Today is Wednesday, Feb. 18, the 49th day of 2009. There are 316 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Feb. 18, 1885, Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was published in the U.S. for the first time _ having been published in Canada and England the previous December.

On this date:

In 1546, Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, died in Eisleben.

In 1564, artist Michelangelo died in Rome.

In 1735, the first opera presented in America, "Flora, or Hob in the Well," was performed in present-day Charleston, S.C.

In 1861, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the provisional president of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Ala.

In 1930, photographic evidence of Pluto _ now designated a "dwarf planet" _ was discovered by Clyde W. Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.

In 1960, the 8th Winter Olympic Games were formally opened in Squaw Valley, Calif., by Vice President Richard M. Nixon.

In 1970, the "Chicago Seven" defendants were found not guilty of conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic national convention; five were convicted of violating the Anti-Riot Act of 1968. Those convictions were later reversed.

In 1977, the space shuttle Enterprise, sitting atop a Boeing 747, went on its maiden "flight" above the Mojave Desert.

In 1984, Italy and the Vatican signed an accord under which Roman Catholicism ceased to be the state religion of Italy.

In 2001, auto racing star Dale Earnhardt Sr. died from injuries suffered in a crash at the Daytona 500; he was 49.

Ten years ago: The Clinton administration warned Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to choose peace with ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, or face a devastating military strike.

Five years ago: Howard Dean's quest for the presidency ended as the Democrat, winless in 17 contests, abandoned his bid. In Iran, runaway train cars carrying fuel and industrial chemicals derailed, setting off explosions that destroyed five villages and killed at least 200 people. Two bomb-laden trucks blew up outside a Polish-run base in Hillah, Iraq, killing about a dozen people.

One year ago: The Pakistan People's Party of assassinated ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto won the most seats in the country's parliamentary elections. A suicide car bomber targeting a Canadian military convoy killed 38 civilians in southern Afghanistan. Republican John McCain picked up the support of former President George H.W. Bush. Andy Pettitte apologized to the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and his fans for the "embarrassment" he caused them by taking human growth hormone. Writer Alain Robbe-Grillet died in Caen, France, at age 85.

Today's Birthdays: Former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown is 87. Actor George Kennedy is 84. Former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is 82. Author Toni Morrison is 78. Movie director Milos Forman is 77. Singer Yoko Ono is 76. Singer-songwriter Bobby Hart is 70. Singer Irma Thomas is 68. Singer Herman Santiago (Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers) is 68. Singer Dennis DeYoung is 62. Actress Sinead Cusack is 61. Producer-director-writer John Hughes is 59. Actress Cybill Shepherd is 59. Singer Juice Newton is 57. Singer Randy Crawford is 57. Rock musician Robbie Bachman is 56. Rock musician Larry Rust (Iron Butterfly) is 56. Actor John Travolta is 55. Game show host Vanna White is 52. Actress Greta Scacchi is 49. Actor Matt Dillon is 45. Rapper Dr. Dre is 44. Actress Molly Ringwald is 41. Actress Sarah Brown is 34. Singer-musician Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) is 32. Actor Tyrone Burton is 30. Rock-singer musician Regina Spektor is 29. Actor Shane Lyons is 21.

Thought for Today: "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion." _ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher (1770-1831).

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