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American, river, 30 mi (48 km) long, rising in N central Calif. in the Sierra Nevada and flowing SW into the Sacramento River at Sacramento. The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill (see Sutter, John Augustus) along the river in 1848 led to the California gold rush of 1849. The American is a magnet for rafters. The proposed Auburn Dam, where construction was stopped after a 1975 earthquake, is highly controversial.

(1898) Conflict between the U.S. and Spain that ended Spanish colonial rule in the New World. The war originated in Cuba's struggle for independence. The newspapers of William Randolph Hearst fanned U.S. sympathy for the rebels, which increased after the unexplained destruction of the U.S. warship Maine on Feb. 15, 1898. Congress passed resolutions declaring Cuba's right to independence and demanding that Spain withdraw its armed forces. Spain declared war on the U.S. on April 24. Commo. George Dewey led the naval squadron that defeated the Spanish fleet in the Philippines (see Battle of Manila Bay) on May 1, and Gen.William Shafter led regular troops and volunteers (including future U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders) in the destruction of Spain's Caribbean Sea fleet near Santiago, Cuba (July 17). In the Treaty of Paris (December 10), Spain renounced all claim to Cuba and ceded Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the U.S., marking the U.S.'s emergence as a world power.

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International highway system connecting North and South America. Conceived in 1923 as a single route, the road grew to include a number of designated highways in participating countries, including the Inter-American Highway from Nuevo Laredo, Mex., to Panama City, Pan. The whole system, extending from Alaska and Canada to Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, totals nearly 30,000 mi (48,000 km). Only some 240 miles (400 km) in the Panama-Colombia border area remain uncompleted.

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International organization formed in 1948 to replace the Pan-American Union. It promotes economic, military, and cultural cooperation among its members, which include almost all the independent states of the Western Hemisphere. (Cuba's membership was suspended in 1962.) The OAS's main goals are to maintain peace in the Western Hemisphere and to prevent intervention in the region by any outside state. Since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the OAS has more actively encouraged democratic government in member states, in part by organizing missions to observe and monitor elections. Seealso Alliance for Progress; Inter-American Development Bank.

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in full North American Free Trade Agreement

Trade pact signed by Canada, the U.S., and Mexico in 1992, which took effect in 1994. Inspired by the success of the European Community in reducing trade barriers among its members, NAFTA created the world's largest free-trade area. It basically extended to Mexico the provisions of a 1988 Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement, calling for elimination of all trade barriers over a 15-year period, granting U.S. and Canadian companies access to certain Mexican markets, and incorporating agreements on labour and the environment. Seealso General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; World Trade Organization.

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or peyotism

Religious movement among North American Indians involving the drug peyote. Peyote was first used to induce supernatural visions in Mexico in pre-Columbian times; its use extended north into the Great Plains in the 19th century, and peyotism is now practiced among more than 50 tribes. Peyotist beliefs, which combine Indian and Christian elements, vary from tribe to tribe. They involve worship of the Great Spirit, a supreme deity who deals with humans through various other spirits. In many tribes peyote is personified as Peyote Spirit and is associated with Jesus. The rite often begins on Saturday evening and continues through the night. The Peyote Road is a way of life calling for brotherly love, family care, self-support through work, and avoidance of alcohol.

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formerly (until 1980) Latin American Free Trade Association (LAFTA)

International association of Latin American countries originally dedicated to improving its members' economic well-being through free trade. At its founding in 1960 LAFTA included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay; by 1970 Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia had joined. The organization aimed to remove all trade barriers over 12 years, but its members' geographic and economic diversity made that goal impossible. LAFTA was superseded in 1980 by the LAIA, which established bilateral trading agreements between members, which were divided into three groups according to their level of economic development. Cuba was admitted with observer status in 1986, and it became a full member in 1999. Seealso Inter-American Development Bank.

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U.S. patriotic society for direct descendants of soldiers or others who aided the cause of independence. It was organized in 1890 and chartered by Congress in 1895. Its historical division stresses the study of U.S. history and preservation of Americana. Its educational division provides scholarships and loans, helps support schools for underprivileged youth and for Americanization training, sponsors prizes, and publishes manuals. Its patriotic division publishes the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine and The National Defense News. It was long known for its conservatism; its refusal in 1939 to let the black singer Marian Anderson perform at Washington's Constitution Hall led to her famous concert at the Lincoln Memorial.

