It’s time for some levelheaded talk about that ostensibly endless stretch of flatness some denigrate as “flyover country” and others respectfully call 'Kansas.' The alleged monotony of the Sunflower State’s terrain is referenced about as often as “The Wizard of Oz” when Kansas pops up into conversation. “It’s truly engrained,” said Jerry Dobson, professor of geography at the University of Kansas. “Every Kansan hears again and again, when new visitors arrive, ‘I’m surprised. This place is not as flat as I expected.’
By any measure, Florida takes the prize for the flattest state in the nation becuase the highest point in the state is only 345 feet above sea level. Then Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota and Delaware follow. Kansas merely ranks seventh in flatness.
"If you could only tell a visitor to do ONE thing in your whole state, what would it be?"
We asked this question to ourselves, to our trusted friends, and to a whole bunch of HuffPost editors. We thought our comrades' answers would help us create the ultimate American travel guide.
But their suggestions -- from ice cream scoops to National Park hikes -- did much more than that. They reminded us that America is truly beautiful... every snow-capped, white-sand, deep-fried corner of it.
We'll never be able to capture each state's huge array of awesomeness in a single post. But if you're looking to travel back to your American roots, this bucket list might be a good place to start.
After months of extremely dry weather, a Sacramento-area lake has pulled a massive disappearing act.
California just suffered its driest year in 119 years, and the horrid drought that's plaguing the state (and much of the American West) still shows no sign of relaxing its withering grip. But how bad is it, really?
Well, it's so dry that "grass-fed beef" is becoming "grain-fed beef," as ranchers can't find any grass to feed their cattle. Things are so parched that the state's municipal water system has announced it can't get water to many farmers. That's a first in its 54-year history, and not a good omen for the state that produces half of America's vegetables and fruits.
February 11 marks the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, a jolting socio-political and geopolitical event that transformed the dynamics of the Middle East, energy security, and global diplomacy. Iran, at the time a key regional ally of the U.S. and the West, became a virulently anti-U.S. and anti-Western state with a state ideology rooted in Shiite Islam and perceived principles of Iranian exceptionalism. Over the next three decades following the revolution, Iran became an international outcast and found itself a target of seemingly never-ending international sanctions, a military attack by a major Arab army, and international attempts to contain and curb its religious ideology. The country pursued a foreign policy that is regarded by many as adventurous, and independent by others. Iran opposed America’s leadership role in the region and denied Israel the right to exist. It entered into a fierce ideological rivalry with Turkey and undermined Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf region. Today, Iran is in the midst of what appears to be a major recalculation of its strategic regional and foreign policy imperatives as it tries to mend fences with the United States and drag itself out of paralyzing economic sanctions and re-enter the global economy.
"President Hassan Rouhani of Iran surprised Tehran's only Jewish hospital with a generous donation on Thursday, reports the New York Times. His brother personally delivered $400,00 to the Dr. Sapir Hospital and Charity Center, along with the message that "the Health Ministry would give more attention to hospitals that traditionally serve Christian and Jewish Iranians," according to the Mehr News Agency. Another news source, Tabnak, reported the amount as $200,000 but said a second installment would be coming."
ALMATY, Feb 7 (Reuters) - President Nursultan Nazarbayev may drop the 'stan' from Kazakhstan to distinguish his booming oil-rich nation from the rest of Central Asia, where the other so-called stans are mostly mired in poverty. The ...
"Chinese technology was 1,000-plus years ahead of everyone else—like this, but with horses and rice. Imagine if today's crops suddenly became 30 times more productive. That would cause a population boom, right? Agriculture is how human populations exploded in size compared to hunter-gatherer civilizations. So let's talk about some of those tools of agriculture and how population booms were achieved in an era of horse and plow."
"The Parisian metro system is truly a marvel of public transportation. As the sixth-largest metro system in the world, it carries nearly 1.5 billion passengers each year over its 132 miles of tracks—but for all its impressive capabilities, there are 11 stations that sit unused, either closedduring World War II or never opened to begin with. If one candidate wins the city's mayoral election this year, however, those famous "ghost stations" might see new life, in very unexpected ways.
Instead of letting the stations sit empty, candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet hopes to turn the available space into places that Parisians can go to eat, dance, watch a play or even exercise. She's teamed up with French architects Manal Rachdi and Nicolas Laisné to conceptualize several potential designs for the abandoned stations. Among the most interesting: a subterranean garden, a nightclub and a swimming pool."
