Wikipedia:Today's featured article/April 2005

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April 1

The American version of the Nintendo entertainment system

The Nintendo Entertainment System is an 8-bit video game console released by Nintendo in North America, Europe and Australia. The most successful gaming console of its time, it helped revitalize the video game industry following the video game crash of 1983, and set the standard for subsequent consoles in everything from game design (the first modern platform game, Super Mario Bros., was the system's first "killer app") to business practices. The NES was the first console developer to openly court third-party developers. So dominant was the NES during its heyday—roughly 1985 through 1991—that the period has become colloquially known as the "Nintendo era." As the 1990s dawned, however, renewed competition from technologically superior systems such as the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive (also known as the Sega Genesis) marked the end of the NES's dominance. Eclipsed by Nintendo's own Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the NES's user base gradually waned and in 1995 Nintendo officially discontinued the NES. (more...)

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April 2

A Medal of Honor from the late 19th century

The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States. It is awarded "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty, in actual combat against an armed enemy force." Three different medals currently exist for each of the major branches of the U.S. armed forces: one each for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Since the beginning of World War II, only 851 have been awarded, 525 of them posthumously. The rare soldier who wears the Medal of Honor is accorded special privileges that include higher pay, preference for their children at the U.S. military academies, and the respect and admiration of all other service-people. It is an informal rule that Medal of Honor recipients, regardless of rank, are saluted by all other service members, including the Commander-in-Chief. The Army Medal of Honor was first awarded during the American Civil War and was last officially awarded for action that occurred during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. (more...)

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April 3

Cardinal Richelieu

Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman, noble, and statesman. Consecrated as a bishop in 1607, he later entered politics, becoming a Secretary of State in 1616. Richelieu soon rose in both the Church and the state, becoming a cardinal in 1622, and King Louis XIII's chief minister in 1624. He remained in office until his death in 1642; he was succeeded by Jules Cardinal Mazarin. As chief minister, the Cardinal de Richelieu sought to consolidate royal power and crush domestic factions. By restraining the power of the nobility, he transformed France into a strongly centralised state. His chief foreign policy objective was to check the power of the Austro-Spanish Habsburg dynasty; although a Roman Catholic cardinal, he did not hesitate to make alliances with Protestant rulers in attempting to achieve this goal. His tenure was marked by the Thirty Years' War that engulfed Europe. Richelieu was also famous for his patronage of the arts; most notably, he founded the Académie française, the learned society responsible for matters pertaining to the French language. Richelieu is also known by the sobriquet l'Éminence rouge ("the Red Eminence"), from the red shade of a cardinal's vestments. (more...)

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April 4

The Bank of China Tower

The Bank of China (Hong Kong) (BOCHK) is the second largest commercial banking group in Hong Kong in terms of assets and customer deposits, with more than 300 branches in Hong Kong. It was established on October 1, 2001 from a merger of 12 subsidiaries and associates of the Bank of China in Hong Kong, and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October 2002. As of the end of 2003, the bank had HK$763 billion in assets and earned net profit of HK$8 billion in 2003. BOCHK is one of the three banks which issue banknotes for Hong Kong, the biggest member and a founder of the JETCO ATM and payment system, and the designated clearing bank in Hong Kong for transactions involving the renminbi, Mainland China's currency. It is legally separate from its parent, Bank of China (BOC), although they maintain close relations in management and administration and cooperate in several areas including reselling BOC's insurance and securities services. It also shares its Hong Kong headquarters, the Bank of China Tower, with its parent; completed in 1988, this was the first building outside of the United States to exceed 1,000 feet in height. (more...)

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April 5

The Cantos by Ezra Pound is a long, incomplete poem in 120 sections, each of which is a canto. Most of it was written between 1915 and 1962, although much of the early work was abandoned and the early cantos, as finally published, date from 1922 onwards. It is a book-length work, widely considered to present formidable difficulties to the reader. Strong claims have been made for it as one of the most significant works of modernist poetry of the twentieth century. As in Pound's prose writing, the themes of economics, governance and culture are integral to its content. The most striking feature of the text, to a casual browser, is the inclusion of Chinese characters as well as quotations in European languages other than English. Recourse to scholarly commentaries is almost inevitable for a close reader. The range of allusion to historical events is very broad, and abrupt changes occur with the minimum of stage directions. There is also a wide geographical spread; Pound added to his earlier interests in the classical Mediterranean culture and East Asia selective topics from medieval and early modern Italy and Provence, the beginnings of the United States, England of the seventeenth century, and details from Africa he had obtained from Leo Frobenius. References left without explanation abound. (more...)