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in full American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

Data-transmission code used to represent both text (letters, numbers, punctuation marks) and noninput device commands (control characters) for electronic exchange and storage. Standard ASCII uses a string of 7 bits (binary digits) for each symbol and can thus represent 27 = 128 characters. Extended ASCII uses an 8-bit encoding system and can thus represent 28 = 256 characters. While ASCII is still found in legacy data, Unicode, with 8-, 16-, and 32-bit versions, has become standard for modern operating systems and browsers. In particular, the 32-bit version now supports all of the characters in every major language.

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officially Territory of American Samoa

Unincorporated U.S. territory (pop., 2007 est.: 64,400), south-central Pacific Ocean. It includes the islands of Tutuila (the largest, with over two-thirds of the territory's land area and almost all of its population), Aunuu, Rose, Swains, and the Manua group. Area: 77 sq mi (200 sq km). Capital: Fagatogo (legislative and judicial); Utulei (executive) (both part of Pago Pago urban agglom., on Tutuila). Languages: Samoan, English (both official). Religion: Christianity (mostly Protestant; also Roman Catholic, other Christians). Currency: U.S. dollar. Most of the islands are rocky, formed from extinct volcanoes, and are surrounded by coral reefs. Tutuila and the islands of Manua are dominated by central mountain ranges. Fishing and tourism are major industries, but the U.S. administration is the main employer. The great majority of the population is of Samoan ancestry. The islands were probably inhabited by Polynesians 3,000 years ago. Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to visit the islands in 1722. Missionaries began arriving in the islands in the 1830s. The U.S. gained the right to establish a naval station at Pago Pago in 1878, and the U.S., Britain, and Germany administered a tripartite protectorate in 1889–99. In 1899 Britain and Germany renounced their claims over the eastern islands. The high chiefs ceded the eastern islands to the U.S. in 1904. American Samoa was administered by the U.S. Department of the Navy until 1951 and afterward by the Department of the Interior. Its current constitution was approved in 1967, and in 1978 the territory's first elected governor took office.

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or United States War of Independence

(1775–83) War that won political independence for 13 of Britain's North American colonies, which formed the United States of America. After the end of the costly French and Indian War (1763), Britain imposed new taxes (see Stamp Act; Sugar Act) and trade restrictions on the colonies, fueling growing resentment and strengthening the colonists' objection to their lack of representation in the British Parliament. Determined to achieve independence, the colonies formed the Continental Army, composed chiefly of minutemen, to challenge Britain's large, organized militia. The war began when Britain sent a force to destroy rebel military stores at Concord, Mass. After fighting broke out on April 19, 1775 (see Battles of Lexington and Concord), rebel forces began a siege of Boston that ended when American forces under Henry Knox forced out the British troops under William Howe on March 17, 1776 (see Battle of Bunker Hill). Britain's offer of pardon in exchange for surrender was refused by the Americans, who declared themselves independent on July 4, 1776 (see Declaration of Independence). British forces retaliated by driving the army of George Washington from New York to New Jersey. On December 25, Washington crossed the Delaware River and won the battles of Trenton and Princeton. The British army split to cover more territory, a fatal error. In engaging the Americans in Pennsylvania, notably in the Battle of the Brandywine, they left the troops in the north vulnerable. Despite a victory in the Battle of Ticonderoga, British troops under John Burgoyne were defeated by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Saratoga (Oct. 17, 1777). Washington quartered his 11,000 troops through a bleak winter at Valley Forge, where they received training from Frederick Steuben that gave them victory in Monmouth, N.J., on June 28, 1778. British forces in the north thenceforth chiefly concentrated near New York. France, which had been secretly furnishing aid to the Americans since 1776, finally declared war on Britain in June 1778. French troops assisted American troops in the south, culminating in the successful Siege of Yorktown, where Charles Cornwallis surrendered his forces on Oct. 19, 1781, bringing an end to the war on land. War continued at sea, fought chiefly between Britain and the U.S.'s European allies. The navies of Spain and the Netherlands contained most of Britain's navy near Europe and away from the fighting in America. The last battle of the war was won by the American navy under John Barry in March 1783 in the Straits of Florida. With the Treaty of Paris (Sept. 3, 1783), Britain recognized the independence of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and ceded Florida to Spain.

