The almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 25, 2011 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Sunday, Dec. 25, the 359th day of 2011 with six to follow.

This is Christmas Day.

The moon is waxing. The morning stars are Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter and Venus. Evening stars are Mercury, Saturn and Mars.

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; cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein in 1870; 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 1890; 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 65) and Barbara Mandrell in 1948 (age 63); actors Gary Sandy in 1945 (age 66), Sissy Spacek in 1949 (age 62) and CCH Pounder in 1952 (age 59); political adviser Karl Rove in 1950 (age 61); singer Annie Lennox in 1954 (age 57); baseball Hall of Fame member Rickey Henderson in 1958 (age 53); singer Dido in 1971 (age 40).

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 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 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 a suicide attack.

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

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 the Vatican'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 Christmas scene was apparently based on Matthew's version of the nativity.

In 2008, a gunman dressed as Santa Claus opened fire on a suburban Los Angeles Christmas Eve party, killing at least nine people and setting the house on fire before killing himself, police said.

Also in 2008, rescuers searched the rubble of a five-story apartment building in a Ukraine Black Sea resort city after a series of explosions killed at least 27 people.

And, British playwright Harold Pinter, whose works earned him a Nobel Prize in literature in 2005, died at the age of 78 after a lengthy battle with cancer of the esophagus.

In 2009, a 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner with explosives hidden in his underwear on Christmas Day. The bomb failed to detonate, however, and he was quickly subdued.

In 2010, Cyclone Tasha struck northeastern Australia with torrential rain and massive flooding, drenching Queensland with its wettest December on record and handing Brisbane about 19 inches of rainfall. The flood death toll was listed at 35 and estimated property damage at $5 billion.

Also in 2010, unrest following the disputed presidential election in Ivory Coast triggered the exodus of about 14,000 people from the country, most of them fleeing to neighboring Liberia.

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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