Today in History

Associated Press

Today is Saturday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2015. There are 334 days left in the year.

Today's Highlights in History:

On Jan. 31, 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery, sending it to states for ratification. (The amendment was adopted in Dec. 1865.) Gen. Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate States Army by President Jefferson Davis.

On this date:

In 1606, Guy Fawkes, convicted of treason for his part in the "Gunpowder Plot" against the English Parliament and King James I, was executed.

In 1797, composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna.

In 1915, entertainer and TV personality Garry Moore was born in Baltimore.

In 1929, revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his family were expelled from the Soviet Union.

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Gold Reserve Act.

In 1945, Pvt. Eddie Slovik, 24, became the first U.S. soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion as he was shot by an American firing squad in France.

In 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite into orbit, Explorer I.

In 1961, NASA launched Ham the Chimp aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral; Ham was recovered safely from the Atlantic Ocean following his 16 1/2-minute suborbital flight.

In 1971, astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.

In 1980, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands announced she would abdicate on her birthday the following April, to be succeeded by her daughter, Princess Beatrix.

In 1990, McDonald's Corp. opened its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow.

In 2000, an Alaska Airlines MD-83 jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Port Hueneme (wy-NEE'-mee), California, killing all 88 people aboard.

Ten years ago: Jury selection began in Santa Maria, California, for Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. (Jackson was later acquitted.) SBC Communications Inc. announced it was acquiring AT&T Corp. for $16 billion.

Five years ago: The annual World Economic Forum concluded a five-day meeting in Davos, Switzerland, with widespread agreement that a fragile recovery was under way but no consensus on what was going to spur job growth. Roger Federer beat Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) for a fourth Australian Open championship. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-34 in the Pro Bowl, played ahead of the Super Bowl for the first time. Beyonce became the first woman to win six Grammy Awards in one night; Taylor Swift won four Grammys, including album of the year, for "Fearless."

One year ago: The long-delayed, controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle toward approval as the U.S. State Department reported no major environmental objections to the proposed $7 billion project. A week of peace talks aimed at stemming Syria's civil war ended in Geneva with no concrete progress.

Today's Birthdays: Actress Carol Channing is 94. Composer Philip Glass is 78. Former Interior Secretary James Watt is 77. Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the former queen regent, is 77. Actor Stuart Margolin is 75. Actress Jessica Walter is 74. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is 74. Blues singer-musician Charlie Musselwhite is 71. Actor Glynn Turman is 69. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan is 68. Actor Jonathan Banks (TV: "Breaking Bad") is 68. Singer-musician Harry Wayne Casey (KC and the Sunshine Band) is 64. Rock singer Johnny Rotten is 59. Actress Kelly Lynch is 56. Actor Anthony LaPaglia is 56. Singer-musician Lloyd Cole is 54. Rock musician Al Jaworski (Jesus Jones) is 49. Actress Minnie Driver is 45. Actress Portia de Rossi is 42. Actor-comedian Bobby Moynihan is 38. Actress Kerry Washington is 38. Singer Justin Timberlake is 34. Actor Tyler Ritter is 30. Country singer Tyler Hubbard (Florida Georgia Line) is 28. Folk-rock singer-musician Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons) is 28.

Thought for Today: "We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing." — R.D. Laing, Scottish psychiatrist (1927-1989).

(Above Advance for Use Saturday, Jan. 31)

Copyright 2015, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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