Today is Thursday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2015. There are 14 days left in the year.
Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 17, 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.
On this date:
In 1777, France recognized American independence.
In 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.
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 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 TV viewers watched singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancée, Miss Vicky (Budinger), 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. (Fromme was paroled in August 2009.)
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 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 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, in his weekly radio address, acknowledged he’d personally authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. following 9/11, 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.
Five years 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 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, 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.
One year ago: The United States and Cuba restored diplomatic relations, sweeping away one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. Sony Pictures canceled the Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” a black comedy about a plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, after hackers threatened terrorist attacks and the largest multiplex chains in North America pulled the film. Veteran broadcast journalist Richard C. Hottelet, 97, the last of the original “Murrow’s Boys,” died in Wilton, Conn.
Today’s Birthdays: Actor Armin Mueller-Stahl is 85. Pope Francis is 79. Singer-actor Tommy Steele is 79. Rock singer-musician Art Neville is 78. Actor Bernard Hill is 71. Actor Ernie Hudson is 70. Political commentator Chris Matthews is 70. Comedian-actor Eugene Levy is 69. Actress Marilyn Hassett is 68. Actor Wes Studi is 68. Pop musician Jim Bonfanti (The Raspberries) is 67. Actor Joel Brooks is 66. Rock singer Paul Rodgers is 66. Rhythm-and-blues singer Wanda Hutchinson (The Emotions) is 64. Actor Bill Pullman is 62. Actor Barry Livingston is 62. Country singer Sharon White is 62. Producer-director-writer Peter Farrelly is 59. Rock musician Mike Mills (R.E.M.) is 57. Pop singer Sarah Dallin (Bananarama) is 54. Country musician Tim Chewning is 53. Country singer Tracy Byrd is 49. Country musician Duane Propes is 49. Actress Laurie Holden is 46. DJ Homicide (Sugar Ray) is 45. Actor Sean Patrick Thomas is 45. Actress Claire Forlani is 44. Pop-rock musician Eddie Fisher (OneRepublic) is 42. Actress Sarah Paulson is 41. Actress Marissa Ribisi is 41. Actor Giovanni Ribisi is 41. Actress Milla Jovovich is 40. Singer Bree Sharp is 40. Singer-songwriter Ben Goldwasser (MGMT) is 33. Rock singer Mikky Ekko is 32. Actress Shannon Woodward is 31. Actress Emma Bell is 29. Actress Vanessa Zima is 29. Rock musician Taylor York (Paramore) is 26. Actor Graham Rogers is 25. Actor-singer Nat Wolff is 21.
Thought for Today: “A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.” — “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”