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Today in history: December 24

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Saturday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2005. There are seven days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.

Today’s Highlight in History:
One hundred years ago, on Dec. 24, 1905, future billionaire, aviator and moviemaker Howard Hughes was born in Texas.

On this date:
In 1814, the War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.

In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.

In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tenn., called the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.

In 1920, Enrico Caruso gave his last public performance, singing in Jacques Halevy’s “La Juive” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

In 1943, President Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces as part of Operation Overlord.

In 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC TV.

In 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve television broadcast.

In 1980, Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds — one second for each day of captivity.

In 2002, Laci Peterson was reported missing from her Modesto, Calif., home, by her husband, Scott, who was later convicted of murdering her and their unborn son.

Ten years ago: In a Christmas message to U.S. troops in Bosnia, President Clinton praised their peace mission to a land exhausted by war. Fire broke out at the Philadelphia Zoo, killing 23 rare gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs.

Five years ago: A group of escaped convicts robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas; a police officer, Aubrey Hawkins, was killed during the robbery. Bombs exploded outside churches in nine Indonesian cities and towns, killing at least 19 people. Nick Massi, an original member of the Four Seasons, died at age 73.

One year ago: Bearing gifts of praise and encouragement, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise Christmas Eve visit to U.S. troops in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq. Afghan President Hamid Karzai swore in a new Cabinet. The international Cassini spacecraft launched a probe on a three-week free-fall toward Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan.

Today’s Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 85. Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci is 65. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 61. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 60. Actor Grand L. Bush is 50. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 50. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 49. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 48. Designer Kate Spade is 43. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 42. Actor Mark Valley is 41. Actor Diedrich Bader is 39. Singer Ricky Martin is 34. “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is 31.

Thought for Today: “Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” — Alexander Smith, Scottish poet and essayist (1830-1867).