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April 19, 2014

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Today in History

Updated Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 | 9:01 p.m.

Today is Sunday, Jan. 26, the 26th day of 2014. There are 339 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Jan. 26, 1784, in a letter to his daughter Sarah (also called "Sally"), Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness over the choice of the bald eagle as the symbol of America, and stated his own preference: the turkey, calling it "a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America."

On this date:

In 1788, the first European settlers in Australia, led by Capt. Arthur Phillip, landed in present-day Sydney.

In 1837, Michigan became the 26th state.

In 1870, Virginia rejoined the Union.

In 1934, the 125th Street Apollo Theater opened in New York City's Harlem district.

In 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, rebel forces led by Gen. Francisco Franco captured Barcelona. Principal photography began for David O. Selznick's movie version of "Gone with the Wind."

In 1942, the first American Expeditionary Force to go to Europe during World War II arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In 1950, India officially proclaimed itself a republic as Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as president.

In 1962, the United States launched Ranger 3 to land scientific instruments on the moon — but the probe ended up missing its target by more than 22,000 miles.

In 1979, former Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller died in New York at age 70.

In 1988, Australians celebrated the 200th anniversary of their country as a grand parade of tall ships re-enacted the voyage of the first European settlers. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Phantom of the Opera" opened at Broadway's Majestic Theater.

In 1993, Vaclav Havel was elected president of the newly formed Czech Republic.

In 1994, a scare occurred during a visit to Sydney, Australia, by Britain's Prince Charles as college student David Kang lunged at the prince, firing two blank shots from a starter's pistol. (Kang was later sentenced to 500 hours of community service.)

Ten years ago: The Bush administration retreated from its once-confident claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; Democrats swiftly sought to turn the about-face into an election-year issue. Lionel Tate, the Florida teen who'd killed a six-year-old playmate and became the youngest defendant in the nation to be locked away for life, was released after three years behind bars. (Tate is currently serving 30 years in prison for robbing a pizza delivery man in 2005, a crime which violated his probation in the murder case.) At least 16 people were killed in the collapse of a building in Nasr City, Egypt.

Five years ago: Timothy Geithner (GYT'-nur) was sworn in as the nation's 75th treasury secretary, less than an hour after winning Senate confirmation. The impeachment trial of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) opened in Springfield, with Blagojevich refusing to take part, saying the rules were biased against him. Nadya Suleman gave birth at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in California to six boys and two girls, the world's longest-surviving set of octuplets.

One year ago: Thousands of people, many holding signs with names of gun violence victims, joined a rally in Washington, D.C. for gun control, marching from the Capitol to the Washington Monument. Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Ashley Wagner became the first woman since Michelle Kwan in 2005 to win back-to-back titles in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, holding off up-and-comer Gracie Gold in Omaha, Neb.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Anne Jeffreys is 91. Actress Joan Leslie is 89. Cartoonist Jules Feiffer is 85. Sportscaster-actor Bob Uecker is 79. Actor Scott Glenn is 75. Singer Jean Knight is 71. Activist Angela Davis is 70. Rock musician Corky Laing (Mountain) is 66. Actor David Strathairn (streh-THEHRN') is 65. Alt-country singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams is 61. Rock singer-musician Eddie Van Halen is 59. Reggae musician Norman Hassan (UB40) is 56. Actress-comedian-talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is 56. Hockey Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky is 53. Musician Andrew Ridgeley is 51. Rhythm-and-blues singer Jazzie B. (Soul II Soul) is 51. Actor Paul Johansson is 50. Gospel singer Kirk Franklin is 44. Actress Jennifer Crystal is 41. Rock musician Chris Hesse (Hoobastank) is 40. Actor Gilles Marini (ZHEEL ma-REE'-nee) is 38. Gospel singer Tye Tribbett is 38. NBA player Vince Carter is 37. Actress Sarah Rue is 36. Actor Colin O'Donoghue (TV: "Once Upon a Time") is 33. Country musician Michael Martin (Marshall Dyllon) is 31.

Thought for Today: "As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress." — J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist (1904-1967).

(Above Advance for Use Sunday, Jan. 26)

Copyright 2014, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.