Today in History

Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, May 18, the 138th day of 2011. There are 227 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On May 18, 1911, composer-conductor Gustav Mahler died in Vienna, Austria, at age 50.

On this date:

In 1642, the Canadian city of Montreal was founded by French colonists.

In 1765, about one-fourth of Montreal was destroyed by a fire.

In 1896, the Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, endorsed "separate but equal" racial segregation, a concept renounced 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

In 1910, Halley's Comet passed by earth, brushing it with its tail.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a measure creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier as she piloted a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, Calif.

In 1969, astronauts Eugene A. Cernan, Thomas P. Stafford and John W. Young blasted off aboard Apollo 10 on a mission to orbit the moon.

In 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead or missing.

In 1981, the New York Native, a gay newspaper, carried a story concerning rumors of "an exotic new disease" among homosexuals; it was the first published report about what came to be known as AIDS. American author and playwright William Saroyan died in Fresno, Calif., at age 72.

In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton to rocket into space as she flew aboard a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft with two cosmonauts on an 8-day mission.

Ten years ago: A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at a shopping mall in Netanya, killing five Israelis; Israel retaliated with air strikes against security targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that killed ten Palestinians.

Five years ago: Visiting one of the busiest crossing sectors between the U.S. and Mexico, President George W. Bush said in Yuma, Ariz., that it made sense to put up fencing along parts of the border but not to block off the entire 2,000-mile length to keep out illegal immigrants.

One year ago: Grilled by skeptical lawmakers, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged his agency had been lax in overseeing offshore drilling activities, and that might have contributed to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near a U.S. convoy in Afghanistan, killing 18 people, including six troops — five from the U.S., one from Canada. Following a 2009 party switch, Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated in Pennsylvania's Democratic primary, ending his re-election bid.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Bill Macy is 89. Hall-of-Fame sportscaster Jack Whitaker is 87. Actor Robert Morse is 80. Actor and television executive Dwayne Hickman is 77. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson is 74. Bluegrass singer-musician Rodney Dillard (The Dillards) is 69. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson is 65. Actress Candice Azzara is 64. Country singer Joe Bonsall (The Oak Ridge Boys) is 63. Rock musician Rick Wakeman (Yes) is 62. Actor James Stephens is 60. Country singer George Strait is 59. Rhythm-and-blues singer Butch Tavares (Tavares) is 58. Actor Chow Yun-Fat is 56. Rock singer-musician Page Hamilton is 51. Contemporary Christian musician Barry Graul (MercyMe) is 50. Singer-actress Martika is 42. Comedian-writer Tina Fey is 41. Rapper Special Ed is 37. Rock singer Jack Johnson is 36. Rhythm-and-blues singer Darryl Allen (Mista) is 31. Actor Matt Long is 31. Christian-rock musician Kevin Huguley (Rush of Fools) is 29. Actor Spencer Breslin is 19.

Thought for Today: "A conference is a gathering of people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done." — Fred Allen, comedian (1894-1956).

(Above Advance for Use Wednesday, May 18)

Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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