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Major centre of research and education on the natural sciences, established in New York City in 1869. It pioneered in staging field expeditions and creating dioramas and other lifelike exhibits showing natural habitats and their plant and animal life. Its research collections contain tens of millions of specimens, and its fossil and insect collections are among the largest in the world. It conducts research in anthropology, astronomy, entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, invertebrate biology, mammalogy, mineralogy, ornithology, and vertebrate paleontology, and it maintains permanent research stations in The Bahamas and the U.S. states of New York, Florida, and Arizona. It also contains one of the world's largest planetariums.

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Organization of U.S. physicians. It was founded in 1847 “to promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health.” It has about 250,000 members, about half of all practicing U.S. physicians. It disseminates information to its members and the public, operates as a lobbying group, and helps set medical education standards. Its publications include Journal of the American Medical Association, American Medical News, and journals on medical specialties.

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Organization of U.S. war veterans. Founded in 1919, it works for the care of disabled and sick veterans and promotes compensation and pensions for the disabled, widows, and orphans. Nonpolitical and nonsectarian, its membership requirement is honourable service and an honourable discharge. It was instrumental in establishing veterans' hospitals, and it sponsored the creation of the U.S. Veterans Administration in 1930. In 1944 it played an important role in the passage of the GI Bill. The American Legion claims about three million members in some 15,000 local posts, or groups.

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Languages spoken by the original inhabitants of the Americas and the West Indies and by their modern descendants. They display an extraordinary structural range, and no attempt to unite them into a small number of genetic groupings has won general acceptance. Before the arrival of Columbus, more than 300 distinct languages were spoken in North America north of Mexico by an estimated population of two to seven million. Today fewer than 170 languages are spoken, of which the great majority are spoken fluently only by older adults. A few widespread language families (Algonquian, Iroquoian, Siouan, Muskogean, Athabaskan, Uto-Aztecan, Salishan) account for many of the languages of eastern and interior North America, though the far west was an area of extreme diversity (see Hokan; Penutian). It is estimated that in Mexico and northern Central America (Mesoamerica), an estimated 15–20 million people spoke more than 300 languages before Columbus. The large Otomanguean and Maya families and a single language, Nahuatl, shared Mesoamerica with many smaller families and language isolates. More than 10 of these languages and language complexes still have more than 100,000 speakers. South America and the West Indies had an estimated pre-Columbian population of 10–20 million, speaking more than 500 languages. Important language families include Chibchan in Colombia and southern Central America, Quechuan and Aymaran in the Andean region, and Arawakan, Cariban, and Tupian in northern and central lowland South America. Aside from Quechuan and Aymaran, with about 10 million speakers, and the Tupian language Guaraní, most remaining South American Indian languages have very few speakers, and some face certain extinction.

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Civil rights organization founded in 1968, originally to help urban American Indians displaced by government programs. It later broadened its efforts to include demands for economic independence, autonomy over tribal areas, restoration of illegally seized lands, and protection of Indian legal rights and traditional culture. Some of its protest activities involved violence and were highly publicized (see Wounded Knee). Internal strife and the imprisonment of some leaders led to the disbanding of its national leadership in 1978, though local groups have continued to function.

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Enterprise formed by John Jacob Astor in 1808 that dominated the U.S. fur trade early in the 19th century. The company, considered the first U.S. business monopoly, absorbed or drove out rivals throughout the central and western U.S. Exploration by its trappers and traders helped open the frontier to settlement. By 1834, when Astor sold his company, it had become the largest commercial organization in the U.S.

