Julian Assange: Sweden drops rape investigation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Julian Assange: Sweden drops rape investigation

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court on 11 April 2019Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Assange was arrested in London after Ecuador abruptly withdrew its protection in April

Prosecutors in Sweden have dropped an investigation into a rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange in 2010.

Assange, who denies the accusation, has avoided extradition to Sweden for seven years after seeking refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012.

The 48-year-old Australian was evicted in April and sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his bail conditions.

He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.

The Swedish investigation had been shelved in 2017 but was re-opened earlier this year following his eviction from the embassy.

In June, the then UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javed, formally approved an extradition request from the US where Assange is wanted on 18 counts related to the mass leak of American secrets.

What did the prosecutors say?

Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson took the decision to “discontinue the investigation regarding Julian Assange”, the Swedish Prosecution Authority said.

“The reason for this decision is that the evidence has weakened considerably due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question,” it added.

Media caption Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorean embassy in London

Ms Persson said: “I would like to emphasize that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events.

“Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidence situation has been weakened to such an extent that that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation.”

The prosecutors said the decision had been taken after interviews with seven witnesses in the case.

What was the Swedish investigation about?

Assange was accused of rape by a woman and sexual assault by another one following a Wikileaks conference in Stockholm in 2010. He has always denied the allegations, saying the sex was consensual.

Media caption Who is Julian Assange?

He also faced investigations for molestation and unlawful coercion, but these cases were dropped in 2015 because time had run out.

Newly identified electric eel is the most powerful ever found, say scientists

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Newly identified electric eel is the most powerful ever found, say scientists

'Electrophorus voltai,' one of the two newly discovered electric eel species.

(CNN)A newly-identified eel living in the Amazon basin can deliver record-breaking electric jolts, according to a study published Tuesday.

Researchers at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have identified two new species of electric eel in the Amazon rainforest, tripling the known number of electric eel species.
One of the new species — Electrophorus voltai — can discharge up to 860 volts of electricity, significantly more than the 650 volts generated by the known electric eel species, Electrophorus electricus, the study published in journal Nature Communications found.
These electric eels — which are actually a type of fish with an eel-like appearance — can grow to up to eight feet (2.4 meters) and highlight how much is yet to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest, study leader David de Santana, a research associate at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said in a press release.
“They’re really conspicuous,” de Santana said. “If you can discover a new eight-foot-long fish after 250 years of scientific exploration, can you imagine what remains to be discovered in that region?”

What are electric eels?

For 250 years, scientists have known that electric eels live in the Amazon basin. They just haven’t known how many species were lurking there.
Scientists long thought the electric eels found in swamps, streams, creeks and rivers across South America were all the same species. The new study shows that the eels actually belong to three different species.
All three species look pretty much the same externally and use their electricity to navigate, communicate, hunt and for self-defense. But when scientists analyzed 107 samples, they found that the three species had different genetic material, unique skull shapes, and different levels of voltage.
Based on their research, de Santana and his team believe that the three species began to evolve from their common ancestor about 7.1 million years ago.
See electric eels' leaping shock attack

See electric eels’ leaping shock attack 01:05
The eels’ voltage may have been influenced by the conductivity of the waters they lived in, the research found. Electrophorus voltai, for instance, lived in the clear waters of the highlands which did not conduct electricity well. According to de Santana, the species’ stronger voltage may be an adaption to the poor conductivity of the water.
There are about 250 species of fish that are able to generate electricity, but electric eels are the only ones that use electricity to hunt and for self-defense.
In 1799, scientists used electric eels as the inspiration behind the first battery design, and have also inspired ideas about how to improve technology and treat disease.
The newly discovered electric eel species could have evolved unique systems to produce electricity — perhaps a different system than the first discovered species — which could lead to more discoveries, de Santana said.
“It could really have different enzymes, different compounds that could be used in medicine or could inspire new technology,” he said.

