Wikipedia:Today's featured article/March 2007

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March 1

Image of a single human lymphocyte

The immune system is a set of mechanisms that protect an organism from infection by identifying and killing pathogens. This task is extremely difficult, since pathogens range from viruses to parasitic worms and these diverse threats must be detected with absolute specificity amongst normal cells and tissues. Pathogens are also constantly evolving new ways to avoid detection by the immune system and successfully infect their hosts. To meet this challenge, multiple mechanisms have evolved to recognize and neutralize pathogens. The immune systems of vertebrates such as humans consist of many types of proteins, cells, organs, and tissues, which interact in an elaborate and dynamic network. As part of this more complex immune response, the vertebrate system adapts over time to recognize particular pathogens more efficiently. The adaptation process creates immunological memories and allows even more effective protection during future encounters with these pathogens. This process of acquired immunity is the basis of vaccination. (more...)

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March 2

The Chicago Bears championship team of 1924

The Chicago Bears are a professional American football team based in Chicago, Illinois. They are currently members of the Northern Division of the National Football Conference in the National Football League and the current National Football Conference Champions. The Bears have won nine Professional American Football league championships (eight NFL Championships and Super Bowl XX) trailing only the Green Bay Packers, who have twelve. The Bears have the most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with twenty-six members. The club was founded in Decatur, Illinois in 1919 and moved to Chicago in 1921. The team played home games at Wrigley Field on Chicago's North Side through the 1970 season. From 1971 to the present, save for the 2002 season, the team has played its home games at Soldier Field in Chicago. The stadium is located next to Lake Michigan and was recently remodeled in a controversial modernization that has attempted to bring stadium amenities expected by today's fans to a historic Chicago building. The team also has a fierce, long-standing rivalry with the Green Bay Packers, with whom they have played over 170 games. (more...)

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March 3

NGC 4414, a typical spiral galaxy

A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and dark matter. Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million (107) stars up to giants with one trillion (1012) stars, all orbiting a common center of gravity. Galaxies can also contain a large number of multiple star systems and star clusters as well as various types of interstellar clouds. Historically, galaxies have been categorized according to their apparent shape. Interactions between nearby galaxies, which may ultimately result in a galaxy merger, may induce episodes of significantly increased star formation, producing what is called a starburst galaxy. There are probably more than a hundred billion (1011) galaxies in the observable universe. Most galaxies are a thousand to a hundred thousand parsecs in diameter and are usually separated from one another by distances on the order of millions of parsecs. Intergalactic space, the space between galaxies, is filled with a tenuous gas with an average density less than one atom per cubic metre. There is some evidence that supermassive black holes may exist at the center of many, if not all, galaxies. These massive objects are believed to be the primary cause of active galactic nuclei found at the core of some galaxies. The Milky Way galaxy appears to harbor at least one such object within its nucleus. (more...)

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March 4

Flag of Turkey

Turkey is a Eurasian country that stretches across the Anatolian peninsula in southwestern Asia and the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. The region comprising modern Turkey has seen the birth of major civilisations including the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Owing to its strategic location at the intersection of two continents, Turkey's culture is a unique blend of Eastern and Western tradition, often described as a bridge between the two civilisations. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional republic whose political system was established in 1923 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. Since then, Turkey has increasingly integrated with the West while continuing to foster relations with the Eastern world. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a member state of the Council of Europe since 1949 and of NATO since 1952. Since 2005, Turkey has been in accession negotiations with the European Union, having been an associate member since 1963. Turkey is also a member of the G20 which brings together the 20 largest economies of the world. (more...)

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March 5

Lady Justice is a personification of the law

Law is a system of rules which is usually enforced through a set of institutions. Law frames everyday life and society in a wide variety of ways. "The rule of law," wrote the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle in 350 BC, "is better than the rule of any individual." Legal systems around the world elaborate legal rights and responsibilities in different ways. A basic distinction is made between civil law jurisdictions and systems using common law. Small numbers of countries still base their law on religious scripts. Scholars investigate the nature of law through many perspectives, including legal history and philosophy, or social sciences, such as economics and sociology. The study of law raises important questions about equality, fairness and justice, which is not always simple. "In its majestic equality," said the author Anatole France in 1894, "the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread." The most important institutions for law are the judiciary, the legislature, the executive, its bureaucracy, the military and police, the legal profession and civil society. (more...)

