► Today is Thursday, Sept. 8, the 251st day of 2011. There are 114 days left in the year.
► Today’s birthdays: Comedian Sid Caesar is 89. Ventriloquist Willie Tyler is 71. Actor Alan Feinstein is 70. Pop singer Sal Valentino (the Beau Brummels) is 69. Author Ann Beattie is 64. Cajun singer Zachary Richard is 61. Musician Will Lee (“Late Show With David Letterman’’) is 59. Actress Heather Thomas is 54. Singer Aimee Mann is 51. Pop musician David Steele (Fine Young Cannibals) is 51. Actor Thomas Kretschmann is 49. Rhythm & blues singer Marc Gordon (Levert) is 47. Gospel singer Darlene Zschech is 46. Alternative country singer Neko Case is 41. TV personality Brooke Burke is 40. Actor Martin Freeman is 40. Actor Henry Thomas is 40. Actor David Arquette is 40. Rock musician Richard Hughes (Keane) is 36. Actor Larenz Tate is 36. Actor Nathan Corddry is 34. Rhythm & blues singer Pink is 32. Actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas is 30.
► In 1892, an early version of “The Pledge of Allegiance,’’ written by Francis Bellamy, appeared in “The Youth’s Companion.’’
► In 1900, Galveston, Texas, was struck by a hurricane that killed an estimated 8,000 people.
► In 1921, Margaret Gorman, 16, of Washington, D.C., was crowned the first “Miss America’’ in Atlantic City, N.J.
► In 1935, Senator Huey P. Long (D-La.) was shot and mortally wounded inside the Louisiana State Capitol; he died two days later. (The assailant was identified as Dr. Carl Weiss, who was gunned down by Long’s bodyguards.)
► In 1941, the 900-day Siege of Leningrad by German forces began during World War II.
► In 1951, a peace treaty with Japan was signed by 49 nations in San Francisco.
► In 1971, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts made its official debut in Washington, D.C., with a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.’’
► In 1974, President Ford granted an unconditional pardon to former President Nixon.
► In 1981, civil rights activist Roy Wilkins, former head of the NAACP, died in New York at age 80.
► In 1986, “The Oprah Winfrey Show’’ began the first of 25 seasons in national syndication.
► In 1994, a USAir
► In 2001, the World Conference Against Racism ended in Durban, South Africa, as tumultuously as it began, with organizers calling it a success. Venus Williams won her second consecutive US Open title by beating her sister Serena 6-2, 6-4 in the first prime-time women’s Grand Slam final.
► In 2006, a Senate report faulted intelligence gathering in the lead-up to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and said Saddam Hussein regarded Al Qaeda as a threat rather than a possible ally, contradicting assertions President George W. Bush had used to build support for the war. A suicide car bomber struck a convoy of US military vehicles in Kabul, killing 16 people, including two American soldiers.