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December 22, 2012

Today in History

Today is Monday, Dec. 24, the 359th day of 2012. There are seven days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.

Today’s highlight in history:

On Dec. 24, 1955, the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., fielded a series of phone calls from children wanting to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus after an ad in a local newspaper mistakenly gave the Center’s number; thus began a tradition continued by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of tracking Santa’s location the night before Christmas.

On this date:

In 1524, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama — who had discovered a sea route around Africa to India — died in Cochin, India.

In 1814, the War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent.

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.

In 1906, Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to transmit the human voice (his own) as well as music over radio, from Brant Rock, Mass.

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe 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 telecast.

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 1992, President George H.W. Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in connection with the Iran-Contra scandal. President-elect Bill Clinton chose Zoe Baird to be his attorney general, but the nomination fell apart over Baird’s hiring of illegal aliens as domestic workers.

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