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March 6

Swiss mercenaries and landsknechts engaged in a push of pike

The Battle of Ceresole was fought outside the village of Ceresole d'Alba in the Piedmont on April 11, 1544, during the Italian War of 1542. In a lengthy engagement that historian Bert Hall characterized as "marvelously confused", a French army under François de Vendôme, Count of Enghien, defeated the Spanish-Imperial army of Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marquis del Vasto. Despite inflicting massive casualties on the Imperial troops, the French failed to exploit the victory, as Enghien was unable to take Milan after much of his army was recalled to face an Anglo-Imperial invasion of France. Ceresole was one of the few pitched battles during the latter half of the Italian Wars. Known among military historians chiefly for the "great slaughter" that occurred when columns of intermingled arquebusiers and pikemen met in the center, it also demonstrates the continuing role of traditional heavy cavalry on a battlefield largely dominated by the emerging pike and shot infantry. (more...)

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March 7

A postcard dated July 12, 1907 showing the New Orleans Mint

The New Orleans Mint operated as a branch of the United States Mint from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909. During its years of operation, it produced over 427 million gold and silver coins of nearly every American denomination, with a total face value of over US$307 million. It was closed during most of the American Civil War and the period called Reconstruction. After its decommissioning as a mint, the building served a variety of purposes, including as an assay office, a United States Coast Guard storage facility, and a fallout shelter. Since 1981 it has served as a branch of the Louisiana State Museum. As of August 2006 it is closed to the public pending repairs following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The New Orleans Mint has been designated a National Historic Landmark, and is currently the oldest surviving structure to have served as a U.S. Mint. Along with the Charlotte Mint, it is one of two former mint facilities in the United States to house an art gallery. (more...)

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March 8

Lead(II) nitrate

Lead(II) nitrate is a chemical compound, the inorganic salt of nitric acid and lead. It is a colourless crystal or white powder and a strong, stable oxidizer. Unlike most other lead(II) salts, it is soluble in water. Its main use from the Middle Ages, under the name plumb dulcis, has been as raw material in the production of many pigments. Since the twentieth century, it has been used industrially as a heat stabilizer in nylon and polyesters, and in coatings of photothermographic paper. Commercial production did not take place until the nineteenth century in Europe, and in the United States until after 1943, with a typical production process of metallic lead or lead oxide in nitric acid. Lead(II) nitrate is toxic and probably carcinogenic to humans. (more...)

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March 9

The KLF were one of the seminal bands of the British acid house movement during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Beginning in 1987, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty released hip hop-inspired and sample-heavy records as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and, on one occasion (the British number one hit single "Doctorin' the Tardis"), as The Timelords. As The KLF, Drummond and Cauty pioneered the genres "stadium house" (rave music with a pop-rock production and sampled crowd noise) and "ambient house". The KLF released a series of international top-ten hits on their own KLF Communications record label, and became the biggest selling singles act in the world for 1991. Their most notorious performance was at the February 1992 Brit Awards, where they fired machine gun blanks into the audience and dumped a dead sheep at the aftershow party. This performance announced The KLF's departure from the music business, and in May 1992 the duo deleted their entire back catalogue. With The KLF's profits, Drummond and Cauty established the K Foundation and sought to subvert the art world, staging an alternative art award for the worst artist of the year and burning a million pounds sterling in The K Foundation burn a million quid. Although Drummond and Cauty remained true to their word of May 1992—the KLF Communications catalogue remains deleted—they have released a small number of new tracks since then, under different names. (more...)

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March 10

The second season cast from Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American cult television series that aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. It was created by writer-director Joss Whedon under his production tag, Mutant Enemy. The series narrative follows Buffy Anne Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), the latest in a line of young women chosen by fate to battle against vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. The series usually reached between two and four million viewers on original airings. Although such ratings are lower than successful shows on the "big four" networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox), they were a success for the relatively new and smaller Warner Brothers Network. Reviews for the show were overwhelmingly positive, and it was ranked #41 on the list of TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. The show's success has led to hundreds of tie-in products, including novels, comics, and video games. The series has received attention in fandom, parody, and academia, and has influenced the direction of other television series. (more...)