On the campaign trail, Terry McAuliffe (D) said that as governor, he’d make sure that new school textbooks note that the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea.
The promise was important to Northern Virginia’s large Korean American community, who see the Sea of Japan designation as a painful relic of Japanese occupation.
But the pledge has turned into a huge headache and partisan showdown for the new governor. It leaves McAuliffe with an unhappy choice: angering one of the state’s largest trade partners (Japan) or alienating a key Northern Virginia voting bloc (Koreans).
Seth Dixon's insight:
Names can be loaded with political and cultural meanings; not surprisingly, many place names (toponyms) are contested around the world. This is the story of one place name causing strife on the other side of the globe from where it is.
Here are some other disheartening facts about the upcoming Winter Olympics
Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the balmy seaside city of Sochi. And with more than $50 billion spent on them, they will be the most expensive Olympics ever. With the opening ceremony just under three weeks away, here’s a quick rundown on the Florida of Russia.
"For Regional Geography, I ask that all my students take an online quizzes before coming to class because it is very difficult to intelligently discuss European issues if you don’t know the countries of Europe, where they are and what other countries are on their borders. Quizzes and knowing places doesn’t define geography, but if geography were English literature, knowing about places could be described as the alphabet–before you write a sonnet or critique an essay, you better know your ABC’s and basic grammar. Given that, I like the Lizard Point Geography quizzes,Sheppard Software quizzes and those from Click that ‘Hood; they are simple, straightforward and comprehensive."
"For the first time in five years, visitors can walk on the ice of Lake Superior to get to the Apostle Islands sea caves. The National Park Service describes the caves as a “fairyland of needle-like icicles.” On weekends, more than 1,000 people a day may visit the caves -- more than the peak of the summer season."
In 2013, Spain produced over 20 percent of its energy with wind turbines; questions remain over its economic stability
Wind accounted for 20.9 percent of the country’s energy last year — more than any other enough to power about 15.5 million households, with nuclear coming in a very close second at 20.8 percent. Wind energy usage was up over 13 percent from the year before, according to the report.
The news is being hailed by environmental advocates as a sign that Spain, and perhaps the rest of the world, is ready for a future based on renewables. But the record comes at the end of a very rocky year for Spain’s renewable energy sector, which was destabilized by subsidy cutbacks and arguments over how much the government should regulate renewable energy companies.
It seems like one reason why Russia’s actions in Crimea appear so jarring and brazen is that it’s a form of warfare that was once common but rarely take place anymore. Russia may not formally annex Crimea – it seems more likely that the territory will declare independence under heavy Russian influence – but it has essentially invaded another country to lob off a piece of territory that was, despite longstanding nationalist sentiment, an undisputed part of Ukraine.
Historically speaking, conflicts in which one country sends troops into the territory to take over a disputed region are pretty common. But today, interstate war is relatively rare, and interstate wars over control of territory even rarer. For the most part, conflicts today usually take place between armed groups within states, and when one country does send troops into another – the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance – it’s generally under the assumption that sooner or later they will pull out, leaving borders as they are.
"Why analysts touting Ukraine's East-West division are just plain wrong."
This neat picture [of East/West divisions] becomes muddled in the environs of Luhansk and Donetsk. For example, the official website of the Bilokurakyn district of Luhansk province (which borders Russia) is in Ukrainian, and the website's sentiments are distinctly anti-Yanukovych. The countryside and smaller towns of both provinces tend to speak Ukrainian and practice Ukrainian culture. And even in the cities themselves, the vast majority of the population -- minus the pro-Russian chauvinists -- will happily engage Ukrainian speakers in conversation. One Ukrainian history professor at Donetsk State University has been conducting all his lectures in Ukrainian for over a decade. At first some students grumbled -- and he responded by pointing out that if they lack the intellectual ability to understand Ukrainian, they shouldn't be university students. Since then, there have been no complaints and no problems.
Go to Lviv in the West, and you encounter similar subtleties. The vast majority of Lviv residents are at least proficient in Russian, gladly speak the language, read Russian newspapers and books, and watch Russian television. If a radio is playing in a restaurant or café, chances are as high that it'll be tuned to a Russian station rather than a Ukrainian one. Lviv is especially popular with Russian tourists, who like it for its Middle European feel, old architecture, and Ukrainian distinctiveness. A favorite Russian watering hole is the Kryyivka (Bunker) restaurant, modeled after the underground hideouts used by anti-Soviet Ukrainian nationalists after World War II.
