Faraaz Damji | 4 Dec 12:27 2006

December 4: "Weird Al" Yankovic

   "Weird Al" Yankovic is an American musician, satirist, parodist,
   accordionist, and television producer.  Yankovic is known in particular
   for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and that
   parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts.  Since receiving
   his first accordion lesson a day before his seventh birthday, he has
   recorded more than 150 parody and original songs and sold more comedy
   albums than any other artist.  His works have earned him three Grammy
   Awards amongst nine nominations, three gold and five platinum records
   in the United States.  Yankovic's first Top 10 Billboard album and
   single were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his
   career.  In addition to recording his albums, Yankovic has written and
   starred in his own movie and television show, directed music videos
   for himself and other artists including Ben Folds and Hanson, and had
   guest appearances in television shows such as The Simpsons and Behind
   the Music.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks made the first observation of a
   transit of Venus.

   Scanian War: In an area north of Lund, Sweden, forces led by Swedish
   Field Marshal Simon Grundel-Helmfelt defeated the invading Danish army
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Faraaz Damji | 5 Dec 07:24 2006

December 5: Down syndrome

   Down syndrome is a genetic disorder resulting from the presence of all
   or part of an extra 21st chromosome.  Down syndrome is characterized by
   a combination of major and minor abnormalities of body structure and
   function.  Among features present in nearly all cases are impairment of
   learning and physical growth, and a recognizable facial appearance
   usually identified at birth.  Individuals with Down syndrome have lower
   than average cognitive ability, normally ranging from mild to moderate
   retardation.  Some individuals may have low intelligence overall, but
   will generally have some amount of developmental disability, such as a
   tendency toward concrete thinking or naïveté.  The incidence of Down
   syndrome is estimated at 1 per 800 to 1 per 1000 births.  The common
   physical features of Down syndrome also appear in people with a
   standard set of chromosomes.  They include a simian crease, almond
   shaped eyes, shorter limbs, speech impairment, and protruding tongue.
   Early childhood intervention, screening for common problems, medical
   treatment where indicated, a conducive family environment, and
   vocational training can improve the overall development of children
   with Down syndrome.  While some of the genetic limitations of Down
   Syndrome cannot be overcome, education and proper care, initiated at
   any time, can improve quality of life.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the
   island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
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Faraaz Damji | 6 Dec 04:43 2006

December 6: Mount Rushmore

   Mount Rushmore is a United States presidential memorial that
   represents the first 150 years of the history of the United States of
   America with the 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of former U.S. Presidents
   George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham
   Lincoln.  The entire memorial covers 1,278 acres (5.17 km²), and is
   5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.  It is managed by the National
   Park Service, a bureau of the United States Department of the
   Interior.  The memorial attracts around 2 million people annually.  The
   mountain known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers, was renamed
   after Charles E.  Rushmore, a prominent New York lawyer, in 1885.  The
   project of carving Mount Rushmore originally started with the purpose
   of increasing tourism in the Black Hills region of South Dakota.  After
   long negotiations involving a Congressional delegation and President
   Calvin Coolidge, the project received Congressional approval.  Under
   the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the carving started in 1927
   and ended in 1941.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica was published.

   Halifax Explosion: A ship in Halifax Harbour carrying trinitrotoluene
   (TNT) and picric acid caught fire after a collision with another ship
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Faraaz Damji | 8 Dec 01:57 2006

December 8: Macedonia (terminology)

   The definition of Macedonia is a major source of confusion due to the
   overlapping use of the term to describe geographical, political and
   historical areas, languages and peoples.  Ethnic groups inhabiting the
   area use different terminology for the same entity, or the same
   terminology for different entities.  Geographically, no single
   definition of its borders or the names of its subdivisions is accepted
   by all scholars and ethnic groups.  Demographically, it is mainly
   inhabited by four ethnic groups, three of which self-identify as
   Macedonians: One Slavic group does so at a national level, while
   another, Bulgarians, as well as a Greek one do so at a regional level.
   Linguistically, the names and origins of the languages and dialects
   spoken in the region are a source of controversy.  Politically, the use
   of the name Macedonia has led to a diplomatic dispute between Greece
   and the Republic of Macedonia.  Despite intervention from the United
   Nations, the dispute is still pending full resolution.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   The Royal Opera House opened at Covent Garden in London.

   Michel Ney, Marshal of France, was executed by a firing squad near
   Paris' Jardin du Luxembourg for supporting Napoleon Bonaparte.
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Faraaz Damji | 11 Dec 08:10 2006

December 11: Green and Golden Bell Frog

   The Green and Golden Bell Frog is a ground-dwelling tree frog native
   to eastern Australia.  Measuring 11 centimetres (4.3 in) in length, the
   Green and Golden Bell Frog is one of the largest Australian frogs.
   Many populations, particularly in the Sydney region, are in areas of
   frequent disturbance, including golf courses, disused industrial land,
   brick pits and landfill areas.  Once one of the most common frogs in
   south-east Australia, the Green and Golden Bell Frog has undergone
   major population declines, leading to its current classification as
   globally vulnerable.  Population numbers have continued to decline and
   major threats include habitat loss and degradation, pollution,
   introduced species, and parasites and pathogens, such as the amphibian
   chytrid fungus.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last independent Prince of Wales to rule in
   Wales, was killed in an ambush.