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March 11

Facsimile of the Act of February 16

The Act of Independence of Lithuania was signed by the Council of Lithuania on February 16 1918, proclaiming the restoration of an independent State of Lithuania, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. The act was signed by all twenty members of the council, chaired by Jonas Basanavičius. The act of February 16 was the end result of a series of resolutions on the issue, including one issued by the Vilnius Conference and the act of January 8. The path to the act was long and complex because the German Empire exerted pressure on the council to form an alliance. The Council had to carefully manoeuvre between the Germans, whose troops were present in Lithuania, and the demands of the Lithuanian people. While the act's original document has been lost, its legacy continues. The laconic act is the legal basis for the existence of modern Lithuania, both during the interwar period and since 1990. The act formulated the basic constitutional principles that were and still are followed by all Constitutions of Lithuania. The act itself was a key element in the foundation of Lithuania's Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, adopted on March 11, 1990. Lithuania, breaking away from the Soviet Union, stressed that it was simply re-establishing the independent state that existed between the world wars and that the act never lost its legal power. (more...)

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March 12

A Mini Moke

The Mini Moke is a vehicle based on the Mini and designed for the British Motor Corporation by Sir Alec Issigonis. The name comes from "Mini"—the car with which the Moke shares many parts—and "Moke", which is archaic British slang for "donkey". The initial design was a prototype for a light military vehicle in the style of the American Jeep, but its small wheels and low ground clearance made it impractical as an off-road vehicle. It was subsequently offered in a civilian version as a low cost, easily maintained, utility vehicle. The Moke finally achieved success as a beach buggy - becoming a popular 'cult' vehicle in Australia, the U.S. and many tropical holiday resorts. The Moke used engine, transmission and suspension parts identical to the basic Mini. Mokes were first built at BMC's Longbridge, Birmingham plant, but production was soon moved overseas. 14,500 Mokes were produced in the UK between 1964 and 1968, 26,000 in Australia between 1966 and 1981 and 10,000 in Portugal between 1980 and 1993 when production of the Moke ended. (more...)

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March 13

a cricket ball

The Cricket World Cup is the premier international championship of men's One-day International cricket. The event is organised by the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council, with preliminary qualification rounds leading up to a finals tournament which is held every four years. The tournament is one of the world's largest and most viewed sporting events. The first Cricket World Cup contest was organised in England in 1975. The finals of the Cricket World Cup are contested by all ten Test-playing and ODI-playing nations, together with other national teams that qualify through the ICC Trophy competition. Australia has been the most successful of the five teams to have won the tournament, taking three titles. The West Indies have won twice, while India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have each won once. (more...)

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March 14

A traditional marriage supporter

Same-sex marriage in Spain was legalized in 2005. In 2004, the new Socialist government, led by President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, began a campaign for its legalization, which would include adoption by same-sex couples. After much debate, a law permitting same-sex marriage was passed by the Cortes Generales (Spain's bicameral parliament composed of the Senate and the Congress of Deputies). Same-sex marriage officially became legal in Spain on Sunday, 3 July 2005. The ratification of this law has not been devoid of conflict, despite support from 66% of Spaniards. Catholic authorities in particular were adamantly opposed to it, fearing the weakening of the meaning of marriage. After its approval, the conservative People's Party challenged the law in Constitutional Court. Approximately 4,500 same-sex couples have married in Spain during the first year of the law. (more...)

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March 15

Overhead view of Iniki

Hurricane Iniki was the most powerful hurricane to strike the state of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history. Forming during the strong El Niño of 1991-1994, Iniki was one of eleven Central Pacific tropical cyclones during the 1992 season. The eye of Hurricane Iniki passed directly over the island of Kauai on September 11, 1992 as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It was the first hurricane to hit the state since Iwa in the 1982 season, and the first major hurricane since Hurricane Dot in 1959. Iniki caused around $1.8 billion (1992 US dollars) in damage and 6 deaths. At the time, Iniki was among the costliest United States hurricanes and remains one of the costliest hurricanes on record in the eastern Pacific. (more...)

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March 16

Institute Main Building, IIT Kharagpur

The Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur is an autonomous engineering and technology-oriented institute of higher education founded by the Government of India in 1951. The first of the seven IITs to be established, it is officially recognised as an Institute of National Importance by the Government of India and is regarded as one of the best engineering institutions in India. IIT Kharagpur was established to train scientists and engineers after India attained independence in 1947. Its organisational structure as well as its undergraduate admission process is shared by sister IITs. The students and alumni of IIT Kharagpur are referred to as KGPians. Among all IITs, IIT Kharagpur has the largest campus (2,100 acres), the most departments, and the highest student enrollment. IIT Kharagpur is particularly famous for its festivals Illumination and Rangoli, Spring Fest and Kshitij. (more...)

