Wikipedia:Today's featured article/February 2005

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February 1

Mahatma Gandhi was the charismatic intellectual and mass-movement leader who brought the cause of independence for British colonial India to world attention. His ideas, especially the satyagraha model of non-violent protest, have influenced both nationalist and internal movements throughout the world. By means of non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi helped bring about India's independence from British rule, inspiring other colonial peoples to work for their own independence and ultimately dismantle the British Empire and replace it with the Commonwealth of Nations. Gandhi's principle of satyagraha ('"truth force"), often roughly translated as "way of truth" or "pursuit of truth," has inspired other democratic activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela. He often stated his values were simple, drawn from traditional Hindu beliefs: truth (satya), and non-violence (ahimsa). (more...)

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February 2
NGC 604, a giant H-II region in the Triangulum Galaxy

An H II region is a cloud of glowing gas, sometimes several hundred light years across, in which star formation is taking place. Young, hot, blue stars which have formed from the gas emit copious amounts of ultraviolet light, ionising the nebula surrounding them. H II regions may give birth to thousands of stars over a period of several million years. In the end, supernova explosions and strong stellar winds from the most massive stars in the resulting star cluster will evaporate the gases of the H II region, leaving behind a cluster such as the Pleiades. H II (pronounced "H two") regions are named for the large amount of ionised atomic hydrogen they contain, referred to as H II by astronomers (H I being neutral atomic hydrogen, and H2 being molecular hydrogen). H II regions can be seen out to considerable distances in the universe, and study of extragalactic H II regions is important in determining the distance and chemical composition of other galaxies. (more...)

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February 3
Mark Latham

Mark Latham is an Australian politician and was leader of the federal parliamentary Australian Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition in Australia from December 2003 to January 2005. He succeeded Simon Crean as leader in December 2003, defeating former leader Kim Beazley in a close vote. Latham captured national attention with his innovative policies and approaches, but also attracted controversy regarding his interesting past. In the October 2004 federal election, Latham and his party were soundly defeated by the incumbent Prime Minister John Howard. Ill-health and deteriorating relations with his own party forced him to step down as Leader on January 18, 2005. (more...)

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February 4

The King James Version is an English translation of the Holy Bible, commissioned for the benefit of the Church of England at the behest of King James I of England. First published in 1611, it has had a profound impact on not only most English translations that have followed it, but also on English literature as a whole. The works of famous authors such as John Bunyan, John Milton, Herman Melville, John Dryden, and William Wordsworth are replete with inspiration apparently derived from the King James Version. Bibles from the English Revised Version to the New American Standard Bible, the Revised Standard Version, and the New King James Version are revisions of its text; it has deeply influenced Bibles such as the New International Version that do not claim to be revisions of its text. It is no longer in copyright in most parts of the world but is under perpetual Crown copyright in the United Kingdom. It is considered to be an instrumental founding block of modern English, and remains one of the most widely-read literary works from its time, surpassed only by the works of playwright William Shakespeare. (more...)

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February 5
The Isan region of Thailan, highlighted in red

Isan is the northeast region of Thailand. It is located on the Khorat Plateau, bordered by the Mekong River to the north and east, and by Cambodia to the south; to the west it is separated from Northern and Central Thailand by the Phetchabun mountain range. Agriculture is the main economic activity, but due to the poor conditions, output trails that of other parts of the country, and this is Thailand's poorest region. The main language of the region is Isan (which is similar to Lao), but Thai is also widespread and Khmer is spoken in the south. Most of the population is of Lao origin, but the region's incorporation into the modern Thai state has been largely successful. Prominent aspects of Isan culture include mor lam music, muay Thai boxing and the food, in which sticky rice and chillies are prominent. (more...)

