Wednesday, March 18, the 78th day of 2020. There are 288 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On March 18, 1940, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass, where the Italian dictator agreed to join Germany's war against France and Britain.

On this date:

In 1766, Britain repealed the Stamp Act of 1765.

In 1922, Mohandas K. Gandhi was sentenced in India to six years' imprisonment for civil disobedience. (He was released after serving two years.)

In 1925, the Tri-State Tornado struck southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois and southwestern Indiana, resulting in some 700 deaths.

In 1937, in America's worst school disaster, nearly 300 people, most of them children, were killed in a natural gas explosion at the New London Consolidated School in Rusk County, Texas.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the War Relocation Authority, which was put in charge of interning Japanese-Americans, with Milton S. Eisenhower (the younger brother of Dwight D. Eisenhower) as its director.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, ruled unanimously that state courts were required to provide legal counsel to criminal defendants who could not afford to hire an attorney on their own.

In 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov went outside his Voskhod 2 capsule, secured by a tether.

In 1980, Frank Gotti, the 12-year-old youngest son of mobster John Gotti, was struck and killed by a car driven by John Favara, a neighbor in Queens, New York. (The following July, Favara vanished, the apparent victim of a gang hit.)

In 1996, rejecting an insanity defense, a jury in Dedham, Massachusetts, convicted John C. Salvi III of murdering two women in attacks at two Boston-area abortion clinics in December 1994. (Salvi later committed suicide in his prison cell.)

In 2002, Brittanie Cecil died two days short of her 14th birthday after being hit in the head by a puck at a game between the host Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames; it was apparently the first such fan fatality in NHL history.

In 2005, doctors in Florida, acting on orders of a state judge, removed Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. (Despite the efforts of congressional Republicans to intervene and repeated court appeals by Schiavo's parents, the brain-damaged woman died on March 31, 2005, at age 41.)

In 2018, Vladimir Putin rolled to a crushing reelection victory for six more years as Russia's president.

Ten years ago: President Barack Obama signed into law a $38 billion jobs bill containing a modest mix of tax breaks and spending designed to encourage the private sector to start hiring again. Actor Fess Parker, 85, died in Santa Ynez, California. Jerome York, an Apple Inc. board member and a financial wizard credited with turning around Chrysler and IBM, died in Pontiac, Michigan, at age 71.

Five years ago: Militants opened fire at a museum in Tunisia's capital, killing 22 people, most of them foreign tourists. Serbia arrested eight men accused of taking part in the massacre of some 1,300 people at a warehouse on the outskirts of Srebrenica (sreh-breh-NEET'-sah) in 1995. Lindsey Vonn won the World Cup downhill title for the seventh time, winning the last race in the discipline at the World Cup finals in Meribel, France.

One year ago: Warner Bros. chief Kevin Tsujihara stepped down from the studio following claims that he had promised roles to an actress with whom he was having an affair; he was one of the highest-ranking Hollywood executives to be felled by sexual misconduct allegations. Brooks & Dunn, Ray Stevens and record label head Jerry Bradley were announced as inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Today's Birthdays: Composer John Kander is 93. Country singer Charley Pride is 86. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 84. Country singer Margie Bowes is 79. Actor Kevin Dobson is 77. Actor Brad Dourif is 70. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 69. Singer Irene Cara is 61. Alt-country musician Karen Grotberg (The Jayhawks) is 61. Movie writer-director Luc Besson is 61. Actor Geoffrey Owens is 59. Actor Thomas Ian Griffith is 58. Singer-songwriter James McMurtry is 58. TV personality Mike Rowe is 58. Singer-actress Vanessa L. Williams is 57. Olympic gold medal speedskater Bonnie Blair is 56. Country musician Scott Saunders (Sons of the Desert) is 56. Actor David Cubitt is 55. Rock musician Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) is 54. Rock singer-musician Miki Berenyi (ber-EN'-ee) is 53. Actor Michael Bergin is 51. Rapper-actress-talk show host Queen Latifah is 50. Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (ryns PREE'-bus) is 48. Actor-comedian Dane Cook is 48. Country singer Philip Sweet (Little Big Town) is 46. Rock musician Stuart Zender is 46. Singers Evan and Jaron Lowenstein are 46. Actress-singer-dancer Sutton Foster is 45. Rock singer Adam Levine (Maroon 5) is 41. Rock musician Daren Taylor (Airborne Toxic Event) is 40. Olympic gold medal figure skater Alexei Yagudin is 40. Actor Adam Pally is 38. Actor Cornelius Smith Jr. is 38. Actor Duane Henry (TV: "NCIS") is 35. Actress Lily Collins is 31. Actress-dancer Julia Goldani Telles is 25. Actress Ciara Bravo is 23. Actor Blake Garrett Rosenthal is 16.

