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This day in history

Wednesday, April 17, is the 107th day of 2013. There are 258 days left in the year.

Today’s birthdays: Composer-musician Jan Hammer is 65. Actress Olivia Hussey is 62. Actor Clarke Peters is 61. Rock singer-musician Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) is 58. Actor Sean Bean is 54. Actor Joel Murray is 51. Rock singer Maynard James Keenan is 49. Actress Lela Rochon is 49. Actor William Mapother is 48. Actress Leslie Bega is 46. Actress Kimberly Elise is 46. Singer Liz Phair is 46. Rapper-actor Redman is 43. Actress Jennifer Garner is 41. Singer Victoria Adams Beckham is 39. Actress-singer Lindsay Korman is 35. Actress Rooney Mara is 28.

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In 1492, a contract signed by Christopher Columbus and a representative of Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella gave Columbus a commission to seek a westward passage to Asia.

In 1521, Martin Luther went before the Diet of Worms to face charges stemming from his religious writings. (He was later declared an outlaw by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.)

In 1861, the Virginia State Convention voted to secede from the Union.

In 1937, the animated cartoon character Daffy Duck made his debut in the Warner Bros. cartoon ‘‘Porky’s Duck Hunt,’’ directed by Tex Avery.

In 1941, Yugoslavia surrendered to Germany during World War II.

In 1969, a jury in Los Angeles convicted Sirhan Sirhan of assassinating Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The First Secretary of Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party, Alexander Dubcek, was deposed.

In 1970, Apollo 13 astronauts James A. Lovell, Fred W. Haise, and Jack Swigert splashed down safely in the Pacific, four days after a ruptured oxygen tank crippled their spacecraft while en route to the moon.

In 1973, Federal Express (later FedEx) began operations as 14 planes carrying 186 packages took off from Memphis International Airport, bound for 25 US cities.

In 1986, at London’s Heathrow Airport, a bomb was discovered in the bag of a pregnant Irishwoman about to board an El Al jetliner to Israel; she’d been tricked into carrying the bomb by her Jordanian fiance.

In 1993, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted two former police officers of violating the civil rights of beaten motorist Rodney King; two other officers were acquitted.

In 2003, US special forces in Baghdad captured Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, a half-brother of and adviser to Saddam Hussein. Diet doctor Robert C. Atkins died in New York at age 72.

In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Washington, talked and prayed privately with survivors of the clergy sex abuse scandal in what’s believed to be a first-ever meeting between a pontiff and abuse victims. Danny Federici, the keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen, died in New York City at age 58.

In 2012, riding on the back of a 747 jet, retired space shuttle Discovery traveled from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to Chantilly, Va., to be installed in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum annex in Northern Virginia. Jamie Moyer, at age 49, became the oldest pitcher to win a major league contest as the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 5-3.

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