Dec 17, 12:00 AM EST

Today in History

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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2014. 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 1865, Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8, known as the "Unfinished" (because only two movements had been completed) was first performed publicly in Vienna, 37 years after the composer's death.

In 1914, during World War I, Britain declared Egypt an official protectorate.

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 1944, the U.S. War Department announced it was ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.

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

In 1964, the film "Zorba the Greek," starring Anthony Quinn, opened in New York and Los Angeles.

In 1979, 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.

In 1994, 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.

In 2011, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il died after more than a decade of iron rule; he was 69, according to official records, but some reports indicated he was 70.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush signed into law the largest overhaul of U.S. intelligence-gathering in 50 years, creating a national intelligence center and a powerful new position of national intelligence director. Pfizer Inc. said it had found that Celebrex, an arthritis painkiller, raised the risk of heart attack when taken at very high doses.

Five years ago: Large pieces of a climate deal fell into place on the next-to-last day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry, 26, died a day after falling out of the back of a pickup truck in Charlotte, North Carolina. Academy Award-winning actress Jennifer Jones, 90, died in Malibu, California.

One year ago: Germany's Parliament elected Chancellor Angela Merkel (AHN'-geh-lah MEHR'-kuhl) to a third term as the leader of Europe's biggest economic power, nearly three months after an awkward election result forced her to put together a new governing coalition. A suicidal gunman opened fire at a Reno, Nevada, hospital campus, killing one person and critically wounding two others before ending his own life.

Today's Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 84. Pope Francis is 78. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 78. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 77. Actor Bernard Hill is 70. Actor Ernie Hudson is 69. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 69. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 68. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 67. Actor Wes Studi is 67. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 66. Actor Joel Brooks is 65. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 65. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 63. Actor Bill Pullman is 61. Actor Barry Livingston is 61. Country singer Sharon White is 61. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 58. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 56. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 53. Country musician Tim Chewning is 52. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 48. Country musician Duane Propes is 48. Actress Laurie Holden is 45. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 44. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 44. Actress Claire Forlani is 43. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 41. Actress Sarah Paulson is 40. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 40. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 40. Actress Milla Jovovich (YO'-vuh-vich) is 39. Singer Bree Sharp is 39. Actress Jennifer Carpenter is 35. Singer-songwriter Ben Goldwasser (MGMT) is 32. Rock singer Mikky Ekko is 31. Actress Shannon Woodward is 30. Actress Emma Bell is 28. Actress Vanessa Zima is 28. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 25. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 20.

Thought for Today: "The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down a failure." - B.C. Forbes, Scottish journalist (1880-1954).

(Above Advance for Use Wednesday, Dec. 17)

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