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Today in history: September 2

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

Today is Saturday, Sept. 2, the 245th day of 2006. There are 120 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan formally surrendered in ceremonies aboard the USS Missouri, ending World War II.

On this date:
In 1666, the Great Fire of London broke out, claiming thousands of homes, but only a few lives.

In 1789, the United States Treasury Department was established.

In 1864, during the Civil War, Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s forces occupied Atlanta.

In 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt offered the advice, “Speak softly and carry a big stick” in a speech at the Minnesota State Fair.

In 1930, the first nonstop airplane flight from Europe to the U.S. was completed in 37 hours as Capt. Dieudonne Costes and Maurice Bellonte of France arrived in Valley Stream, N.Y., aboard The Question Mark.

In 1935, a hurricane slammed into the Florida Keys, claiming 423 lives.

In 1945, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam an independent republic.

In 1969, North Vietnamese president Ho Chi Minh died.

In 1986, a judge in Los Angeles sentenced Cathy Evelyn Smith to three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 1982 drug overdose death of comedian John Belushi. (She served 18 months.)

In 1998, a Swissair MD-11 jetliner crashed off Nova Scotia, killing all 229 people aboard.

Ten years ago: Muslim rebels and the Philippine government signed a pact formally ending a 26-year insurgency that killed more than 120,000 people.

Five years ago: South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who’d performed the first successful human heart transplant in 1967, died in Paphos, Cyprus, at age 78. Actor Troy Donahue, a one-time teen movie idol, died in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 65.

One year ago: A National Guard convoy packed with food, water and medicine rolled into New Orleans four days after Hurricane Katrina. Scorched by criticism about sluggish federal help, President Bush acknowledged the government’s failure to stop lawlessness and help desperate people during a daylong tour of the Gulf Coast. During a live TV benefit concert, rapper Kanye West went off-script to sharply criticize Bush. The Labor Department reported the August unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, a four-year low. Machinists at Boeing Co. went on a nearly monthlong strike. Actor Bob Denver died in Winston-Salem, N.C., at age 70.

Today’s Birthdays: Actor Meinhardt Raabe (the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz”) is 91. Dancer-actress Marge Champion is 87. Jazz musician Horace Silver is 78. Former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., is 75. United States Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth is 69. Rhythm-and-blues singer Sam Gooden (The Impressions) is 67. Singer Jimmy Clanton is 66. Rhythm-and-blues singer Rosalind Ashford (Martha & the Vandellas) is 63. Singer Joe Simon is 63. Football Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw is 58. Actor Mark Harmon is 55. Tennis player Jimmy Connors is 54. Actress Linda Purl is 51. Rock musician Jerry Augustyniak (10,000 Maniacs) is 48. Country musician Paul Deakin (The Mavericks) is 47. Actor Keanu Reeves is 42. Actress Salma Hayek is 40. Actress Kristen Cloke is 38. Actress Cynthia Watros is 38. Rhythm-and-blues singer K-Ci is 37. Actor Michael Lombardi is 32. Singer Tony Thompson is 31. Rock musician Sam Rivers (Limp Bizkit) is 29.

Thought for Today: “True excellence is rarely found, even more rarely is it cherished.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German poet, dramatist and author (1749-1832).