The almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 25, 2008 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Thursday, Dec. 25, the 360th day of 2008 with six to follow.

This is Christmas Day.

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 British mathematician, physicist and astronomer Isaac Newton in 1642; American Red Cross founder Clara Barton in 1821; French painter Maurice Utrillo in 1883; jazz pioneer Edward "Kid" Ory in 1886; hotelier Conrad Hilton in 1887; Robert "Believe It or Not" Ripley in 1893; acting legend Humphrey Bogart in 1899; jazz bandleader Cab Calloway in 1907; Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1918; TV writer Rod Serling in 1924; singers Jimmy Buffett in 1946 (age 62) and Barbara Mandrell in 1948 (age 60); actors Gary Sandy in 1945 (age 63) and Sissy Spacek in 1949 (age 59), and singer Annie Lennox in 1954 (age 54).

On this date in history:

In about 3 B.C., according to Christian belief, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Calendar miscalculations of the time make it impossible to be certain of the year.

In 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King William I of England.

In 1818, the first known Christmas carol was sung at Oberndorf, Austria. It was "Silent Night, Holy Night," composed by organist Franz Gruber and the Rev. Joseph Mohr.

In 1938, after auditioning hundreds for the role, producer David O. Selznick chose British actress Vivien Leigh to play Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind."

In 1941, British Hong Kong surrendered to advancing Japanese forces.

In 1985, Mexico City police discovered a major museum theft of pre-Colombian treasures.

In 1986, the hijackers of an Iraqi Airways Boeing 737 en route from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, exploded grenades, causing a fiery crash in Saudi Arabia. Sixty-seven of the 107 people aboard died.

In 1989, ex-Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife and second-in-command, Elena, were executed. The United States officially recognized the new Romanian government.

In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was given direct control of the Soviet Cabinet and all government ministries in a major widening of his power.

In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the Soviet president. The next day, the Supreme Soviet voted to end the Soviet Union.

In 1995, actor-singer Dean Martin died at the age of 78.

In 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton offered a Middle East peace plan that, among other things, included proposals for Israel to give up sovereignty over the Temple Mount and for Palestinians to surrender right of refugees to return to Israel.

In 2002, Iran and Russia signed an agreement to complete a nuclear power plant in southern Iran.

In 2003, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf survived a second assassination attempt in a little over a week but 14 others were killed and 40 injured in the suicide attack.

In 2004, a frail but determined Pope John Paul II delivered his traditional Christmas sermon in Rome's St. Peter's Square, calling for peace and prosperity.

Also in 2004, authorities said Colombian guerrillas stormed a spa near San Rafael and kidnapped an estimated 40 tourists.

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI focused on child abuse and suffering in a Christmas mass at Saint Peter's Basilica. Later, in a mass for pilgrims, he urged Israel and the Palestinians to make peace.

Also in 2006, British and Iraqi troops raided a Basra police station Monday, freeing 76 prisoners believed to be in danger of execution by local authorities.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI revealed a new-style nativity scene in Rome's St. Peter's Square depicting Jesus' birth in Joseph's house and makes no mention of a manger or a journey to Bethlehem. The new Christmas scene apparently is based on Matthew's version of the nativity.

A thought for the day: Thomas Tusser said, "At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year."

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