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February 6
Walt Whitman is one of the most famous American poets

The poetry of the United States began as a literary art during the colonial era. Unsurprisingly, most of the early poetry written in the colonies and fledgling republic used contemporary British models of poetic form, diction, and theme. However, in the 19th century a distinctive American idiom began to emerge. By the later part of that century, when Walt Whitman was winning an enthusiastic audience abroad, American poets had begun to take their place at the forefront of the English-language avant-garde. By the 1960s, the young poets of the British Poetry Revival looked to their American contemporaries and predecessors as models for the kind of poetry they wanted to write. Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of American poetry had diversified, as scholars placed an increased emphasis on poetry by women, African Americans, Hispanics and other subcultural groupings. (more...)

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February 7
Jack Fingleton evades a Bodyline ball

Bodyline was a cricketing tactic devised by the English cricket team for their 1932–33 tour of Australia, specifically to combat the extraordinary batting skill of Australia's Don Bradman. It involved bowlers deliberately aiming the cricket ball at the bodies of batsmen. This caused several injuries to Australian players and led to ill-feeling between the countries that rose to diplomatic levels. Following the 1932–33 series, several authors, including many of the players involved in it, released books expressing various points of view about Bodyline. Many argued that it was a scourge on cricket and must be stamped out, while some claimed not to understand what all the fuss was about. (more...)

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February 8
Ships unload men and equipment one day after the landings

The Battle of Inchon was a decisive 15-day invasion and battle during the Korean War. The battle began on September 15, 1950, and ended around September 28. During the amphibious operation, U.S. Marines under the command of General Douglas MacArthur secured Inchon and broke North Korean control of the Pusan region through a series of landings in enemy territory. The Battle of Inchon ended a string of victories by the invading North Korean People's Army (NKPA) and began a counterattack by United Nations forces that led to the recapture of Seoul. The northern advance ended when China's People's Liberation Army entered the conflict in support of North Korea, and defeated UN forces at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. (more...)

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February 9
Jonathan Wild in the condemned cell at Newgate Prison

Jonathan Wild was perhaps the most famous criminal of London, if not of the United Kingdom, in the 18th century, both because of his own actions and the uses novelists, playwrights, and political satirists made of them. He invented a scheme which allowed him to run one of the most successful gangs of thieves of the era, all the while appearing to be the nation's leading policeman. He manipulated the press and the nation's fears to become the most loved public figure of the 1720s; this love turned to hatred when his villany was exposed. After his death, he became a symbol of naked corruption and hypocrisy. (more...)

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February 10
A Coconut crab

The Coconut Crab is the largest terrestrial arthropod, known for its ability to crack coconuts with its strong pincers in order to eat the contents. It is sometimes called the "Robber Crab" because some steal shiny items such as pots and silverware from houses and tents. Another name is the "terrestrial hermit crab," due to the use of shells by young crabs. Its range includes the Indian and western Pacific ocean. They differ slightly in color among different islands, ranging from light violet to deep purple, to brown. Their diet consists primarily of all kinds of fruits, including coconuts and figs. However, the crab will eat nearly anything organic, including leaves, rotten fruit, tortoise eggs, dead animals, and shells of other animals. They cannot swim and will drown in water. (more...)

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February 11
The Guinness brewery was one of Ireland's first major industries

The economy of the Republic of Ireland is modern, relatively small, and trade-dependent with growth averaging a robust 10% in 19952000. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's robust growth, the economy is also benefiting from a rise in consumer spending and recovery in both construction and business investment. Inflation stands at 2.3% as of 2005, but this is only a recent recovery from rates of between 4% and 5%. House price inflation has been a particular economic concern (average house price was €220,000 in 2004) as well as service charges (utilities, insurance, healthcare, legal representation, etc.). Dublin, the nation's capital, was ranked 22nd in a worldwide cost of living survey in 2004. (more...)

