By The Associated Press

Today’s Highlight in History:

On May 18, 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead or missing.

On this date:

In 1863, the Siege of Vicksburg began during the Civil War, ending July 4 with a Union victory.

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

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

In 1911, composer-conductor Gustav Mahler died in Vienna, Austria, at age 50.

In 1920, Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla (voy-TEE’-wah) in Wadowice (vah-duh-VEET’-seh), Poland.

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

In 1934, Congress approved, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the so-called “Lindbergh Act,” providing for the death penalty in cases of interstate kidnapping.

In 1944, during World War II, Allied forces occupied Monte Cassino in Italy after a four-month struggle with Axis troops.

In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran, 47, became the first woman to break the sound barrier as she piloted a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, California.

In 1967, Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington signed a measure repealing the law against teaching evolution that was used to prosecute John T. Scopes in 1925.

In 1973, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was appointed Watergate special prosecutor by U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson.

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.

Ten years 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.

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Five years ago: President Barack Obama ended long-running federal transfers of some combat-style gear to local law enforcement in an attempt to ease tensions between police and minority communities, saying equipment made for the battlefield should not be a tool of American criminal justice. An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a three-member panel of the same court should not have forced YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors.

One year ago: American diplomats warned that commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf risked being targeted by “miscalculation or misidentification” from the Iranian military amid heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.S. (A Ukrainian jetliner would be accidentally shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard eight months later, killing 176 people) After being bumped and interfered with in the Kentucky Derby, which led to the disqualification of first-place Derby finisher Maximum Security, War of Will bounced back to win the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Priscilla Pointer is 96. Actor Robert Morse is 89. Actor Dwayne Hickman is 86. Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson is 82. Actress Candice Azzara is 79. Bluegrass singer-musician Rodney Dillard (The Dillards) is 78. Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is 74. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., is 72. Country singer Joe Bonsall (The Oak Ridge Boys) is 72. Rock musician Rick Wakeman (Yes) is 71. Rock singer Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) is 70. Actor James Stephens is 69. Country singer George Strait is 68. Actor Chow Yun-Fat is 65. International Tennis Hall of Famer Yannick Noah is 60. Rock singer-musician Page Hamilton is 60. Contemporary Christian musician Barry Graul (MercyMe) is 59. Contemporary Christian singer Michael Tait is 54. Singer-actress Martika is 51. Comedian-writer Tina Fey is 50. Rock singer Jack Johnson is 45. Country singer David Nail is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Darryl Allen (Mista) is 40. Actor Matt Long is 40. Actor Allen Leech is 39. Christian-rock musician Kevin Huguley (Rush of Fools) is 38. Christian singer Francesca Battistelli is 35. Actor Spencer Breslin is 28. Actress Violett Beane is 24. Actress Hala Finley is 11.

Thought for Today: “Never do anything you wouldn’t want to explain to the paramedics.” — Author unknown.