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HISTORY Today is Tuesday, Dec. 24 -- Christmas Eve, the 358th day of 2002. There are seven days left in the year.

Today's highlight in history:

On Dec. 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve television broadcast.

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 Belgium.

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In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, 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 1906, Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to broadcast a music program over radio, from Brant Rock, Mass.

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 -- the invasion of Normandy.

In 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC.

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

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Ten years ago: President Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra scandal. President-elect Clinton appointed Bruce Babbitt interior secretary, Mike Espy agriculture secretary and Federico Pena transportation secretary; Clinton also chose Zoe Baird to be attorney general, but the nomination fell apart over Baird's hiring of illegal aliens as domestic workers.

Five years ago: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the aging revolutionary known as "Carlos the Jackal," was sentenced by a French court to life in prison for the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese national. Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune died in suburban Tokyo at age 77.

One year ago: Officials said President Bush had created a formal line of succession at several key federal agencies in case a Cabinet secretary were to be killed or incapacitated. A West Virginia woman kidnapped 16-month-old Jasmine Anderson from a Chicago bus station in order to pass the child off as her own; Sheila Matthews and Jasmine were found by FBI agents three days later in West Virginia. (Matthews was later sentenced to more than 12 years in prison.)

Today's Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 82. Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci is 62. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 58. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 57. Actress Sharon Farrell is 56. Actor Grand L. Bush is 47. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 47. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 46. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 45. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 39. Actor Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") is 36. Singer Ricky Martin is 31.

Thought for Today: "To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year." -- E.B. White, American author and journalist (1899-1985).

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