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April 6

El Lissitzky was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, teacher, typographer, and architect. He was one of the most important figures of the Russian avant-garde, helping develop suprematism with his friend and mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designed numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the former Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus, Constructivist, and De Stijl movements and experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th century graphic design. Lissitzky's entire career was laced with the belief that the artist could be an agent for change, later summarised with his edict, "das zielbewußte Schaffen" (The task-oriented creation). In 1941 he produced one of his last known works — a Soviet propaganda poster rallying the people to construct more tanks for the fight against Nazi Germany. (more...)

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April 7

The Himalayan mountain range in North Sikkim.

Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayas. It is the least populous state in India, and the second smallest. Sikkim was an independent state ruled by the Chogyal monarchy until 1975, when a referendum to make it India's twenty-second state succeeded. The thumb-shaped state borders Nepal in the west, Tibet to the north and east, and Bhutan in the south-east. The Indian state of West Bengal borders Sikkim to its south. The official language is Nepali, and the predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Gangtok is the capital and largest town. Despite its small size, Sikkim is geographically diverse, owing to its location at the Himalayan foothills. Terrain ranges from tropical in the south to tundra in the north. Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, is located in Sikkim, straddling its northern border with Nepal. Sikkim has become one of India's most visited states owing to its reputation for untouched scenic beauty and political stability. (more...)

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April 8

Blackadder is a British sitcom made by the BBC. The title does not refer to a specific series, but rather denotes the programmes — four series and several one-off episodes — taken as a whole. The first series was written by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson; subsequent series were written by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. The show was produced by John Lloyd, and starred Rowan Atkinson as the eponymous protagonist, Edmund Blackadder, and Tony Robinson as his sidekick Baldrick. Four series of six half-hour episodes were made, each series set in a different period of British history. The first series was called The Black Adder and was made in 1983; this was followed by Blackadder II in 1985, Blackadder the Third in 1987, and finally Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989. Blackadder came second in a 2004 BBC poll to find 'Britain's Best Sitcom'. (more...)

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April 9

Flag of Maryland

The Government of Maryland is conducted according to the state constitution. Like the rest of the 50 states, it follows the requirements of Article Four of the U.S. Constitution by being republican in nature. As the United States is a federation, the Government of Maryland, like all state governments, generally has exclusive authority over matters that lie entirely within the state's borders. Power in Maryland is divided among three branches of government, executive, legislative, and judicial. Unlike most other states, significant autonomy is granted to many of Maryland's counties. Most state government activity occurs in the state capital, Annapolis, and virtually all state and county elections occur in even numbered years in which an election for the President of the United States does not occur. (more...)

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April 10

A Ryanair Boeing 737 on the landing roll at Bristol Airport

Ryanair is an airline based in Ireland. It is Europe's largest low-cost carrier, operating 209 low-fare routes to 94 destinations across 17 European countries. Over the years it has evolved into the world's most profitable airline, running at remarkable margins by relentlessly driving costs down. Ryanair has been characterised by rapid and continuing expansion, enabled by the deregulation of the air industry in Europe in 1997. It operates a fleet of 74 Boeing 737s, and currently has firm orders for an additional 225 Boeing 737-800 airplanes by 2010, with options on a further 193. Ryanair is one of Europe's most controversial companies, praised and criticised in equal measure. Its supporters praise its commitment to exceptionally low fares, its radical management, its populism, and its willingness to challenge what Ryanair calls the 'establishment' within the airline industry. Critics, meanwhile, have attacked its labor union policies, and have charged that it practises deceptive advertising. (more...)

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April 11

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov is a chess grandmaster and one of the strongest human chess players in the world. He is the highest rated on the FIDE January 2005 list at 2804, and he is the highest rated player ever with his 2851 ELO in 1999. He was classical world chess champion from 1985 until 2000. Over the last decade, he has played a series of matches against chess machines, including Deep Blue and X3D Fritz. Kasparov, who announced his retirement from serious chess on March 10 2005, has been credited with the invention of Advanced Chess, a new form of chess in which a human and a computer join their forces. (more...)