4 Most Beautiful Views in South America

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Most Beautiful Views in South America

There is absolutely no shortage of picturesque vistas among the vast and varied landscapes that make up South America, all 7,000 square miles of them. Many of the most stunning views happen to be in places of wide-ranging biodiversity and high cultural importance, and they are thriving as destinations through eco-tourism and preservation practices. From epic mountain landscapes in Patagonia to paradise-found beach scenes in Colombia and nature’s tallest cascade in Venezuela, South America holds a rich trove of travel-worthy sights to behold.

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

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Sitting beneath the shade of a palm tree, enjoy endless views of magical blue lagoons and protected coves ringed by bight white beaches, themselves surrounded by hills carpeted in lush, deep-green tropical rainforest. Bring together those ocean and forest biomes, and you have a recipe for boundless biodiversity. Both the breathtaking scenery and the flora and fauna are on view at Tayrona National Park, in northern Colombia. The large preserve area spreads throughout the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a mountain range that comes down to recede into the Caribbean coastline. The plant and animal protections within the park provide the perfect ecotourism opportunity, all while allowing trekkers to take in some pretty paradisiacal views. A great overall resource is Colombiatravel.en.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

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Known by adventurers and thrill seekers as a pristine outdoor playground, Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile’s Patagonia region, features soaring mountains, bright-blue glaciers and golden pampas grasslands that seem endless. With such varied ecology, the views are endless, as well. The various environments shelter rare wildlife species, some found only here, such as the llama-like guanacos. Three prominent, towing spires of granite — called Cuernos del Paine — give the park its name. The epic terrain draws climbers, sea kayakers, mountain bikers and other outdoors adventure types.

Angel Falls, Venezuela

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Plunging over the cliff edge of Auyán-tepui mountain in Canaima National Park and dropping more than 3,200 feet, Angel Falls is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall. The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State, Venezuela. Some 60 percent of the park is made up of table mountain formations, whose flat tops are a unique geological formation that lends itself to the sheer cliffs and attendant waterfalls that make for such jaw-dropping natural grandeur. Rising from surrounding grassy savannas below, the tops of the towering table mountains are frequently shrouded in misty fog, making for ethereal, otherworldly views.

Machu Picchu, Peru

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With its verdant green terraces set amidst stark stone walls and surrounding sheer peaks of the Andes Mountains, the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu makes for magical views. Its precarious perch in its mountain fortress makes the site seem surreal, almost defying gravity. The ancient builders not only managed to balance altars and living accommodations on a cliff edge, but did it so well that the structure is still standing much as it was when it was built in the 15th century. American explorer Hiram Bingham was led to the site in 1911, and it has been a bucket-list site for travelers ever since. Due to such heavy use, it has become a prime example of working eco-tourism. Even with so much archaeological attention paid to the discovery over the years, Machu Picchu’s exact original use still isn’t known.

6 Ancient Maya Ruins to Explore

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

6 Ancient Maya Ruins to Explore

The Maya civilization dates back to 2600 BC and lasted over 3,000 years, leaving behind a legacy of amazing agricultural, architectural and scientific achievements. One of the longest lasting pieces of this legacy are the incredible structures and monuments that still exist today. Here are six ancient Maya ruins you can explore. It’s also worth noting that the term “Mayan” is generally used only to refer to the language. “Maya” refers to the people and cultures that make up the complex and diverse indigenous population.

Tikal, Guatemala

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Tikal, thought to be the capital of the Maya civilization, is located deep in the Guatemalan jungle. Because it is centered in such a lush environment and has been unoccupied for centuries, archaeologists estimate that only about 25 percent of the ruins have been uncovered. However, the ruins that have been revealed are stunning. They include six massive temples, some of which are over 200 feet tall. Be prepared for a crowd, however. Despite the location’s remote jungle location, the site draws over 100,000 visitors every year.

