Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 24, 1814, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 following ratification by both the British Parliament and the U.S. Senate.
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 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, Tennessee, that was the original version of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1913, 73 people, most of them children, died in a crush of panic after a false cry of “Fire!” during a Christmas party for striking miners and their families at the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan.
In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe as part of Operation Overlord.
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 1984, actor Peter Lawford, 61, died in Los Angeles.
In 1992, President Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra scandal.
In 1993, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, who blended Christian and psychiatric principles into a message of “positive thinking,” died in Pawling, New York, at age 95.
In 2014, Sony Pictures broadly released “The Interview” online — an unprecedented counterstroke against the hackers who’d spoiled the Christmas opening of the comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
In 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused President Barack Obama of a “shameful ambush” at the United Nations and said he was looking forward to working with his “friend” Donald Trump; Netanyahu’s comments came a day after the U.S. broke with past practice and allowed the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Ten years ago: Pope Benedict XVI ushered in Christmas Eve with an evening Mass amid heightened security concerns following package bombings at two Rome embassies and Christmas Eve security breaches at the Vatican the previous two years.
Five years ago: Christian faithful from around the world descended on the biblical city of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations as an outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence dampened the typically festive mood. California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Robert Downey Jr. for a nearly 20-year-old felony drug conviction that sent the Oscar-nominated actor to jail for nearly a year. William Guest, 74, a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, died in Detroit.
One year ago: With the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris unable to host Christmas services for the first time since the French Revolution because of damage from a fire earlier in the year, the clergy, choir and congregation relocated to a Gothic church next to the Louvre Museum for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg said he had cut ties with a contractor that used prisoners to make calls for his presidential campaign.
Today’s Birthdays: Federal health official Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is 80. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 76. Actor Sharon Farrell is 74. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is 74. Actor Grand L. Bush is 65. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 65. Actor Stephanie Hodge is 64. The former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai (HAH’-mihd KAHR’-zeye), is 63. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 63. Actor Anil Kapoor (ah-NEEL’ kuh-POOR’) is 61. Actor Eva Tamargo is 60. Actor Wade Williams is 59. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 57. Actor Mark Valley is 56. Actor Diedrich Bader is 54. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 50.
Singer Ricky Martin is 49. Author Stephenie Meyer is 47. TV personality Ryan Seacrest (TV: “Live With Kelly & Ryan”) is 46. Actor Michael Raymond-James is 43. Actor Austin Stowell is 36. Actor Sofia Black-D’Elia is 29. Rock singer Louis Tomlinson (One Direction) is 29.