Wikipedia:Today's featured article/July 2005
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- July 1
Vanilla Ninja is a four-piece Estonian girl band that has enjoyed chart success in a number of countries across Europe, especially Germany and Austria. The group was formed in 2002 and released their self-titled album Vanilla Ninja the following year. They have entered national selections for the Eurovision Song Contest twice, failing the first time but proving successful in Switzerland with the song "Cool Vibes". They then finished eighth in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest final, despite topping the leader board at the half-way stage. The group have so far released three albums in various countries across Europe; Vanilla Ninja was released in 2003, Traces Of Sadness in 2004, and Blue Tattoo in 2005.
- July 2
The Convention on Psychotropic Substances is a United Nations treaty designed to control psychoactive drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates and LSD. During the 1960s, drug use and abuse exploded worldwide, especially in the Western developed nations. Availability of stimulants soared as manufacturers and traffickers took advantage of the inconsistent patchwork of national laws to circumvent restrictions on production and trade. The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 could not regulate the plethora of newly-discovered psychotropics, due to its limited scope. On February 21, 1971, plenipotentiaries signed the Convention, which was worded broadly enough to be capable of encompassing almost any mind-altering substance. Today, 175 nations are Parties to the treaty, which contains import and export restrictions and other rules aimed at limiting drug use to scientific and medical purposes. Many laws have been passed to implement the Convention, including the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, the U.K. Misuse of Drugs Act, and the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
- July 3
Panavision is a motion picture equipment company specializing in camera, lens, and grip equipment, along with related accessories. After starting out as a small partnership that created anamorphic attachments for projection lenses, they have slowly but steadily expanded their operations and product lines while maintaining a high level of design and quality, making for a prestigious brand name in the eyes of film crews. Unlike most of their competition, including rival Arri, Panavision operates exclusively as a rental house and owns their entire inventory. (Ironically, their comprehensive offerings of in-house and externally produced camera models means they are also one of Arri's top customers.) The company is currently based in Woodland Hills, California, United States. Any major production that uses Panavision's services is contractually obligated to provide a credit that says "Filmed with Panavision Cameras and Lenses" if using spherical lenses, or "Filmed in Panavision" if using anamorphic lenses.
- July 4
Spamming is the use of any electronic communications medium to send unsolicited messages in bulk. While its definition is usually limited to indiscriminate bulk mailing and not any targeted marketing, the term "spam" can often refer to any commercially-oriented bulk mailing perceived as being excessive and undesired. In the popular eye, the most common form of spam is that delivered in e-mail as a form of commercial advertising. However, over the short history of electronic media, people have done things comparable to spamming for many purposes other than the commercial, and in many media other than e-mail. Spammers have developed a variety of spamming techniques, which vary by media: e-mail spam, instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engines spam, weblogs spam, and mobile phone messaging spam. Spamming (the name of which derives from a Monty Python sketch about SPAM brand processed meat) is economically viable because it allows advertisers to shift their operating costs to the public, as Internet service providers must add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming is widely reviled, and has been the subject of legislation in a number of jurisdictions, including the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
- July 5
The Order of Canada is Canada's highest civilian honour, awarded to those who adhere to the Order's motto Desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country." It was created in 1967 to recognize the lifetime contributions of Canadians who had made a major difference to the nation. The Order also recognizes efforts made by foreigners who made the world better through their actions. Musicians, politicians, artists, TV stars, benefactors and many more have been accepted into the Order. The Queen of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II, is Sovereign of the Order and the serving Governor General of Canada is its Chancellor and Principal Companion. Since 1967, more than 5,000 people have been appointed to the Order of Canada.
- July 6
The Kreutz Sungrazers are a family of comets, characterized by orbits which take them extremely close to the Sun at perihelion. They are all believed to originate from the fragmentation of one very large comet several centuries ago, and are named for the astronomer Heinrich Kreutz, who first demonstrated that they were related. Several members of the Kreutz family have become Great Comets, occasionally visible near the Sun in the daytime sky. The most recent of these was Comet Ikeya-Seki in 1965, which may have been one of the brightest comets in the last millennium. Many hundreds of smaller members of the family have been discovered since the launch of the SOHO satellite in 1995. Some are just a few metres across; none has survived its perihelion passage. Amateur astronomers have been very successful at discovering Kreutz comets in the data available in real time via the Internet.
