival group three days earlier.

In 1992, the Mall of America, the biggest shopping mall in the U.S., opened in Bloomington, Minn.

In 1997, President Clinton made the first use of the historic line-item veto approved by Congress, rejecting three items in spending and tax bills. (However, the Supreme Court later struck down the line-item veto as unconstitutional.)

Ten years ago: The Reform Party opened the first part of its two-stage convention in Long Beach, Calif., with Ross Perot and Richard Lamm battling for the presidential nod.

Five years ago: In his weekly radio address, President Bush said his decision to restrict but not forbid federal financing of embryonic stem cell research placed him at the crossroads between protecting and enhancing human life.

One year ago: President Bush expressed sympathy for war protesters like Cindy Sheehan, the mother camped outside his Texas ranch demanding answers for her solider-son’s death, but said he believed it would be a mistake to bring U.S. troops home immediately. A one-day strike by British Airways baggage handlers and other ground staff forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights to and from Heathrow Airport.

Today’s Birthdays: Former TV talk show host Mike Douglas is 81. Actress Arlene Dahl is 78. Rev. Jerry Falwell is 73. Actress Anna Massey is 69. Songwriter-producer Kenny Gamble is 63. Rock musician Jim Kale (Guess Who) is 63. Country singer John Conlee is 60. Singer Eric Carmen is 57. Wrestler-actor Hulk Hogan is 53. Singer Joe Jackson is 52. Actor Miguel A. Nunez Jr. is 42. Actress Viola Davis is 41. Actor-host Joe Rogan is 39. Rock guitarist Charlie Sexton is 38. Rhythm-and-blues musician Chris Dave (Mint Condition) is 38. Hip-hop artist Ali Shaheed Muhammad is 36. Actor Will Friedle is 30. Rapper Chris Kelly (Kris Kross) is 28. Singer J-Boog is 21.

Thought for Today: “The best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds.” — Edgar A. Guest, American author, journalist and poet (1881-1959).