Uxmal, Mexico

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This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Pyramid of the Magician, a massive monument that was built in multiple stages. In fact, Uxmal means “thrice-built” and is a reference to the long process of erecting the pyramid. At the height of its occupancy, Uxmal was the largest population center on the Yucatan Peninsula. It covers over 50 acres, and the pyramid isn’t the only impressive ruin on the premises: The famed Governor’s Palace is larger than a football field and has the largest façade of any structure in pre-Colombian Mesoamerica.

Tulum, Mexico

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Many Maya ruins are deep in the jungle, which makes them hard to access and susceptible to being reclaimed by the vegetation that slowly consumes everything in its path. That is not the case with Tulum, however, which is located on the beautiful Caribbean coastline, about 100 miles south of Cancun, Mexico. Tulum was one of the last large Maya settlements to be built and was constructed as recently as 1200 AD. As a result, the many limestone temples that remain are well-preserved and make an excellent destination to explore.

Xunatunich, Belize

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This often-overlooked ruin, which lies about 70 miles west of Belize City, is well worth the journey. It features six plazas and over 26 structures. This includes the El Castillo of Belize, which is the second-highest structure in Belize. Xunatunich was a civic ceremonial center during an era when 200,000 Maya lived in the area now known as Belize.

Copan, Honduras

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Copan is one of the oldest known cities of the Maya world, having been first occupied in 1500 BC. It is in Honduras near the Guatemalan border and is home to many altars and monoliths. There are five full plazas, one of which, the Hieroglyphic Stairway Plaza, features the longest known Maya inscription, with over 1,800 glyphs.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

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No list of Maya ruins would be complete without Chichen Itza. Chichen Itza is considered one of the seven “New Wonders of the World” and is in the heart of Mexico. Chichen Itza features the famous El Castillo, a 98-foot-high temple built between the 9th and 12th centuries. El Castillo is not only an impressive monument but is a testament to the advanced understanding of astronomy the Maya possessed. The sides of the pyramid are aligned in such a way that during the autumn and spring equinoxes the shadow cast by the mid-afternoon sun creates the appearance of a snake crawling down the side of the structure. Chichen Itza is home to Cenate Segrado, a place of worship and sacrifice for the Maya, and the Great Ball Court, the largest ball court of ancient Mesoamerica.

The Maya weren’t the only civilization to leave behind incredible ruins that you can still explore. Read more from us about the ancient world, from all corners of the globe.

4 Best Countries to Retire In

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

4 Best Countries to Retire In

With great exchange rates, beautiful weather, and locals welcoming of U.S. expats, it’s not surprising these four countries to our south stand out as retirement meccas. One of them, Mexico, is so close and so easy to assimilate to, it makes perfect sense to shift your life and assets south of the border for the golden years. Slightly more exotic and further afield, Central American and South American locales with tropical tendencies and inexpensive living round out the righteous retirement roster.

Ecuador

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Straddling the equator on the west coast of South America, Ecuador is where diverse geographies and ecosystems collide, with the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands all lying within the country’s boundaries. This confluence of land forms equates to excellent weather throughout the entire country, for sunshiny days without the mugginess factor.

The capital, Quito, sits at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet in the Andean foothills, with a moderate mountain climate most of the year. Quito is renowned for its intact Spanish colonial center, palaces, and churches — along with big-city conveniences. Head down to the coast for warm weather all year. With reasonable beachfront real estate prices and low property taxes, retirees get a lot for their money here. Consider that a home on the Pacific Ocean can be had for $150,000, and that home prices and rental rates in the interior are far less expensive than that. So whether you prefer lush green valleys, ocean views, or mountain village life, Ecuador is a retirement dream.

Mexico

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If you are concerned about how far your Social Security earnings might go after retirement — or if you simply want to retire more extravagantly — Mexico is an obvious choice for life after work. The cost of living is so low that you can, in many places, subsist quite substantially on Social Security alone. Factor in the solid exchange rate, and Mexico just makes sense.