- July 7
The geography of India is extremely diverse, with landscape ranging from snow-capped mountain ranges to deserts, plains, hills and plateaus. Climate ranges from equatorial in the far south, to tundra in the Himalayan altitudes. India comprises most of the Indian subcontinent and has a long coastline of over 7,000 km (4,300 miles), most of which lies on a peninsula that protrudes into the Indian Ocean. India is bounded in the west by the Arabian Sea and in the east by the Bay of Bengal. The fertile Indo-Gangetic plain occupies most of northern, central and eastern India, while the Deccan Plateau occupies most of southern India. To the west of the country is the Thar Desert, which consists of a mix of rocky and sandy desert, while India's east and northeastern border consists of the high Himalayan range.
- July 8
David Helvarg is an American journalist and environmental activist. He is the founder and president of the marine conservation lobbying organization Blue Frontier Campaign, a part of the Seaweed rebellion, which arose from his second book, Blue Frontier. His first book, The War against the Greens, puts a case that violent organised resistance is being orchestrated against the environmental movement. Helvarg began his career as a freelance journalist before becoming a war correspondent and then returning to news journalism. He writes about politics, AIDS, and sea life. He has reported from every continent and he has been published in specialist and popular magazines, and US newspapers both locally and in syndication. His experience of military conflict, civil conflict and marine biology is the basis of his lobbying.
- July 9
Piccadilly Circus is a plaza and traffic intersection in the West End in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, near Soho and Theatreland. It is renowned for its video display and neon signs in the northwestern corner, as well as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue known as The Angel of Christian Charity or Eros. It is surrounded by several noted buildings, including the London Pavilion and Criterion Theatre. Directly underneath the plaza is the London Underground station Piccadilly Circus. Built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly (the "circus" refers to "circular open space at a street junction"), it now links directly to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue as well as the Haymarket, Coventry Street (onwards to Leicester Square) and Glasshouse Street. Its proximity to major shopping and entertainment areas, its central location at the heart of the West End, and its status as a major traffic intersection have made Piccadilly Circus a busy meeting point and a tourist attraction in its own right.
- July 10
The Island Fox is a small fox that is native to six of the eight Channel Islands of California. It is the smallest fox species in the United States. There are six subspecies of the fox, each unique to the island it inhabits, reflecting its evolutionary history. The Island Fox shares the Urocyon genus with the mainland Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), the fox from which it is descended. Its small size is a result of island dwarfing, a kind of allopatric speciation. Introduced diseases or parasites can decimate Island Fox populations. Because Island Foxes are isolated they have no immunity to parasites and diseases brought in from the mainland and are especially vulnerable to those domestic dogs may carry. In addition, Golden Eagle predation and human activities decimated fox numbers on several of the Channel Islands in the 1990s. Four Island Fox subspecies were federally protected as an endangered species in 2004, and efforts to rebuild fox populations and restore the ecosystems of the Channel Islands are being undertaken.
- July 11
The Gbe languages form a cluster of about 20 related languages stretching across the area between eastern Ghana and western Nigeria. The total number of speakers of Gbe languages is between four and eight million. The most widely spoken Gbe language is Ewe, followed by Fon. The Gbe languages belong to the Kwa branch of the Niger-Congo languages, and break up into five major dialect clusters: Ewe, Fon, Aja, Gen, and Phla-Pherá. In the late 18th century, many speakers of Gbe were enslaved and transported to the New World, causing Gbe languages to play a role in the genesis of several Caribbean creole languages. In the first half of the twentieth century, the Africanist Diedrich Hermann Westermann was one of the most prolific contributors to the study of Gbe. The first internal classification of the Gbe languages was published in 1988 by H.B. Capo, followed by a comparative phonology in 1991. The Gbe languages are tonal, isolating languages and the basic word order is Subject Verb Object.
