Today is Tuesday, May 31, the 151st day of 2011. There are 214 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
On May 31, 1911, the hull of the British liner RMS Titanic was launched from its building berth at the Port of Belfast, less than a year before the ship's fateful maiden voyage.
On this date:
In 1790, President George Washington signed into law the first U.S. copyright act.
In 1859, the Big Ben clock tower in London went into operation, chiming for the first time.
In 1889, more than 2,000 people perished when a dam break sent water rushing through Johnstown, Pa.
In 1910, the Union of South Africa was founded.
In 1941, "Tobacco Road," a play about an impoverished Southern family based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell, closed on Broadway after a run of 3,182 performances.
In 1961, South Africa became an independent republic as it withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
In 1970, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Peru claimed an estimated 20,000 lives, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's website.
In 1977, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, three years in the making, was completed.
In 1985, at least 88 people were killed, more than 1,000 injured, as over 40 tornadoes swept through parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Ontario, Canada, during an eight-hour period.
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: Veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen pleaded not guilty to charges of spying for Moscow. (He later changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.) PLO leader Faisal Husseini died at age 60. Actress and TV personality Arlene Francis died in San Francisco at age 93.
Five years 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."
One year ago: Israeli commandos stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip; eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American were killed aboard one vessel, with each side accusing the other of starting the violence. Al-Qaida announced that its No. 3 official, Mustafa al-Yazid, had been killed along with members of his family. (A U.S. official said al-Yazid was believed to have died in a U.S. missile strike.) Artist Louise Bourgeois, 98, died in New York. Chris Haney, 59, co-creator of the popular Trivial Pursuit board game, died in Toronto.
Today's Birthdays: Actress Elaine Stewart is 82. Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 81. Singer Peter Yarrow is 73. Former Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is 72. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 71. Actress Sharon Gless is 68. Football Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath is 68. Actor Tom Berenger is 61. Actor Gregory Harrison is 61. Actor Kyle Secor is 54. Actress Roma Maffia is 53. Comedian Chris Elliott is 51. Actress Lea Thompson is 50. Singer Corey Hart is 49. Actor Hugh Dillon is 48. Rapper DMC is 47. Actress Brooke Shields is 46. Country musician Ed Adkins (The Derailers) is 44. Jazz musician Christian McBride is 39. Actress Archie Panjabi is 39. Actor Colin Farrell is 35. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 34. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 34. Rock musician Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy) is 31. Actor Jonathan Tucker is 29. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame is 25. Actor Curtis Williams Jr. is 24.
Thought for Today: "They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion." -- Thomas Hobbes, English political philosopher (1588-1679).
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)