Today in History - Dec. 24

AP News
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Posted: Dec 24, 2009 12:02 AM

Today is Thursday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2009. There are 7 days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Dec. 24, 1809, legendary American frontiersman Christopher "Kit" Carson was born in Madison County, Ky.

On this date:

In 1524, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama _ who had discovered a sea route around Africa to India _ died in Cochin, India.

In 1814, the War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.

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, Tenn., called the Ku Klux Klan.

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

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces 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.

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

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 1994, militants hijacked an Air France Airbus A-300 at the Algiers airport; three passengers were slain during the siege before all four hijackers were killed by French commandos in Marseille two days later.

Ten years ago: Five hijackers seized an Indian Airlines jet, forcing the aircraft on a journey across South Asia and into the Middle East. (The eight-day ordeal resulted in the death of one passenger and India's release of three jailed pro-Kashmir militants in exchange for the rest of the hostages.)

Five years ago: Bearing gifts of praise and encouragement, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise Christmas Eve visit to U.S. troops in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Afghan President Hamid Karzai swore in a new cabinet. The international Cassini spacecraft launched a probe on a three-week free-fall toward Saturn's mysterious moon Titan.

One year ago: A man dressed in a Santa Claus suit shot his way into the Covina, Calif., home of his former in-laws and set it on fire, killing nine people (the attacker, identified as Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, committed suicide the next day). The Federal Reserve granted a request by the financing arm of General Motors Corp. to tap the government's $700 billion rescue fund, bolstering the automaker's ability to survive. Army Capt. Moussa Camara, the leader of a coup in Guinea, entered the country's capital, hours after saying his group would hold power until elections in two years. Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter died in London at age 78.

Today's Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 89. Author Mary Higgins Clark is 82. Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci is 69. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 65. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 64. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is 63. Actor Grand L. Bush is 54. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 54. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 53. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is 52. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 52. Actor Anil Kapoor is 50. Actor Wade Williams is 48. Designer Kate Spade is 47. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 46. Actor Mark Valley is 45. Actor Diedrich Bader is 43. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 39. Singer Ricky Martin is 38. Author Stephenie Meyer ("Twilight") is 36. "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is 35.

Thought for Today: "Christmas is the day that holds all time together." _ Alexander Smith, Scottish poet and essayist (1830-1867).