Beyond cost, there is the wonderful culture and climate of our southern neighbor to take into account. Sandwiched between the southern U.S. and Central America, Mexico boasts both Pacific Ocean and Gulf of Mexico beaches for miles. The huge, ecologically diverse country also enjoys desert, mountain, and jungle landscapes throughout its many regions. From small beach towns like Cancun to the metropolis of Mexico City, retirees will find a country steeped in the ancient and the modern. Throughout the country are scattered important archaeological sites such as  Teotihuacán and the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, along with Spanish colonial-era historic towns. Meanwhile, Mexico City’s trendy shops, world-class museums and gourmet dining display modern Mexico.

Costa Rica

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With pristine coastal beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific shores, Costa Rica is a tropical paradise, yet in contrast its interior is a rugged, rain-forested area studded with volcanoes. Much of the country – about a quarter of it – is protected jungle preserves with thriving biodiversity and wildlife, such as spider monkeys and exotic quetzal birds. Areas humans do inhabit are known for wonderful climate, an incredible cost of living, bargain real estate prices, and quality health care.

The capital is San Jose, where the climate is referred to as “eternal spring,” if that gives you an idea how nice it is year-round. The same is true for the rest of the surrounding Central Valley. Coastal beach towns are hot and dry, but benefit from cooling marine breezes, while the lush landscape in the southern part of the country remains moist and temperate. With such great weather, Costa Rico is perfect for outdoor-loving, active retirees into fishing, golf, horseback riding, hiking, diving, or yoga.

Panama

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Look at it this way: Not only is Panama modern and convenient — with close access back to the U.S. to visit the grand-kids — but it’s also a tropical paradise. Even if you choose to live in the capital, Panama City, amidst the modern hustle, your city park is a tropical rain-forest. Taking up the center of the isthmus linking Central and South America, Panama is famous for its Panama Canal, which was sliced through the center of the country in order to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, creating an essential and strategic international trade route.

Panama City’s modern skyscrapers, casinos, and nightclubs are juxtaposed with historic colonial buildings, many in the Casco Viejo district. As mentioned, Natural Metropolitan Park is a large patch of rain-forest preserved in the city. With no taxes on income earned outside of Panama, retirees can keep costs low even in metro Panama City. For even more value, head to more remote mountain and beach towns for pretty scenery and peaceful vibes, places such as Coronado, the Pedasi region and Bocas del Toro, among other retirement gems. No wonder Panama ranked at the top of the 2019 Annual Global Retirement Index.

6 Longest Highways on the Planet

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

6 Longest Highways on the Planet

If you’re used to traveling by car, you’re probably quite familiar with the highways in your local area. These lengthy stretches of empty roadway can seem nearly endless on long trips and are notorious for prompting complaints from the backseat. And while no roadway lasts forever, these six highways come the closest. Buckle up and prepare for an epic road trip.

6. National Highway 010 – China

Credit: Anna Frodesiak / Wikimedia

First on our list is National Highway 010, the longest highway in China. Also known as the Tongsan Expressway, this highway is over 3,500 miles long and runs through nine of China’s major provinces. A curious feature of this highway is that it’s interrupted by the Qiongzhou Strait, where cars must be ferried across the water to reach the province of Hainan. However, after decades of research, China is finally exploring new ways to subvert this problem and connect Hainan with a dedicated road-rail tunnel.

5. Golden Quadrilateral Highway Network – India

Credit: Soham Banerjee / Wikimedia

Completed in 2012, India’s Golden Quadrilateral Highway Network is the newest roadway on this list yet already stands as the fifth-longest highway in the world. Spanning over 3,600 miles, the Golden Quadrilateral Network gets its name from the shape the roads make from connecting four of India’s major metropolitan areas: Delhi in the north, Chennai in the south, Kolkata in the east, and Mumbai in the west. It was an ambitious project that ended up creating a network of highways throughout all 13 of India’s states, and it stands to this day as the country’s primary transit route for commerce, industry, and agriculture.