- July 12
The Civil Air Patrol is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. It was created just days before the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and is credited with sinking at least two German U-boats during the War. It was seen as a way to use America's civil aviation resources to aid the war effort, rather than grounding them, as was the case in the United Kingdom. Today, the Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer organization dedicated to education and national service, including people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. It performs three key missions: Emergency services (including search and rescue), aerospace education for youth and the general public, and cadet programs. The September 11, 2001 attacks demonstrated the importance of the Civil Air Patrol, as it was this organization's aircraft that flew blood to victims of the attack as well as providing the first aerial pictures of the World Trade Center site.
- July 13
Xiangqi is a Chinese game in a family of strategic board games of which Western chess and Japanese shogi are also members. The Chinese name is literally translatable as either "elephant chess" or "image/representational/symbolic chess", but is commonly called Chinese chess in the West. The ancestry of Xiangqi is disputed with some historians contending that it originated from Liubo and others stating that it is a relative of the 6th century Indian game of chaturanga. It is one of the most popular board games of the chaturanga family in the world, especially in Asia. Distinctive features of xiangqi include the unique movement of the pao ("cannon") piece, a rule prohibiting the generals (similar to chess kings) from facing each other directly, and the river and palace board features, which restrict the movement of some pieces.
- July 14
The Democratic Labour Party was the main opposition party in Trinidad and Tobago between 1957 and 1971. The party was formed as a multi-racial alternative to the Afro-Trinidadian-dominated People's National Movement led by Eric Williams. Over the course of the next ten years the party developed into an Indo-Trinidadian-dominated party. After several splits brought about by leadership struggles, the party lost its hold on the Indo-Trinidadian community in the 1976 General Elections and was displaced by the United Labour Front under the leadership of Basdeo Panday.
- July 15
George Moore was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family, originally intended to be an artist, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s. Here he befriended many of the leading French artists and writers of the day. As a writer, he was amongst the first English language authors to absorb the lessons of the French realists, being particularly influenced by the works of Émile Zola. He was also a key figure in the Celtic Revival. His short stories influenced the early writings of James Joyce. Although a number of his books remain in print, Moore's work remains somewhat outside the mainstream of both Irish and British literature; he founded no school or movement and has had few, if any followers.
- July 16
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake took place on November 1, 1755, at 9:20 in the morning. It was one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in history, killing well over 100,000 people. The quake was followed by a tsunami and fire, resulting in the near total destruction of Lisbon. The earthquake accentuated political tensions in Portugal and profoundly disrupted the country's 18th century colonial ambitions. The event was widely discussed by European Enlightenment philosophers, and inspired major developments in theodicy and in the philosophy of the sublime. The first to be studied scientifically for its effects over a large area, the quake signalled the birth of modern seismology. Geologists today estimate the Lisbon earthquake approached magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, with an epicenter in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 km west-southwest of Cape St. Vincent.
- July 17
The Antarctic krill is a species of krill found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. They are shrimp-like invertebrates that live in large schools called swarms that sometimes reach densities of 10,000–30,000 individual animals per cubic meter. They feed directly on minute phytoplankton, thereby using the primary production energy that the phytoplankton originally derived from the Sun to their pelagic (open ocean) life cycle. They grow to a length of 6 cm, weigh up to 2 g, and can live for up to six years. They are the key species in the Antarctic ecosystem and are likely, in terms of biomass, the most successful species on the planet.
- July 18
The granting of Royal Assent is the formal method by which the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, or the Sovereign's representative in Commonwealth Realms, completes the process of the enactment of legislation by formally assenting to an Act of Parliament. While the power to withhold Royal Assent was once exercised often, it is almost never exercised under modern constitutional conventions. The power remains as one of the reserve powers of the monarch. The granting of the Royal Assent is sometimes associated with elaborate ceremonies. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the Sovereign appoints Lords Commissioners who in turn announce that Royal Assent has been granted at a ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace or another royal residence. Two methods of notifying the Parliament are available: the Lords Commissioners or the Sovereign's representatives may grant Assent in the presence of both Houses of Parliament; alternatively, each House may be notified separately, usually by the presiding officer.
