updated 12/17/2004 12:01:33 AM ET 2004-12-17T05:01:33

Today is Friday, December 17th, the 352nd day of 2004. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today's highlight in history:
On December 17th, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, went on the first successful manned powered-airplane flights, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.

On this date:
In 1777, France recognized American independence.

In 1830, South American patriot Simon Bolivar died in Colombia.

In 1939, the German pocket battleship "Graf Spee" was scuttled by its crew, ending the World War Two Battle of the River Plate off Uruguay.

In 1944, the U.S. Army announced it was ending its policy of excluding Japanese-Americans from the West Coast.

In 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

In 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Ford.

In 1979, in a case that aggravated racial tensions, Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally beaten after a police chase in Miami. (Four white police officers were later acquitted of charges stemming from McDuffie's death.)

In 1981, members of the Red Brigades kidnapped Brigadier General James L. Dozier, the highest-ranking U.S. Army official in southern Europe, from his home in Verona, Italy. (Dozier was rescued 42 days later.)

In 1986, Eugene Hasenfus, the American convicted by Nicaragua for his part in running guns to the Contras, was pardoned, then released.

In 1992, President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in separate ceremonies.

Ten years ago: North Korea shot down a U.S. Army helicopter, which had strayed north of the demilitarized zone — the co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer David Hilemon, was killed; the pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall, was captured and held for nearly two weeks. Six shots were fired at the White House by an unidentified gunman.

Five years ago: President Clinton signed a law letting millions of disabled Americans retain their government-funded health coverage when they take a job. The UN Security Council ended a yearlong deadlock and voted to send weapons inspectors back to Iraq and consider suspending sanctions if Baghdad cooperated.

One year ago: Former Illinois Governor George Ryan was indicted on corruption charges. The British government announced the first reported case of a person dying from the human form of mad cow disease after a blood transfusion from an infected donor. An attempt to re-create the Wright brothers' first flight on the 100th anniversary failed to take off.

Today's birthdays: Newspaper columnist William Safire is 75. Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 74. Magazine publisher Robert Guccione is 74. Actor George Lindsey is 69. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 68. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 67. Actor Bernard Hill is 60. Actor Christopher Cazenove is 59. Actor Ernie Hudson is 59. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 58. Actor Wes Studi is 57. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 56. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 53. Actor Bill Pullman is 51. Actor Barry Livingston is 51. Country singer Sharon White is 51. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 46. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 43. Country musician Tim Chewning is 42. Country musician Duane Propes is 38. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 34. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 34. Actress Sarah Paulson is 30. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 30. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 30. Actress Milla Jovovich is 29. Singer Bree Sharp is 29. Actress Vanessa Zima is 18.

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