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Today in History - Dec. 17

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

BC-History-Dec 17, Adv17,0733


For release Sunday, Dec. 17

Today in History

By The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2006. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conducted 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 1925, Col. William “Billy” Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial of insubordination for accusing senior military officials of incompetence and criminal negligence; he was suspended from active duty.

In 1939, the German pocket battleship Admiral 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 Sacramento, Calif., to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Ford.

In 1981, members of the Red Brigades kidnapped Brig. Gen. 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.

Ten years ago: Peruvian guerrillas took hundreds of people hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima (all but 72 of the hostages were later released by the rebels; the siege ended April 22, 1997, with a commando raid that resulted in the deaths of all the rebels, two commandos and one hostage). Six Red Cross workers were slain by gunmen in Chechnya. Kofi Annan of Ghana was appointed United Nations secretary-general.

Five years ago: Marines raised the Stars and Stripes over the long-abandoned American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Gunmen raided Haiti’s National Palace, killing at least ten people in an attack the government described as a failed coup attempt (opponents accused the government of staging the attack to clamp down on dissent).

One year ago: President Bush acknowledged he’d personally authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. following Sept. 11, calling it “crucial to our national security.” Protesters in Hong Kong tried to storm a convention center where World Trade Organization delegates were negotiating a global accord on farming, manufacturing and services. John Ruiz lost the WBA heavyweight title, dropping a disputed majority decision to Nikolay Valuev of Russia in Berlin. Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jack Anderson died in Bethesda, Md., at age 83.

Today’s Birthdays: Newspaper columnist William Safire is 77. Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 76. Magazine publisher Robert Guccione is 76. Actor George Lindsey is 71. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 70. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 69. Actor Bernard Hill is 62. Actor Christopher Cazenove is 61. Actor Ernie Hudson is 61. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 60. Actor Wes Studi is 59. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 58. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 57. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 55. Actor Bill Pullman is 53. Actor Barry Livingston is 53. Country singer Sharon White is 53. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 50. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 48. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 45. Country musician Tim Chewning is 44. Country musician Duane Propes is 40. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 36. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 36. Actress Sarah Paulson is 32. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 32. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 32. Actress Milla Jovovich is 31. Singer Bree Sharp is 31. Actress Jennifer Carpenter is 27. Actress Vanessa Zima is 20.

Thought for Today: “You have no idea how big the other fellow’s troubles are.” — B.C. Forbes, Scottish journalist (1880-1954).