Archive for April 17th, 2009

17
Apr
09

Northern Shoveler

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The large spatulate bill of a Northern Shoveler duck distinguishes him from most ducks.

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They don’t tip up like most ducks, instead they scoop up some water and gain their food by sifting it through the large bill.

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The female has an orange bill and is mottle-colored.

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17
Apr
09

On This Day, April 17: The Bay of Pigs

April 17, 1961

The Bay of Pigs invasion begins

The Bay of Pigs invasion begins when a CIA-financed and -trained group of Cuban refugees lands in Cuba and attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure.

Fidel Castro had been a concern to U.S. policymakers since he seized power in Cuba with a revolution in January 1959. Castro’s attacks on U.S. companies and interests in Cuba, his inflammatory anti-American rhetoric, and Cuba’s movement toward a closer relationship with the Soviet Union led U.S. officials to conclude that the Cuban leader was a threat to U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere. In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to train and arm a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. John F. Kennedy inherited this program when he became president in 1961.

Though many of his military advisors indicated that an amphibious assault on Cuba by a group of lightly armed exiles had little chance for success, Kennedy gave the go-ahead for the attack. On April 17, 1961, around 1,200 exiles, armed with American weapons and using American landing craft, waded ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The hope was that the exile force would serve as a rallying point for the Cuban citizenry, who would rise up and overthrow Castro’s government. The plan immediately fell apart–the landing force met with unexpectedly rapid counterattacks from Castro’s military, the tiny Cuban air force sank most of the exiles’ supply ships, the United States refrained from providing necessary air support, and the expected uprising never happened. Over 100 of the attackers were killed, and more than 1,100 were captured.

The failure at the Bay of Pigs cost the United States dearly. Castro used the attack by the “Yankee imperialists” to solidify his power in Cuba and he requested additional Soviet military aid. Eventually that aid included missiles, and the construction of missile bases in Cuba sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came to blows over the issue. Further, throughout much of Latin America, the United States was pilloried for its use of armed force in trying to unseat Castro, a man who was considered a hero to many for his stance against U.S. interference and imperialism. Kennedy tried to redeem himself by publicly accepting blame for the attack and its subsequent failure, but the botched mission left the young president looking vulnerable and indecisive.

“The Bay of Pigs invasion begins,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2640 [accessed Apr 17, 2009]

On This Day

1521 – Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

1524 – New York Harbor was discovered by Giovanni Verrazano.

1758 – Frances Williams published a collection of Latin poems. He was the first African-American to graduate from a college in the western hemisphere.

1861 – Virginia became the eighth state to secede from the Union.

1865 – Mary Surratt was arrested as a conspirator in the Lincoln assassination.

1895 – China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki. It was the end of the first Sino-Japanese War. In the treaty China ceded Taiwan to Japan.

1941 – Igor Sikorsky accomplished the first successful helicopter lift-off from water near Stratford, CT.

1969 – In Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of assassinating U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

1970 – Apollo 13 returned to Earth safely after an on-board accident with an oxygen tank.

1975 – Khmer Rouge forces capture the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. It was the end of the five-year war.

1983 – In Warsaw, police routed 1,000 Solidarity supporters.

1989 – In Poland, courts gave Solidarity legal status.

April 17, 1969

Architect of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring resigns

Alexander Dubcek, the communist leader who launched a broad program of liberal reforms in Czechoslovakia, is forced to resign as first secretary by the Soviet forces occupying his country. The staunchly pro-Soviet Gustav Husak was appointed Czechoslovak leader in his place, reestablishing an authoritarian communist dictatorship in the Soviet satellite state.

The trend toward liberalization in Czechoslovakia began in 1963, and in 1968 reached its apex after Dubcek replaced Antonin Novotny as first secretary of the party. He introduced a series of far-reaching political and economic reforms, including increased freedom of speech and an end to state censorship. Dubcek’s effort to establish “communism with a human face” was celebrated across the country and the brief period of freedom became known as the “Prague Spring.”

On August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union answered Dubcek’s reforms with the invasion of Czechoslovakia by 600,000 Warsaw Pact troops. Prague was not eager to give way, but scattered student resistance was no match for Soviet tanks. Dubcek’s reforms were repealed, and the leader was replaced with the staunchly pro-Soviet Gustav Husak, who reestablished an authoritarian communist regime in the country.

In 1989, as communist governments folded across Eastern Europe, Prague again became the scene of demonstrations for democratic reforms. In December 1989, Husak’s government conceded to demands for a multiparty parliament. Husak resigned, and for the first time in two decades Dubcek returned to politics as chairman of the new parliament, which subsequently elected playwright Vaclav Havel as president of Czechoslovakia. Havel had come to fame during the Prague Spring, and after the Soviet crackdown his plays were banned and his passport confiscated.

“Architect of Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring resigns,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4928 [accessed Apr 17, 2009]




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