Today in history: August 24

/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, Aug. 24, the 236th day of 2006. There are 129 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Aug. 24, 1992, Hurricane Andrew smashed into Florida, causing record damage; 55 deaths in Florida, Louisiana and the Bahamas were blamed on the storm.

On this date:
In A.D. 79, long-dormant Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in volcanic ash. An estimated 20,000 people died.

In A.D. 410, Rome was overrun by the Visigoths, an event that symbolized the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

In 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of French Protestants at the hands of Catholics began in Paris.

In 1814, British forces invaded Washington, setting fire to the Capitol and the White House.

In 1932, Amelia Earhart embarked on a 19-hour flight from Los Angeles to Newark, N.J., making her the first woman to fly solo nonstop from coast to coast.

In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty went into effect.

In 1954, the Communist Control Act went into effect, virtually outlawing the Communist Party in the United States.

In 1968, France became the world’s fifth thermonuclear power as it exploded a hydrogen bomb in the South Pacific.

In 1970, a bomb planted by anti-war extremists exploded at the University of Wisconsin’s Army Math Research Center in Madison, killing 33-year-old researcher Robert Fassnacht.

In 1981, Mark David Chapman was sentenced in New York to 20 years to life in prison for slaying rock star John Lennon.

Ten years ago: Four women began two days of academic orientation at The Citadel; they were the first female cadets admitted to the South Carolina military school since Shannon Faulkner.

Five years ago: President Bush blamed the slumping economy for the shrinking budget surplus, rather than his tax cut, and said it was up to Congress to restrain spending. Tom Green, a Mormon fundamentalist with five wives and 30 children, was sentenced by a court in Provo, Utah, to five years in prison in the state’s biggest polygamy case in nearly half a century. Actress Jane Greer died at age 76.

One year ago: Tropical Depression 12 strengthened into Tropical Storm Katrina over the central Bahamas; a hurricane warning was issued for the southeastern Florida coast. A federal commission voted against closing the New London submarine base in Groton, Conn., and the Portsmouth shipyard in Kittery, Maine. Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson apologized for calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Today’s Birthdays: Former education secretary Shirley Hufstedler is 81. Actor Kenny Baker (“Star Wars”) is 72. Composer-musician Mason Williams is 68. Rhythm-and-blues singer Marshall Thompson (The Chi-Lites) is 64. Rock musician Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) is 61. Actor Joe Regalbuto is 57. Actor-writer Stephen Fry is 49. Actor Steve Guttenberg is 48. Baseball star Cal Ripken Jr. is 46. Talk show host Craig Kilborn is 44. Rock singer John Bush is 43. Actress Marlee Matlin is 41. Country singer Kristyn Osborn (SheDaisy) is 36. Actor-comedian Dave Chappelle is 33. Actor Carmine Giovinazzo is 33. Actor Chad Michael Murray is 25. Christian rock musician Jeffrey Gilbert (Kutless) is 23. Actor Rupert Grint (“Harry Potter” films) is 18.

Thought for Today: “Of the twenty or so civilizations known to modern Western historians, all except our own appear to be dead or moribund, and, when we diagnose each case ... we invariably find that the cause of death has been either War or Class or some combination of the two.” — Arnold J. Toynbee, English historian (1889-1975).