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April 12

A Caesar cipher with a shift of 3

In cryptography, a Caesar cipher is one of the simplest and most well-known classical encryption techniques. It is a type of substitution cipher in which each letter in the plaintext is replaced by a letter some fixed number of positions further down the alphabet. For example, with a shift of 3, A would be replaced by D, B would become E, and so on. The method is named after Julius Caesar, who used it to communicate with his generals. The encryption step performed by a Caesar cipher is often incorporated as part of more complex schemes, such as the Vigenère cipher, and still has modern application in the ROT13 system. As for all single alphabet substitution ciphers, the Caesar cipher is easily broken and in practice offers no communication security. (more...)

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April 13

A standard set of timpani consists of four drums

Timpani are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl commonly made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a special drum stick called a timpani stick. Unlike most drums, they produce a definite pitch when struck. Timpani evolved from military drums to become a staple of the classical orchestra in the 17th century. Today, they are used in many types of musical ensembles including concert, marching, and even rock bands. The basic timpano consists of a drumhead stretched across the opening of a bowl typically made of copper or, in less expensive models, fiberglass. The drumhead is connected to a hoop, which is then attached to the bowl via a number of tuning screws called tension rods placed regularly along the circumference. The head's tension can be adjusted by loosening or tightening the rods. Most timpani have six to eight tension rods. (more...)

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April 14

் is believed to be unique to Tamil and Malayalam

Tamil is a Dravidian language related to Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam, among others. As one of the few living classical languages, it has an unbroken literary tradition of over two millennia, with the earliest writings having been dated to circa 500 B.C. Tamil, like other Dravidian languages, is agglutinative and the writing is largely phonetic. It is spoken by a majority of people in Tamil Nadu and northern and north-eastern Sri Lanka, while a significant emigrant population lives in Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of the world. It is officially recognised in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and South Africa. (more...)

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April 15

The two letters at the bottom of each hand combine to form the name of God

In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title. It represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relation of God to the Jewish people. The various Jewish names of God represent God as he is known, and represents divine attributes. Awe at the sacredness of the names of God and as manner to show respect and reverence for them, made the scribes of sacred texts pause before copying them. The numerous names of God have been a source of debate amongst biblical scholars. Some have advanced it as proof that the Torah has many authors, while others affirm that the different aspects of God have different names, depending on the role God is playing, the context in which he is referred to and the specific attributes highlighted. (more...)

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April 16

Colditz Castle, circa April 1945

Colditz Castle is a castle in the town of Colditz near Leipzig, Dresden, and Chemnitz in the state of Saxony in Germany. Used as a workhouse for the indigent and a mental institution for over 100 years, it became notorious as a prisoner-of-war camp for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps, as well as for deutschfeindlich ("anti-Germans") during World War II. The Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) made Colditz a Sonderlager (high-security prison), the only one of its type within Germany. Hermann Göring even declared Colditz "escape-proof." This was in part because of its lack of escapes during its term as prison camp in World War I, but mostly due to it being the only German prisoner-of-war camp with more guards than prisoners. Yet despite this audacious claim, there were multiple escapes by British, French, Polish, Dutch, and Belgian inmates. (more...)

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April 17

The aftermath of the hurricane and the destruction it wrought

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 made landfall on the city of Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900. It had estimated winds of 135 miles per hour (217 km/h), making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The hurricane caused great loss of life. The death toll has been estimated to be between 6,000 and 12,000 individuals. The number most cited in official reports is 8,000, giving the storm the third-highest number of casualties of any Atlantic hurricane, after the Great Hurricane of 1780, and 1998's Hurricane Mitch. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is to date the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States. (more...)

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April 18

A 9th century Aramaic manuscript of the Gospel of John

Aramaic is a Semitic language with a 3,000-year history. It has been the language of administration of empires and the language of divine worship. It is the original language of a large section of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra. It was probably the language of Jesus, it is the main language of the Talmud, and it is still spoken today as a first language by numerous small communities. Aramaic belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family. Within this diverse family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic subfamily. Aramaic is a part of the Northwest Semitic group of languages, which also includes the Canaanite languages (including Hebrew). (more...)

