Today is Wednesday, March 21, the 81st day of 2011. There are 285 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On March 21, 1963, the Alcatraz federal prison island in San Francisco Bay was emptied of its last inmates at the order of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
On this date:
In 1556, Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake for heresy.
In 1685, composer Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany.
In 1804, the French civil code, or the "Code Napoleon" as it was later called, was adopted.
In 1806, Mexican statesman Benito Juarez was born in the state of Oaxaca.
In 1871, journalist Henry M. Stanley began his famous expedition in Africa to locate the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone.
In 1907, U.S. Marines arrived in Honduras to protect American lives and interests in the wake of political violence.
In 1940, a new government was formed in France by Paul Reynaud, who became prime minister, succeeding Edouard Daladier.
In 1960, about 70 people were killed in Sharpeville, South Africa, when police fired on black protesters.
In 1962, the first Taco Bell restaurant was opened by Glen Bell in Downey, Calif.
In 1965, more than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began their march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
In 1972, the Supreme Court, in Dunn v. Blumstein, ruled that states may not require at least a year's residency for voting eligibility.
In 1985, police in Langa, South Africa, opened fire on blacks marching to mark the 25th anniversary of Sharpeville; the reported death toll varied between 29 and 43.
Ten years ago: President George W. Bush began a four-day trip to Latin America. Marjorie Knoller, whose two huge dogs had mauled neighbor Diane Whipple to death in their San Francisco apartment building, was convicted in Los Angeles of second-degree murder; her husband, Robert Noel, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. (The judge later threw out the murder conviction against Knoller, replacing it with manslaughter, but the murder conviction was reinstated by an appeals court.) Alexei Yagudin won the men's title at the World Figure Skating Championships in Nagano, Japan. Former Georgia governor and U.S. senator Herman Talmadge died in Hampton, Ga., at age 88.
Five years ago: Former Vice President Al Gore made an emotional return to Congress as he pleaded with House and Senate committees to fight global warming; skeptical Republicans questioned the science behind his climate-change documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."
One year ago: Syrians chanting "No more fear!" held a defiant march after a deadly government crackdown failed to quash three days of mass protests in the southern city of Deraa. Grammy-winning bluesman Pinetop Perkins died in Austin, Texas, at 97. Mayhew "Bo" Foster, a World War II U.S. Army pilot who transported Nazi official Hermann Goering for interrogation in an unarmed, unescorted plane, died in Missoula, Mont. at age 99.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Al Freeman Jr. is 81. Violinist-conductor Joseph Silverstein is 80. Actress Kathleen Widdoes is 73. Actress Marie-Christine Barrault is 68. Singer-musician Rose Stone (Sly and the Family Stone) is 67. Actor Timothy Dalton is 66. Singer Eddie Money is 63. Rock singer-musician Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) is 62. Rock musician Conrad Lozano (Los Lobos) is 61. Rhythm-and-blues singer Russell Thompkins Jr. (The Stylistics) is 61. Comedy writer-performer Brad Hall is 54. Actress Sabrina LeBeauf is 54. Actor Gary Oldman is 54. Actor Matthew Broderick is 50. Comedian-talk show host Rosie O'Donnell is 50. Rock musician Jonas "Joker" Berggren (Ace of Base) is 45. Rock MC Maxim (Prodigy) is 45. Rock musician Andrew Copeland (Sister Hazel) is 44. Hip-hop DJ Premier (Gang Starr) is 43. Actress Laura Allen is 38. Rapper-TV personality Kevin Federline is 34.
Thought for Today: "Is it worse to be scared than to be bored, that is the question." -- Gertrude Stein, American writer (1874-1946).