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twainIt is sometimes said regretfully that many Americans today get their “slant” on the news from TV’s late-night comedians. But today’s “baby boomers” and Generation X-ers and Y-ers are not among the first Americans to find their politics strained through the filter of humor. More than a century before Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert began coming into people’s living rooms via broadcast and cable television, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known to readers around the world as Mark Twain, was infiltrating the same sanctuary via newspapers, magazines, and books. In a 2008 article for Time magazine, humorist Roy Blount, Jr. showed just how topical, yet timeless, Twain’s humor was and is.

Twain War PrayerThis short story by Mark Twain was published posthumously in 1923.

Planned ParenthoodPlanned Parenthood’s annual report for fiscal 2008-09 shows that the nation’s premier abortion provider received a banner $363.2 million in government funding through grants and contracts over its latest reporting period, a $13.6 million increase over the group’s federal take in fiscal 2007-08.

AflaqThough the majority of Americans have never heard of him, one hundred years ago a key figure in Islamic socialism was born in Damascus — most scholars believe a few days after Christmas. His name is Michael Aflaq (photo at left). Born of Orthodox Christian parents, Aflaq received a proper middle class education in Syria before studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. What did he study? That strange hybrid pseudo-science so common then as today — “political economy,” the salient parts of which were socialism and Arab nationalism.

December 27 marks the birthday of the Father of Celestial Mechanics, Johannes Kepler. Born in 1571, he went on to become one of the most important scientists in the field of astronomy as the first person to explain the laws of planetary motion. He also made important advances in the fields of optics, geometry and calculus. Kepler is credited with explaining how the moon influences the tides and with determining the exact year of Christ's birth.
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