Today in History 11/28

Today is Wednesday, Nov. 28, the 333rd day of 2012. There are 33 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Nov. 28, 1942, nearly 500 people died in a fire that destroyed the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston.

On this date:

• In 1520, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan reached the Pacific Ocean after passing through the South American strait that now bears his name.

• In 1861, the Confederate Congress admitted Missouri as the 12th state of the Confederacy after Missouri’s disputed secession from the Union.

• In 1912, Albania proclaimed its independence from the Ottoman Empire.

• In 1922, Captain Cyril Turner of the Royal Air Force gave the first public skywriting exhibition, spelling out, “Hello USA. Call Vanderbilt 7200” over New York’s Times Square; about 47,000 calls in less than three hours resulted.

• In 1961, Ernie Davis of Syracuse University became the first African-American to be named winner of the Heisman Trophy.

• In 1964, the United States launched the space probe Mariner 4 on a course to Mars.

• In 1979, an Air New Zealand DC-10 en route to the South Pole crashed into a mountain in Antarctica, killing all 257 people aboard.

• In 1987, a South African Airways Boeing 747 crashed into the Indian Ocean with the loss of all 159 people aboard.

Ten years ago:

In twin attacks in Kenya, three suicide bombers killed 14 people at an Israeli-owned hotel, while at least two missiles were fired at — but missed — an Israeli jetliner taking off from Mombasa airport.

Five years ago:

• O.J. Simpson pleaded not guilty in Las Vegas to charges of kidnapping and armed robbery stemming from a confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers. (Simpson and a co-defendant were later convicted.)

Today’s Birthdays:

Recording executive Berry Gordy Jr. is 83. F Singer Randy Newman is 69. “Late Show” orchestra leader Paul Shaffer is 63. Actor Ed Harris is 62. Comedian Jon Stewart is 50. Hip-hop musician (Black Eyed Peas) is 38. Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead is 28. Actress Scarlett Pomers (“Reba”) is 24.