Volume 07, Number 06 — June 2007


Visit the all-new WAforKids.com, the online home of The World Almanac for Kids - completely redesigned, with a cool new look, loads of fascinating facts, and more homework help in dozens of subjects, including Animals, Science, Sports, and Nations of the World. We’ll be adding even more articles, games, and exclusive content that can only be unlocked with special codes in the brand-new, fully-updated World Almanac for Kids 2008. Pick up your copy on June 26th, wherever books are sold - or pre-order now, to get your copy as soon as it’s available.

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What's in this issue?

June Events
June Holidays — National and International
This Day In History — June
Current Birthdays
Travel - Experiencing a "Truly Asian" City
Obituaries - May 2007
Special Feature: The Marshall Plan
Chronology - Events of May 2007
Sports Feature: How Kaz Matsui Found His Swing
Science in the News: Winging It, Swift Style
Offbeat News Stories
Links of the Month
Quote of the Month
How to reach us


June Events

June 1-2 - Portland Rose Festival (Oregon)
June 2 - Mural-in-a-Day (Toppenish, WA)
June 6-10 - The National Tournament (Calgary, AB, Canada)
June 7-10 - Chicago Blues Festival (Illinois)
June 7-10 - Superman Celebration (Metropolis, IL)
June 8-9 - Banana Split Festival (Wilmington, OH)
June 8-10 - Take a Kid Fishing Weekend (St. Paul, MN)
June 9 - Belmont Stakes (Elmont, NY)
June 9 - The Wicket World of Croquet® (Indianapolis, IN)
June 14-17 - U.S. Open Championship golf tournament (Oakmont, PA)
June 14-17 - Youth Cowboy Poetry Weekend (Boys Ranch, TX)
June 15-17 - Huck Finn’s Jubilee (Victorville, CA)
June 21 - First Day of Summer (Northern Hemisphere)
June 21-24 - Watermelon Thump with World Champion Seed-Spitting Contest (Luling, TX)
June 22-23 - Delmarva Chicken Festival (Federalsburg, MD)
June 22 - Take Your Dog to Work Day
June 25-July 8 - Wimbledon tennis tournament (London, England)
June 26-27 - Windjammer Days (Boothbay Harbor, ME)
June 27-July 8 - Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Washington, DC)
June 29-July 1 - Great International Chicken Wing Society Cook-Off (Reno, NV)


June Holidays — National and International

June 14 - Flag Day
June 17 - Father’s Day
June 19 - Dragon Boat Festival (China)
June 19 - Juneteenth/Emancipation Day (Texas/Florida)


Did You Know?

June has been named Children's Awareness Month, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, National Rivers Month, and National Safety Month.

This Day In History — June

Day Year Event
Day Year Event
01 1638 An earthquake rocks Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts, the first such event to be recorded and described in writing in the United States.
02 1946 Italy becomes a democratic republic when the monarchy is abolished by popular referendum.
03 1937 The Duke of Windsor, who abdicated the throne of England in December 1936, marries American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson in France.
04 1878 Great Britain and Turkey sign an agreement under which Britain receives complete control of Cyprus for a rental of about $500,000 yearly, and Turkey retains nominal title.
05 1594 Dutch navigator Willem Barents sails from the Netherlands in search of a northeast passage to Asia.
06 1944 D-Day: U.S. and Allied forces invade Europe at Normandy on the north coast of France, in the greatest amphibious landing in history.
07 1975 Sony introduces the VCR, selling the Betamax for $995.
08 1789 James Madison proposes adding the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.
09 1934 Donald Duck first appears in a cartoon, "The Wise Little Hen."
10 1898 U.S. troops land in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
11 1770 Captain James Cook discovers the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.
12 1963 Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith in Jackson, MS.
13 1967 Thurgood Marshall is appointed to the Supreme Court, becoming the first black justice.
14 1919 Capt. John Allcock and Lt. Arthur W. Brown leave St. Johns, Newfoundland, for County Galway, Ireland, in a Vickers Vimy bomber, making the first nonstop transatlantic flight.
15 1752 Benjamin Franklin, flying a kite in a thunderstorm, proves that lightning is electricity.
16 1884 The first U.S. roller coaster begins operation at Coney Island, New York.
17 1970 The House of Representatives approves a measure lowering the voting age to 18.
18 1812 Congress declares war on the British, beginning the War of 1812.
19 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed for committing wartime espionage.
20 1892 Lizzie Borden is found not guilty of the hacking death of her father and stepmother in Fall River, MA.
21 1982 John W. Hinckley Jr., who shot Pres. Ronald Reagan and 3 other men in 1981, is found not guilty by reason of insanity.
22 1897 Queen Victoria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.
23 1948 The USSR halts all surface traffic into West Berlin.
24 1509 In England, Henry VIII is crowned king.
25 1975 Mozambique becomes independent.
26 1963 John F. Kennedy, visiting a divided Berlin, speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner."
27 1844 Mormon leader Joseph Smith is killed by a mob in Carthage, IL.
28 1914 Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife are murdered in Sarajevo, touching off a conflict that escalates into World War I.
29 1941 NY Yankee Joe DiMaggio breaks the American League record of hitting safely in 41 straight games.
30 1934 In the "Night of the Long Knives," German dictator Adolf Hitler has Ernst Röhm and other SA dissidents murdered.

June Birthdays

Day Year  
Day Year  
01 1947 Ron Wood, musician and member of the Rolling Stones (London, England)
02 1937 Sally Kellerman, actress (Long Beach, CA)
03 1987 Lalaine (Varaga-Paras), actress (Burbank, CA)
04 1966 Cecilia Bartoli, opera singer (Rome, Italy)
05 1949 Ken Follett, novelist (Cardiff, Wales)
06 1939 Marian Wright Edelman, children's rights activist (Bennettsville, SC)
07 1954 Louise Erdrich, author (Little Falls, MN)
08 1937 Joan Rivers, comedian/TV personality (Brooklyn, NY)
09 1915 Les Paul, musician/singer (Waukesha, WI)
10 1959 Eliot Spitzer, NY governor (Bronx, NY)
11 1932 Athol Fugard, playwright (Middleburg, South Africa)
12 1924 George H.W. Bush, 41st president of the United States (Milton, MA)
13 1935 Christo (Javacheff), conceptual artist (Babrovo, Bulgaria)
14 1969 Steffi Graf, tennis player (Bruhl, West Germany)
15 1973 Neil Patrick Harris, actor (Albuquerque, NM)
16 1938 Joyce Carol Oates, novelist/short-story writer/critic (Lockport, NY)
17 1980 Venus Williams, tennis player (Lynwood, CA)
18 1937 Gail Godwin, writer (Birmingham, AL)
19 1962 Paula Abdul, dancer/choreographer (San Fernando, CA)
20 1967 Nicole Kidman, actress (Honolulu, HI)
21 1982 Prince William of England (London, England)
22 1971 Kurt Warner, football player (Burlington, IA)
23 1957 Frances McDormand, actress (Chicago, IL)
24 1961 Ralph Reed, political adviser (Portsmouth, VA)
25 1963 George Michael, musician (London, England)
26 1974 Derek Jeter, baseball player (Pequannock, NJ)
27 1930 H. Ross Perot, entrepreneur and presidential candidate (Texarkana, TX)
28 1947 Mark Helprin, author (New York, NY)
29 1957 Maria Conchita Alonso, actress (Cienfuegos, Cuba)
30 1917 Lena Horne, singer/actress (Brooklyn, NY)

Travel - Experiencing a "Truly Asian" City

Imagine a tropical mix of mountains, coastal plains, and stunning beaches. That’s the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. The nation also features a remarkable cultural mix - ethnic Chinese, Indians, Thais, and other groups supplement the majority Malaysia fact that local tourist officials rely on to promote their country as "Truly Asia." The year 2007 offers a special reason to visit, or dream about visiting. It marks the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence from Britain. There’s a crowded calendar of events, many of them clustered around "Merdeka Day" - "Independence Day" on August 31. A good focal point for exploration is the capital, Kuala Lumpur. With a population of about 1.2 million, it’s a big (but not super-big), dynamic, and relatively safe Asian metropolis with striking attractions, great shopping, and a delicious blend of cuisines.

