Today's Highlight in History:
On Jan. 9, 1914, the County of Los Angeles opened the country's first public defender's office, headed by Walton J. Wood.
On this date:
In 1788, Connecticut became the fifth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1793, Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard, using a hot-air balloon, flew between Philadelphia and Woodbury, N.J.
In 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede from the Union, the same day the Star of the West, a merchant vessel bringing reinforcements and supplies to Federal troops at Fort Sumter, S.C., retreated because of artillery fire.
In 1913, Richard Milhous Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, was born in Yorba Linda, Calif.
In 1914, the fraternity Phi Beta Sigma was founded at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
In 1931, Bobbi Trout and Edna May Cooper broke an endurance record for female aviators as they returned to Mines Field in Los Angeles after flying a Curtiss Robin monoplane continuously for 122 hours and 50 minutes.
In 1945, during World War II, American forces began landing at Lingayen Gulf in the Philippines.
In 1951, the United Nations headquarters in New York officially opened.
In 1964, anti-U.S. rioting broke out in the Panama Canal Zone, resulting in the deaths of 21 Panamanians and four U.S. soldiers.
In 1972, reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, speaking by telephone from the Bahamas to reporters in Hollywood, said a purported autobiography of him by Clifford Irving was a fake.
In 1987, the White House released a Jan. 1986 memorandum prepared for President Ronald Reagan by Lt. Col. Oliver L. North showing a link between U.S. arms sales to Iran and the release of American hostages in Lebanon.
In 1997, a Comair commuter plane crashed 18 miles short of the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, killing all 29 people on board.
Ten years ago: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced that the nation's threat level had been lowered from orange ("high") to yellow ("elevated"). Officials said Pentagon lawyers determined that former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein had been a prisoner of war since his capture. An Ohio woman who'd claimed to have lost a lottery ticket worth $162 million was charged with filing a false police report. (Elecia Battle was later convicted of the misdemeanor and put on one year's probation.)
Five years ago: The Illinois House voted 114-1 to impeach Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who defiantly insisted again that he had committed no crime. (The Illinois Senate unanimously voted to remove Blagojevich from office 20 days later.) President-elect Barack Obama announced he had picked retired Adm. Dennis Blair to be the national intelligence director and Leon Panetta to head the CIA. A Saudi supertanker, the Sirius Star, and its crew of 25 were released at the end of a two-month standoff in the Gulf of Aden after pirates were reportedly paid $3 million in ransom. (Five pirates were said to have drowned with their share of the money when their boat overturned.)
One year ago: Vice President Joe Biden heard personal stories of gun violence from representatives of victims groups and gun-safety organizations at the White House as he undertook to draft the Obama administration's response to the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The Seastreak Wall Street, a commuter ferry, made a hard landing into a Manhattan pier, injuring 85 people. No one was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame; for the second time in four decades, baseball writers failed to give any player the 75 percent required for induction to Cooperstown.
Today's Birthdays: Author Judith Krantz is 86. Football Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr is 80. Sportscaster Dick Enberg is 79. Actress K. Callan is 78. Folk singer Joan Baez is 73. Rockabilly singer Roy Head is 73. Rock musician Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) is 70. Singer David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter) is 64. Singer Crystal Gayle is 63. Actor J.K. Simmons is 59. Actress Imelda Staunton is 58. Nobel Peace laureate Rigoberto Menchu is 55. Rock musician Eric Erlandson is 51. Actress Joely Richardson is 49. Rock musician Carl Bell (Fuel) is 47. Rock singer Steve Harwell (Smash Mouth) is 47. Rock singer-musician Dave Matthews is 47. Actress-director Joey Lauren Adams is 46. Roots singer-songwriter Hayes Carll is 38. Singer A.J. McLean (Backstreet Boys) is 36. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is 32. Pop-rock musician Drew Brown (OneRepublic) is 30. Rock-soul singer Paolo Nutini is 27. Actress Nina Dobrev is 25. Actor Tyree Brown is 10.
Thought for Today: "Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." — Agnes de Mille, American dancer-choreographer (1905-1993).