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March 17

The signet of Jocelin

Jocelin was a 12th century Cistercian monk and cleric, who became the fourth Abbot of Melrose before becoming Bishop of Glasgow. He was probably born in the 1130s, and in his teenage years became a monk of Melrose Abbey. He rose in the service of Abbot Waltheof, and, by the time of the short abbacy of Waltheof's successor Abbot William, Jocelin had become prior. Then in 1170 Jocelin himself became abbot, a position he held for four years. Jocelin was responsible for promoting the cult of the emerging Saint Waltheof, and in this had the support of Enguerrand, Bishop of Glasgow. As Bishop of Glasgow, he was a royal official. In this capacity he traveled abroad on several occasions, and performed the marriage ceremony between King William the Lion and Ermengarde de Beaumont, later baptizing their son, the future King Alexander II. Among other things, he has been credited by modern historians as "the founder of the burgh of Glasgow and initiator of the Glasgow fair", as well as being one of the greatest literary patrons in medieval Scotland, commissioning the Life of St Waltheof and the Life of St Kentigen and the Chronicle of Melrose. (more...)

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March 18

The interior of the third and largest theatre to stand at Drury Lane, c. 1808

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is a theatre in the Covent Garden district of London, facing Catherine Street and backing onto Drury Lane. The building standing today is the most recent in a line of four theatres at the same location dating back to 1663. For its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre" and thus one of the most important theatres in the English-speaking world. Through most of that time, it was one of a small handful of patent theatres that were granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London. The first theatre on the location was built on behest of Thomas Killigrew in the early years of the English Restoration. The building that stands today opened in 1812. It has been home to actors as diverse as Shakespearean Edmund Kean, comedian Dan Leno, and musical composer and performer Ivor Novello. Today, the theatre is owned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and generally stages popular musical theatre. It is a Grade I listed building. (more...)

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March 19

A billet of highly enriched uranium

Uranium is a silvery metallic chemical element that has atomic number 92 in the actinide series of the periodic table. The heaviest naturally occurring element, uranium is nearly twice as dense as lead and weakly radioactive. It occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water, and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals such as uraninite. In nature, uranium atoms exist as uranium-238 (99.275%), uranium-235 (0.72%), and a very small amount of uranium-234 (0.0058%). Uranium decays slowly by emitting an alpha particle. The half-life of uranium-238 is about 4.5 billion years and that of uranium-235 is 700 million years, making them useful in dating the age of the earth. Along with thorium and plutonium, it is one of the three fissile elements, meaning it can easily break apart to become lighter elements. This property of uranium-235 and to a lesser degree uranium-233 generates the heat needed to run nuclear reactors and provides the explosive material for nuclear weapons. Both uses rely on the ability of uranium to produce a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Depleted uranium (uranium-238) is used in kinetic energy penetrators and armor plating. (more...)

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March 20

Final Fantasy VII is a console and computer role-playing game developed and published by Square Co., and the seventh installment in the Final Fantasy video game series. It was released in 1997, and it is the first numbered Final Fantasy game for the Sony PlayStation video game console and Microsoft Windows-based personal computers, and is also the first to use 3D computer graphics featuring fully rendered characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. The game's story centers on a group of adventurers as they battle a powerful mega corporation called "Shinra", which is draining the life of the planet to use as an energy source. As the story progresses, conflicts escalate and the world's safety becomes a major concern. A major critical and commercial success, the game remains arguably the most popular title in the series, and is often credited with allowing console-style RPGs to achieve mainstream success outside Japan. The ongoing popularity of the title led Square Enix to produce a series of sequels and prequels in the early-to-mid-2000s under the collective title "Compilation of Final Fantasy VII". (more...)

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March 21

Triceratops was a herbivorous genus of ceratopsid dinosaur that lived during the late Maastrichtian around 68-65 million years ago in what is now North America; it was one of the last dinosaurs to appear before the great K-T extinction event. Bearing a large bony frill and three horns on its large four-legged body, and conjuring similarities with the modern rhinoceros, Triceratops is one of the most recognizable of all dinosaurs. Though it shared the landscape with, and was preyed upon by, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus, it is unclear whether the two battled the way they are commonly depicted in movies and children's dinosaur books. Although no complete skeleton has been found, Triceratops is well known from numerous partial specimens collected since the genus' introduction in 1887. The function of their frills and three distinctive facial horns has long inspired debate. Although traditionally viewed as defensive weapons against predators, the latest theories suggest these features were primarily used in display for courtship and dominance, much like the antlers and horns of modern reindeer, mountain goats or rhinoceros beetles. (more...)

