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Today in History — March 23

/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Friday, March 23, the 82nd day of 2007. There are 283 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry made his famous call for American independence from Britain, telling the Virginia Provincial Convention, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

On this date:
In 1792, Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 in G Major (the “Surprise” symphony) was performed publicly for the first time, in London.

In 1806, explorers Lewis and Clark, having reached the Pacific coast, began their journey back east.

In 1857, culinary expert Fannie Farmer was born in Boston.

In 1919, Benito Mussolini founded his Fascist political movement in Milan, Italy.

In 1933, the German Reichstag adopted the Enabling Act, which effectively granted Adolf Hitler dictatorial legislative powers.

In 1956, Pakistan became an independent republic within the British Commonwealth.

In 1965, America’s first two-person space flight began as Gemini 3 blasted off from Cape Kennedy, Fla., with astronauts Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young aboard.

In 1983, President Reagan first proposed developing technology to intercept enemy missiles — a proposal that came to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, as well as “Star Wars.”

In 1996, Taiwan held its first direct presidential elections; incumbent Lee Teng-hui was the victor.

In 2001, Russia’s orbiting Mir space station ended its 15-year odyssey with a fiery plunge into the South Pacific.

Ten years ago: Amid renewed violence, Israel’s Cabinet called on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Islamic militant groups, but stopped short of suspending peace talks. The American Cancer Society recommended that women begin annual mammograms at age 40.

Five years ago: President Bush, during a visit to South America, pledged cooperation with Peru in the fight against terrorism. Girls in Afghanistan celebrated their return to school for the first time in years. Irina Slutskaya captured her first world title, defeating four-time champion Michelle Kwan at the World Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan. Opera and pop singer Eileen Farrell died in Park Ridge, N.J., at age 82.

One year ago: U.S. and British forces freed three Christian peace activists — one Briton and two Canadians — near Baghdad, ending a four-month hostage ordeal that saw an American in the group killed. Police took DNA samples from 46 members of the Duke University lacrosse team after a woman hired to dance for a party charged she’d been raped. (Three players were indicted on charges of attacking the woman, but the rape counts were later dropped.) Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland won his second straight World Figure Skating Championships title, in Calgary, Alberta. Conductor and opera company director Sarah Caldwell died in Portland, Maine, at age 82. Desmond T. Doss Sr., a conscientious objector whose achievements as a noncombatant earned him a Medal of Honor in World War II, died in Piedmont, Ala., at age 87.

Today’s Birthdays: Comedian Marty Allen is 85. Movie director Mark Rydell is 73. Singer-producer Ric Ocasek is 58. Singer Chaka Khan is 54. Actress Amanda Plummer is 50. Actress Hope Davis is 43. Comedian John Pinette is 43. Actor Richard Grieco is 42. Country musician Kevin Griffin (Yankee Grey) is 42. Actress Marin Hinkle is 41. Rock singer-musician Damon Albarn (Blur) is 39. Actress-singer Melissa Errico is 37. Rock musician John Humphrey (The Nixons) is 37. Actress Michelle Monaghan is 31. Actress Keri Russell is 31. Actress Nicholle Tom is 29. Country singer Paul Martin (Marshall Dyllon) is 29.

Thought for Today: “Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness.” — Anonymous.