The Almanac, Celebrity Birthdays, Today in History, December 24 –

eartharcThis is Monday, Dec. 24, the 359th day of 2012 with seven to follow.

The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Venus and Saturn. Evening stars include Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and Mars.

Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include English King John I in 1166; American diplomat Silas Deane in 1737; physician and chemist Benjamin Rush in 1745; frontiersman Christopher “Kit” Carson in 1809; English physicist and inventor James Prescott Joule in 1818; “Raggedy Ann” creator Johnny Gruelle in 1880; film director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”) in 1886; composer Harry Warren (“Lullaby of Broadway,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo“) in 1893; industrialist, moviemaker and aviator Howard Hughes in 1905; investigative journalist I.F. Stone in 1907; actor Ava Gardner in 1922; U.S. Army Gen. George Patton IV in 1923; author/director Nicholas Meyer in 1945 (age 67); writer Christopher Buckley in 1952 (age 60); actor Diedrich Bader in 1966 (age 46); pop singer Ricky Martin in 1971 (age 41); “Twilight” series author Stephenie Meyer in 1973 (age 39); and television and radio personality Ryan Seacrest in 1974 (age 38).

On this date in history:

In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed by representatives of the United States and Britain, ending the War of 1812.

In 1851, the Library of Congress and part of the Capitol building in Washington were destroyed by fire.

In 1865, a group of Confederate veterans met in Pulaski, Tenn., to form a secret society they called the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera “Aida” premiered in Cairo. It had been commissioned to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.

In 1906, Reginald A. Fessenden, a Canadian-born radio inventor, broadcast the first musical program, accompanying on violin a female singer’s “O Holy Night,” from Brant Rock, Mass. He discovered the superheterodyne principle, the basis for modern radio receivers.

In 1942, German rocket engineers launched the first surface-to-surface guided missile.

Also in 1942, Adm. Jean Louis Darlan, the French administrator of North Africa, was assassinated as a sympathizer of the French Vichy regime.

In 1983, one of the United States’ severest early season cold waves in history claimed nearly 300 lives.

In 1989, Manuel Noriega, the object of U.S. invasion forces, took refuge at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City and asked for political asylum.

In 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein threatened to attack Tel Aviv, Israel, if the allies tried to retake Kuwait.

Also in 1990, the bells of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow rang to celebrate Christmas for the first time since the death of Lenin.

In 1992, U.S. President George H.W. Bush issued pardons to former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger and five others involved in the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra scandal.

In 1994, Islamic militants hijacked an Air France Airbus. The hijacking ended two days later when the plane was stormed by French paramilitary commandos in Marseille, who killed the four militants.

In 1997, a French court convicted the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal of the 1975 killings of three men in Paris and sentenced him to life in prison.

In 2004, gunmen opened fire on a bus in northern Honduras, killing at least 23 and wounding 16. Authorities suspected a Central American youth gang.

Also in 2004, a Chinese freighter wrecked in the Aleutian Islands broke apart, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the Bering Sea.

In 2005, Hwang Woo-suk, the South Korean scientist whose research on stem cells and cloning won him international acclaim, resigned after admitting he fabricated his groundbreaking paper in which he claimed to have created stem cell colonies from 11 patients.

In 2007, the chairman of the Sept. 11 commission accused the CIA of interfering with the panel’s work by failing to turn over tapes of agents interrogating suspected terrorists with “enhanced” techniques, including waterboarding.

In 2008, in his Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Vatican in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to exploitation of children who he said are being made “instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace.”

In 2009, the U.S. Senate passed a landmark $871 billion national healthcare reform bill after months of proposals, debate and revisions, guaranteeing access to health insurance for about 31 million Americans. Differences in the Senate and House bills had to be resolved before a plan went to the president.

Also in 2009, an apparently mentally ill woman knocked Pope Benedict XVI off his feet as the Christmas Eve mass began at the Vatican. The pope wasn’t hurt but a nearby cardinal suffered a broken leg. Officials said the woman had attempted a similar attack during the 2008 function.

In 2010, with the peaking holiday travel rush and potential terrorists in mind, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration on Christmas Eve added insulated thermos jugs and coffee mugs to the list of items for special airport screening.

Also in 2010, the number of assassinations of alleged American spies in Pakistan – reportedly as many as seven killings in a week — appeared to be linked to the increasing number of U.S.-fired drone missiles in the country, observers said in a published report.

In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a $915 billion measure to fund federal operations through the 2012 fiscal year and avert a governmental shutdown. The ensuing year-end flurry also saw extensions of the payroll tax break and long-term jobless benefits.

A thought for the day: Eugene Field said: “Most all the time, the whole year round, there ain’t no flies on me, but jest ‘fore Christmas I’m as good as I kin be!”

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