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Photo: Semper Fido

Photo: Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough

Cpl. Chesty XIII stands at attention and greets Marines and their families during a holiday party at Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Earlier this year, Lance Cpl. Chesty XIII was promoted to the rank of corporal by Col. Andrew H. Smith. Cpl. Chesty XIII is the latest in a long line of English bulldogs that have served as the Marine Corps’ official Mascot. His predecessor, Chesty XII, ascended to the rank of sergeant during six years of service despite what was described as “a spotty disciplinary record.”

The first Marine mascot, an English bulldog named Private Jiggs was officially sworn into service in 1922. Private Jiggs was quickly promoted through the ranks to sergeant major. He died in 1927 and was given a full military service.

Sgt. Jiggs in 1925, after rising from the rank of private to corporal to sergeant to sergeant major in just 3 years. Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: ‘A date which will live in infamy’

The forward magazine of the USS Shaw explodes during the second attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Photo: U.S. Navy

On this day 69 years ago, at 7:55 a.m. Hawaiian time, 360 Japanese war planes descended on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and attacked the Pacific fleet. Five battleships, three destroyers and seven other ships were damaged or sunk. More than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed with another 1,200 wounded. The day after the surprise attack, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941,  a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” The United States declared war on Japan, and a few days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The United States officially entered World War II.

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Photo: Eat. Sleep. Charm. Repeat.

Photo: San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s newest cheetah cub, Kiburi, weighs only 1.4 pounds but is a super-heavyweight charmer. Kiburi, which means “proud” in Swahili, must be hand raised after his mother Makena showed signs of abandoning him shortly after his birth on November 14. He has become a star at the Safari Park nursery, where visitors can watch him eat and play, but most often sleep, which he does 20 to 22 hours a day. Recently, he’s been learning to play and practicing his pounce.

You can watch Kiburi in action on the zoo’s website.

Photo: New kind of life in the poison lake

Photo: Bert Dennison via Flickr/bertdennisonphotography

Mono Lake just outside of Yosemite National Park in California is a hauntingly beautiful place. In 1941, water that fed the lake through tributary streams was diverted 350 miles south to meet the water needs of Los Angeles. Without its natural sources of fresh water, the volume of Mono Lake dropped to half. This caused its salinity level to double and led to the collapse of the lake ecosystem. Exposed lake beds produced toxic alkali dust storms on windy days.

One of the oldest lakes in North America had, in a very short period of time, became a poisoned alkaline lake containing chlorides, carbonates and sulfates. At one point, it was three times as salty as the ocean. In 1994, the California State Water Resources Control Board issued an order to protect and restore Mono Lake and its tributary streams, and since then, the water level in the lake has steadily risen. Water restoration efforts are estimated to last 20 years.

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Photo: Taking a stand by sitting down

Rosa Parks riding on a Montgomery Area Transit System bus in 1956. Photo: AP

On this day 55 years ago, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks violated a Montgomery, Alabama, city ordinance requiring black people to ride in the “colored” section of a public bus. Parks, 42, was actually sitting in the designated section, but because the bus was full, the bus driver demanded she and three other riders give up their seats to whites. When she refused, the driver, James F. Blake, had her arrested. Her act of civil disobedience led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ultimately succeeded in a court ruling desegregating public transportation in Montgomery and sparked the nationwide civil rights movement. Almost 10 years later in 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which ended racial segregation and guaranteed full access to all public facilities throughout the United States.

Photo: A human canvas

A man is tattooed during "Tattooame," an exhibition held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from Nov. 26 to Nov. 28, 2010. Photo: AP/Natacha Pisarenko

Photo: Santa’s new ride

Santa debuted his new sleigh last year. Photo: AP Charles Sykes

What better way to celebrate Black Friday and the start of the holiday season than with a debate. Last year, while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I saw that Santa’s sleigh, the highlight of the parade and the “official” symbol of the start of the holiday season, had for the first time in 40 years, been changed. As described by a Macy’s press release, the new sleigh is “depicting Santa’s travel on Christmas Eve, we see good old St. Nick as he leaves the North Pole on his magical journey. The North Pole is showcased by Santa’s Toyshop home and by a giant ice and granite obelisk that is supported by ice sculptures of a Walrus and a Polar Bear. Santa’s Sleigh is a colossal float that measures 60-feet long, 22-feet wide and is 3 1/2 Stories tall. As Santa leaves the North Pole he flies over his home and begins his worldwide voyage sure to make children of all ages, BELIEVE!”

Well, I didn’t believe. I am a fan of the old sleigh. It was a gorgeous carriage, 50 feet long, lined with plush green velvet and trimmed with Swiss silver bells. It was the shape of a winter snow goose, with a crown around its neck and a bell in its beak. Pulling the sleigh were 12.5-f00t-tall reindeer with exaggerated 8-foot antlers. Behind it was a 25-foot wreath.

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Photo: The perfect turkey

This handsome fellow is a broad-breasted bronze turkey. The breed is the product of crossing domestic turkeys brought to America by colonists with the native wild turkey. There are two varieties of this turkey: the standard, or unimproved, bronze which conforms to the breed’s standard of perfection established in 1874 by the American Poultry Association, and the much larger broad-breasted bronze. Because of their greater size, broad-breasted bronze turkeys have lost the ability to mate naturally and all of the birds alive today are created and maintained entirely by artificial insemination.

Photo: Journey to the Golden Temple

In Amritsar, India, Sikh devotees wait to pay homage at the Harmandir Sahib on Nov. 21, 2010, in celebration of the religion's founder, Guru Nanak Dev. Also known as the Golden Temple, it is Sikhism's most revered shrine. Photo: AP/Prabhjot Gill