Today is Saturday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2011. 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, 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 (see-MOHN' boh-LEE'-vahr) died in Colombia.
In 1925, Col. William "Billy" Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial in Washington 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 1957, the United States successfully test-fired the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
In 1961, an arson fire at a circus in Niteroi (nee-tuh-ROY'), Brazil, killed 323 people.
In 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in Sacramento, Calif., to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Gerald R. Ford. (She was paroled in Aug. 2009.)
In 1979, in a case that aggravated racial tensions, Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance executive, was fatally injured after leading police on a chase with his motorcycle in Miami. (Four white police officers accused of beating McDuffie were later acquitted, sparking riots.)
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: 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).
Five years ago: Gunmen in Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped some 30 people at the Red Crescent offices in downtown Baghdad (about half were released the same day). Searchers on Mount Hood in Oregon found the body of missing climber Kelly James (two other climbers, Brian Hall and Jerry "Nikko" Cooke, remain missing). Dodgers reliever Larry Sherry, the most valuable player of the 1959 World Series, died in Mission Viejo (vee-AY'-hoh), Calif., at age 71. Yul Kwon emerged as the winner of CBS' "Survivor: Cook Islands."
One year ago: President Barack Obama signed into law a huge, holiday-season tax bill extending cuts for all Americans, saluting a new spirit of political compromise as Republicans applauded and liberals seethed. Federal prosecutors reached a settlement with the estate of Florida philanthropist Jeffry (cq) Picower in which his widow, Barbara, agreed to return $7.2 billion that her husband had reaped from Bernard Madoff's giant Ponzi scheme. Don Van Vliet (vleet), a musician and artist who'd performed a complex brand of experimental rock under the name Captain Beefheart, died in Arcata, Calif., at age 69. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was voted the 2010 Male Athlete of the Year by members of The Associated Press.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 81. Actor George Lindsey is 76. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 75. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 74. Actor Bernard Hill is 67. Actor Ernie Hudson is 66. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 66. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 65. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 64. Actor Wes Studi is 64. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 63. Actor Joel Brooks is 62. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 62. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 60. Actor Bill Pullman is 58. Actor Barry Livingston is 58. Country singer Sharon White is 58. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 55. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 53. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 50. Country musician Tim Chewning is 49. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 45. Country musician Duane Propes is 45. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 41. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 41. Actress Claire Forlani is 40. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 38. Actress Sarah Paulson is 37. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 37. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 37. Actress Milla Jovovich (YO'-vuh-vich) is 36. Singer Bree Sharp is 36. Actress Jennifer Carpenter is 32. Actress Shannon Woodward is 27. Actress Vanessa Zima is 25. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 17.
Thought for Today: "A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things." — "Poor Richard's Almanack."
(Above Advance for Use Saturday, Dec. 17)
Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.