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Travelblog.org

Petronas Twin Towers

Old and new

KL, as it’s familiarly known, is not very old. Founded in the mid-19th century as a tin-mining settlement, it has turned into a major economic center in recent decades, with a tilt toward things mega. Along with traces of British colonial architecture, there are buildings reflecting the styles of various ethnic groups, along with sleek modern edifices.

The stainless steel and glass Petronas Twin Towers, which at 1483 ft (451.9 m) together rank as the second tallest building in the world, incorporate traditional Islamic elements in their design. The basic floor plan, for example, is shaped like an eight-pointed star formed by two interlocking squares. The two towers are linked by a "sky bridge" on the 41st floor that offers a bird’s-eye view of the city. Another way to get a view is to climb onto the Eye on Malaysia, a huge Ferris wheel reminiscent of the England’s London Eye. Erected at Lake Titiwangsa as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, it lifts you 200 ft (60 m) above the ground.

For an even better vista, you can visit the observation deck of the Menara Kuala Lumpur, or KL Tower, which stands on a hill and rises 1381 ft (421 m), making it one of the world’s tallest telecommunications towers.

Shopping and more

Down below, shoppers will find venues for all tastes, from ultramodern complexes to street-side stalls. The huge Berjaya Times Square Shopping Mall includes Cosmo’s World Theme Park, the country’s biggest indoor amusement park. For a more traditional experience, visit Petaling Street in the heart of KL’s Chinatown, especially at night.

Just north of Chinatown is the art deco style Central Market, a convenient place to buy, or learn about, Malaysian arts and crafts.

Go a bit further north and you’ll come to Merdeka ("Independence") Square, at the core of the original KL. Here the architecture has a British colonial flavor. The square is the site of one of the world’s tallest flagpoles, measuring 312 ft (95 m) high.

A charming example of British colonial architecture, in a Moorish style replete with arches and minarets, is the old railway station, southeast of Chinatown. The National Art Gallery is close by. Kuala Lumpur also has its share of green spaces. One of the most notable is the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, located in the heart of the city, at the base of the KL Tower. Visitors to this 26-acre (10.5-ha) park can sample a segment of unspoiled tropical rain forest.

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Malaysiabudgethotel.com

Sri Mahamariamman Temple

A bigger centrally located green oasis is the 226-acre (91.6-ha) Lake Gardens, or Taman Tasik Perdana, which encompasses an artificial lake and is more than a century old. Here you can find orchid and hibiscus gardens (the hibiscus is the national flower), along with an aviary, butterfly park, and deer park, whose denizens include the strikingly small mouse deer. Nearby are such attractions as a planetarium, the National Monument, and the National Museum. The National Monument, said to be one of the biggest free-standing bronze sculptures in the world, honors Malayans who died in World War II and the struggle against the Communists in the 1950s. It was designed by the American sculptor Felix de Weldon; he also was responsible for the famous Marine Corps War Memorial in Virginia that shows the raising of the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. The National Museum offers exhibits on Malaysian culture and history.

Religious traditions

Another pleasant area for a stroll is a bit of land at the junction of the Gombak and Klang (Kelang) rivers. Here is where KL was born. It’s now the site of the city’s oldest mosque, Masjid Jamek, built in an Indian Mogul style. The neighborhood is mainly Indian in character.

The Masjid Jamek contrasts with the very modern, and very big, Masjid Negara (National Mosque), situated in several acres of gardens north of the old railway station. It has a minaret 240 ft (73 m) high and a dome in the shape of a star with 18 points, representing the country’s 13 states and the five pillars of Islam.

A notable religious shrine of a different sort is the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, a highly ornate 19th-century Hindu temple in the Chinatown neighborhood. Also not to be missed is the Chinese Thean Hou Temple, a much newer (1980s) structure at the top of a hill, with a striking view of the KL skyline. The large temple reflects a mix of Taoist and Buddhist influences but is devoted primarily to the Heavenly Mother, Thean Hou.

Websites
Eye on Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur City Guide
Kuala Lumpur Tourism Action Council
Tourism Malaysia
Visit Malaysia Year 2007


Did You Know?

Greece has an income tax burden of 1 percent, among the lowest in the world.

Obituaries in May 2007

Alexander, Lloyd, 83, author of fantasy novels for young adults, notably the five-volume Prydain Chronicles, inspired by Welsh mythology; Drexel Hill, PA, May 17, 2007.

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NASA

Astronaut Walter M. Schirra Jr. in Mercury pressure suit with model of Mercury capsule behind him, October 1962.

De Gennes, Pierre-Gilles, 74, French scientist who won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Physics for research leading to the development of liquid-crystal-display (LCD) technology; Orsay, France, May 18, 2007.

Falwell, Rev. Jerry, 73, Southern Baptist minister and broadcaster whose Moral Majority organization played a key role in the emergence of the Christian conservative movement as a powerful force in U.S. politics; Lynchburg, VA, May 15, 2007.

King, Yolanda, 51, actress and social activist who was the oldest of the four children of civil rights leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King; Santa Monica, CA, May 15, 2007.

Maiman, Theodore H., 79, physicist who developed the first workable laser, which he publicly displayed in 1960; Vancouver, BC, May 5, 2007.

Reilly, Charles Nelson, 76, award-winning Broadway actor and director, and a ubiquitous presence on television game shows and talk shows in the 1970s and 1980s; known for his off-color humor, he was one of the first American TV personalities to project a distinctly gay image; Los Angeles, CA, May 25, 2007.

Schirra, Wally, 84, one of the seven original Mercury Seven astronauts; the fifth American in space, he was the only astronaut to fly in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs; La Jolla, CA, May 3, 2007.

Wyler, Gretchen, 75, actress and dancer in Broadway musicals; she also often appeared on U.S. television and was long known as a fierce campaigner for animal rights; Camarillo, CA, May 27, 2007.


Special Feature: The Marshall Plan

Joe Gustaitis

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National Archives

Europe, Germany in particular, suffered terrible losses in World War II. Above: A line of people walk past a pile of building rubble in Germany, c. 1948.

On June 5, 1947 - 60 years ago - U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave an address at Harvard University, in which he outlined his plan for what was called the European Recovery Program (ERP), a proposal that would become much better known as the Marshall Plan. This project, one of the most ambitious ever undertaken by the United States, was designed to promote economic recovery in a Europe just emerging from World War II.

A Troubled Continent

The winter of 1946-47 was one of the worst in European memory; millions were threatened with starvation, and housing and jobs were in dangerously short supply. World War II, which ended in 1945, had been the most destructive war in history, and Europe, Germany in particular, paid a terrible price. In that nation, millions of people had been killed or injured, and thousands more had been left without food and shelter. Many of the country's historic cities were reduced to rubble. In addition, the German currency was so weak that cigarettes, rather than the Reichsmark, had become the country's common currency.