4. Trans-Canada Highway – Canada

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Ranking as the fourth-longest highway in the world and the second-longest national roadway is the Trans-Canada Highway. This long, interconnected system of roadways extends 4,860 miles, running through all 10 of Canada’s provinces and joining most of the country’s major cities. The Trans-Canada Highway took 21 years to build and required over $1 billion to finish, and the final results are pretty impressive: At the time of its completion, it was the world’s longest uninterrupted highway.

Of course, it wouldn’t hold this title for long, but it does still have a few cool features that others on this list don’t. For example, electric vehicle charging stations were installed along many segments of the highway in 2012, helping owners of electric cars make their trips across the country without relying on gasoline.

3. Trans-Siberian Highway – Russia

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With a total length of over 6,800 miles, the Trans-Siberian Highway is the longest highway in Russia and the Asian continent as a whole. Comprised of seven federal highways that were built separately and combined, the Trans-Siberian Highway runs an impressive distance from St. Petersburg in Western Russia all the way to the eastern city of Vladivostok.

Unlike some other highways on this list, the Trans-Siberian Highway is a dangerous route to travel. Many of the sections are poorly-maintained and extend far into the cold Russian tundra, with few gas stations or rest areas in sight. It’s recommended that drivers make the trip only between June and September when the weather is warm and the conditions are easier—if they must make the trip at all.

2. Highway 1 – Australia

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Runner-up on our list is Highway 1 in Australia. While it’s not the longest highway in the world compared to our first place winner, Highway 1 does bear the distinction of being the longest national highway owned by any single country, so it has that going for it.

Highway 1 is just over 9,000 miles long; a series of interconnected roads that connects to all of Australia’s major state capitals by way of a giant loop that circles the entire Australian continent. Known locally as the “Big Lap,” this long highway certainly isn’t the most direct way to travel around Australia — but it’s a popular route for motorists interested in taking a scenic tour of the country.

1. Pan-American Highway – North/South America

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The longest highway in the world is undoubtedly the Pan-American Highway. This sprawling maze of interconnected roadways spans over 29,000 miles, beginning up north in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and running all the way to Ushuaia, Argentina.

Yep, that’s right—this particular highway runs nearly the entire length of North and South America combined. Motorists who travel the whole length of the highway will pass through 14 countries, two continents, and a diverse array of climates that include forests, prairies, jungles, deserts, and arctic tundra, to name a few. It’s a trip that few can claim to have made, but in terms of sheer length, this highway is second to none.

The World’s Longest Roadways

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Many of these highways are destinations for world travellers who love the road and want a challenge — but be careful on these long trips! Just because these regions are designated as “highways” doesn’t mean that they’re well-kept or safe in all areas. Make sure you do your research and prepare well in advance before tackling any of these.

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Argentina: 4 Things to Do in Ushuaia, Earth’s Southernmost City

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

4 Things to Do in Ushuaia, Earth’s Southernmost City

Not many people have the opportunity to explore the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia, Argentina. But those who do will find that the former navy base nestled between high Argentinian peaks and the Beagle Channel has been transformed into an adventure destination complete with five-star hotels, world-class restaurants, and even a couple of casinos. Here are four of the most exciting things you can do when you visit Ushuaia.

Visit the End of the World

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Ushuaia likes to call itself the city at the end of the world, so why not take the time to see the real thing? Visit the Les Eclairs lighthouse, a white and red obelisk that sits on a rock in the middle of the Beagle Channel. The lighthouse is the last vestige of civilization before Antarctica, and there really isn’t another lighthouse like it in the world.

While you’re exploring the end of the world, you would do well to take some time to navigate the Beagle Channel that it sits in. From the water you will enjoy breathtaking views of the Patagonia surroundings, mountaintops, and one of the best views of Ushuaia itself. You can also cruise past the Isla de Pajaros, known for its large bird population, and the Isle de los Lobos, home to a colony of sea lions.