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February 12
Portrait of Albert Einstein taken by Yousuf Karsh in 1948

Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist who is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposed the theory of relativity and also made major contributions to the development of quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and cosmology. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect and "for his services to Theoretical Physics." After his general theory of relativity was formulated, Einstein became world-famous, an unusual achievement for a scientist. In his later years, his fame exceeded that of any other scientist in history, and in popular culture, Einstein has become a byword for great intelligence or even genius. His is also one of the world's most recognizable faces. (more...)

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February 13
Bryce Canyon during a winter storm

Bryce Canyon National Park is a national park located in southwestern Utah in the United States. Despite its name, this is not actually a canyon, but rather a giant natural amphitheater created by erosion along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to its unique geological structures, called hoodoos, formed from wind, water, and ice erosion of the river and lakebed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views. The canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1875. The area around Bryce Canyon became a United States national monument in 1924 and was designated as a national park in 1928. (more...)

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February 14
Mary I. By Antonius Mor, 1554

Mary I was Queen of England and Queen of Ireland from July 6, 1553 (de jure) or July 19, 1553 (de facto) until her death. Mary, the fourth and penultimate monarch of the Tudor dynasty, is remembered for her attempt to return England from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. To this end, she had almost 300 religious dissenters executed; as a consequence, she is sometimes known as Bloody Mary, which has since entered the English language as a synonym for a witch. Her religious policies, however, were in many cases reversed by her successor, Elizabeth I. (more...)

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February 15

The history of Russia is essentially that of its many nationalities, each with a separate history and complex origins, but bound together by the thousand-year-old tradition of Russian statehood. From the late fifteenth century until the early twentieth century, Russia was constituted as an imperial monarchy ruling a tightly centralized, contiguous expanse of territories and peoples. The strains of the World War I led to the collapse of the empire, and eventually gave way to the creation of the Soviet Union. Despite its façade of federalism, the Soviet Union remained essentially an empire, held together by the Communist Party rather than the tsar. Most Russians gave little thought to any distinction between the two before the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, as Communist Party rule was collapsing, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic secured legislation giving Russian laws priority over Soviet laws and declared its independence in late 1991, forming today's Russian Federation. (more...)

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February 16

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, most of which were once governed by the United Kingdom and are its former colonies. It was formerly known as the British Commonwealth and many still call it by that name, either for historical reasons or to distinguish it from the many other commonwealths around the world. The Commonwealth is largely an organisation where countries with diverse economic backgrounds have an opportunity for close and equal interaction. The primary activities of the Commonwealth are to create an atmosphere of economic cooperation between member nations, as well as the promotion of democracy and good governance in them. (more...)

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February 17
A Khene player wearing sarong and pakama at the Ubon Candle Festival

Mor lam is an ancient Lao song form of Laos and Isan (Northeastern Thailand). Mor lam means expert song or expert singer, referring to the music or artist respectively. Traditionally mor lam was extemporaneous singing accompanied by the khene, a free reed mouth organ, but the modern form is most often composed and uses electrified instruments. Musically it is characterised by quick tempi and rapid delivery. As well as the usual theme of unrequited love, mor lam reflects the difficulties of life in rural Isan and Laos, leavened with wry humour. In its heartland performances are an essential part of festivals and ceremonies, while the music has gained a profile outside its native regions thanks to the spread of migrant workers, for whom it remains an important cultural link with home. (more...)

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February 18
A graffiti artist working with spray paint at a Graffiti competition in London

Graffiti is a type of deliberate human markings on property. Graffiti can take the form of art, drawings, or words, and is illegal vandalism when done without the property owner's consent. Its origin can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Roman Empire and Ancient Greece. Graffiti originally was the term used for inscriptions, figure drawings, etc., found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs, or at Pompeii. It has evolved to include any decorations inscribed on any surface that are considered to be vandalism or pictures or writing placed on surfaces, usually outside walls and sidewalks, without the permission of the owner. Thus, inscriptions made by the authors of a monument are not considered graffiti. (more...)

