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ONLINE DOCUMENT: TODAY IN HISTORY

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Today is Friday, Oct. 4, the 278th day of 1996. There are 88 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:On Oct. 4, 1957, the Space Age began as the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit.

On this date:

In 1777, George Washington's troops launched an assault on the British at Germantown, Pa., resulting in heavy American casualties.

In 1822, the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, was born in Delaware, Ohio.

In 1895, silent film comedian Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kan.

In 1895, the first U.S. Open golf tournament was held, at the Newport Country Club in Rhode Island.

In 1931, the comic strip "Dick Tracy," created by Chester Gould, made its debut.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini conferred at Brenner Pass in the Alps, where the Nazi leader sought Italy's help in fighting the British.

In 1958, the first trans-Atlantic passenger jetliner service was begun by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) with flights between London and New York.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI became the first reigning pontiff to visit the Western Hemisphere as he addressed the U.N. General Assembly.

In 1970, rock singer Janis Joplin, 27, was found dead in her Hollywood hotel room.

In 1976, agriculture secretary Earl Butz resigned in the wake of a controversy over a joke he'd made about blacks.

In 1985, Islamic Jihad issued a statement saying it had killed American hostage William Buckley. (Fellow hostage David Jacobsen, however, later said he believed Buckley had died of torture injuries four months earlier.)

Ten years ago: The Soviet Union informed the United States that a fire had broken out aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine in the Atlantic Ocean, but that there was no danger of an explosion or radiation leakage.

Five years ago: In Madrid, Spain, 26 nations, including the United States, signed the Antarctic Treaty, which imposed a 50-year ban on oil exploration and mining in Antarctica.

One year ago: Pope John Paul II, proclaiming himself "a pilgrim of peace," arrived in the United States for a five-day visit. Hurricane Opal battered the Florida Panhandle.

Today's Birthdays: Critic Brendan Gill is 82. Comedian Jan Murray is 79. Actor Charlton Heston is 72. Country singer Leroy Van Dyke is 67. Author Jackie Collins is 55. Actor Clifton Davis is 51. Actress Susan Sarandon is 50. Actor Armand Assante is 47. Musician Chris Lowe (The Pet Shop Boys) is 37. Actress Alicia Silverstone is 20.

Thought for Today: "He who confers a favor should at once forget it, if he is not to show a sordid, ungenerous spirit. To remind a man of a kindness conferred on him, and to talk of it, is little different from reproach." - Demosthenes, Greek statesman (384-322 B.C.).