TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1853, the United States completed the Gadsden Purchase, establishing the border with Mexico.
In 1916, a group of Russian aristocrats carried out the murder of Rasputin, private adviser to the ruling Romanov family.
In 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was officially established.
In 2006, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed.
TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), writer; Bo Diddley (1928-2008), singer-songwriter; Sandy Koufax (1935- ), baseball player; Davy Jones (1945-2012), singer; Patti Smith (1946- ) singer-songwriter; Meredith Vieira (1953- ), TV journalist; Tracey Ullman (1959- ), actress/comedian; Sean Hannity (1961- ), TV host; Tiger Woods (1975- ), golfer; Laila Ali (1977- ), boxer; Tyrese Gibson (1978- ), singer/actor; Eliza Dushku (1980- ), actress; LeBron James (1984- ), basketball player; Ellie Goulding (1986- ), singer/songwriter.
TODAY'S FACT: Though historically known as "The Mad Monk," infamous Russian mystic Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin had left Verkhoture Monastery and returned to his home village by age 19, well before completing his training.
TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1908, a special commission tasked with discovering the origins of baseball ruled that Abner Doubleday had invented the sport in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. The finding has since been debunked.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Everyone is more or less mad on one point." -- Rudyard Kipling, "On the Strength of a Likeness"
TODAY'S NUMBER: 28 -- record-setting number of tropical and subtropical storms in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. This includes one unnamed storm in October that was identified after the season ended.
TODAY'S MOON: Between new moon (Dec. 25) and first quarter moon (Jan. 2).