Today is Wednesday, March 18, the 77th day of 2009. There are 288 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

On March 18, 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Hawaii statehood bill. (Hawaii became a state on Aug. 21, 1959.)

On this date:

In 1766, Britain repealed the Stamp Act of 1765.

In 1837, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, Grover Cleveland, was born in Caldwell, N.J.

In 1909, Einar Dessau of Denmark used a shortwave transmitter to converse with a government radio post about six miles away in what's believed to have been the first broadcast by a "ham" operator.

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

In 1937, some 300 people, mostly children, were killed in a gas explosion at a school in New London, Texas.

In 1938, Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized his country's petroleum reserves and took control of foreign-owned oil facilities.

In 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.

In 1962, France and Algerian rebels signed a cease-fire agreement, which took effect the next day.

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

In 1974, most of the Arab oil-producing nations ended their embargo against the United States.

Ten years ago: The Kosovar Albanian delegation signed a U.S.-sponsored peace accord following talks in Paris; the Clinton administration warned NATO would act against Serb targets if Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic rejected the agreement.

Five years ago: Addressing thousands of soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., President George W. Bush warned that terrorists could never be appeased and said there was no safety for any nation that "lives at the mercy of gangsters and mass murderers." Overruling its staff, the Federal Communications Commission declared that an expletive (the "F-word") uttered by U2 frontman Bono on NBC the previous year was both indecent and profane.

One year ago: Democrat Barack Obama confronted America's racial divide head-on with a speech in Philadelphia in which he urged the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years." The just-inaugurated governor of New York, David Paterson, and his wife, Michelle, both acknowledged having had affairs during a time when their marriage was troubled. German Chancellor Angela Merkel earned a standing ovation from Israel's parliament with a speech that included a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. Oscar-winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient") died in London at age 54.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Peter Graves is 83. Composer John Kander ("Chicago") is 82. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 73. Country singer Charley Pride is 71. Actor Kevin Dobson is 66. Actor Brad Dourif is 59. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 58. Singer Irene Cara is 50. Movie writer-director Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element") is 50. Actor Thomas Ian Griffith is 47. Singer-songwriter James McMurtry is 47. Singer-actress Vanessa L. Williams is 46. Olympic gold medal speedskater Bonnie Blair is 45. Country musician Scott Saunders (Sons of the Desert) is 45. Rock musician Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) is 43. Rock singer-musician Miki Berenyi is 42. Rapper-actress-talk show host Queen Latifah is 39. Actor-comedian Dane Cook is 37. Rock musician Stuart Zender is 35. Singer Devin Lima (LFO) is 32. Rock singer Adam Levine (Maroon 5) is 30.

Thought for Today: "Liberty is from God, liberties from the devil." _ Old German proverb.

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