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Today in history: December 17

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

Today is Saturday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2005. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, went on the first successful manned powered-airplane flights, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., 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 1925, Colonel William “Billy” Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial of insubordination for accusing senior military officials of incompetence and criminal negligence.

In 1939, the German pocket battleship Graf Spee was scuttled by its crew, ending the World War II 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 1969, an estimated 50 million TV viewers watched singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancee, Miss Vicky, on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”

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 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 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: Angry voters handed Russian President Boris Yeltsin a stinging rebuff as Communists and right-wing nationalists scored big wins in parliamentary elections on a platform of rolling back democratic reforms.

Five years ago: President-elect Bush named Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice his national security adviser and Justice Alberto Gonzales to be White House counsel. President-elect Bush was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

One year ago: President Bush signed into law the largest overhaul of U.S. intelligence-gathering in 50 years. Pfizer Inc. said it had found an increased risk of heart problems with patients taking Celebrex.

Today’s Birthdays: Newspaper columnist William Safire is 76. Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 75. Magazine publisher Robert Guccione is 75. Actor George Lindsey is 70. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 69. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 68. Actor Bernard Hill is 61. Actor Christopher Cazenove is 60. Actor Ernie Hudson is 60. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 59. Actor Wes Studi is 58. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 57. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 56. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 54. Actor Bill Pullman is 52. Actor Barry Livingston is 52. Country singer Sharon White is 52. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 49. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 47. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 44. Country musician Tim Chewning is 43. Country musician Duane Propes is 39. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 35. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 35. Actress Sarah Paulson is 31. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 31. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 31. Actress Milla Jovovich is 30. Singer Bree Sharp is 30. Actress Vanessa Zima is 19.

Thought for Today: “A fool and his money are soon parted, but you never call him a fool till the money is gone.” — Anonymous.