Today in history: May 31

/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Wednesday, May 31, the 151st day of 2006. There are 214 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On May 31, 1889, more than 2,000 people perished when a dam break sent water rushing through Johnstown, Pa.

On this date:
In 1809, composer Franz Joseph Haydn died in Vienna, Austria.

In 1819, poet Walt Whitman was born in West Hill, N.Y.

In 1910, the Union of South Africa was founded.

In 1916, during World War I, British and German fleets fought the naval Battle of Jutland off Denmark; there was no clear-cut victor, although the British suffered heavier losses.

In 1961, South Africa became an independent republic.

In 1962, World War II Gestapo official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel for his role in the Nazi Holocaust.

In 1970, tens of thousands of people died in an earthquake in Peru.

In 1976, Martha Mitchell, the estranged wife of former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, died in New York.

In 1977, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, three years in the making, was completed.

In 1994, the United States announced it was no longer aiming long-range nuclear missiles at targets in the former Soviet Union.

Ten years ago: Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Israel’s election for prime minister, defeating incumbent Shimon Peres by nine-tenths of one percent.

Five years ago: Veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen pleaded innocent to charges of spying for Moscow. (He later changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.) Moderate PLO leader Faisal Husseini died at age 60. Actress and TV personality Arlene Francis died in San Francisco at age 93.

One year ago: Breaking a silence of 30 years, former FBI official W. Mark Felt stepped forward as “Deep Throat,” the secret Washington Post source that helped bring down President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. President Bush, faced with a string of setbacks on Capitol Hill, shrugged off questions about his political clout and promised during a news conference to keep pushing Congress for a Social Security overhaul. Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was convicted of charges including fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Elaine Stewart is 77. Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 76. Singer Peter Yarrow is 68. Former Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is 67. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 66. Actress Sharon Gless is 63. Football Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath is 63. Actor Tom Berenger is 56. Actor Gregory Harrison is 56. Actress Roma Maffia is 48. Comedian Chris Elliott is 46. Actor Kyle Secor is 46. Actress Lea Thompson is 45. Singer Corey Hart is 44. Rapper DMC is 42. Rapper Kid Frost is 42. Actress Brooke Shields is 41. Country musician Ed Adkins (The Derailers) is 39. Actor Colin Farrell is 30. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 29. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 29. Actor Curtis Williams Jr. is 19.

Thought for Today: “Every ambitious man is a captive and every covetous one a pauper.” — Arab proverb.