Thought for Today: "No man has a right in America to treat any other man tolerantly, for tolerance is the assumption of superiority." — Wendell Willkie, American politician (1892-1944).

* * *

Today is Thursday, March 19, the 79th day of 2020. There are 287 days left in the year. Spring arrives at 11:50 p.m. EDT, the earliest the vernal equinox has occurred in 124 years.

Today's Highlight in History:

On March 19, 1966, the Texas Western Miners defeated the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats, 72-65, to win the NCAA Championship played in College Park, Maryland; making the contest especially noteworthy was that Texas Western became the first basketball team to start five black players in a national title game as it faced an all-white Kentucky squad.

On this date:

In 1687, French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the first European to navigate the length of the Mississippi River, was murdered by mutineers in present-day Texas.

In 1917, a divided U.S. Supreme Court, in Wilson v. New, upheld, 5-4, the eight-hour work day for interstate railroad workers.

In 1931, Nevada Gov. Fred B. Balzar signed a measure legalizing casino gambling.

In 1945, during World War II, 724 people were killed when a Japanese dive bomber attacked the carrier USS Franklin off Japan (the ship was saved). Adolf Hitler ordered the destruction of German facilities that could fall into Allied hands in his so-called "Nero Decree," which was largely disregarded.

In 1953, the Academy Awards ceremony was televised for the first time; "The Greatest Show on Earth" was named best picture of 1952.

In 1977, the series finale of "Mary Tyler Moore" aired on CBS-TV, ending the situation comedy's seven-season run.

In 1979, the U.S. House of Representatives began televising its floor proceedings; the live feed was carried by C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network), which was making its debut.

In 1987, televangelist Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry organization amid a sex and money scandal involving Jessica Hahn, a former church secretary.

In 1993, Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White announced plans to retire. (White's departure paved the way for Ruth Bader Ginsburg to become the court's second female justice.)

In 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the start of war against Iraq. (Because of the time difference, it was early March 20 in Iraq.)

In 2013, Pope Francis officially began his ministry as the 266th pope, receiving the ring symbolizing the papacy and a wool stole exemplifying his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock during a Mass at the Vatican.

In 2014, Toyota agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle an investigation by the U.S. government, admitting that it had hidden information about defects that caused Toyota and Lexus vehicles to accelerate unexpectedly, resulting in injuries and deaths.

Ten years ago: The White House released an online video of President Barack Obama making a fresh appeal directly to the people of Iran, saying a U.S. offer of diplomatic dialogue still stood, but that the Tehran government had chosen isolation.

Five years ago: President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly half over the next decade, driving his climate change agenda forward despite percolating challenges from Republican-led states. Days after winning reelection, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backtracked from hardline campaign statements against the establishment of a Palestinian state in the face of a diplomatic backlash. Lindsey Vonn won the final super-G of the season and with it her 19th crystal globe trophy at the World Cup finals in Meribel, France. Songwriter Michael Brown, 65, who co-wrote the 1966 hit "Walk Away Renee," died in Englewood, New Jersey.

One year ago: President Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain, who had died in 2018 of brain cancer; Trump told reporters, “I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be.” Aid workers rushed to rescue victims clinging to trees and crammed on rooftops after a cyclone unleashed devastating floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi; more than 350 people were confirmed dead with hundreds missing. In a major advance against the Islamic State group, U.S.-backed Syrian forces seized control of an encampment held by the group in eastern Syria after hundreds of militants surrendered overnight.

Today's Birthdays: Former White House national security adviser Brent Scowcroft is 95. Actress Renee Taylor is 87. Actress Ursula Andress is 84. Singer Clarence "Frogman" Henry is 83. Singer Ruth Pointer (The Pointer Sisters) is 74. Actress Glenn Close is 73. Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is 68. Actor Bruce Willis is 65. Actress-comedian Mary Scheer is 57. Playwright Neil LaBute is 57. Actor Connor Trinneer is 51. Rock musician Gert Bettens (K's Choice) is 50. Rapper Bun B is 47. Rock musician Zach Lind (Jimmy Eat World) is 44. Actress Virginia Williams is 42. Actress Abby Brammell is 41. MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw is 32. Actor Craig Lamar Traylor is 31. Actor Philip Bolden is 25.

Thought for Today: "The heaviest baggage for a traveler is an empty purse." — German proverb.

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