This is Wednesday, Dec. 24, the 359th day of 2008 with seven to follow.
The moon is waning. The morning stars are Saturn and Mars. The evening stars are Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include English King John I in 1167; 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; film director Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca") in 1888; composer Harry Warren ("Lullaby of Broadway," "Chattanooga Choo Choo") in 1893; industrialist, moviemaker and aviator Howard Hughes in 1905; actress Ava Gardner in 1922; author/director Nicholas Meyer in 1945 (age 63); actor Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") in 1966 (age 42); and pop singer Ricky Martin in 1971 (age 37).
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 all 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 reportedly 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 Christmas Eve 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 2003, nine nations imposed bans on U.S. beef imports after the United States' first documented case of mad cow disease was reported in Washington state.
In 2004, gunmen opened fire on a bus in northern Honduras, killing at least 23 and wounding 16. Authorities suspected a noted 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, the South Korean scientist whose research on stem cells and cloning won him international acclaim, Dr. Hwang Woo-suk, resigned after admitting he fabricated his groundbreaking paper in which he claimed to have created stem cell colonies from 11 patients.
In 2006, fighting escalated in Somalia as Ethiopian planes and helicopter gunships attacked Islamist targets in several central provinces.
Also in 2006, French and U.S. intelligence agencies said the 31-mile tunnel connecting England and France had been targeted by al-Qaida terrorists for an attack.
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. The CIA earlier admitted destroying several such tapes.
Also in 2007, U.S. officials said billions of dollars in U.S. funding to Pakistan to help fight al-Qaida and Taliban terrorism has been wasted because of too little control over the money.
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!"