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March 22

The Fourth International has been a communist international organisation working in opposition to both capitalism and Stalinism. Consisting of supporters of Leon Trotsky, it has striven for an eventual victory of the working class to bring about socialism. In Paris in 1938, Trotsky and many of his supporters, having been expelled from the Soviet Union, considered the Comintern to have become lost to "Stalinism" and incapable of leading the international working class towards political power. Thus, they founded their own competing "Fourth International". Throughout the better part of its existence, the Fourth International was hounded by agents of the Soviet secret police, repressed by capitalist countries such as France and the United States, and rejected by followers of the Soviet Union and later Maoism as illegitimate - a position these communists still hold today. The FI suffered a split in 1940 and an even more significant split in 1953. Despite a partial reunification in 1963, more than one group claims to represent the political continuity of the Fourth International. The broad array of Trotskyist Internationals are split over whether the Fourth International still exists and if so, which organisation represents its political continuity. (more...)

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March 23

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is a rock song written by Jagger/Richards. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song as #2 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It also made #1 on VH1's 100 Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time. The song was first released as a single in the United States in May 1965, but was also featured on the American version of The Rolling Stones album, Out of Our Heads, released in July of the same year. "Satisfaction" was a smash hit, giving them their first number one in the United States. The British version of Out of Our Heads did not feature "Satisfaction", as the song was released as a single there in the August of that year — it was not orthodox practice in the United Kingdom at that time to include songs from singles on albums. The single shot to number one in the United Kingdom as well; it was the Rolling Stones' fourth UK number one. Jagger later credited "Satisfaction" for popularising The Rolling Stones, and suggested that its success was due to its reflection of the "spirit of the times". The song's themes included sexual intercourse and anti-commercialism, causing it to be "perceived as an attack on the status quo". (more...)

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March 24

General Wesley Clark

Wesley Clark is a retired four-star general in the U.S. Army. He spent thirty-four years in the Army and the Department of Defense, receiving many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Clark was valedictorian of his class at West Point, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University where he earned a master's degree in Economics, and later graduated from the Command and General Staff College with a master's degree in military science. Clark commanded Operation Allied Force in the Kosovo War during his term as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1997 to 2000. Clark joined the 2004 race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as a drafted candidate on September 17, 2003, but withdrew from the primary race on February 11, 2004, in favor of campaigning for the eventual Democratic nominee, John Kerry. (more...)

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March 25

Ian Thorpe is a former Australian freestyle swimmer who is regarded as one of the greatest freestyle swimmers of all time. He has won five Olympic Games gold medals, the most won by any Australian and, in 2001, became the only person to have won six gold medals in one World Championship. Thorpe is the only person to have been named World Swimmer of the Year four times by Swimming World Magazine, and was the Australian swimmer of the year from 1999 to 2003. His athletic achievements made him Australia's most popular athlete, with his philanthropy and clean image earning him further recognition as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000. At the age of 14, he became the youngest male ever to represent Australia, and his victory in the 400 metre freestyle a few months later at the 1998 Perth World Championships made him the youngest ever individual male World Champion. After the Athens Olympics, Thorpe took a year away from swimming, scheduling a return for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. However, he was forced to withdraw due to a bout of glandular fever. Subsequent training camps in the United States were interrupted, and he announced his retirement from competition on November 21, 2006 at the age of 24, citing waning motivation. (more...)

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March 26

Red officers on their horses during the Finnish Civil War

The Finnish Civil War was a part of the national and social turmoil caused by World War I in Europe. The war was fought from January 27, 1918 to May 15, 1918, between the forces called the "Reds" led by the People's Deputation of Finland under the control of the Finnish Social Democrats, and the forces called the "Whites", led by the Senate of Vaasa representing the Senate of Finland formed by the bourgeois parties. The defeat in World War I and the February and October revolutions in 1917 caused a total collapse of the Russian Empire; and the destruction of the mother country resulted in a corresponding breakdown of Finnish society during 1917. As there were no generally accepted police and army forces to keep order in Finland after March 1917, the left and right began building security groups of their own, leading to the emergence of two independent armed military troops, the White and Red Guards. The Whites were the victors in the war that followed. The Civil War remains the most controversial and emotionally loaded event in the history of modern Finland. Approximately 37,000 people died during the conflict, including casualties at the war fronts, and deaths from political terror campaigns and high prison camp mortality. The turmoil destroyed the economy, split the political apparatus, and divided the Finnish nation for many years. (more...)