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Organization founded by Roger Baldwin and others in New York City in 1920 to champion constitutional liberties in the U.S. It works for three basic concepts: freedom of expression, conscience, and association; due process of law; and equal protection under the law. From its founding it has initiated test cases and intervened in cases already in the courts. It may provide legal counsel, or it may file an amicus curiae brief. The Scopes trial was one of its test cases; it provided counsel for the Sacco-Vanzetti case. In the 1950s and '60s it opposed the blacklisting of supposed left-wing subversives and worked to guarantee freedom of worship and the rights of the accused. Its work is performed by volunteers and full-time staff, including lawyers who provide free legal counsel. Seealso civil liberty.

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Voluntary association (founded 1878) of U.S. lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. The largest bar association in the U.S., it seeks to improve the legal profession, ensure the availability of legal services to all citizens, and improve the administration of justice. It conducts educational and research projects, sponsors professional meetings, and publishes a monthly journal. At the beginning of the 21st century its membership exceeded 400,000.

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Prominent ballet company based in New York City. It was founded in 1939 as the Ballet Theatre (the name was changed in 1958) by Lucia Chase and Richard Pleasant to promote works “American in character.” Oliver Smith replaced Pleasant as codirector in 1945; Mikhail Baryshnikov served as artistic director from 1980 to 1989 after dancing with the company in the 1970s. New ballets were created for the company by Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and Antony Tudor; Michel Fokine revived many of his earlier works for them as well. Principal dancers have included Alicia Alonso, Erik Bruhn, Anton Dolin, and Natalia Makarova.

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formerly American Association of Retired Persons

Nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that addresses the needs and interests of Americans aged 50 and older. It was founded in 1958 by a retired teacher, Ethel Andrus, and merged in 1982 with the National Retired Teachers Association, also founded by Andrus (1947). Its bimonthly magazine, Modern Maturity, has the largest circulation of any U.S. periodical. Its membership exceeds 35 million. Its members' reliably high turnout at the polls has made it one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country.

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Touch football is a version of American football originally developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1940s in which the players "tackle" the individual carrying the ball only by touching him with one or two hands, based on whether one is playing the one-hand touch or two-hand touch variety, as opposed to tackling him bodily to the ground or forcing a knee to touch the ground, as is normal in traditional rules versions of the game. The two-hand touch variation is the most popular.

Depending on the skill of the players, the available playing field, and the purpose of the game, the rules other than the tackling aspect may remain mostly the same or vary considerably from traditional American football. Touch football can be played by teams as few as two or as many as eleven on each side; usually, games consist of teams of four to seven.

Positions in touch football are far less formal than its more organized counterpart. While some games roughly follow conventions, more often, all players will be considered eligible receivers (as in six-man football), and there are usually no running backs. There may or may not be a snapper; if there is not, the quarterback initiates play by hovering the ball above the line of scrimmage and pulling it backward to simulate a snap.

Generally, in touch football, nearly every play is a passing play, whereas run plays and pass plays tend to be well balanced in organized football. Some games will also implement a "blitz count", or a period of time that must elapse after the snap before the defense may cross the line of scrimmage in order to attempt to tackle the quarterback. The count thus gives the quarterback time to complete a pass in the absence of effective blocking (when teams are small, there is often no blocking at all). Other games will not use a count and thus blocking becomes important. Conversely, in the presence of a "blitz count" there is also often a "QB sneak" rule, which prevents the quarterback from taking unfair advantage of the blitz count by preventing the quarterback from crossing the line of scrimmage before the blitz count is finished.

Because of these rules, passing plays are far more common than running plays in touch football.

Along with the size of the teams, the size of the field can vary considerably. In a park, or spring practice situation, a full-sized field may be available, but many games are played in the front and back yards of suburban and rural village neighborhoods, where the whole field may not be much more than ten to thirty yards long. In most of these situations, there are no yard lines, requiring some change in the definition of a first down. Instead of requiring that a team advance the ball ten yards, sometimes two pass completions result in a first down. Another option is to eliminate first downs entirely, so that a team gets four (sometimes five) chances to score.

When it is desired for an odd number of players to play, it is common to allow one player to be an "all-time Quarterback" player; this player will always be on the offense or the kicking team, switching sides throughout the game. When this occurs, there is usually no blitz count and the all-time quarterback is usually never allowed to cross the line of scrimmage.