- July 19
The Polish September Campaign was the conquest of Poland by the armies of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small contingent of Slovak forces during the Second World War. The campaign began on 1 September 1939 following a German-staged attack. This military operation, which saw the first use of Blitzkrieg tactics, marked the start of the Second World War in Europe as the invasion led Poland's allies, the United Kingdom and France, to declare war on Germany on September 3. On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Red Army invaded the eastern regions of Poland. The Soviets were acting in co-operation with Nazi Germany, carrying out their part of the secret appendix of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (the division of Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence). The campaign ended on 6 October, 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland.
- July 20
Robert Heinlein was one of the most influential and controversial authors in the science fiction genre. He became the first science fiction writer to break into major general magazines in the late 1940s with true, undisguised science fiction, and the first bestselling novel-length science fiction in the 1960s. For many years he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke were known as the Big Three of science fiction. The major themes of Heinlein's work were social: radical individualism, libertarianism, religion, the relationship between physical and emotional love, and speculation about unorthodox family relationships. His iconoclastic beliefs have led to wildly divergent perceptions of him. The novel Stranger in a Strange Land put him in the unexpected role of Pied Piper of the sexual revolution and 1960s counterculture, but he has also been cast as a fascist, based on the contemporaneous Starship Troopers.
- July 21
The Ashes is a biennial Test cricket contest played between England and Australia. The series is named after the trophy, which is a small wooden urn said to contain the burnt bails from an 1882 game at The Oval. Each Ashes series typically consists of five Test matches, and the series alternate between the two countries. In the cricketing world, the Ashes is regarded as one of the sport's most famous and fierce rivalries. Particularly notable Ashes series took place in 1932/33 (the Bodyline tour), 1948 (Sir Donald Bradman's "Invincibles" Australian side) and 1981 (in which an England team spearheaded by Ian Botham won a thrilling series).
- July 22
Căile Ferate Române is the official designation of the state railway carrier of Romania. CFR manages the fourth largest railway network in Europe in terms of both passenger and freight volumes. The network is significantly interconnected with other European railway networks, providing pan-European passenger and freight services. CFR, which as an entity has been operating since 1880, is divided into four autonomous companies: CFR Călători, which is responsible for passenger services, CFR Marfă, responsible for freight transport, CFR Infrastructură, which manages the infrastructure on the Romanian railway network, and Societatea Feroviară de Turism, or SFT, which manages scenic and tourist railways. CFR is headquartered in Bucharest and has regional divisions in Cluj-Napoca, Craiova, Iaşi and Braşov.
- July 23
The Monty Hall problem is a puzzle in probability that is loosely based on the American game show Let's Make a Deal. The name comes from the show's host Monty Hall. In this puzzle a player is shown three closed doors; behind one is a car, and behind each of the other two is a goat. The player is allowed to open one door, and will win whatever is behind the door. However, after the player selects a door but before opening it, the game host opens another door revealing a goat. The host then offers the player an option to switch to the other closed door. Does switching improve the player's chance of winning the car? The answer is yes — switching results in a 2/3 chance of winning the car. The problem is also called the Monty Hall paradox, in the sense that the solution is counterintuitive, although the problem is not a logical self-contradiction.
- July 24
"Hey Jude" is a song attributed to Paul McCartney and John Lennon (though largely the work of McCartney), originally recorded by The Beatles for the self-titled The Beatles album, but released instead as a single. The song, despite its unusually long length (seven minutes, 12 seconds), became the Beatles' best-selling single, although they did produce a trimmed down version for American radio due to most stations' refusal to air a song of such length. The song–originally titled "Hey Jules"–was written for John Lennon's son Julian by McCartney, at a trying time for the Lennon family when John and his first wife, Cynthia, were getting divorced. The senior Lennon related to the song extremely well too, as he had just begun his relationship with his future second wife, Yoko Ono. McCartney had also just broken up with Jane Asher and was about to start seeing Linda Eastman.
- July 25
Johannesburg is the most populous city in South Africa and the second-most populous city in Sub-Saharan Africa, behind Lagos. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng Province, the wealthiest province in South Africa, and the site of the South African Constitutional Court. It is one of the newest major cities in the world, and is one of the few major cities in the world not along a coast or near a large river. Johannesburg is the site of a large-scale gold and diamond trade due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand. Johannesburg is also served by Johannesburg International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Africa and the gateway for international air travel to and from the rest of South Africa. According to the 2001 Census, the population of the city is more than three million in a land area of 1,644 km². The city is one of the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the world.
