Today is Friday, Feb. 17, the 48th day of 2012. There are 318 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Feb. 17, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon departed the White House with his wife, Pat, on a historic trip to China, which he called "a journey for peace."
On this date:
In 1801, the U.S. House of Representatives broke an electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, electing Jefferson president; Burr became vice president.
In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union ship USS Housatonic was rammed and sunk in Charleston Harbor, S.C., by the Confederate hand-cranked submarine HL Hunley, which also sank.
In 1865, Columbia, S.C., burned as the Confederates evacuated and Union forces moved in. (It's not clear which side set the blaze.)
In 1897, the forerunner of the National PTA, the National Congress of Mothers, convened its first meeting, in Washington.
In 1904, the original two-act version of Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly" was poorly received at its premiere at La Scala in Milan, Italy.
In 1933, Newsweek was first published by Thomas J.C. Martyn under the title "News-Week."
In 1947, the Voice of America began broadcasting to the Soviet Union.
In 1959, the United States launched Vanguard 2, a satellite which carried meteorological equipment on board.
In 1964, the Supreme Court, in Wesberry v. Sanders, ruled that congressional districts within each state had to be roughly equal in population.
In 1986, Johnson & Johnson announced it would no longer sell over-the-counter medications in capsule form, following the death of a woman who had taken a cyanide-laced Tylenol capsule.
In 1988, Lt. Col. William Higgins, a Marine Corps officer serving with a United Nations truce monitoring group, was kidnapped in southern Lebanon by Iranian-backed terrorists (he was later slain by his captors).
In 1992, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced in Milwaukee to life in prison (he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in Nov. 1994).
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush opened a three-nation Asian tour in recession-wracked Japan, where he urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to follow through on long-promised economic reforms. The new Transportation Security Administration took over supervision of aviation security from the airline industry and the Federal Aviation Administration. Ward Burton took advantage of Sterling Marlin's blunder for his first victory in the Daytona 500. (Marlin, who appeared in control of the race, was penalized for getting out of his car and pulling briefly on a damaged fender during the stoppage.)
Five years ago: Senate Republicans foiled a Democratic bid to repudiate President George W. Bush's deployment of 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Baghdad. At Camp Pendleton, Calif., Marine Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington was sentenced to 8 years in military prison for his role in the kidnapping and killing of an Iraqi civilian. Former French Cabinet minister Maurice Papon, convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity for his role in deporting Jews during World War II, died near Paris at age 96.
One year ago: A group of Democratic Wisconsin lawmakers blocked passage of a sweeping anti-union bill, refusing to show up for a vote and then abruptly leaving the state in an effort to force Republicans to the negotiating table. Iowa high school wrestler Joel Northrup defaulted on his first-round state tournament match rather than face Cassy Herkelman, one of the first girls ever to qualify for the event, saying that wrestling a girl would conflict with his religious beliefs.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Hal Holbrook is 87. Mystery writer Ruth Rendell is 82. Singer Bobby Lewis is 79. Actor-comedian Barry Humphries (aka "Dame Edna") is 78. Country singer-songwriter Johnny Bush is 77. Actress Christina Pickles is 77. Football Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown is 76. Actress Mary Ann Mobley is 73. Actress Brenda Fricker is 67. Actress Rene Russo is 58. Actor Richard Karn is 56. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips is 50. Basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is 49. Actor-comedian Larry, the Cable Guy is 49. TV personality Rene Syler is 49. Movie director Michael Bay is 48. Singer Chante Moore is 45. Rock musician Timothy J. Mahoney (311) is 42. Actor Dominic Purcell is 42. Olympic gold medal skier Tommy Moe is 42. Actress Denise Richards is 41. Rock singer-musician Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) is 40. Actor Jerry O'Connell is 38. Country singer Bryan White is 38. Actress Kelly Carlson is 36. Actor Ashton Holmes is 34. Actor Jason Ritter is 32. TV personality Paris Hilton is 31. Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is 31. Actor Chord Overstreet (TV: "Glee") is 23. Actress Meaghan Martin is 20.
Thought for Today: "Wounded vanity knows when it is mortally hurt; and limps off the field, piteous, all disguises thrown away. But pride carries its banner to the last; and fast as it is driven from one field unfurls it in another." -- Helen Hunt Jackson, American author (1831-1885).