Get into the Snow

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As the southernmost point of South America, Ushuaia and the surrounding mountains receive a good amount of snow during their winter months of June through September. Take advantage of the snow at the nearby ski resort, Cerro Castor. While Cerro Castor may not be as expansive as some of the resorts closer to Buenos Aires, it is a great place to get a few runs in over the course of an afternoon. The resort is also a great entry point for a cross-country skiing adventure, if that is more your speed.

Another great way to enjoy the South American winter is to take a dog sled ride. Getting pulled through the forest by a team of Siberian huskies is an experience you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. A dog sled ride is also an excellent option if you are travelling with children, who will never forget meeting these amazing animals and being pulled through the snow behind them.

Explore the Patagonian Countryside of Tierra Del Fuego

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If you find yourself in Ushuaia during the warmer months, take some time to explore the Patagonian countryside. This unique landscape has held a special allure for explorers and adventurers for generations, and the Tierra Del Fuego offers many great places to take in the region.

Hike to Laguna Esmerelda, a colorful body of water surrounded by steep mountains, or kayak away from your camping spot on the edge of Lago Roca, where you’ll glide over calm glacial waters for a relaxing afternoon.

If you prefer not to hike, you can instead take the End of the World Train through Tierra del Fuego. This railroad once took the convicts who occupied the prison camp in Ushuaia to work at Mt Susana. The train now offers a guided tour in multiple languages alongside views of the Pipo River, Macarena cascade, and the rugged mountains surrounding the landscape.

Take in Argentinian History

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Learn about the history of the ancient Patagonia region at the End of the World Museum. Here you’ll find exhibits that date from the pre-Columbian era to the 20th century. You can also learn about the lives of the prisoners who were sentenced to stay cut off from society in Ushuaia at the Museuo Maritime y del Presido de Ushuaia. At this museum you’ll have to chance to walk the somber hallways and enter the claustrophobic cells that caged some of the most dangerous criminals in South America from 1920 to 1947.

Your adventure doesn’t need to end there, however. There are many restaurants that offer high quality Argentinian dishes, bars and clubs that will let you unwind after a long day of exploring, and many other experiences you won’t find anywhere else but at the end of the world.

3 Most Prestigious Coffee Regions in the World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Most Prestigious Coffee Regions in the World

There are plenty of travels that are musts for any foodie: fried chicken in the American South, a pint of Guinness in Ireland, cheese and chocolate in Switzerland, sashimi in Japan and so much more. But there seems to be one beverage in particular that sends a sizable segment of travelers on worldwide pilgrimages – coffee. The drink comes from the seeds of berries from certain Coffea plant species. Certain parts of the world are known for the quality of their coffee. Here are three of the most prestigious coffee regions in the world.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

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The African nation of Ethiopia is believed to be coffee’s birthplace, so it’s no wonder that the native plant grows like wildfire across the country. Ethiopia produces nearly 4 million bags of coffee annually (the United States is its fourth largest coffee buyer). Ethiopian coffee is known for tasting syrupy due to traditional dry processing methods that leave the bean’s skin intact. The three main regions where coffee beans originate are Harrar, Ghimbi and Sidamo. Harrar coffee is grown in the eastern part of the country, and “can have a strong dry edge, winy to fruitlike acidity, rich aroma and a heavy body.” Ghimbi coffee beans, meanwhile, are grown in the western parts of the country and are more balanced than Harrar coffees. Also known as Yirgacheffe coffee, Sidamo coffee is more mild, fruitlike and aromatic.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

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Costa Rica, particularly its Terrazu region, is also quite well-known for its coffee. Terrazu produces 35 percent of the nation’s coffee, grown in the Quepos Mountains. The high altitude is said to create several nuanced profiles of flavor. Harvest seasons last anywhere from August to March, depending on the location — high in the mountains or down in the valleys. Costa Rica has an agricultural-based economy, and coffee accounts for quite a bit of export revenue — somewhere around 12 percent.

