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Today in history: Feb. 17

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

Today is Thursday, Feb. 17, the 48th day of 2005. There are 317 days left in the year.

Today’s highlight in history:
On Feb. 17, 1801, the House of Representatives broke an electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, electing Jefferson president; Burr became vice president.

On this date:
In 1817, a street in Baltimore became the first to be lighted with gas from America’s first gas company.

In 1865, Columbia, S.C., burned as the Confederates evacuated and Union forces moved in. (It’s not known which side set the blaze.)

In 1897, the forerunner of the National PTA, the National Congress of Mothers, was founded in Washington.

In 1904, Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madama Butterfly” was poorly received at its world premiere at La Scala in Milan, Italy.

In 1933, Newsweek was first published.

In 1947, the Voice of America began broadcasting to the Soviet Union.

In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that congressional districts within each state had to be roughly equal in population.

In 1972, President Nixon departed on his historic trip to China.

In 1985, Murray P. Haydon became the third person to receive a permanent artificial heart as doctors at Humana Hospital Audubon in Louisville, Ky., implanted the device. (Haydon lived 488 days with the heart.)

In 1992, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced in Milwaukee to life in prison (however, he was beaten to death in prison in November 1994).

Ten years ago: Colin Ferguson was convicted of six counts of murder in the December 1993 Long Island Rail Road shootings (he was later sentenced to a minimum of 200 years in prison).

Five years ago: A House panel said in a report that the program to inoculate all 2.4 million American military personnel against anthrax was based on “a paucity of science” and should be suspended; the Pentagon defended the program and vowed to continue the inoculations.

One year ago: John Kerry won the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary, with John Edwards placing second and Howard Dean coming in a distant third. Cingular Wireless agreed to pay nearly $41 billion in cash to buy AT&T Wireless Services. Former Mexican president Jose Lopez Portillo died in Mexico City at age 83.

Today’s birthdays: Actor Marc Lawrence is 95. Bandleader Orrin Tucker is 94. Author Margaret Truman Daniel is 81. Actor Hal Holbrook is 80. Singer Bobby Lewis is 72. Country singer-songwriter Johnny Bush is 70. Football Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown is 69. Actress Mary Ann Mobley is 66. Singer Gene Pitney is 64. Actress Brenda Fricker is 60. Actress Rene Russo is 51. Actor Richard Karn is 49. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips is 43. Basketball player Michael Jordan is 42. Actor-comedian Larry, the Cable Guy is 42. TV personality Rene Syler is 42. Movie director Michael Bay is 41. Singer Chante Moore is 38. Rock musician Timothy J. Mahoney (311) is 35. Rock singer-musician Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) is 33. Actor Jerry O’Connell is 31. Country singer Bryan White is 31. Actor Jason Ritter (“Joan of Arcadia”) is 25. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is 24.

Thought for today: “Life has got to be lived — that’s all there is to it. At 70, I would say the advantage is that you take life more calmly. You know that ’this, too, shall pass!”’ — Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962).