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February 19
Xenu dumped his surplus population around volcanoes like this one on Hawaii

In Scientology doctrine, Xenu is a galactic ruler who supposedly, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living. These events are known as "Incident II" or "The Wall of Fire," and the traumatic memories associated with them are known as the "R6 implant." Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard detailed the story in Operating Thetan level III in 1967, famously warning that R6 was "calculated to kill (by pneumonia etc) anyone who attempts to solve it." Much controversy between the Church of Scientology and its critics has focused on Xenu. The Church avoids making mention of Xenu in public statements and has gone to considerable effort to maintain the story's confidentiality, including legal action on both copyright and trade secrecy grounds. Critics claim that revealing the story is in the public interest, given the high prices charged for OT III. The Xenu story prompted the use of the volcano as a Scientology symbol. (more...)

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February 20

The Brolga is a bird in the crane family. When first described in 1810, the Brolga was misclassified as Ardea, the genus that includes the herons and egrets. It is in fact a member of the Gruiformes; the order that includes the crakes, rails, and cranes, and as a member of the genus Grus. The bird was then given the name Australian crane in 1865 by John Gould. In 1926 the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union managed to make Brolga, a popular name derived from a native tongue, the official name of the bird. It is a common wetland congregating bird species in tropical and eastern Australia, well known for its intricate mating dance. (more...)

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February 21
The Liberal party depended heavily on votes from Utah miners

The Liberal Party of Utah, along with the People's Party, was a local political party that flourished in Utah Territory in the latter 19th century before Democrats and Republicans established themselves in Utah in the early 1890s. The Liberal Party was formed in 1870 to oppose The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS Church; popularly known as the "Mormons"), which dominated local politics. Thus, the Liberal Party represented the non-Mormon side in religiously-charged Utah government. Though vastly outnumbered, the Liberal Party offered an opposing voice and successfully won several local elections. Anti-Mormonism was a central theme of the party until it disbanded in 1893 and was absorbed by the national parties. (more...)

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February 22
A pro-choice rally on the steps of the Supreme Court

Roe v. Wade was the landmark 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that recognized abortion as a constitutional right, overturning several state laws against abortion. It remains one of the most controversial decisions in Supreme Court history. The decision in Roe v. Wade has sparked a decades-long national debate over when abortion should be legal; the role of the Supreme Court in constitutional adjudication; and the role of religious views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade became one of the most politically significant Supreme Court decisions in history, reshaping national politics, dividing the nation into "pro-choice" and "pro-life" camps, and inspiring grassroots activism. Roe sparked widespread opposition, from those who viewed the Court's decision as illegitimate for straying too far from the text and history of the Constitution, as well as from those motivated by religious and moral beliefs about the inviolability of fetal life. It also attracted widespread support, from those who view the decision as necessary to achieve women's equality and personal freedom. (more...)

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February 23
Diagram of the expansion of the Universe following the Big Bang

In physical cosmology, the Big Bang is the scientific theory that concerns the early development and shape of the universe. The central idea is that the theory of general relativity can be combined with the observations on the largest scales of galaxies receding from each other to extrapolate the conditions of the universe back or forward in time. A natural consequence of the Big Bang is that in the past the universe had a higher temperature and a higher density. The term "Big Bang" is used both in a narrow sense to refer to a point in time when the observed expansion of the universe (Hubble's law) began, and in a more general sense to refer to the prevailing cosmological paradigm explaining the origin and evolution of the universe. The term "Big Bang" was coined in 1949 by Fred Hoyle during a BBC radio program, The Nature of Things. Hoyle did not subscribe to the theory and intended to mock the concept. In current physical models, the universe 13.7 billion years ago would have had the form of a gravitational singularity, at which all time and distance measurements become meaningless and temperatures and pressures become infinite. (more...)

