Today is Thursday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2009. 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 manpowered 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, Col. William "Billy" Mitchell was convicted at his court-martial in Washington, D.C., 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 1959, Stanley Kramer's anti-nuclear war drama "On the Beach," starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, premiered on all seven continents (including Antarctica).
In 1969, the U.S. Air Force closed its Project "Blue Book" by concluding there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings. An estimated 50 million 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 Gerald R. Ford. (She was paroled in August 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 1989, the animated TV series "The Simpsons" premiered on Fox with a Christmas-themed episode.
Ten years ago: President Bill Clinton signed a law letting millions of disabled Americans retain their government-funded health coverage when they take a job. The U.N. Security Council ended a yearlong deadlock and voted to send weapons inspectors back to Iraq and consider suspending sanctions if Baghdad cooperated.
Five years ago: President George W. 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.
One year ago: President-elect Barack Obama named former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado to head the Interior Department. OPEC agreed to slash 2.2 million barrels from daily production _ its single largest cut ever. Pro Football Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh died in Rotan, Texas, at age 94.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 79. Magazine publisher Bob Guccione is 79. Actor George Lindsey is 74. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 73. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 72. Actor Christopher Cazenove is 66. Actor Bernard Hill is 65. Actor Ernie Hudson is 64. MSNBC political commentator Chris Matthews is 64. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 63. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 62. Actor Wes Studi is 62. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 61. Actor Joel Brooks is 60. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 60. R&B singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 58. Actor Bill Pullman is 56. Actor Barry Livingston is 56. Country singer Sharon White is 56. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 53. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 51. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 48. Country musician Tim Chewning is 47. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 43. Country musician Duane Propes is 43. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 39. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 39. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 36. Actress Sarah Paulson is 35. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 35. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 35. Actress Milla Jovovich is 34. Singer Bree Sharp is 34. Actress Jennifer Carpenter is 30. Actress Shannon Marie Woodward is 25. Actress Vanessa Zima is 23. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 15.
Thought for Today: "A fool and his money are soon parted, but you never call him a fool till the money is gone." _ Anonymous.