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Today in History - Jan. 31

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

Today is Wednesday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2007. There are 334 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:
On Jan. 31, 1606, Guy Fawkes, convicted of treason for his part in the "Gunpowder Plot" against the English Parliament and King James I, was executed.

On this date:
In 1797, composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna, Austria.

In 1865, General Robert E. Lee was named General-in-Chief of all the Confederate armies.

In 1917, during World War I, Germany served notice it was beginning a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt devalued the dollar in relation to gold.

In 1944, during World War II, U.S. forces began a successful invasion of Kwajalein Atoll and other parts of the Japanese-held Marshall Islands.

In 1945, Private Eddie Slovik, 24, became the first U.S. soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion as he was shot by an American firing squad in France.

In 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite into orbit, Explorer I.

In 1971, astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr., Edgar D. Mitchell and Stuart A. Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.

In 1987, discount airline pioneer People Express flew its last flights before merging into Continental Airlines.

In 2000, an Alaska Airlines jet plummeted into the Pacific Ocean, killing all 88 people aboard.

Ten years ago: Three days of deliberations in the O.J. Simpson civil trial in Santa Monica, Calif., were scrapped and the jury forced to start all over again after the only black woman on the panel was replaced because of misconduct.

Five years ago: The Bush administration handed abortion opponents a symbolic victory, classifying a developing fetus as an "unborn child" as a way of extending prenatal care to low-income pregnant women under the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a speech that the United States had to prepare for potential surprise attacks "vastly more deadly" than those on Nine-Eleven. Kentucky, cited by the NCAA for more than three dozen recruiting violations, was placed on three years' probation.

One year ago: Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, at age 78. In his State of the Union address, President Bush declared that America had to break its long dependence on Mideast oil and rebuked critics of his stay-the-course strategy for the unpopular war in Iraq. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was sworn in after winning Senate confirmation. The Senate approved Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. British ballerina and actress Moira Shearer died in Oxford, England, at age 80.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Carol Channing is 86. Author Norman Mailer is 84. Actress Jean Simmons is 78. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks is 76. Composer Philip Glass is 70. Actress Suzanne Pleshette is 70. Actor Stuart Margolin is 67. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is 66. Blues singer-musician Charlie Musselwhite is 63. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan is 60. Singer-musician KC (KC and the Sunshine Band) is 56. Rock singer Johnny Rotten is 51. Actress Kelly Lynch is 48. Actor Anthony LaPaglia is 48. Singer-musician Lloyd Cole is 46. Actor John Dye is 44. Rock musician Al Jaworski (Jesus Jones) is 41. Actress Minnie Driver is 37. Actress Portia de Rossi is 34. Actress Kerry Washington is 30. Singer Justin Timberlake is 26.

Thought for Today: "We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is disappearing." — R.D. Laing, Scottish psychiatrist (1927-1989).