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HISTORY Today is Wednesday, Dec. 17, the 351st day of 2003. There are 14 days left in the year.

Today's Highlight in History:

One hundred years ago, on Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, went on the first successful manned-powered airplane flights, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer. (They made four short flights with the Flyer before an ocean gust lifted and badly damaged the plane.)

On this date:

In 1777, France recognized American independence.

In 1830, South American patriot Simon Bolivar died in Colombia.

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In 1933, in the first world championship football game, the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants, 23-21.

In 1939, the German pocket battleship 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 1975, Lynette Fromme was sentenced in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Ford.

In 1981, members of the Red Brigades kidnapped Brigadier General 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.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in separate ceremonies.

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Ten years ago: Fox Television outbid CBS for the National Football Conference TV package. So-called "suicide doctor" Jack Kevorkian was released from jail in Oakland County, Mich., after promising not to help anyone end their lives for the time being.

Five years ago: The United States hit Iraq with a second wave of punishing airstrikes. Republicans advanced the impeachment case against President Clinton to the House floor for a debate the following day. House Speaker-designate Bob Livingston shocked fellow Republicans by admitting he'd had extramarital affairs.

One year ago: Insurance and finance company Conseco Incorporated filed for Chapter Eleven protection in the third-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Congo's government, rebels and opposition parties signed a peace agreement to end four years of civil war.

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