PANAMA CITY — Santa is ready to deliver gifts to good boys and girls around the world, and once again NORAD will track the jolly old elf’s journey from the North Pole to homes all over the world.


PANAMA CITY — Santa is ready to deliver gifts to good boys and girls around the world, and once again NORAD will track the jolly old elf’s journey from the North Pole to homes all over the world.



According to The North American Aerospace Defense Command website, “Santa’s elves have been busier than usual this year preparing for Santa’s launch on Dec. 24.”



St. Nick is currently at the North Pole, “where he lives with Mrs. Claus and the elves who make toys and take care of the reindeer year round,” according to NORAD. Each year on Dec. 24, Santa and his reindeer launch from the North Pole very early in the morning.



The minute they launch, NORAD starts to track him.



The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. will begin providing updates at 2 a.m. CST on December 24. Directions to track Santa are available in English, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Italian are available on NORAD’s website.



NORAD staff members who will be able to tell Santa’s exact location can be reached directly at 1-877 HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) and are available until 2 a.m. on Dec. 25 to answer calls.



NORAD’s operation includes “Santa Cams” in space which take video of Santa as he flies round the world. These videos appear almost every hour on Dec. 24 at www.noradsanta.org.



“From photographic evidence NORAD can confirm that Santa’s sleigh is a versatile, all weather, multi-purpose, vertical short-take-off and landing vehicle,” officials wrote on their website. “It is capable of traveling vast distances without refueling and is deployed, according to NORAD, only on Dec. 24 (and sometimes briefly for a test flight about a month before Christmas).”



NORAD officials wrote that Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America.



“NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots,” NORAD officials wrote.



NORAD’s mission is to track airplanes, missiles, space launches and anything else that flies in or around the North American continent. NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), began tracking Santa in 1955. NORAD replaced CONAD in 1958 and took over the mission of tracking Santa’s flight around the world, and they have been tracking Santa every year since.



The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location.



“Each and every day throughout the year, all of us here at NORAD work diligently to defend and protect our nations,” said General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr., NORAD commander on their website. “It is an honor for us to take one day each year to expand our missions to share goodwill and holiday spirit across the globe through the NORAD Tracks Santa program. We owe all of this to Colonel Shoup, whose good humor in responding to that first call so long ago began our Santa-tracking tradition, and we’re proud to carry this mission along to this day.” 



 



Today's Highlight in History:



Associated Press



 



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.



In 2000, a group of escaped convicts robbed a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas; the robbery was interrupted by a police officer, Aubrey Hawkins, who was killed by the fugitive gang.



Ten years ago: 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. Saddam Hussein said in an address read on television that Iraqis were ready to fight a holy war against the United States. Chinese pro-democracy activist Xu Wenli (zhoo wen-lee) was released from a prison in Beijing and flown to the United States.



Five years ago: President George W. Bush made Christmas Eve calls to 10 U.S. troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other spots around the world, thanking them for their sacrifice and wishing them a happy holiday. French news cameraman Gwen Le Gouil was released eight days after he had been abducted by Somali gunmen outside the town of Bossaso.



One year ago: In a setback, Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to qualify for Virginia's Super Tuesday primary ballot by falling short of the 10,000 signatures required to appear on the ballot. Troops commanded by relatives of Yemen's outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, attacked a crowd of more than 100,000 peaceful protesters, killing at least nine and driving Saleh to promise to leave the country. Pope Benedict XVI decried the increasing commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass.



Today's Birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 92. Author Mary Higgins Clark is 85. Federal health official Anthony S. Fauci is 72. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 68. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 67. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is 66. Actor Grand L. Bush is 57. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 57. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 56. The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is 55. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 55. Actor Anil Kapoor is 53. Actor Wade Williams is 51. Designer Kate Spade is 50. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 49. Actor Mark Valley is 48. Actor Diedrich Bader is 46. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 42. Singer Ricky Martin is 41. Author Stephenie Meyer ("Twilight") is 39. "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest is 38. Rock singer Louis Tomlinson (One Direction) is 21.



Thought for Today: "Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." — The Rev. Norman Vincent Peale (born 1898, died this day in 1993).