The rest of Europe also suffered heavy losses. It has been estimated that about 20 million Europeans died during the conflict (across the globe some 55 million people perished, of whom 30 million were civilians.) At least 13 million soldiers died in the Soviet Union, plus another seven million citizens. Almost one fifth of Poland's population perished, while the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust led to the deaths of more than five million Jews. France, Italy, and the Netherlands were equally devastated. Prior to the Marshall Plan, the U.S. had sent aid to war-devastated Europe, including military personnel, food, and more than $9 billion in financial aid, but U.S. efforts did not help to alleviate Europe's suffering. As time passed, it appeared as if the situation was becoming worse.

The U.S. government had more than one reason to introduce the ERP. It was regarded as the best way to prevent Europe, an important trading partner, from collapsing. In addition, the U.S. wanted to ensure that Western European countries would not be influenced by the Soviet Union or turn to communist systems of government for rebuilding their nations. The Marshall Plan was the U.S. government's answer to these dilemmas.

The Truman Doctrine

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Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum & Library

U.S. President Harry S. Truman

When war ended in Europe and in Asia, peace returned, but the atmosphere was anything but peaceful. The Soviet Union, once a key ally in the effort to crush the regime of Adolf Hitler, was now opposing the West on many fronts. In March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that an "iron curtain" had dropped across Europe and that the continent had become divided into the democracies of the West and the Communist nations of the East.

In the opinion of the U.S. diplomat George Kennan, Soviet aggression arose because that country's leader, Joseph Stalin, feared being encircled by "hostile capitalist" countries. In order to prevent that from happening, Kennan believed Stalin sought to overthrow the western European democracies and replace them with Communist regimes. Kennan advocated a policy that became known as "containment," under which the U.S. would vigorously challenge aggressive Soviet actions wherever they occurred. One of the first manifestations of the containment policy took place in Greece, where Communist forces were battling for control, and in Turkey, which was under pressure to cede some of its territory to the Soviet Union.

In March 1947, U.S. President Harry Truman asked the U.S. Congress to approve $400 million in military and financial aid for Greece and Turkey, saying, "The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms. If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world - and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation." Truman warned that "totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States." Although this particular request concerned just two countries, the strategy, which became known as the "Truman Doctrine," was logically extended to any threatened democracy and marked a watershed in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. was becoming a major player on the international stage - a state of affairs that has endured ever since.

Outlining the Plan

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Library of Congress

George C. Marshall served as U.S. army chief of staff under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and secretary of state under President Harry Truman.

Marshall, who had served as U.S. army chief of staff under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and secretary of state under Truman, visited Europe in early 1947 and was troubled by what he witnessed, stating in a nationally broadcast radio speech that "The patient is sinking while the doctors deliberate." He began his speech at Harvard by stating that "the world situation is very serious." He then described the current state of Europe and said, "It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos."

Marshall pointed out that democratic institutions could take hold only under revived economic conditions. He stated that the United States was not interested in drawing up the revival effort "unilaterally," stating that, "this [the revival effort] is the business of the Europeans." He concluded his speech by saying, "With foresight, and a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibilities which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome."

The Marshall Plan was closely linked to the Truman Doctrine; the key part of the plan was the rebuilding of Germany. "Without a revival of German production," Marshall said, "there can be no revival of Europe's economy." Although other European nations were concerned about rebuilding Germany, once they recognized that the Marshall Plan would benefit their economies as well, they accepted it.

In June 1947, a delegation from the Soviet Union traveled to Paris, France, to discuss the plan with diplomats from Great Britain and France. Three days later, however, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov rejected the offer, complaining that "The European countries would find themselves placed under control and would lose their former economic and national independence because it so pleases certain strong powers...The Soviet Government...rejects this plan as being altogether unsatisfactory and incapable of yielding any positive results..." As Stalin considered the plan to be little more than a U.S. plot to bring Europe under American control, he refused to participate and made sure that the Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe rejected it as well. In essence, Europe was becoming divided into two blocs of nations, a state of affairs that endured throughout the Cold War and lasted until the 1990s.

Representatives from the 16 nations that did choose to participate in the plan met in Paris on July 12, 1947. During that four-day meeting, the European representatives set up the Committee for European Economic Cooperation (CEEC), a group that discussed what needed to be done in Europe and estimated how much financial aid would be needed from the U.S. The CEEC's four-year plan, which was presented to the U.S. in September, called for almost $16 billion in American aid over four years (Congress actually appropriated $13.3 billion). The report also detailed four main objectives - increasing production of coal, electricity, and steel; balancing national budgets and controlling inflation; increasing exports to the U.S.; and encouraging more cooperation between countries.

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Library of Congress

On July 12, 1947, representatives from the 16 participating European nations met in Paris, France, to discuss the Marshall Plan.

In December 1947, Truman asked Congress for $17 billion to fund the Marshall Plan for four years, stating that it was necessary to supply the funds in order to decide whether "free nations of the world can look forward with hope to a peaceful and prosperous future as independent states, or whether they must live in poverty and in fear of selfish totalitarian aggression."

Under the terms of the plan, the U.S. would help Europe by providing grants and loans, more than six million tons of steel, 66 million tons of coal, farm and electrical machinery, food, and petroleum. In return, the participating nations would sign agreements with the U.S. and each other, agreeing to cooperate so that all participating countries could recover. The European countries also agreed to sell important materials to the U.S. at a reasonable price, including tin, industrial diamonds, rubber, copper, lead, and zinc. A new U.S. agency named the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) would be set up to manage the plan. In Europe, an agency called the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was established to manage European matters.

"High Prices and Economic Unrest"

However, not everyone supported the Marshall Plan. The Communists were not its only opponents - there were critics in the United States as well. The plan's cost was a major reason. One cartoon in a New York newspaper showed an army of soldiers, with dollar coins as heads, marching through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, along with the caption, "Endle$$ Proce$$ion." Robert Taft, a prominent Republican senator from Ohio, had many reservations. A conservative, he disapproved of the European practice of nationalizing key industries, and did not believe that Marshall Plan funds could stop communism. Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover also criticized the plan, predicting that funding it would mean "serious taxation on our own people" and "scarcity and high prices and economic unrest at home."

Some U.S. businessmen also wondered why the U.S. would want to build up European industries that would then compete with American business. Henry A. Wallace, a Democrat who had been Roosevelt's vice president and had then served as secretary of commerce, could not support the plan because he viewed it as the certain destruction of any possible postwar cooperation between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Nevertheless, compromises were made and the amount of aid that had originally been requested by Truman was somewhat reduced.

The deciding factor that reduced opposition to the Marshall Plan was probably the Soviet-backed coup that occurred in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, which greatly heightened fears of further Soviet encroachment in Europe. Two months later, on April 2, 1948, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1948, the bill that authorized the Marshall Plan, and Truman signed it the next day. As he did so, he said "Few presidents have had the opportunity to sign legislation of such importance ... This measure is America's answer to the challenge facing the free world today."

In addition to Marshall, the leading administrators of the plan were Paul G. Hoffman and Averell Harriman. Hoffman, the president of the Studebaker automobile corporation, proved to be an excellent choice as administrator of the ECA, and Harriman, who had been the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union during the war, also proved invaluable as the ECA's ambassador. Virtually every country in Western Europe participated, as did Turkey and Greece, although Spain, then under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, was excluded. The Allies - Britain, France, and the U.S. - received West Germany's Marshall Plan aid until June 1949 when West Germany became an independent state and thus eligible to manage its own Marshall funds. East Germany, which was under Soviet control, did not take part.

