Today is Wednesday, Sept. 20, the 263rd day of 2006. There are 102 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Sept. 20, 1519, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan set out from Spain on a voyage to find a western passage to the Spice Islands in Indonesia. (Magellan was killed en route, but one of his ships eventually circled the world.)

On this date:

In 1870, Italian troops took control of the Papal States, leading to the unification of Italy.

In 1873, panic swept the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in the wake of railroad bond defaults and bank failures.

In 1881, Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st president of the United States, succeeding the assassinated James A. Garfield.

In 1947, former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia died.

In 1958, civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was seriously wounded during an appearance at a New York City department store when an apparently deranged woman stabbed him in the chest.

In 1962, black student James Meredith was blocked from enrolling at the University of Mississippi by Gov. Ross R. Barnett. (Meredith was later admitted.)

In 1973, in their so-called "battle of the sexes," tennis star Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, at the Houston Astrodome.

In 1973, singer-songwriter Jim Croce died in a plane crash near Natchitoches, La; he was 30.

In 1976, Playboy magazine released an interview in which Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter admitted he'd "looked on a lot of women with lust."

In 1984, a suicide car bomber attacked the U.S. Embassy annex in north Beirut, killing a dozen people.

Ten years ago: President Clinton announced his signing of a bill outlawing homosexual marriages, but said it should not be used as an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against gays and lesbians.

Five years ago: President Bush cautioned a nation shaken by the 9/11 attacks that there were "struggles ahead and dangers to face" as America and its allies combat global terrorism. During an address to a joint session of Congress, Bush announced a new Cabinet-level office to fortify homeland security and named Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge its director.

One year ago: Rapidly strengthening Hurricane Rita lashed the Florida Keys and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The number of U.S. service members killed in Iraq topped 1,900. Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal died in Vienna, Austria, at age 96. The Sacramento Monarchs won their first championship with a 62-59 victory over the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.

Today's Birthdays: Basketball Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach is 89. Singer Gogi Grant is 82. Actress-comedian Anne Meara is 77. Actress Sophia Loren is 72. Rock musician Chuck Panozzo is 59. Hockey player Guy LaFleur is 55. Jazz musician Peter White is 52. Actress Betsy Brantley is 51. Actor Gary Cole is 50. Actress Kristen Johnston is 39. Rock singers Gunnar Nelson and Matthew Nelson are 39. Rock musician Ben Shepherd is 38. Rock musician Rick Woolstenhulme (Lifehouse) is 27.

Thought for Today: "Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses." — George Washington Carver, American botanist (1864-1943). Listening GWB?


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