In Hong Kong 1962: Radio Hong Kong disc jockeys Nick Kendall and Ted Thomas and a group of 'hardy types claiming squatters' rights', spent the night 'marooned' on an A-1 buoy in the middle of Hong Kong Harbour to help raise more than $50,000 for Operation Santa Claus. 1965: Stephen Shao, leader of a group of 18 blind Hong Kong singers, was in critical condition after being struck by a car while on tour in Los Angeles. John Chan, one of the singers, was also injured when the pair was hit after emerging from a Chinese-American church. 1970: Britain's top-ranked tennis player, Virginia Wade, took 59 minutes to beat a determined Ling Fong, the colony's top female player, at the Chinese Recreation Club, 6-1, 9-7. Around the world 1560: The Church of Scotland held its first general assembly. 1699: Peter the Great announced a reorganisation of the Russian calendar decreeing that the New Year would begin on January 1 and not September 1. 1860: South Carolina became the first state to secede from the American Union; it was not re-admitted until 1868. 1868: Harvey Samuel Firestone, pioneering rubber manufacturer, was born. He introduced pneumatic tyres for the Model T Ford and his company, Firestone Tyre and Rubber Company, became one of the largest in the United States. 1894: Robert Gordon Menzies, Australian statesman, was born. As prime minister (1939-1941 and 1949-1966) he strengthened military ties with the United States and fostered industrial growth and immigration from Europe. 1914: In World War I, the first battle of Champagne began with the French attacking German machine-gun positions. 1927: Kim Young-sam, former South Korean president, was born. Pro-democracy rebel turned establishment stalwart, he swept to power in December 1992 to become the first South Korean president for more than three decades who was not a former army general. 1946: Uri Geller, an Israeli known for his claims to psychic powers including bending cutlery, was born. 1968: John Steinbeck, US novelist, died; he achieved fame in the 1930s with powerful novels about agricultural workers, notably The Grapes Of Wrath. 1971: Pakistani President Mohammad Yahya Khan resigned and handed power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. 1979: Kim Jae-kyu, head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, was sentenced to death for the assassination of President Park Chung-hee in Seoul. 1987: In the worst peacetime tragedy at sea, a collision between the Philippine ferry Dona Paz and a tanker caused the deaths of 4,386 passengers and crew. 1989: The United States invaded Panama and installed a new government but initially failed in its key objective of seizing strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega. 1996: Astronomer and author Carl Sagan, who popularised science through books and television and tirelessly championed the search for life in outer space, died aged 62. 1998: China freed prominent labour activist Liu Nianchun and sent him and his family into exile in the US.