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National Archives

Left to right: U.S. President Harry Truman, George Marshall, Paul Hoffman, and Averell Harriman discuss the Marshall Plan in the White House, November 1948.

Few U.S. foreign policy initiatives have had the swift success of the Marshall Plan. After two years, statistics revealed that most of the Western European nations had achieved not just prewar levels of industrial production, but levels that were 15 percent higher. By the end of 1952, industrial production in Western Europe was more than 1.5 times greater than it had been in 1947, imports had decreased to pre-World War II levels, and exports had increased by about 66 percent. Western Europe, as planned, remained protected from Soviet aggression, although the policy of containment persisted as a global issue until the demise of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Later studies found that the countries receiving financial aid were spending a considerable amount of it on imports from the U.S., which helped boost the U.S. economy and allay fears of a postwar economic depression. After his reelection in 1948, Truman proposed what he called his "Point Four" program, under which he would extend U.S. aid to areas outside Europe. The Marshall Plan itself officially ended on December 31, 1951, when the ECA, which had spent $12.5 billion since April 9, 1948, closed down.

However, the Marshall Plan was not hailed by everyone. Critics argued that it deepened the division between east and west, fueling a war that would last for almost 50 years. In addition, other critics were skeptical of the plan's value. The U.S. supplied only about 10-20% of the total funds needed to rebuild Europe (Canada and Latin America also sent financial aid), and critics argued that U.S. funds only marginally helped encourage economic growth that had already begun to take place in Europe. Others believed the plan was merely a tool to help U.S. companies gain access to a new and expanding market.

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National Archives

A worker in West Berlin, Germany, clears rubble from a building site, c. 1948.

In June 1972, on the 25th anniversary of Marshall's speech, Willy Brandt, the chancellor of West Germany, a country now prosperous, democratic, and strong, announced that his government would donate some $47 million to set up a U.S. foundation for European studies in gratitude for the Marshall Plan. As Brandt put it, "I want the American people to know: our gratitude, the gratitude of Europeans, has remained alive." The new foundation was called "the German Marshall Fund of the United States—A Memorial to the Marshall Plan," and Brandt promised that the funds would be administered by a U.S. board of directors " without any influence by German authorities."

Other Marshall Plans

In 1990, Senator Al Gore (D, Tennessee) presided over an international conference of legislators from 42 countries that called for a "global Marshall Plan" that would tackle environmental problems and help convert the world's economy to cleaner burning technologies while still promoting economic growth. As he put it, such an effort would "save the world's environment and give billions of dispossessed people the tools needed to participate in the marketplace in a rational way." The conference recommended a 50 percent reduction over the next 20 years in the kinds of air pollution that caused global warming, and set the goals of achieving reductions in carbon dioxide and methane emissions by 2010 plus the eventual elimination of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Four years previously, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres encouraged the U.S. and its allies to take part in a "Marshall Plan" for the Middle East - a plan that would help nations such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and possibly Syria. In 2004, former Congressman Jack Kemp (R, New York) presented a somewhat similar plan titled "A 21st-Century Marshall Plan for the Middle East," a proposal to promote private-sector economic development in that part of the world. An additional "Marshall Plan" project detailed in 2000, called for funds to aid developing African countries, while the following year Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown encouraged wealthy countries to fund "a new Marshall Plan," which would help the world's poorest nations.

There could hardly be a more compelling indication of the lasting impact of George Marshall's vision than that such different politicians would use the term "Marshall Plan" when describing their hopes for a unified effort to solve an outstanding problem. The Marshall Plan was such an eminent achievement that the very term itself has become a symbol of how to surmount any vast difficulty. For additional information on the Marshall Plan's 60th anniversary, see: usinfo.state.gov/eur/europe_eurasia/marshall_plan_60th.html and ww.marshallfoundation.org/60thAnniversaryPage.htm.

Did You Know?

The modern birthstone for June is the pearl, moonstone, or alexandrite. The ancient June birthstone was the emerald.


Chronology — Events of Past Month Year

National

     Senate Debates Bush’s Proposal on Immigration - Pres. George W. Bush, whose previous calls for Congressional action on immigration reform had gone nowhere, Apr. 9 endorsed a complex approach that included greater border security, a guest-worker program, and a way for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to gain U.S. citizenship. Bush claimed that workers were coming to the U.S. to take jobs Americans did not want to do, and "we need to find a way for them to do so on a legal basis."
     Bush and a dozen senators from both parties, including Edward Kennedy (D, MA) and Jon Kyl (R, AZ) reached agreement on a draft bill May 17. It would double the number of Border Patrol agents and increase penalties for employers hiring illegal immigrants. Illegals could get a new Z visa, a special type of work visa, by paying a penalty; after 8 years, they could apply to become permanent residents by learning English and paying another penalty. In addition, 400,000 visas would be available yearly to would-be immigrants from outside the U.S. who wanted to come to work in the U.S. temporarily.

     Congress OKs Iraq Funding Without Withdrawal Timetable - Pres. Bush May 1 vetoed a bill that would have funded military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; he rejected the bill because it included a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. The House May 2 voted 222-203 to override the veto, a margin far short of the two-thirds majority required. Eleven GOP House members met with Bush at the White House May 8 and told him that Republican support for the war could collapse if no significant progress was made in Iraq by the fall. The House May 10 voted, 221-205, to extend funding for the war for only 2 more months, and Bush threatened another veto. The Senate May 16 rejected, 67-29, a bill to end funding for U.S. military efforts in Iraq by April 2008.
     The Senate and House May 24 approved a new, four-month, Iraq and Afghanistan war-funding bill that did not include a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. However, the bill did require that the Iraqi government meet a series of benchmarks as conditions for continued U.S. reconstruction aid. The vote in the Senate was 80-14 and in the House 280-142.
     As part of the agreement on war funding, both houses also approved an increase in the national minimum wage. It would rise from the current $5.15 per hour to $7.25 in 3 stages over 2 years.

     Candidates for U.S. President Meet in Debates - Ten Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for president met for their first debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, May 3. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani left doubt as to his views on abortion, saying it would be all right with him if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade - or if it did not. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) said he had followed the lead of former presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush in switching from support for abortion to opposition to it; Giuliani and Sen. John McCain (AZ) said they supported more federal funding for stem cell research.
     At the second Republican debate, in Columbia, SC, May 15, Rep. Ron Paul (TX), the only one of the 10 candidates who opposed the invasion of Iraq, said that decades of U.S. meddling in the Middle East had provoked anger that led to the 2001 terror attacks. Giuliani called that an extraordinary statement, "and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11."
     Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who had been campaigning for months, formally entered the Democratic presidential contest on May 21.

     6 Accused of Planning to Kill Soldiers at Fort Dix - Six Muslim men who had been arrested by the FBI May 7 were charged in US. District Court in Camden, NJ, May 8—5 for conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey, and the 6th on a related weapons charge. Officials said that the men had been arrested after they had attempted to purchase automatic weapons from FBI informants. The accused were described as "Islamic militants" who had no formal link to Al Qaeda, but were inspired by the terrorist network’s ideology.

     Chrysler to Return to U.S. Ownership - The German company Daimler-Chrysler AG announced May 14 that it would sell 80.1% of its Chrysler division to a private equity firm based in New York City. The company, Cerberus Capital Management L.P., would pay $7.4 bil for the stock. Daimler-Benz AG had bought Chrysler in 1998, but the merger has largely been regarded as a failure. In 2006, Chrysler reported a loss of $1.45 bil, and said in February that it would lay off 13,000 N. American workers.