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March 27

Title page of the original edition of Aradia

Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches is an 1899 book by Charles Godfrey Leland. The book is an attempt to portray the beliefs and rituals of an underground religious witchcraft tradition in Tuscany that had survived for centuries until Leland's claimed discovery of its existence in the 1890s. Scholars have disputed the veracity of this claim. Still, the book has become one of the foundational texts of Wicca and Neo-paganism. Its fifteen chapters portray the origins, beliefs, rituals and spells of an Italian pagan witchcraft tradition. The central figure of that religion is the goddess Aradia who came to Earth to teach the practice of witchcraft to oppressed peasants in order for them to oppose their feudal oppressors and the Christian church. Leland's work remained obscure until the 1950s, when other theories about, and claims of, "pagan witchcraft" survivals began to be widely discussed. Aradia began to be examined within the wider context of such claims. Scholars are divided, with some dismissing Leland's assertion regarding the origins of the manuscript, and others arguing for its authenticity as a unique documentation of folk beliefs. (more...)

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March 28

A Pashtun girl from Kabul, Afghanistan

The Pashtun people are an ethno-linguistic group with populations primarily in eastern and southern Afghanistan and in the North-West Frontier Province, Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan. The Pashtuns are typically characterized by their Pashto language, adherence to Pashtunwali and Islam. Pashtuns have survived a turbulent history over several centuries, during which they have rarely been politically united. Pashtun martial prowess has been renowned since Alexander the Great's invasion in the fourth century BCE. Pashtuns played a pivotal role in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, as many joined the Mujahideen. The Pashtuns gained world-wide attention with the rise and fall of the Taliban, since they were the main ethnic contingent in the movement. Modern Pashtuns have been prominent in the rebuilding of Afghanistan where they are the largest ethnic group and are an important community in Pakistan, where they are the second-largest ethnic group. The Pashtuns are the world's largest segmentary lineage tribal group. The total population of the group is estimated to be at least 40 million, but an accurate count remains elusive due to the nomadic nature of many tribes, the practice of secluding women and the lack of an official census in Afghanistan since 1979. (more...)

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March 29

The Terminal Tower complex

Cleveland is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of Ohio. It was founded in 1796 near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, and became a manufacturing center owing to its location at the head of numerous canals and railroad lines. With the decline of heavy manufacturing, Cleveland's businesses have diversified into the service economy, including the financial services, insurance, and healthcare sectors. As of the 2000 Census, the city proper had a total population of 478,403, making it the 33rd largest city in the nation. Recent investments have provided the city with tourist attractions in the downtown area, such as Jacobs Field, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Playhouse Square Center. In studies conducted by The Economist in 2005, Cleveland and Pittsburgh were ranked as the most livable cities in the United States, and the city was ranked as the best city for business meetings in the continental U.S. Nevertheless, the city faces continuing challenges, in particular from concentrated poverty in some neighborhoods and difficulties in the funding and delivering of high-quality public education. (more...)

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March 30

Portrait of the tsar from the Tetraevangelia of Ivan Alexander

Ivan Alexander ruled as Emperor (Tsar) of Bulgaria from 1331 to 1371, during the Second Bulgarian Empire. The date of his birth is unknown. He died on February 17, 1371. The long reign of Ivan Alexander is considered a transitional period in Bulgarian medieval history. Ivan Alexander began his rule by dealing with internal problems and external threats from Bulgaria's neighbours, the Byzantine Empire and Serbia, as well as leading his empire into a period of economic recovery and cultural and religious renaissance. However, the emperor was later unable to cope with the mounting incursions of Ottoman forces, Hungarian invasions from the northwest and the Black Death. In an ill-fated attempt to combat these problems, he divided the country between his two sons, thus forcing it to face the imminent Ottoman conquest weakened and divided. (more...)

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March 31

The New Carissa's fuel tanks are ignited

The New Carissa was a freighter that ran aground on a beach near Coos Bay, Oregon, United States, during a storm in February 1999 and subsequently broke apart. An attempt to tow the bow section of the ship out to sea failed when the tow line broke, and the bow was grounded again. Eventually, the bow was successfully towed out to sea and sunk. The stern section remains on the beach near Coos Bay. Fuel on board the ship was burned off in situ, but a significant amount was also spilled from the wreckage, causing ecological damage to the coastline. The United States Coast Guard performed an investigation and found that captain's error was the main cause of the wreck; however, no criminal liability was established and the captain and crew were not charged. There were significant legal and financial consequences for the ship's owners and insurer. There are plans in place to dismantle the stern section at its current site and remove it from the beach. (more...)

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