Another common variation is the elimination of the field goal and extra point kick; this is usually due to the absence of goal posts and tees on the field as well as due to poor kicking skill by the participants. Some games eliminate kicking altogether, directing the teams to start each possession after a touchdown at the twenty-yard line, as if a kickoff and touchback had just occurred; other players prefer to change the kickoff into a "throw-off" or a "punt-off."

Scoring and game timing are much different in touch football than its more organized counterpart. For the sake of simplicity, touchdowns are usually worth 1 point and no other scoring is counted (there are no extra point attempts). In a much lesser used variation, a touchdown is worth 6 points and if the player who scored the touchdown can progress in the other direction from the end zone in which he had just scored back to the opposite end zone without being touched, it counts as a two-point conversion. The former scoring method does not allow for other scoring types such as safeties. There is usually no game clock and the game ends when one opponent has reached 10 touchdowns (in the former convention) or 100 points (in a standard convention).

  • Touch football is generally played by amateurs, often teenagers or children.
  • In Mexico the "touch football" is also known with the nickname of "tochito", nickname from the name of the game.
  • During Thanksgiving, many Americans are known to play in "Turkey Bowls," games of touch or tackle football (without football pads) between family and friends.
  • During offseason spring workouts, many high school and college teams play touch football to work on passing formations and plays.

In-Depth explanation of variable rules

First touch- This rule controls the action of the offensive team's current quarterback, and requires that the blocking/countdown rule not be in use. When teams are even, a "shift" (hand-off) between two offensive players begins the play. It takes a touch from a defender assigned to the quarterback (the "first touch",) to stop his initial forward progress and determine where the ball will be thrown from. The assigned defender is stuck to the quarterback, unable to act as a pass defender or hinder the quarterback in his search of a receiver.

Depending on the group, first touch can refer to the quarterback's ability to run or walk after the shift. For example, one group may refer to first taught as the ability for the quarterback to run after the shift, get touched, and still throw the ball. Another group may use the rule to mean that the quarterback has the ability to walk or powerwalk forward, get touched, and throw. The first variation favors a game with many players, while the second may be best for games where there aren't many players.

Another addition to this rule is the "two-man touch," which penalizes the defense for being unaware of their assignments and teammates by making all players who touch the active quarterback stick to him, removing a defender from the field temporarily.

This rule is commonly and informally referred to "first taught," the result of players creating another past tense verb for "touch."

Kickoff- Change of possession after scoring is often accompanied by rules determining where the ball is thrown from as opposed to actually kicking since throwing offers more control to players who may be playing in street-accessible areas and don't wish to chase a ball through traffic. When the kickoff style is open to variance after each score, the desired rules are called out and whichever is heard first, is the accepted rule. When the rules are agreed on before the start of a game and are made to be steady throughout, they are referred to as Auto-. The most accepted Auto- rules are Half Court, In Hands-- this offers a rule that gives advantages to both the kicking and receiving teams.

  • No/Half Court- In Half Court, the ball is kicked off at the halfway mark in the field. In No Half Court, the ball is expected to be thrown from the kicking team's goal line. Half Court is practical when playing on a long field, but it puts the kicking team closer and potentially limits the maneuverability of the receiving team. Half Court is preferred by kicking teams as it dramatically shortens the amount of space and time between the teams.
  • No/In Hands- In Hands means that the ball will be thrown to any specific person, usually at the kicker's discretion. No In Hands means that the ball will be thrown in the general area of the team, but without a target. In Hands saves the receiving team the trouble of chasing a bobbling ball, and is preferred.

First Down- Rules on first downs vary depending on the playing group and field size. In shorter fields, it may be impractical or unnecessary to create landmarks which would reset the downs, as four downs should be all the time needed to go from one end to the other. However, longer fields may need a halfway marker which, when reached, would reset the downs. Multiple markers can be used in this way depending on the field length. As stated above in the article, a number of completed passes may also result in a first down, if the teams desire it so. It is uncommon to see both length-based and pass-based rules in use simultaneously.

# Hand Touch- As the name suggests, this rule determines the number of hands that must land on an offensive player simultaneously to stop the play/first touch situation. One-hand touch is often used with younger players, as two-hand touch demands greater dexterity. When used against more mature players, one-hand touch puts more pressure on the offense to juke and misdirect the defense.

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