   Geneva successfully repelled a late night attack by the combined
   forces of Duke Charles Emmanuel of Savoy and King Philip III of Spain,
   an event commemorated annually during the Fête de l'Escalade.

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Faraaz Damji | 12 Dec 04:36 2006

December 12: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties of India

   The Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and Fundamental Duties of
   India are sections of the Constitution of India that prescribe the
   fundamental obligations of the State to the citizens, and the duties
   of the citizens with respect to the State.  These sections comprise a
   constitutional bill of rights, guidelines for government
   policy-making, and the behaviour and conduct of citizens.  These
   sections are considered vital elements of the constitution, which was
   developed between 1947 and 1949 by the Constituent Assembly of India.
   The Fundamental Rights are defined as the basic human rights of all
   citizens.  The Directive Principles of State Policy are guidelines for
   the framing of laws by the government.  The Fundamental Duties are
   defined as the moral obligations of all citizens to help to promote a
   spirit of patriotism and to uphold the unity of India.  Like the
   Directive Principles, they are not legally enforceable.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   The Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin
   saw the Blessed Virgin Mary outside of modern-day Mexico City.

   Belo Horizonte, the first planned city of Brazil, was inaugurated.
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Faraaz Damji | 14 Dec 01:29 2006

December 14: Mormon handcart pioneers

   The Mormon handcart pioneers were participants in the migration of The
   Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Salt Lake City, Utah
   who used handcarts to transport their belongings.  The Mormon handcart
   movement began in 1856 and lasted until 1860.  Motivated to join their
   fellow Church members but lacking funds for full ox or horse teams,
   nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers from England, Wales, and Scandinavia made
   the journey to Utah in 10 handcart companies.  Although fewer than ten
   percent of the 1847–68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey
   west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important
   symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of
   the pioneer generation.  The handcart pioneers continue to be
   recognized and honored in events such as Pioneer Day, Church pageants,
   and similar commemorations.  The handcart treks were a familiar theme
   in 19th century Mormon folk music and have been a theme in LDS
   fiction, such as Gerald Lund's historical novel, Fire of the Covenant,
   and Orson Scott Card's science-fiction short story, "West."

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   Counter-Reformation: The Council of Trent, an ecumenical council
   convoked by Pope Paul III in response to the growth of Protestantism,
   opened in Trento, Italy.

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Faraaz Damji | 15 Dec 08:51 2006

December 15: Enzyme inhibitor

   Enzyme inhibitors are molecules that bind to enzymes and decrease
   their activity.  Since blocking an enzyme's activity can kill a
   pathogen or correct a metabolic imbalance, many drugs are enzyme
   inhibitors.  Inhibitor binding is either reversible or irreversible.
   Irreversible inhibitors usually react with the enzyme and change it
   chemically.  These inhibitors modify key amino acid residues needed for
   enzymatic activity.  In contrast, reversible inhibitors bind
   non-covalently and different types of inhibition are produced
   depending on whether these inhibitors bind the enzyme, the
   enzyme-substrate complex, or both.  Their discovery and improvement is
   an active area of research in biochemistry and pharmacology.  A
   medicinal enzyme inhibitor is often judged by its specificity (its
   lack of binding to other proteins) and its potency (its dissociation
   constant, which indicates the concentration needed to inhibit the
   enzyme).  A high specificity and potency ensure that a drug will have
   few side effects and thus low toxicity.  Enzyme inhibitors also occur
   naturally and are involved in the regulation of metabolism.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution,
   collectively known as the United States Bill of Rights, were ratified.

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Faraaz Damji | 16 Dec 06:00 2006

December 16: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

   Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.  Zarqawi took
   responsibility, on several audiotapes, for numerous acts of terrorism
   in Iraq and Jordan.  These acts include suicide bombings, and the
   killing of soldiers, police officers, and civilians.  As an Islamist
   that identified with the Salafi movement, Zarqawi opposed the presence
   of United States and Western military forces in the Islamic world and
   opposed the West's support for and the existence of Israel.  In
   September 2005, he reportedly declared "all-out war" on Shia Muslims
   in Iraq and is believed responsible for dispatching numerous Al-Qaeda
   suicide bombers throughout Iraq, especially to areas with large
   concentrations of Shia civilians.  As the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq he
   is suspected of responsibility for thousands of deaths.  Zarqawi was
   killed in a US airstrike in June, 2006.

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   Admiral Yi Sun Sin's Korean navy defeated the Japanese fleet in the
   Battle of Noryang Point, the final naval battle of the Imjin War.

   The Protectorate: Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the
   Commonwealth of England.

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Faraaz Damji | 17 Dec 05:08 2006

December 17: Sound film

   A sound film is a motion picture with synchronized sound, as opposed
   to a silent film.  The first known public exhibition of projected sound
   films took place in Paris in 1900, but it would be decades before
   reliable synchronization was achieved in a commercially practical way.
   The first commercial screening of movies with fully synchronized sound
   took place in the United States in April 1923.  In the early years
   after the introduction of sound, films incorporating synchronized
   dialogue were known as "talkies." The first feature-length movie
   originally presented as a talkie was The Jazz Singer, released in
   October 1927.  By the early 1930s, the talkies were a global
   phenomenon.  In the United States, they helped secure Hollywood's
   position as one of the world's most powerful cultural/commercial

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Today's selected anniversaries:

   American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No.
   11, expelling Jews from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

   Orville and Wilbur Wright aboard the Wright Flyer conducted the first
   successful flight of a powered fixed-wing aircraft.

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