The almanac

By United Press International  |  Dec. 25, 2013 at 3:30 AM
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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 25, the 359th day of 2013 with six to follow.

This is Christmas Day.

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

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; publisher Lila Bell Wallace, co-founder of Readers Digest, in 1889; Robert "Believe It or Not" Ripley in 1890; acting legend Humphrey Bogart in 1899; jazz bandleader Cab Calloway in 1907; Anwar Sadat, Egyptian president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, in 1918; TV writer Rod Serling in 1924; singers Jimmy Buffett in 1946 (age 67) and Barbara Mandrell in 1948 (age 65); actors Gary Sandy in 1945 (age 68), Sissy Spacek in 1949 (age 64) and CCH Pounder in 1952 (age 61); political adviser Karl Rove in 1950 (age 63); British singer Annie Lennox in 1954 (age 59); baseball Hall of Fame member Rickey Henderson in 1958 (age 55); and British singer Dido in 1971 (age 42).

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 numerous women 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 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 Soviet president the day before Russia's 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 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 2007, Pope Benedict XVI revealed a new-style nativity scene in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square. It depicted Jesus' birth in Joseph's house, with no mention of a manger or journey to Bethlehem. The Christmas scene was apparently based on St. Matthew's version of the nativity.

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

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 and he was quickly subdued.

In 2011, a string of bombs struck churches in five Nigerian cities, leaving dozens dead and injured in the West Africa nation.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to fighting in war-torn Syria: "I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced," the pope said in his Christmas message. "May peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenseless and reaps innocent victims."

A thought for the day: "He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." -- United Methodist minister Roy L. Smith

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