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Today in history: October 7

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

Today is Friday, Oct. 7, the 280th day of 2005. There are 85 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
Twenty years ago, on Oct. 7, 1985, Palestinian gunmen hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean with more than 400 people aboard. (The hijackers killed an elderly Jewish American tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, and threw his body overboard; they surrendered two days after taking the ship.)

On this date:
In 1765, the Stamp Act Congress convened in New York to draw up colonial grievances against England.

In 1777, the second Battle of Saratoga began during the American Revolution. (British forces under Gen. John Burgoyne surrendered 10 days later.)

In 1849, author Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore at age 40.

In 1940, Artie Shaw and his Orchestra recorded Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” for RCA Victor.

In 1949, the Republic of East Germany was formed.

In 1954, Marian Anderson became the first black singer hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York.

In 1960, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican opponent Richard M. Nixon held the second of their broadcast debates.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II concluded his weeklong tour of the United States with a Mass on the Washington Mall.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was beaten and left tied to a wooden fencepost outside of Laramie, Wyo.; he died five days later. (Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney are serving life sentences for Shepard’s murder.)

In 2003, California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis and elected Arnold Schwarzenegger their new governor.

Ten years ago: New York’s Central Park was transformed into a giant open-air cathedral as Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass before a flock of 130,000. A magnitude 7 earthquake struck Indonesia, killing more than 80 people.

Five years ago: Vojislav Kostunica took the oath of office as Yugoslavia’s first popularly elected president, closing the turbulent era of Slobodan Milosevic.

One year ago: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney conceded that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, even as they tried to shift the Iraq war debate to a new issue — whether the invasion was justified because Saddam was abusing a U.N. oil-for-food program. Two bombs exploded at a gathering of Sunni Muslim radicals in Multan, Pakistan, killing some three dozen people. Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated because of poor health. Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize in literature.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress June Allyson is 88. Singer Al Martino is 78. Retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu is 74. Former National Security Council aide Oliver North is 62. Rock musician Kevin Godley (10cc) is 60. Country singer Kieran Kane is 56. Singer John Mellencamp is 54. Rock musician Ricky Phillips is 54. Actress Mary Badham is 53. Actress Christopher Norris is 52. Rock musician Tico Torres (Bon Jovi) is 52. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is 50. Gospel singer Michael W. Smith is 48. TV personality Simon Cowell (“American Idol”) is 46. Rock musician Charlie Marinkovich (Iron Butterfly) is 46. Actress Judy Landers is 44. Country singer Dale Watson is 43. Rhythm-and-blues singer Toni Braxton is 38. Rock singer-musician Thom Yorke (Radiohead) is 37. Rock musician-dancer Leeroy Thornhill is 36. Actress Nicole Ari Parker is 35.

Thought for Today: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” — Samuel Johnson, English lexicographer (1709-1784). (To which Ambrose Bierce later commented, “I beg to submit that it is the first.”)