Today in History

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Posted: Dec 24, 2016 12:01 AM

Today in History

Today is Saturday, Dec. 24, the 359th day of 2016. There are seven days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve; the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins at sunset.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 24, 1906, Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to transmit the human voice (his own) as well as music over radio, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts.

On this date:

In 1814, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 following ratification by both the British Parliament and the U.S. Senate.

In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.

In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, that was the original version of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Aida" had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt.

In 1914, during World War I, impromptu Christmas truces began to take hold along parts of the Western Front between British and German soldiers.

In 1939, Pope Pius XII delivered a Christmas Eve address in which he offered a five-point program for peace and denounced "premeditated aggressions."

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe as part of Operation Overlord.

In 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC-TV.

In 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve telecast.

In 1974, Cyclone Tracy began battering the Australian city of Darwin, resulting in widespread damage and causing some 65 deaths.

In 1980, Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds — one second for each day of captivity.

In 1995, fire broke out at the Philadelphia Zoo, killing 23 rare gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs.

Ten years ago: Ethiopia sent fighter jets into Somalia and bombed several towns in a dramatic attack on Somalia's powerful Islamic movement; Ethiopia's prime minister said his country had been "forced to enter a war." Broadcasting pioneer Frank Stanton, CBS president for 26 years, died in Boston at age 98.

Five years ago: In a setback, Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to qualify for Virginia's Super Tuesday primary ballot by falling short of the 10,000 signatures required. Troops commanded by relatives of Yemen's outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh (AH'-lee ahb-DUH'-luh sah-LEH'), attacked a crowd of more than 100,000 peaceful protesters, killing at least nine and driving Saleh to promise to leave the country. Pope Benedict XVI decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass.

One year ago: Christian faithful from around the world descended on the biblical city of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations as an outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampened the typically festive mood. California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned actor Robert Downey Jr. for a nearly 20-year-old felony drug conviction that sent the Oscar-nominated actor to jail for nearly a year. William Guest, 74, a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, died in Detroit.

Today's Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 98. Author Mary Higgins Clark is 89. Federal health official Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is 76. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 72. Actress Sharon Farrell is 70. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is 70. Actor Grand L. Bush is 61. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 61. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 60. The former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeye), is 59. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 59. Actor Anil Kapoor (ah-NEEL' kuh-POOR') is 57. Actress Eva Tamargo is 56. Actor Wade Williams is 55. Designer Kate Spade is 54. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 53. Actor Mark Valley is 52. Actor Diedrich Bader is 50. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 46. Singer Ricky Martin is 45. Author Stephenie Meyer is 43. Former "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is 42. Actor Michael Raymond-James is 39. Rock singer Louis Tomlinson (One Direction) is 25.

Thought for Today: "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." — The Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (born 1898, died this day in 1993).