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April 19

The Apollo 8 crew portrait

Apollo 8 was the second manned mission of the Apollo space program. Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to travel beyond Earth orbit and into an orbit around the Moon. It was also the first manned launch of the Saturn V rocket. NASA prepared for the mission in only four months. The hardware involved had only been used a few times—the Saturn V had only launched twice before, and the Apollo spacecraft had only just finished its first manned mission, Apollo 7. However the success of the mission paved the way for the successful completion of John F. Kennedy's goal of landing on the Moon before the end of the decade. After launching on December 21, 1968, the crew took three days to travel to the Moon, which they orbited for twenty hours. While in lunar orbit they made a Christmas Eve television broadcast that is thought to be one of the most watched of all time. (more...)

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April 20

Boris Yeltsin (right) appears with his hand-picked successor, Vladimir Putin (left)

While Russia has existed as a state for over a thousand years, the history of post-Soviet Russia is brief, dating back only to the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. Since gaining its independence, Russia claimed to be the legal successor to the Soviet Union on the international stage. However, Russia lost its superpower status amid serious economic and political challenges in the 1990s. Scrapping the socialist central planning and state ownership of property of the Soviet era, Russia attempted to build an economy with elements of market capitalism, with often painful results. The development of post-Soviet political institutions has also produced mixed results. By the early-1990s Russia had a system of multiparty electoral politics, but in recent years the presidency has been increasing its already tight control over parliament, regional officeholders, and civil society. (more...)

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April 21

Closeup of a Krag-Jørgensen receiver

The Krag-Jørgensen is a repeating bolt action rifle designed by the Norwegians Ole Herman Johannes Krag and Erik Jørgensen in the late 19th century. It was adopted as a standard arm by Denmark, the United States and Norway. The most distinctive feature of the Krag-Jørgensen action was its magazine. While other rifles of its era used a box magazine, the magazine of the Krag-Jørgensen was integral with the receiver, featuring an opening on the right hand side with a hinged cover. The cartridges were inserted through the side opening, and were pushed up, around, and into the action by a spring follower. This presented both advantages and disadvantages compared with the standard top-loading "box" magazine; among other things, using a "stripper clip" to reload was impossible. At the same time, unlike a top-loading magazine, the Krag-Jørgensen's magazine could be topped up without opening the rifle's bolt. Today, the Krag-Jørgensen is a popular collector's rifle, and is valued by shooters for its smooth action. (more...)

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April 22

Oppenheimer served as the first director of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Robert Oppenheimer was an American physicist and the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. Known colloquially as "the father of the atomic bomb", Oppenheimer lamented the weapon's killing power after it was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he was a chief advisor to the newly-created Atomic Energy Commission and used that position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. After invoking the ire of many politicians and scientists with his outspoken political opinions during the Red Scare, he had his security clearance revoked in a much-publicized and politicized hearing in 1954. Though stripped of his political influence, Oppenheimer continued to lecture, write, and work in physics. A decade later, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of rehabilitation. (more...)

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April 23

A Canadian Pacific Railway freight eastbound over the Stoney Creek Bridge

The Canadian Pacific Railway is a Canadian Class I railway operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited. Its rail network stretches from Vancouver to Montreal, and also serves major cities in the United States, such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Its headquarters are in Calgary, Alberta. The railway was originally built between eastern Canada and British Columbia between 1881 and 1885, fulfilling a promise extended to British Columbia when it entered Confederation in 1871. It was Canada's first transcontinental railway. Now primarily a freight railway, the CPR was for many decades the only practical means of long distance passenger transportation in many regions of Canada, and was instrumental in the settlement and development of western Canada. Its primary passenger services were eliminated in 1978 after being assumed by VIA Rail Canada. The railway's logo, a beaver, was chosen because it is one of the national symbols of Canada and represents the hardworking character of the company. The object of both praise and damnation for over 120 years, the CPR remains an indisputable icon of Canadian nationalism. (more...)

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April 24

Velázquez's self portrait, painted circa 1643

Diego Velázquez was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary baroque period, important as a portrait artist. His two visits to Italy while part of the Spanish court are well-documented. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he created scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece, Las Meninas. Starting in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velázquez's artwork proved a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet. Since that time, more modern artists, including Spain's Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works. (more...)

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April 25

A bottle of hydrochloric acid

Hydrochloric acid is the aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) gas. It is a strong acid, facilitating wide use. As a highly corrosive liquid, hydrochloric acid should be handled only with appropriate safety precautions. Hydrochloric acid has been an important and frequently-used chemical from early history, and was discovered by the Persian alchemist Jabir around 800. It was used throughout the Middle Ages by alchemists in the quest for the philosopher's stone, and later by several European scientists including Glauber, Priestley, and Davy. During the Industrial Revolution, it became an important industrial chemical for many applications. Applications include large scale production of organic compounds such as vinyl chloride for PVC and MDI/TDI for PUR. (more...)