Colombia

Colombia

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No coffee list would be complete without Colombia. Its production can be found throughout small pueblo-dotted towns and its consumption throughout the country. Some of the most prominent growing areas include: Salento, Manizales, Pereira, Rio Sucio, Marsella and Santa Rosa de Cabal. The country’s average annual coffee production of 11.5 million bags is the third highest total in the world, behind Brazil and Vietnam. Colombia is known for producing mild, well-balanced coffee beans, making it popular even among non-coffee drinkers. Its biggest importers are the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and Italy.

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Landscapes Around the World You Won’t Believe Exist

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Landscapes Around the World You Won’t Believe Exist

Earth is home to some spectacular natural vistas – dense forest, raging rivers and rugged mountains are sights we are all familiar with. But there are a few places that you may be surprised that you can even visit on this planet. Here are some landscapes from around the world that you won’t believe exist.

DAILY QUESTION

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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This expansive salt flat covers over 4,000 square miles high in the Bolivian Andes. Formed by the slow growth, reduction, and disappearance of many different lakes over the last 50,000 years, Salar de Uyuni is like no place on Earth. While the unending plain of snow-white salt is something to see on its own, the real show begins after a rain has passed over and transforms Salar de Uyuni into the world’s largest mirror.

Lake Baikal, Russia

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The largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Baikal holds more water than all the Great Lakes combined. But it becomes much more than just a massive lake during the winter, when the lake freezes over for five months. The frozen water is so clear that you can see almost 150 feet below the surface. In March, as temperatures begin to rise, the icy crust begins to crack, and ice shards are pushed above the surface. Sunlight streams though the blocks of ice and shines in an unearthly shade of turquoise.

Waitamo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

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There are over 300 limestone caves in the Waitamo region of New Zealand. One has been capturing the imagination of visitors for generations – the Waitamo Glowworm caves. The roof of this cave is home to a massive population of Arancamoa Luminosa, glow worms that bathe the cave in pale greenish blue light as visitors glide across the shallow waters of the cave.

Mount Roraima, Venezuela

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This flat-top mountain sits at the intersection of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. It has inspired both the native South Americans and visitors to the region for centuries. Somewhat more recently, the unique landscape served as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for his novel, The Lost World.

In the novel, Sir Doyle imagines a world apart from the rest of the planet, cut off and inaccessible, still inhabited by dinosaurs and other creatures from bygone eras. If you have a chance to see Mount Roraima’s flat, 12-square mile summit towering above the clouds, surrounded by cliffs over 1,000 feet high, you’ll understand how Sir Doyle envisioned a world where life could continue undisturbed.

Zhangjiajie, China

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Deep within the Wulingyuan scenic area of China’s Hunan province lies the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Abundant greenery hides the true star of the park – freestanding pillar formations that were carved out over centuries of physical erosion. These pillars also served as the inspiration for a famous science-fiction setting: the alien jungle of James Cameron’s film Avatar. It was modeled after the Zhangjiajie forest.

Zhangye Danxia, China

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The Zhangye National Geopark consists of natural rock formations with fabulous bands of color streaked through them. The formations are the result of more than 20 million years of sandstone and other minerals depositing in the area. The deposits were then twisted to their current angle by steady tectonic movements, which give them the striking appearance they have today.

Valley of the Ten Peaks, Canada

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High in Canada’s Banff National Park lies Moraine Lake, an Alpine destination where crystal-clear waters are bordered by a tall evergreen forest, which is in turn dwarfed by ten imposing peaks, all of which are over 10,000 feet. The lake can be easily reached by road, which means you can visit one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in North American with little more than a long drive.

