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U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Image: Marc Van Norden via Flickr)

This day in history – Tuesday, April 12

Today is Tuesday, April 12, the 103rd day of 2016. There are 263 days left in the year.

Highlights in history on this date:

1545 – France’s King Francis I orders massacre of Vaudois Protestants.

1606 – Great Britain adopts the Union Jack.

1815 – Austria declares war on Joachim Murat, King of Naples, for occupying Rome.

1850 – French troops restore Pope Pius IX and occupy Rome.

1861 – U.S. Civil War starts as Confederates take Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

1945 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies at age 63 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and Harry S. Truman is sworn in as his successor.

1955 – The Salk vaccine for polio is declared safe and effective.

1957 – West German nuclear physicists refuse to cooperate in producing or testing of atomic weapons.

1961 – Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to fly in space, orbit the Earth and make a safe landing.

1966 – U.S. bombers carry out their first strikes against North Vietnam.

1981 – The space shuttle Columbia blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on its first test flight.

1983 – Harold Washington is elected Chicago’s first black mayor.

1985 – Sen. Jake Garn of Utah becomes the first senator to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1988 – Harvard University is granted the first animal life-form patent, allowing researchers to build a genetically-engineered mouse.

1989 – Relentless artillery battles rage between Christians and Muslims as Lebanon’s civil war enters its 15th year.

1990 – East German parliament names Lothar de Maiziere as prime minister, supports swift reunification, apologizes for Holocaust and recognizes Polish border.

1991 – Iraqi forces attack Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees suffer from starvation and exposure.

1992 – The United Nations announces a plan to send 100 military observers to Bosnia, where fighting was flaring between Serbs on one side and Muslims and Croats on the other; Euro Disneyland, a $4 billion theme park, opens in Marne-La-Vallee, France.

1993 – NATO planes begin patrolling no-fly zone over Bosnia.

1994 – French and Belgian paratroopers evacuate the last group of foreigners from Rwanda as a major rebel force begins pushing into Kigali from the north.

1995 – Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat widens his crackdown on Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip by ordering them to register guns or face confiscation of the firearms.

1996 – Israeli helicopters fire missiles on Beirut’s slums in an effort to wreck the nerve center of Lebanese guerrillas, hitting a Syrian army position and wounding at least 12 Syrian soldiers.

1997 – Pope John Paul II visits Sarajevo on a long-delayed mission of peace to Bosnia. Freshly planted mines are found along his motorcade route.

1998 – Mexico deports 12 foreigners arrested in Chiapas state, where they were visiting rebels.

1999 – Colombian rebels hijack a domestic flight and force the plane to land at a remote airstrip, where they kidnap the 46 passengers and crew.

2000 – An overloaded wooden Philippine ferry boat headed for Malaysia capsizes off the southern Philippines, killing more than 130 people.

2001 – After urging from U.S. President George W. Bush, China agrees to release 24 crew members of a U.S. spy plane held by Beijing for 11 days.

2002 – An alliance of Venezuelan military, business and labor leaders oust President Hugo Chavez and install Pedro Carmona Estanga, the head of Venezuela’s largest business association, as interim president. Chavez returns to power in 48 hours.

2003 – Philippine troops free the last four Indonesian hostages held on the southern island of Jolo since June 2002 by Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim separatist group.

2005 – Officials recruit tribal elders and musicians to help educate villagers in an area of northern Angola where the Marburg virus, a hemorrhagic virus, has killed more than people.

2006 – Police arrest three people suspected of aiding Italy’s No. 1 fugitive and reputed Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano, who is captured a day earlier after more than four decades on the run.

2007 – A suicide attacker blows himself up in the lunchroom at Iraq’s Parliament, killing eight people, including at least three lawmakers, in a stunning breach of security in the heart of the U.S.-protected Green Zone.

2008 – Prachanda, the former leader of Nepal’s decade-long Maoist insurgency, wins a seat in the country’s constitution-writing assembly.

2009 – U.S. Navy snipers open fire and kill three Somali pirates holding an American captain at gunpoint, delivering the skipper unharmed and ending a five-day, high seas hostage drama.

2010 – The Vatican makes clear for the first time that bishops and other church officials should report clerical sex abuse to police if required by law. But the policy fails to satisfy victims who charge that the church deliberately hid abuse for decades.

2011 – Japan ranks it nuclear crisis at the highest possible severity on an international scale — the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — even as it insists that radiation leaks are declining at its tsunami-crippled nuclear plant.

2012 – With less than six months left until Election Day, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has hardly hit the campaign trail. Instead, he has been consumed with his fight against cancer, repeatedly traveling to Cuba for treatment and publicly vowing to defeat his illness.

2013 – Opponents of the late Margaret Thatcher take a kind of musical revenge on the former prime minister, pushing the song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” up the British charts in a posthumous protest over her polarizing policies.

2014 – Both sides in Syria’s civil war say the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita in Hama province fell victim to a poison gas attack that reportedly injured scores of people amid an ongoing international effort to rid the country of chemical weapons.

2015 – Six Greenpeace activists opposed to offshore drilling in the Arctic are forced by rough seas to abandon a Seattle-bound drill rig they boarded in the Pacific Ocean six days earlier.

Today’s Birthdays:

  • Christopher Smart, English poet (1722-1771)
  • Vajirananavarorasa, prince-patriarch of Buddhism in Siam, institutionalized Thai Buddhism (1860-1912)
  • Montserrat Caballe, Spanish operatic soprano (1933–)
  • Alan Ayckbourn, English playwright (1939–)
  • Herbie Hancock, U.S. jazz musician (1940–)
  • David Letterman, U.S. television personality (1947–)
  • Andy Garcia, U.S. actor (1956–)
  • Claire Danes, U.S. actress (1979–)
  • Shannen Doherty, U.S. actress (1971–)

Thought For Today: A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions — Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1841-1935).

In related news, Aug. 27, 2014 marks 155th anniversary of America’s first oil well.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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