On Monday, February 10, the Associated Press broke a story that the Obama administration is mulling over potentially conducting a drone strike on a U.S. citizen in an unidentified country who is allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. The AP notes that it withheld the name of the country “because officials said publishing it could interrupt ongoing counterterror operations.”
A number of news organizations took the same route as the AP, including the Washington Post, withholding the name of the “country in question”—a phrase used in the initial AP article. On Monday night, however, the New York Times broke the mold, identifying the country as Pakistan.
Just one week ago, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. was “sharply” curtailing strikes as the Pakistani government engages in peace talks with the Taliban. Nevertheless, U.S. officials made it clear that there were two cases in which it would break the moratorium: 1) if a senior al Qaeda target became “available”; 2) to stop an “imminent threat” to the United States.
In the late nineteenth century, Europe's great powers claimed the African continent for themselves. In the guise of a humanitarian mission, European leaders and businesses exploited African natural resources and people to fuel European economic growth. Africans did not submit to outside control willingly. In fact, African resistance continued throughout the colonial period, culminating in the independence movements of the mid-twentieth century.
Africa is a vast continent—more than three times the size of the United States—with more than 50 countries and thousands of ethnic groups and societies. African experiences of colonialism were diverse. Nevertheless, there are common themes within the continent's colonial history and its legacies. Colonization and Independence in Africa explores these themes generally, as well as specifically through four country case studies: Ghana, Algeria, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The readings and activities help students consider the perspectives of Africans and the ways in which they responded to European colonialism.
Seth Dixon's insight:
This provides excellent teaching resources on African independence and the end of colonization.
Of the myriad controversies surrounding the upcoming Olympics, one that’s gotten relatively little attention—at least outside Russia—is the ongoing campaign against the games by the global Circassian community. The choice of Sochi as a venue has highlighted a tragic but largely forgotten chapter in the region’s history. The Circassian Genocide,...
Let's face it: Democracy is struggling. Sure, it surged after the fall of the Berlin Wall, reaching a high-water mark in the first years of the 21st century with various inspirational "colored" revolutions. But then democratic gains in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America stalled, or even deteriorated, as fragile democracies struggled under the enormous challenge of governance. The expensive U.S. failures to impose democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't helped. Today, many countries that once seemed budding with democratic promise now appear mired in political infighting, beset by power grabs by ousted elites, or trapped in downward spirals of poverty and unemployment. And the seemingly inexorable rise of autocratic China, in sharp contrast with gridlocked western democracies, has some wondering whether democracy is even worth pursuing.
The South American Handbook, first published in 1924, and still regularly updated, shows how much - but sometimes also how little - the region has changed over the last nine decades. It also reveals how British business left a strong mark on Chile in particular.
The guidebook was produced by the Federation of British Industry for traders travelling to South America for work, and sold for 7/6 (seven shillings and six pence - 37.5p after decimalization). The editor was William Koebel, a merchant and author from Forest Hill - then a village in Kent, now a suburb of south-east London.
"While Germans tend to talk about privacy and how the internet takes away our freedom, chief Almir of the Surui tribe in Brazil came up with an idea when he first came in contact with Google Earth. He saw it as a great tool to visualize the devastation of the rainforest. With the help of Google providing the knowledge and equipment he started the project and provided an unfiltered perspective never seen before. This is a growing project on a growing problem that should matter to all of us. It’s never a service or product itself that matters; it’s what you do with it. Check the video and see for yourself."
Globalization inherently brings serendipitous juxtapositions. In this clip we see the merger of geospatial technologies to protect indigenous cultures and their cultural ecology.
Since Sochi was announced as the 2014 Olympic host city in 2007, Circassians have protested the upcoming games on the grounds that the genocide has received no recognition from the Russian government and the Olympic stadiums are being built on their ancestors’ graves. One hill being used for skiing and snowboarding events is called “Red Hill” because Russian troops massacred a group of Circassians on it.
Russian president offers assurances to gay and straight Olympics participants that safety is not a concern
Seth Dixon's insight:
This issue is endlessly fascinating, due to its political and cultural complexity. Russia's president is now claiming that a major reason for the law to ban "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" is because of demographic collapse. Russia's birthrates are incredibly low, and the total population is declining; Putin believes that homosexuality is at least partially to blame for this demographic situation...oh, and that gay Olympic athletes have nothing to worry about.