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January 16, 2013

Today in History

Today is Wednesday, Jan. 16, the 16th day of 2013. There are 349 days left in the year.

Today’s highlight in history:

On Jan. 16, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia blasted off under extremely tight security for what turned out to be its last flight; on board was Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. (The mission ended in tragedy on Feb. 1, when the shuttle broke up during its return descent, killing all seven crew members.)

On this date:

In 1547, Ivan IV of Russia (popularly known as “Ivan the Terrible”) was crowned Czar.

In 1883, the U.S. Civil Service Commission was established.

In 1912, a day before reaching the South Pole, British explorer Robert Scott and his expedition found evidence that Roald Amundsen of Norway and his team had gotten there ahead of them.

In 1920, Prohibition began in the United States as the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took effect, one year to the day after its ratification. (It was later repealed by the 21st Amendment.)

In 1935, fugitive gangster Fred Barker and his mother, Kate “Ma” Barker, were killed in a shootout with the FBI at Lake Weir, Fla.

In 1942, actress Carole Lombard, 33, her mother Elizabeth and 20 other people were killed when their plane crashed near Las Vegas, Nev., while en route to California from a war-bond promotion tour.

In 1944, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower took command of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in London.

In 1969, two manned Soviet Soyuz spaceships became the first vehicles to dock in space and transfer personnel.

In 1978, NASA named 35 candidates to fly on the space shuttle, including Sally K. Ride, who became America’s first woman in space, and Guion S. Bluford Jr., who became America’s first black astronaut in space.

In 1987, Hu Yaobang resigned as head of China’s Communist Party, declaring he’d made mistakes in dealing with student turmoil and intellectual challenges to the system. Broadway columnist Earl Wilson died in Yonkers, N.Y., at age 79.

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