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Today in History — May 31

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Thursday, May 31, the 151st day of 2007. 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 U.S. announced it was no longer aiming long-range nuclear missiles at targets in the former Soviet Union.

Ten years ago: Pope John Paul II began an 11-day tour of his native Poland, his seventh visit since assuming the papacy.

Five years ago: A three-judge federal panel in Philadelphia ruled that public libraries cannot be forced to install software that blocks sexually explicit Web sites. European Union countries formally signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, a pact aimed at stemming pollution and global warming that has been opposed by the United States. The World Cup soccer tournament opened in Asia for the first time with a match between Senegal and defending champion France in South Korea, which was co-hosting the event with Japan. (Senegal upset France, 1-0.)

One year ago: The U.S. said it would join in face-to-face talks with Iran over its disputed nuclear program if Tehran first agreed to put challenged atomic activities on hold; Iran dismissed the offer as “a propaganda move.” NBC’s “Today” show threw a going-away party for 15-year host Katie Couric, who left to become anchor of “The CBS Evening News.”

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Elaine Stewart is 78. Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 77. Singer Peter Yarrow is 69. Former Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is 68. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 67. Actress Sharon Gless is 64. Football Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath is 64. Actor Tom Berenger is 57. Actor Gregory Harrison is 57. Actress Roma Maffia is 49. Comedian Chris Elliott is 47. Actor Kyle Secor is 47. Actress Lea Thompson is 46. Singer Corey Hart is 45. Rapper DMC is 43. Rapper Kid Frost is 43. Actress Brooke Shields is 42. Country musician Ed Adkins (The Derailers) is 40. Actor Colin Farrell is 31. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 30. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 30. Rock musician Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy) is 27. Actor Jonathan Tucker is 25. Actor Curtis Williams Jr. is 20.

Thought for Today: “The reputation of power IS power.” — Thomas Hobbes, English political philosopher (1588-1679).