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Joint Chiefs of Staff

Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute

     Bush Names a ‘War Czar’ for Iraq, Afghanistan - Pres. Bush May 15 appointed Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute to coordinate operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the newly created office, as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, Lute will report directly to the president. The choice of Lute, who had directed operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was subject to Senate approval.

     Senators Hear of Confrontation Over Surveillance Program - Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were told May 15 of a dramatic confrontation between White House aides and top Justice Dept officials. Former Deputy Atty. Gen. James Comey appeared in connection with an ongoing inquiry into the firing of a number of U.S. attorneys. Comey described a dispute over the required renewal in 2004 of an unnamed program that provided for secret White House surveillance of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency without court warrants. Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, who at the time was ill in a hospital, thought the program was illegal, as did Comey, who was acting head of the department. Comey learned on Mar. 10, 2004, that White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel (and Ashcroft’s eventual successor) were on the way to the hospital, presumably to seek Ashcroft’s approval to renew the program.
     Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller managed to reach Ashcroft first. While still in his hospital bed, Ashcroft refused to authorize the renewal. Comey said that he, Ashcroft, and Mueller were ready to resign, but that Bush on Mar. 12 ordered changes in the program that the Justice Dept. had demanded. Gonzales had testified under oath in 2006 that there was no "serious disagreement" within the administration on the NSA program.
     Gonzales testified May 10 before the House Judiciary Committee on the U.S attorney firings. On May 14, Deputy Atty. Gen. Paul McNulty announced his forthcoming resignation. His testimony in February before the Senate committee that the attorney firings were "performance-related" and that White House officials were not central to the firings had since been called into question.
     Monica Goodling, who had resigned as Justice Dept. liaison to the White House, testified before the House committee May 23 under a grant of immunity from prosecution. She admitted that she had "crossed the line" when she interviewed applicants for jobs at the Justice Dept. and for assistant U.S. attorneys and asked them about their partisan political backgrounds. She said she felt uncomfortable during a conversation with Gonzales in March in which it seemed he might be trying to coordinate their upcoming testimony before Congress.

International

     Killing of Afghan Civilians by U.S. Forces Reported - Afghan officials investigating a U.S. operation in Shindand reported May 2 that 42 Afghan civilians had been killed. Pres. Hamid Karzai rebuked U.S. and NATO forces May 2 for not making more of an effort to prevent civilian casualties. On May 8, U.S. Col. Jack Nicholson expressed remorse for the killings in March of Afghan civilians by U.S. Marines. He said 19 had died and that the U.S. had paid $2,000 each to the victims’ families. Afghan officials said May 9 that U.S. air strikes had killed 21 more civilians in Sarwan Qala on May 8. Residents said May 10 that the death toll might have been 50 or more.

     U.S. Steps Up Diplomatic Efforts on Iraq - Representatives of 60 nations met in Egypt May 3 and 4 to discuss the future of Iraq. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice May 3 met with Foreign Min. Walid Mouallem of Syria - the first contact between the two countries at that diplomatic level in 2 years. UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-Moon, who was also in Egypt, said May 3 that Iraq’s creditors had agreed to cancel $30 bil in debt. The conference attendees agreed May 4 to work to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into Iraq. The Iraqi government said it would redouble its efforts to disarm militias and other armed groups.
     On May 28 in Baghdad, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker met with the Iranian ambassador, Hassan Kaemi Qumi. They discussed how to improve conditions in Iraq, but did not address their disagreement over Iran’s nuclear program. No new agreements were announced.

     Sarkozy Wins French Presidential Election - Nicolas Sarkozy, representing the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, was elected president of France May 6, succeeding outgoing Pres. Jacques Chirac who had held the office for 12 years. By a margin of 53% to 47% in the runoff election, Sarkozy defeated Segolene Royal, candidate for the center-left Socialist Party.
     After serving as mayor of Neuilly, Sarkozy had entered the National Assembly and the cabinet, eventually serving as budget minister, interior minister, and finance minister. He was sworn in as president May 16. His choice for premier, Francois Fillon, took office May 17. After his victory, Sarkozy signaled that he would take a friendlier stance toward the U.S. than his predecessor.

     Protestant and Catholic Adversaries Share Power in Ireland - An agreement to share power in Northern Ireland became a reality on May 8. The Rev. Ian Paisley, the Protestant leader who supported continued union with Britain, was sworn in as First Minister, and Martin McGuinness, deputy leader of Sinn Fein, took the oath to be deputy First Minister. On May 3 the Ulster Volunteer Force, the biggest unionist paramilitary force, said it would abandon violence and put away its weapons.

     Prime Min. Blair Announces Retirement Date - British Prime Min. Tony Blair, after a decade in power, announced May 10 that he would step down on June 27. Commenting on Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq, which had heavily damaged his popularity, he said, "I did what I thought was right for our country." Gordon Brown, currently serving as Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, will likely become the new leader of the Labor Party.

     U.S. Troops in Iraq Search for Missing Soldiers - Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed and 3 other U.S. soldiers were captured in an ambush attack May 12 in western Iraq, 12 miles west of Mahmudiya in the so-called triangle of death. A Sunni group, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed May 13 that it had seized the "crusaders." Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops spent weeks searching for the survivors. The ambush occurred May 12. The body of one of the missing soldiers was discovered in the Euphrates River May 23.
     In other Iraq violence, a rocket attack on Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone May 2 killed four foreign contractors. A suicide bomber in the Sunni town of Abu Ghraib May 5 killed 15 at an Iraqi security forces recruitment center and wounded 22 others. A suicide truck bomb in Baghdad May 6 killed more than 35 people and wounded at least 67. A bomb in Samarra May 6 killed 12 police officers. Six U.S. soldiers were killed May 6 in a roadside bombing in Diyala province. Authorities in Baghdad May 7 found the bodies of 30 victims of sectarian executions. Gunmen in Diyala May 7 killed 12 people in their homes. Two suicide car bombs in Ramadi May 7 killed 25 and wounded more than 50 others. A suicide car bomber in Kufa May 8 killed at least 16 and wounded more than 70 others. A suicide truck bomb in the Kurdish city of Irbil May 9 killed 14 and wounded dozens more. A truck bomb in Makhmur, in northern Iraq, killed 50 people May 13. A roadside bomb killed 6 U.S. soldiers May 19 as they conducted a search for insurgent arms caches. A truck bomb rigged with chlorine gas May 20 exploded near a checkpoint in Ramadi killing 11. Iraqi forces May 20 killed 14 militants in a gun battle in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. U.S. forces conducting a raid in Anbar province May 21 freed 5 who had been tortured. A suicide truck bomb May 22 struck a market in the neighborhood of Amil in Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding more than 100; the blast left a huge crater destroying many houses. A suicide bomber near Ramadi May 22 killed 10 people. Nine U.S. service personnel were killed May 22 in five separate incidents in Iraq. Five people were killed and 17 wounded May 23 during a gunfight in central Baghdad. The U.S. diplomatic convoy May 23 came under attack in Baghdad, but there were no U.S. casualties. A roadside bomb near Kirkuk May 23 killed six police officers. A car bomb in Falluja May 24 struck a funeral procession, killing at least 26. The U.S. military announced the deaths of 11 service members May 26, and 10 more on May 28. The total number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq in May stood at 126.

