Today is Sunday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2006 with seven to follow. This is Christmas Eve.
The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Mercury, Mars, Pluto, Jupiter and Saturn. The evening stars are Venus, 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 61); actor Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") in 1966 (age 40); and pop singer Ricky Martin in 1971 (age 35).
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 nation's 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 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 2002, North Korea warned of an "uncontrollable catastrophe" if the United States failed to agree to negotiations on nuclear-related issues.
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.
Also in 2003, Air France canceled six Paris to Los Angeles flights, at the United States' request. U.S. officials reportedly believed some passengers on the flights could have ties to terrorists.
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.
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!"