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Today is Ash Wednesday, Feb. 21, the 52nd day of 1996. There are 314 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:On Feb. 21, 1965, former Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was shot to death by assassins identified as Black Muslims as he was about to address a rally in New York; he was 39.

On this date:

In 1846, 150 years ago, Sarah G. Bagley became the first female telegrapher as she took charge at the newly opened telegraph office in Lowell, Mass.

In 1866, Lucy B. Hobbs became the first woman to graduate from a dental school, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati.

In 1878, the first telephone directory was issued, by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Conn.

In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.

In 1916, the World War I Battle of Verdun began in France.

In 1925, The New Yorker magazine made its debut.

In 1947, Edwin H. Land first demonstrated his Polaroid Land camera, which could produce a black-and-white photograph in 60 seconds.

In 1972, President Nixon began his historic visit to China.

In 1973, Israeli fighter planes shot down a Libyan Airlines jet over the Sinai Desert, killing more than 100 people.

In 1975, former Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman were sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison for their roles in the Watergate cover-up.

Ten years ago: Larry Wu-tai Chin, the first American found guilty of spying for China, killed himself in his Virginia jail cell. AIDS patient Ryan White returned to classes at Western Middle School in Kokomo, Ind., but a judge issued a temporary order to keep him from continuing to attend.

Five years ago: The Soviet Union announced that Iraq had agreed to a proposal for ending the Persian Gulf War; however, the Bush administration called the plan unacceptable. Ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn died in Panama City at age 71.

One year ago: The United States and Mexico signed an agreement to unlock $20 billion in U.S. support to stabilize the peso, but under tough conditions. Chicago stockbroker Steve Fossett became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, landing in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Today's Birthdays: Columnist Erma Bombeck is 69. Fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy is 69. West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton is 56. Tricia Nixon Cox is 50. Country singer Mary-Chapin Carpenter is 38. Actor Christopher Atkins is 35.

Thought for Today: "There is nothing more horrifying than stupidity in action." - Adlai E. Stevenson, United Nations ambassador (1900-1965).