     Political Developments in Iraq - Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S. forces north of Baghdad, said May 11 that he needed more troops, and he called the Iraqi government corrupt and nonfunctional.
     A Defense Dept. report said May 15 that from 100,000 to 300,000 barrels of Iraqi oil went unaccounted for each day, representing a daily loss of $5 mil to $15 mil. The report also said that attacks on troops and civilians were near an all-time high.
     After being out of the public eye for months, the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr spoke in a mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad, May 25, renewing his denunciation of the U.S. military presence.

     Notorious Taliban Commander Killed in Afghanistan - U.S.-led forces May 12 killed Mullah Dadullah, the top Taliban commander in southern and southeastern Afghanistan. An ethnic Pashtun, Dadullah had helped oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. He had gained notoriety for his brutality, including the beheading of captives.

     Fighting Among Palestinians Involves Israel - The strife between the Fatah and Hamas Palestinian factions in Gaza intensified May 13 when a Fatah security official and his bodyguard were killed. Within a few days 40 Palestinians were dead from violent exchanges. On May 15, Hamas militants fired rockets into southern Israel, prompting Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets that killed 8. Air attacks continued, killing 5 Palestinians on May 18. Another air attack May 20 killed 8 at the home of a Hamas member of Parliament, including 3 of his brothers. Israeli bombs killed 5 Palestinians May 26.

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International Monetary Fund

Paul Wolfowitz

     President of World Bank Forced to Resign - Paul Wolfowitz announced May 17 that he would step down as president of the World Bank effective June 30. As deputy secretary of state until Pres. Bush named him to the bank in 2005, Wolfowitz had been one of the principal architects of the U.S invasion of Iraq. Some bank officials were displeased with this role, and also with his reluctance to aid poor countries whose governments were corrupt.
     On May 14 a bank investigatory panel found that Wolfowitz had violated the bank’s code of conduct. Wolfowitz had arranged a salary increase and promotion for his romantic partner, Shaha Ali Riza, which made her the highest paid employee in the U.S. State Dept. The bank board, in a May 17 statement, accepted some blame for the dispute and said that Wolfowitz had assured the board that he had acted ethically and in the best interests of the bank. The European Parliament Apr. 25 had asked Wolfowitz to resign.
     On May 30, Bush announced that he had chosen Robert Zoelick, an executive with Goldman Sachs and a former U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of State, to succeed Wolfowitz.

     Militant Islamists Endanger Lebanese Government - The embattled government of Lebanon, headed by Prime Min. Fouad Siniora, was shaken in May when the militant group Fatah al-Islam clashed with army troops. Soldiers with tanks and artillery attacked the radicals in a Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli beginning May 21, endangering 40,000 refugees there. By May 23, 15,000 of the refugees had fled, many going to another nearby camp.

     Bush Enforces Economic Sanctions Against Sudan - Pres. Bush May 29 rebuked the government of Sudan for not cooperating with international efforts to end the humanitarian crisis in the country’s Darfur region. He had warned that he would act if Pres. Omar Hassan al-Bashir did not allow full deployment of UN peacekeepers, allow aid to reach Darfur, and stop supporting murderous militias. Bush said he would enforce economic sanctions against some 100 Sudanese companies, and push for a UN resolution to impose a broad arms embargo on Sudan.

     New President Inaugurated in Nigeria - For the first time ever in Nigeria’s history, a civilian president May 29 was succeeded by another civilian. Umaru Yar’Adua was inaugurated to succeed Olusegun Obasanjo, who was not eligible for another term. However, international observers regarded the April election as subject to fraud.

General

     Triple Crown Eludes Thoroughbred Horses Again - No thoroughbred horse would be able to claim the Triple Crown of racing for 2007. Street Sense, the 9-2 favorite, ridden by Calvin Borel, won the Kentucky Derby, the first Triple Crown event, on May 5, finishing in 2 minutes and 2.17 seconds. Street Sense was the first 2-year-old to win the derby since 1979. However, Street Sense narrowly lost the Preakness Stakes, in Baltimore, May 19, to Curlin, ridden by Robby Albarado.

     Tornado Destroys Kansas Town, Kills 11 - With winds as high as 205 mph, a tornado leveled almost all of the southwestern Kansas town of Greensburg May 4, killing 11. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said May 7 that the deployment of Kansas National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan, which stretched the Guard’s resources, had slowed the relief effort. Pres. George W. Bush visited Greensubrg May 9.

     Franchitti Wins Indianapolis 500, Ended Early by Downpour - Dario Franchitti of Scotland won the 9lst Indianapolis 500 May 27. The race was cut short when a downpour stopped the contest after 166 of the scheduled 200 laps. An earlier rainfall after 113 laps had delayed the race for 3 hours. The lead changed hands frequently, and a downpour a few minutes earlier would have brought a different result. This was Franchitti’s first win, after five previous attempts.


Sports Feature: How Kaz Matsui Found His Swing — Vincent G. Spadafora

When Kazuo Matsui signed his three-year, $20.1 million contract with the New York Mets in 2003, he was billed as everything from the second coming of Ozzie Smith to the Japanese version of Alfonso Soriano. Kaz Matsui was considered one of the best players in Japanese baseball and was ready to follow in the footsteps of other great Japanese players who thrived in the U.S. such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. Scouts everywhere raved about Kaz Matsui's plate presence, work ethic, and his discipline in the field. He was even known to be a heck of a nice guy. So good was "Little Matsui", that the Mets were willing to move their future-star shortstop Jose Reyes over to second base to accommodate their expensive import. He was going to be a star at Shea Stadium. However, this never ended up happening.

Those of you who followed the MLB career of the unfortunate Kaz Matsui know that he never lived up to any of the hype. First off, he had a horrible tendency to always strike out on inside breaking balls. Second, he wasn't exactly a gold glove at short. To be fair, some of his throwing errors to first could have been avoided had there been a true first baseman manning the position. Instead Matsui was throwing to Mike Piazza, who was trying to make the leap from catcher to first base. But Kaz had other problems. He couldn't judge ground balls in the grass well because in Japan all games are played on turf. This affected his timing and footwork. Matsui made so many bad plays that they ended up moving Reyes back to shortstop and had Matsui learn how to play second base. It was a disaster. Matsui wasn’t a natural at the position, and he ended up getting a series of weird back injuries that landed him on the DL for most of his second season. By the third season, he was just downright frustrating to watch. Not all was bad - Matsui had a couple of games where he shined. But in the end, he couldn't deliver. So after two and a half years, and 20 million wasted dollars, the Mets ate Matsui's salary and sent him off to the Colorado Rockies for a bench player who is no longer on the team.

The Colorado Rockies were the MLB equivalent of purgatory. They didn't seem to be going anywhere. As soon as Matsui got to Colorado, the Rockies stuck him on their triple-A Colorado Springs team until Kaz could get his swing back. Now here comes the interesting part. It actually worked. He got his swing back and ended up being a small offensive force in the Rockies lineup toward the end of the season. Enough so that they signed him for the 2007 season. Reasons for this vary. Maybe Kaz needed a smaller market team to ease his way into American baseball. Maybe it was too big of a cultural shock too soon to be uprooting himself from his homeland to come play in a foreign city with a demanding media. Matsui himself credits the change of scenery. But one thing to also consider, Matsui had Lasik eye surgery in the off season last year to correct his vision. That more than anything else may have given Matsui his edge back.