The Oldest Continually Inhabited Cities on Each Continent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

The Oldest Continually Inhabited Cities on Each Continent

On every continent we find some of the oldest cities that early human civilizations called home. Successful long-term dwelling habitation occurs from a blending of sources. The region needs a strong economy with quality and consistency in the creation of trade. A perpetual food and water supply, availability of work, enduring infrastructure and uninterrupted peace and harmony are classic explanations.

Maintenance of the ratio of birth and death rates, as well as immigration and migration, must balance the population. All these society-friendly conditions continue to come together in some of the oldest cities on the continents of North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

North America: Cholula, Mexico

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In North America, the pre-Columbian city of Cholula is found in the state of Puebla, Central Mexico. It is the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America, expanding from a settlement to a village and is now a regional city. The available data regarding the establishment of first-time inhabitants are conflicting, ranging from anywhere from 2000 B.C., between 800 B.C. and 200 B.C., and from the 7th century. The current thinking is that Toltec refugees settled in the area following the fall of Tula. However, other information indicates that the peoples were the children of one of the seven Aztec tribes.

Eighteen neighborhoods make up the city, and each one has a leader. This city is well known for the Iglesias de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sanctuary. The local economy continues to endure, thanks to visitors from all over the world.

South America: Quito, Ecuador

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In South America, the oldest inhabited city is Quito in Ecuador. Located at the Guayllabamba river basin, it is the capital of Ecuador. Sources cite varying dates for first-time inhabitants, stretching from the occupation of the Kingdom of Quito from 2000 B.C. to 980 A.D., or the 13th or 16th century.

Despite earthquakes, there is enough water for residential and industrial use that the city’s population continues to replenish itself. A renewing spirit of culture, economy and environmental resources has engaged the 2 million residents and their government. Rebuilding and renovation projects have included a new airport, the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, an ecologically sustainable Metrobus-Ecovia that links the northern and southern edges of the city and a new subway system.

Middle East: Jericho, West Bank

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Based on archeological support, it is suggested that Jericho is among the oldest inhabited cities in the world. Destroyed, abandoned, re-inhabited and enlarged many times, the city dates back to 11,000 to 9000 B.C. with the walled defenses around 6800 B.C. Researchers have uncovered 20 successive communities.

Located below sea level, Jericho has the distinction of not only being the oldest inhabited, walled city, but also geographically the lowest, located 847 feet below sea level. Local springs found near the city from the nearby Jordan River are a welcome water supply to the nearly 20,000 current residents. Considered the oasis of the Jordan Valley, tourists make a pilgrimage to soak in the unique history of this biblical-era city.

Africa: Luxor (Thebes), Egypt

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The oldest continuously inhabited city in Africa, Luxor is home to about 500,000 residents and situated near the Nile River. Estimates place the time of habitation as 7200 B.C. to 3200 B.C. Luxor was established as a sacred religious capital, yet saw decline during the Roman occupation.

Today, visitors travel the globe to explore this ancient Egyptian city. Ruins and classical artifacts abound within the monuments of the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the West Bank Necropolis, and the ruins of the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Supported by the tourist economy, Luxor continues to contribute to antiquity art, culture and knowledge.

Europe: Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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Assessments place the establishment of Plovdiv at 6,000 years ago. Rich in history, the city was a travel crossroads for the Roman Empire, connecting Western Europe and the Middle East. The survival of thousands of years of conflicts and occupations have left behind a vibrant cultural tapestry. Architectural landmarks, monuments, statues, art and education unite with the Thracian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times. Ethnic diversity is still seen today, as Plovdiv, the second-largest city in Bulgaria, is home to 340,000 inhabitants of Roman, Armenian, Greek, Jewish, and Turkish heritage.

The world’s oldest cities evoke thoughts of faraway places and classical times. Archeological discoveries link us to our common ancestry, and there are many histories yet to be revealed. From the seven hills of Rome to the Americas, communities are the cornerstone of humanity.

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