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February 24
DSid McMath

Sid McMath was a U.S. Marine veteran and progressive Democratic reform Governor of the State of Arkansas from 19491953. In defiance of his state's political establishment, he championed rapid extension of rural electric power, massive highway and school construction, the building of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, repeal of the poll tax, open and honest elections and broad expansion of opportunity for black citizens in the decade following World War II. He remained loyal to President Harry S. Truman during the "Dixiecrat" rebellion of 1948, campaigning throughout the South for Truman's re-election. As a former governor, McMath led the opposition to segregationist Governor Orval Faubus following the 1957 Little Rock school crisis. He later became one of the nation's foremost trial advocates, representing thousands of injured persons in precedent-setting cases and mentoring several generations of young attorneys. (more...)

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February 25
John Vanbrugh in Godfrey Kneller's Kit-cat portrait

Sir John Vanbrugh was an English architect and dramatist, best known as the designer of Blenheim Palace. He wrote two argumentative and outspoken Restoration comedies, The Relapse (1696) and The Provoked Wife (1697), which have become enduring stage favourites but originally occasioned much controversy. Vanbrugh was in many senses a radical throughout his life. As a young man and a committed Whig, he was part of the scheme to overthrow James II, put William III on the throne and protect English parliamentary democracy, dangerous undertakings which landed him in the dreaded Bastille of Paris as a political prisoner. In his career as a playwright, he offended many sections of Restoration and 18th-century society, not only by the sexual explicitness of his plays, but by their messages in defence of women's rights in marriage. His architectural work was as bold and daring as his early political activism and his marriage-themed plays, and jarred conservative opinions on the subject. (more...)

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February 26
Women displayed by LRA fighting line up to draw water from a borehole

The Lord's Resistance Army is a rebel paramilitary group operating in northern Uganda, and as of February 2005 is engaged in an armed conflict against the Ugandan government. It is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself a spirit medium and apparently wishes to establish a state based on his unique interpretation of Biblical millenarianism. The rebels have been accused of many atrocities in the area. It is estimated that around 20,000 children have been kidnapped by the group since 1987 for use as as soldiers and sex slaves. LRA practices such as mutilation, enforced prostitution and enlisting children under the age of 15 into armed groups are war crimes. The group abducts its members primarily from the Acholi people, but it lacks widespread support among the Acholis, who have been the victims of many of its tactics. The insurgency has been mainly contained to the region known as Acholiland, consisting of the districts of Kitgum, Gulu, and Pader, though since 2002 violence has overflowed into other districts, including Lira, Apac and Adjumani. (more...)

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February 27
Wave breaking on the shore of Lake Michigan by Lincoln Park

The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes basin in the United States Midwest and the Canadian province of Ontario from November 7 to November 10, 1913. The deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the lakes, it killed over 250 people, destroyed 19 ships, and stranded 19 others. The financial loss in vessels alone was nearly USD$5 million, or about US$100 million in present-day adjusted dollars. The large loss of cargo, including coal, iron ore, and grain, meant short-term rising prices for consumer products throughout North America. The storm originated as the convergence of two major storm fronts that was fuelled by the lakes' relatively warm waters, a seasonal process historically called a "November gale." It produced 90 mile per hour (145 km/hour) winds, waves over 35 feet (11 m) high, and whiteout snow squalls. (more...)

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February 28
The first page of Hrafnkels saga

The Hrafnkels saga is an Icelandic saga telling of struggles between chieftains in the east of Iceland in the 10th century. The eponymous main character, Hrafnkell, starts out his career as a fearsome duelist and a dedicated worshipper of the god Freyr. After suffering defeat, humiliation, and the destruction of his temple, he becomes an atheist. His character changes and he becomes more peaceful in dealing with others. After gradually rebuilding his power base for several years, he achieves revenge against his enemies and lives out the rest of his life as a powerful and respected chieftain. The saga has been read as the story of a man who realizes that the true basis of power is not belief in the gods but the loyalty of one's subordinates. It is widely read today and appreciated for its logical structure, plausibility and vivid characters. For these reasons, it has served as a test case in the dispute on the origins of the Icelandic sagas. (more...)

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