- July 26
Blackface is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used to affect the countenance of an iconic, racist, American archetype, that of the "darky." Blackface also refers to a genre of musical and comedic theatrical presentation in which blackface makeup is worn. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork, then later greasepaint, to affect jet-black skin and exaggerated lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tails or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, black artists also performed in blackface. Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for over 100 years and was extremely popular overseas, as well. The negative archetypes that comprised the stock characters of blackface minstrelsy played a seminal role in cementing and proliferating racist images and perceptions of, and attitudes about, blacks worldwide. By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface performance in the U.S. and elsewhere.
- July 27
Norman Borlaug is a American agricultural scientist, humanitarian, Nobel laureate, and the father of the Green Revolution. During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of his grain and modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply. More recently, he has helped apply these methods of increasing food production to Asia and Africa. Borlaug has continually advocated the use of his methods and biotechnology to decrease world famine; although his work has faced environmental and socioeconomic criticisms, he has repudiated most of those accusations. In 1986, he established the World Food Prize to recognize individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food around the globe.
- July 28
Tony Blair is a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He led the Labour Party from July 1994 through 2007, and brought Labour into power with a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, replacing John Major as Prime Minister and ending 18 years of Conservative government. He was the Labour Party's longest-serving Prime Minister. He moved the Labour Party towards the centre of British politics, using the term "New Labour" to distinguish what he calls "modern social democracy" and his party's refusal to reverse privatisation and support for a market economy from its past belief in nationalisation and Fabian socialism. After the advent of the "War on Terror" much of his agenda was dominated by foreign affairs and he supported many aspects of the foreign policy of George W. Bush. His party won an unprecedented third term in the 2005 general election, but its majority in the House of Commons was reduced considerably.
- July 29
An open cluster is a group of up to a few thousand stars that were formed from the same giant molecular cloud, and are still gravitationally bound to each other. Open clusters are found only in spiral and irregular galaxies, in which active star formation is occurring. They are usually less than a few hundred million years old: they become disrupted by close encounters with other clusters and clouds of gas as they orbit the galactic centre, as well as losing cluster members through internal close encounters. Young open clusters may still be contained within the molecular cloud from which they formed, illuminating it to create an H II region. Over time, radiation pressure from the cluster will disperse the molecular cloud. Typically, about 10% of the mass of a gas cloud will coalesce into stars before radiation pressure drives the rest away. Open clusters are very important objects in the study of stellar evolution. Because the stars are all of very similar age and chemical composition, the effects of other more subtle variables on the properties of stars are much more easily studied than they are for isolated stars.
- July 30
Hero of Belarus is the highest title that can be bestowed on a citizen of Belarus. Created in 1995 by President Alexander Lukashenko, the title is awarded to those who perform great deeds in the name of Belarus. The deed can be for military performance, economic excellence or great service to the State and society. The design of the medal is similar to its predecessor, Hero of the Soviet Union. Similar titles to the Hero of Belarus include the Russian Hero of the Russian Federation and the Ukrainian Hero of Ukraine. This title has only been awarded to five people since its inception — Uładzimir Karvat, Alaksandar Dubko, Michajił Karčmit, Vital Kramko and Pavieł Maryjaŭ. Of those, only Kramko and Maryjaŭ are living today.
- July 31
Chagas disease is a human tropical parasitic disease which occurs in the Americas, particularly in South America. Its pathogenic agent is a flagellate protozoan named Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transmitted to humans and other mammals mostly by hematophagous insects of the subfamily Triatominae. Those insects are known by numerous common names varying by country, including assassin bug, benchuca, and kissing bug. Other forms of transmission are possible, though, such as ingestion of food contaminated with parasites, blood transfusion and fetal transmission. T. cruzi is in the same genus as the infectious agent of African sleeping sickness, but its clinical manifestations, geographical distribution, life cycle and insect vectors are quite different.