So what's the point of all this? Contrary to what many skeptics thought, Kaz Matsui's performance this season has been sensational. Aside from a minor stint on the DL because of back spasms, Matsui has become the fun player to watch that everybody thought he'd be. Playing second base, he's finally become comfortable with the position and turns double plays as well as anyone. What's really fascinating is how Matsui has changed his batting style. More of a home-run hitter in Japan, Matsui now hits more for average, usually batting second in the Colorado lineup. Even more remarkable, for those who watched him sink on the Mets, Matsui has become a bit of a catalyst and has shown that he can win games for Colorado. True, he still has a lot to work on - leftie pitchers are still a problem for Kaz against whom he’s batting a terrible .167 - he’s no longer thought of as a guy who can’t take the pressure of the majors. So for those who wrote Kaz Matsui off as a failure, check him out the next time the Rockies are on TV. You'll finally get to see what was three years in coming.

Some Kaz Matsui stats to consider:

2004 (New York Mets) - 114 games, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 14 SB, .272 avg.
2005 (New York Mets) - 87 games, 3 HR, 24 RBI, 6 SB, .255 avg.M
2006 (New York Mets) - 38 games, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB, .200 avg.
2006 (Colorado Rockies) - 32 games, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 8 SB, .345 avg.
2007 Colorado Rockies, as of June 5) - 21 games, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 9 SB, .325 avg.


Science in the News: Winging It, Swift Style — Elisheva Coleman

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David Lentink/Ran Schols

Swifts are small birds that spend nearly all of their time aloft, and are widely regarded as models of aerodynamic efficiency.

Disembodied bird wings flapping in a dark tunnel...sounds like a creepy scene from a Halloween special. In fact, that's a description of a scientific experiment, carried out at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, on the flight patterns of swifts. Swifts are small birds that spend nearly all of their time aloft, and are widely regarded as models of aerodynamic efficiency. In particular, swifts have super-flexible wings, which change shape under different flying conditions to maximize distance and speed while minimizing energy usage. To find out exactly how the birds' wings get so much bang for their buck, Dutch researchers collected real wings from dead birds, and set them aflutter in a wind tunnel. Their findings provided some surprising insights into flight, and may help engineers design better wings for high-speed jets.

Ain't Nothin' Like the Real Thing

Scientists have studied swifts for clues on wing design before, but David Lentink, a graduate student at Wageningen, felt that there were major gaps in those experiments. Past research fell into two categories: observations of live swifts in flight, and wind tunnel experiments using artificial wings. Watching live birds was useful for determining when and how swifts morph their wings, but didn't shed any light on why they behave the way they do. That's because observational studies can't provide a basis for comparison - you only see the option the birds choose, not any of the other possibilities. From observation alone, it is impossible to know whether swifts use the best possible wing configurations, and if they do, what makes those shapes optimal. Experiments with artificial wings, made of metal and resin, did allow scientists to compare different wing shapes, but brass is a far cry from bone, muscle and feather. Lentink was not convinced that the model wings shared real wings' aerodynamic properties.

The only way to simulate real flight, Lentink decided, was by experimenting with real wings. He and his colleagues obtained carcasses of dead swifts from bird sanctuaries and removed 15 pairs of wings, separating them from the bodies at the shoulder blade. The researchers carefully positioned each set of wings in one of five positions, freeze-dried them to preserve the shapes, and reconnected the two wings to create a "continuous wing surface." Finally, they attached a swift-sized weight to the center of the wing surface, and were ready to go.

Lift and Drag

During flight, swifts can arrange their wings anywhere between two extreme positions: fully extended (the bird equivalent of holding your arms out to the side) and swept back (equivalent of reaching your arms behind you as far as you can). In terms of aerodynamics, each extreme has pros and cons. An object moving through a fluid, like air, encounters two types of forces, lift and drag. Lift forces act perpendicular to the object's motion - if a bird moves forward, lift forces act on it in the up and down directions - and are responsible for keeping the object aloft. Drag forces act parallel to the object's motion, and slow it down; you can think of drag as the resistance of the air to the object moving through it. On the whole, a flying body wants to maximize lift and minimize drag.

Trouble is, these two goals are generally in conflict with one another. Extended wings - on a swift, or an airplane - generate the most lift, because they have the most surface area interacting with the air. But for the same reason, extended wings also generate maximum drag. Swept-back wings cut through the air with the least drag possible, but exact a price in terms of lift. Because swifts spend so much time in flight - foraging, migrating, mating and even sleeping - researchers strongly suspected that they had achieved an ideal balance between drag and lift. Lentink designed his experiments to confirm this, and to figure out what circumstances favored one wing shape over another.

Might Morphin Power Wings

When they prepared the wings, the researchers positioned each pair at one of five angles: 5º(nearly straight out), 15º, 30º, 40º, or 50º (fully swept back). Then they tested each set of wings in the wind tunnel, under a variety of conditions, the most important of which were fast and slow gliding, and fast and slow turns. Efficient gliding is an important part of a swift's flying repertoire because it conserves energy - the less a bird flaps its wings, the less energy it uses. Turning, often at high speeds, is necessary for zooming in on food.

Lentink's results not only confirmed that swifts know how to get the most out of their wings, but put numerical values on just how much benefit the birds derive from morphing. The experiments showed that a gliding speed of 8-10 meters per second minimizes energy expenditure; according to measurements taken of birds in flight, this is exactly the speed at which swifts fly when they are napping. Compared to rigid wing models, swifts move 60% further on a single glide, and turn 3 times more efficiently. "They have evolved an aerodynamic design for cheap flight," coauthor Anders Hedenstrom, a theoretical ecologist at Lund University in Sweden, told news@nature.com.

The researchers found that the major factors involved in determining ideal wing position were speed, and the angle of the wings relative to the ground. Not surprisingly, extended wings were best for slow gliding, since they increase lift and allow the bird to float longer on a breeze. As speed picks up, drag forces increase and swept-back wings become more advantageous.

The results on turning were more surprising. In general, extended wings are better for turns, providing stability and lift that smooth the turn. For high-speed turns, however, swifts invariably sweep back their wings, and the researchers discovered that this behavior is due not to aerodynamics, but to the fragility of their wings. Extended wings can fracture under the extreme force generated during a fast turn, while swept-back wings are safe, mostly because they don't flutter.

Learning from Swifts

The realization that extended wings are vulnerable to breakage during fast turns is one of several aspects of the study that may be useful in designing aircraft. Another is the proof that fully extended wings are best for generating lift; previous studies with artificial wings had suggested that swept-back wings actually give a better boost. A few high tech planes, such as the F-14 Tomcat fighter plane, already use flexible wings, but Lentink hopes his findings will help make aircraft wings even more efficient. Tomcats can sweep back their wings when they fly at super high speeds, but their abilities are primitive compared to those of swifts. "The swifts are just better at it," he told news@nature.com. "The amount of feathers and muscle involved is challenging for us to imitate." Even so, the new insights Lentink has provided on flight bring "smart" jet wings closer to reality.

Did You Know?

A jeroboam is 6.4 pints of champagne.


Offbeat News Stories — Sarah Janssen

Oh, Say, Can Spain Sing?
Spain’s national anthem is one of only a handful around the world that does not have official patriotic lyrics. Now, at the behest of the Spanish Olympic Committee and other Spanish athletic organizations, Spain’s parliament is revisiting the issue, so that athletes in international competitions will have something to do while their anthem plays besides stand reverently or twiddle their thumbs.

The Spanish national anthem, "Marcha Real," dates to the late 18th century, and lyrics have been put to the tune many times - but the words were never official and didn’t stick. And more recently, when Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar commissioned a group of poets to write lyrics, the attempt dissolved when the group couldn’t come to an agreement.

"You can't help but feel jealous when you hear the English, the Italians or the French roaring out their anthem all together," wrote Spanish columnist Roberto Palomar in Marca June 4. "The truth is, it's the business; a brilliant way to set the scene for a match. Anyone who has heard them before a game knows that Spain is knackered."