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April 26

The cover of the official report of the 1896 Summer Olympics

The 1896 Summer Olympics were the first modern celebration of the Olympic Games, after the Ancient Olympic Games had been cancelled by Roman emperor Theodosius I in AD 393. At a 1894 congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin in Paris, the International Olympic Committee was established, and the Greek capital of Athens was appointed as the host city of the first modern Olympics. The Greeks had little experience with organizing sports events, and initially had financial troubles as well, but managed to have everything ready in time. Although the number of participating athletes was low by today's standards, it had the largest international participation for any sports event to that date. The athletic highlight for the Greeks was the marathon victory by their compatriot Spiridon Louis. The most successful competitor in terms of victories was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann. Barring the so-called Intercalated Games of 1906, the Olympics did not return to Greece until the 2004 Summer Olympics. (more...)

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April 27

Kylie Minogue in the music video for "Slow" (2003)

Kylie Minogue is an Australian singer and actress. She rose to prominence in the late 1980s as a result of her role in the Australian television soap opera Neighbours, before commencing her career as a pop singer and recording artist. Signed to a contract by British songwriters and record producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman, Minogue achieved a string of hit records throughout the world, but her popularity began to decline by the early 1990s, leading her to part company from them in 1992. For several years she attempted to establish herself as an independent performer and songwriter, distancing herself from her earlier work. Her projects were widely publicised, but despite a couple of hit singles, her albums failed to attract a substantial audience, resulting in the lowest sales of her career. In 2000, she returned to popularity as a dance/pop music artist and became well-known for her provocative music videos and expensively mounted stage shows. In Europe and Australia, Minogue has become one of her generation's most recognisable celebrities and sex symbols. (more...)

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April 28

Satellite image of South Africa

The Republic of South Africa is a large republic in Southern Africa. It is located at the southern tip of the continent, and borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South African territory. Its economy is the largest and most well developed of the entire African continent, with modern infrastructure common in nearly all of the country. South Africa has the largest population of people of European descent in Africa, the largest Indian population outside of Asia, as well as the largest Coloured community in Africa, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries on the continent. Racial and ethnic strife between the white minority and the black majority have played a large part in the country's history and politics. The National Party began introducing the policy of apartheid after winning the general election of 1948; however, it was the same party under the leadership of F.W. de Klerk who started to dismantle it in 1990. The country is one of the few in Africa never to have had a coup d'état, and regular free and fair elections are held since 1994, making it a regional power and among the most stable democracies in Africa. (more...)

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April 29

Military Badge of the Order of the Bath

The Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the ancient ceremony wherein individuals participated in a vigil of fasting, prayer, and bathing on the day before being knighted. Apart from the Sovereign and the Great Master, before 1815 there were a maximum of thirty six 'Knights of the Bath' (K.B.). After 1815 the number of classes and members were increased several times; the Order now includes three classes in civil and military divisions. The Order's motto is Tria juncta in uno (Latin for "Three joined in one"), a reference to either the union of England, Scotland and Ireland, or to the Holy Trinity. The Order is the fourth-most senior in the British honours system, after Order of the Garter, Order of the Thistle, and Order of St Patrick. The last of the aformentioned Orders—which relates to Ireland, which, except for Northern Ireland, is no longer a part of the United Kingdom—still exists but is in disuse; no appointments have been made to it since 1934. (more...)

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April 30

The House of Representatives is defined by Section Two of the Article

Article One of the United States Constitution establishes the legislative branch of government, Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Article establishes the manner of election and qualifications of members of each House. In addition, it outlines legislative procedure and indicates the powers of the legislative branch. Finally, it establishes limits on federal and state legislative power. Article One is the longest of the seven Articles forming the original United States Constitution. Amendments to Article One, unlike amendments to other articles, are restricted by the Constitution. Article 5 specifically prohibited ammending the Article 1, section 9, until 1808. Therefore, no amendment made prior to 1808 could affect the first and fourth clauses of Section Nine. The former clause prevented Congress from prohibiting the slave trade until 1808; the latter required direct taxes to be apportioned among the states according to their populations. Furthermore, the Constitution precludes Congress from depriving a state of equal representation in the Senate without its consent. (more...)

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