I Fought the Law and the Law Won
If you thought our congressional representatives, senators, and presidential candidates had the market cornered on political grandstanding, think again. Parliament members in Taiwan plan floor brawls in advance in order to show voters just how hard they fight - physically - for important issues.

Political experts and some legislators believe that the infamous fights that occur commonly on Taiwan’s parliamentary floor are nothing more than staged media events - to the point where allies are called in advance to remind them to wear sneakers instead of dress shoes to the upcoming pugilistic session.

The fights are not exactly highly choreographed stunt fights in Hollywood films, though. Onlookers at a four-hour-long melee in January 2007 saw shoes thrown at the Speaker, a microphone ripped out and winged across the chamber, shoving, and tie-pulling - all in the name of keeping the Speaker from his podium (successfully, it turned out). In 2005, one MP needed stitches after being struck by a flying cell phone; in 2006, another used tear gas on the parliament floor.

Some MPs have had enough of the legislative violence and are calling for it to end. "They just want to steal the spotlight going into the primaries," said MP Lee Hung-Chun. "Parliament should be a sacred and noble place."


Links of the Month — Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

I'm sorry the E-Newsletter is so late this month, but it's been busy around here, with our updated World Almanac for Kids website going live Monday, and having spent Friday through Sunday, with other World Almanac staffers, at BEA (Book Expo America), the largest industry trade show for books, held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York. It's quite an event. Publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians, editors, and general book lovers are the people who walk through this event and get sample books, galleys, and various book related products (as well as interesting tchotchkes). One of the big challenges of the weekend is properly distributing the weight of the accumulated books in the various shopping bags you pick up (wheelie luggage is a no-no at the convention center). Although an exhibitor, I like to get autographed books (I'm saving to move into a good retirement community), and celebrity watching, so the blog this month is about the people I saw.

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(c) Edward A. Thomas

Ed Koch, LL Cool J, Tim Gunn, Joan Embery and friend, Chris Elliott, and Charles Grodin.

In a 20 minute period of time I met former New York Mayor Ed Koch, and rapper/actor LL Cool J! Koch was the 105th mayor of NYC, and served 3 terms, from 1978-1989. His trademark greeting, "How'm I Doin'?," captured the hearts of New Yorkers as did the fact that he restored the city to financial stability. Koch has written many books since leaving office, including his new one, Buzz: How to Create It and Win With It. Koch still has lots of opinions, and you can read some of them at the NewsMax.com...LL Cool J (James Todd Smith III) was signing LL Cool J's Platinum Body, which includes the rappers regimen for a better body. The first artist signed to the Def Jam label, LL has released 12 albums, and has proved his staying power in the world of hip-hop, with over 22 years in the business. Learn more about LL Cool J (an acronym for Ladies Love Cool James) at: VH1: LL Cool J.

American fashion maven Tim Gunn - best known for his reality show Project_Runway, a show that focuses on fashion design has written a book titled A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, co-written with Kate Moloney. Gunn worked at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, from 1982-2007, and was the Chair of Fashion Design department from 2000-2007...In 1970, 18 year old Joan Embery was hired as a "goodwill" ambassador for the Zoological Society of San Diego, and during the last 36 years she has appeared on The Tonight Show over 100 times, introducing television viewers to a variety of exotic animals, and raising awareness of animals and wildlife conservation...From the sublime to the ridiculous, comedian Chris Elliott was signing a new novel, Into Hot Air: Mounting Mount Everest, stealing a bit from the title of Jon Krakauer's tale of Everest, Into Thin Air. This isn't Elliott's first foray into history-related fiction, he also wrote The Shroud of the Thwacker, a comic take on Caleb Carr’s The Alienist. Check out the Chris Elliott fansite Get A Life!...Another funnyman autographing was Charles Grodin, who at various times has been a talk show host, commentator, and actor, in such movies as "The Heartbreak Kid," and "Heaven Can Wait."

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(c) Edward A. Thomas

Gregory Mcguire, Edmund White, John Hemingway, Arthur Frommer, Tina Louise, Richard Belzer, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

The man who told the back story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became "wicked" is author Gregory Mcguire. Revisiting classic stories, Mcguire retells stories for children and adults, and offers a different side of each story. Gregory Mcguire was signing advanced reading copies of his upcoming book What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy. By the way, green Elphalba (WWotW) was really simply misunderstood... Edmund White wrote the classic gay coming-of-age book, A Boy's Own Story in 1982. A novelist and short-story writer, he has also become a cultural and literary critic. He was signing a novel about New York, Hotel De Dream...Following in the family tradition, John Hemingway (Ernest's grandson), has written Strange Tribe: A Family Memoir, the story of the peculiar relationship between his grandfather and his father Gregory.

When I snapped a photograph of Arthur Frommer, he laughed and told me that he was not a celebrity, but when you consider that this travel writer changed travel forever with the publication of his 1957 book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day (reprints of which he was signing), then you have to consider that he is. Keeping up with the times, Frommer's has not only been publishing travel books for 50 years, but has a blog on Frommers.com...Travel - a 3 hour tour to be exact - is what made actress Tina Louise famous. Best known for her role as movie star Ginger Grant on "Gilligan’s Island," Louise has written a new children’s book, When I Grow Up.

Here's a pairing I didn't see coming, comedian Richard Belzer talking to Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Belzer, a stand up comedian, writer and actor, is best known these days for his role as Detective John Munch in "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993-1999) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999 - ). Dr. Ruth Westheimer has been around a long time now (I remember going to hear her talk when I was in college, and well, I just attended my 25th class reunion on Saturday), and she's a popular sex therapist. Only 4'7", Dr. Ruth is a fixture at book shows, and knows how to work a crowd.

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(c) Edward A. Thomas

Ernie Anastos, Tiki Barber, Chuck Panozzo, Gary Trudeau and Alice Sebold.

I promised Ernie Anastos, an Emmy award winning New York telejournalist, that I'd blog him, and mention his new book Ernie and the Big Newz, which is based on his 25 years as a TV reporter. A portion of the books earnings will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation...Someone I didn't actually meet (the lines were too long) was Tiki Barber, the former American football running back for the New York Giants, who people began lining up to see an hour before he appeared...Diversity is everything, and I also met Chuck Panozzo of the rock band Styx, who came out in 2001, and is promoting safe sex and HIV/AIDS awareness. He has a new book out titled Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life With Styx.

The cartoonist Garry Trudeau, best known for his Doonesbury comic strip, was the first comic strip artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1975. Frequently political, the Doonesbury comic leans towards the liberal side, which is evident in the book he was signing, Heckuva Job, Bushie!... The last autograph I got was a copy of Alice Sebold's upcoming book The Almost Moon. When Sebold was a college freshman at Syracuse University, she was attacked, beaten and brutally raped in a nearby park, which she recounted in her gripping memoir Lucky. Sebold went on to write The Lovely Bones, a story told in the voice of a 14 year old in Heaven, who is murdered by a neighbor, and who shows the lives of the people around her and how they are changed by her death.

P.S. I’m going to be on vacation next month when the E-Newsletter should go out, so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit tardy too! Think positively, you’ll have my vacation pictures to look at the following month.


Quote of the Month

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty".
     - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British prime minister


© World Almanac Education Group

World Almanac E-Newsletter
Edward A. Thomas, Editor in Chief

Newsletter Contributors:
Jane Flynn, Mary Funchion, C. Alan Joyce, Walter Kronenberg, Bill McGeveran and Linda Van Orden.

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