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Turks and Caicos: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svgThe Turks and Caicos Islands (pronounced /ˈtɝːks/ and /ˈkeɪkəs/ or /ˈkeɪkoʊs/; abbreviated TCI) are a British Overseas Territoryconsisting of two groups of tropical islands in the West Indies, the larger Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands, known for tourism and as an offshore financial centre.

The Turks and Caicos Islands lie southeast of Mayaguana in the Bahamas and north of the island of Hispaniola. Cockburn Town, the capital, is situated about 1,042 kilometres (647 mi) east-southeast of Miami in the United States. The islands have a total land area of 430 square kilometres (170 sq mi). The islands are geographically contiguous to the Bahamas, but are politically a separate entity.

The total population is about 36,000, of whom approximately 22,500 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands. Cockburn Town, the capital, is on Grand Turk Island.

In August 2009, the United Kingdom suspended the Turks and Caicos’ self-government after allegations of ministerial corruption. The prerogative of the ministerial government and the House of Assembly are vested in the islands’ incumbent governor, Gordon Wetherell, for a period of up to two years.

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Notes from Wikipedia

United States of America: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of the United States.svgThe United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, the States, or America) is a federalconstitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east andRussia to the west across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possessesseveral territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.

At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and with over 309 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multiculturalnations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the world’s largest national economy, with an estimated 2009 GDP of $14.3 trillion (a quarter of nominal global GDP and a fifth of global GDP at purchasing power parity).

Indigenous peoples of Asian origin have inhabited what is now the mainland United States for many thousands of years. This Native American population was greatly reduced by disease and warfare after European contact. The United States was founded by thirteen British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their right to self-determination and their establishment of a cooperative union. The rebellious states defeated the British Empire in theAmerican Revolution, the first successful colonial war of independence.  The current United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.

In the 19th century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia, and annexed theRepublic of Texas and the Republic of Hawaii. Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over states’ rights and the expansion of the institution of slavery provoked the American Civil War of the 1860s. The North’s victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of legal slavery in the United States. By the 1870s, the national economy was the world’s largest. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country’s status as a military power. It emerged from World War II as the first country with nuclear weapons and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower. The country accounts for two-fifths of global military spending and is a leading economic, political, and cultural force in the world.

The United States is a multicultural nation, home to a wide variety of ethnic groups, traditions, and values. Aside from the now small Native American and Native Hawaiian populations, nearly all Americans or their ancestors immigrated within the past five centuries. The culture held in common by most Americans—mainstream American culture—is a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of European immigrants with influences from many other sources, such as traditions brought by slaves from Africa.  More recent immigration from Asia and especially Latin America has added to a cultural mix that has been described as both a homogenizing melting pot and a heterogeneous salad bowl in which immigrants and their descendants retain distinctive cultural characteristics.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Qatar: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of Qatar.svgQatar (Standard Arabic: [ˈqɑtˁɑr]; English pronunciation: /kəˈtɑr/ kə-TAR; local pronunciation: [ɡitˁar]), also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is an Arab country, known officially as an emirate, in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula.

It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south; otherwise, the Persian Gulf surrounds the state. A strait of the Persian Gulf separates Qatar from the nearby island nation of Bahrain.

Qatar is an oil- and gas-rich nation, with the third largest gas reserves, and the first or second highest GDP per capita in the world.

An absolute monarchy, Qatar has been ruled by the al-Thani family since the mid-1800s and has since transformed itself from a British protectorate noted mainly for pearling into an independent state with significant oil and natural gas revenues.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Qatari economy was crippled by a continuous siphoning off of petroleum revenues by the Emir, who had ruled the country since 1972. His son, the current Amir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, overthrew him in a bloodless coup in 1995.

In 2001, Qatar resolved its longstanding border disputes with both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Netherlands: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of the Netherlands.svgThe Netherlands (pronounced /ˈnɛðɚləndz/; Dutch: Nederlandpronounced [ˈneːdərlɑnt] ) is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located in North-West Europe. It is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy.

The Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and water borders with Denmark, Norwayand United Kingdom. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague.

The Netherlands in its entirety is often referred to as Holland, although North and South Holland are actually only two of its twelve provinces.

The word Dutch is used to refer to the people, the language, and anything pertaining to the Netherlands. This lexical difference between the noun and the adjective is an attribute of the English language that does not exist in the Dutch language. The adjective ‘Dutch’ is derived from the language that was spoken in the area, called ‘Diets’, which equals Middle Dutch.

The Netherlands was one of the first parliamentary democracies. Among other affiliations the country is a founding member of the European Union (EU), NATO, OECD and WTO. With Belgium and Luxembourg it forms the Benelux economic union.

The country is host to five international courts: the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The first four are situated in The Hague as is the EU’s criminal intelligence agency Europol and judicial co-operation agency Eurojust. This has led to the city being dubbed “the world’s legal capital”.

The Netherlands has a capitalist market-based economy, ranking 15th of 157 countries according to the Index of Economic Freedom.

The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level, with 50% of its land lying less than one metre above sea level. Significant land area has been gained through land reclamation and preserved through an elaborate system of polders and dikes.

Much of the Netherlands is formed by the estuary of three important European rivers, which together with their distributaries form the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta. Most of the country is very flat, with the exception of foothills in the far southeast and several low-hill ranges in the central parts.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Togo: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of Togo.svgThe Togolese Republic, often known as Togo, is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located.

Togo covers an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) with a population of approximately 6.7 million. Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a climate that provides good growing seasons. The official language of Togo is French. However, there are many other languages spoken, particularly those of the Gbe family. The largest religious group in Togo are those with indigenous beliefs, but there are significant Christian and Muslim minorities. Togo is a member of the United Nations, African Union, Organisation of the Islamic Conference, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, La Francophonie and Economic Community of West African States.

From the 11th to the 16th century, various tribes entered the region from all directions. From the 16th century to the 18th century, the coastal region was a major trading centre for Europeans in search of slaves, earning Togo and the surrounding region the name “The Slave Coast”. In 1884, Germany declared a protectare over Togoland. After World War I, rule over Togo was transferred to France. Togo gained its independence from France in 1960. In 1967, Gnassingbé Eyadéma led a successful military coup, after which he became president. At the time of his death in 2005, Eyadéma was the longest-serving leader in modern African history, after having been president for 38 years. In 2005, his son Faure Gnassingbé was elected president.

Togo’s culture reflects the influences of its many ethnic groups, the largest and most influential of which are the Ewe, Mina, Tem, Tchamba andKabre.

French is the official language of Togo. The many indigenous African languages spoken by Togolese include: Gbe languages such as Ewe,Mina, and Aja; Kotokoli, Akessele, Bassar, Losso Kabiyé; and others.

Despite the influences of Christianity and Islam, over half of the people of Togo follow native animistic practices and beliefs.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Lesotho: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of Lesotho.svgLesotho (pronounced /lɨˈsuːtuː/, lih-SOO-too), officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave—entirely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa.

It is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru.

Lesotho is the southernmost landlocked country in the world. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name “Lesotho” translates roughly into “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”.

About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

Lesotho’s economy is based on diamonds exported all over the world and water sold to South Africa, manufacturing, agriculture, livestock, and to some extent the earnings of laborers employed in South Africa.

Lesotho also exports wool, mohair, clothing, and footwear. One of Levi’s jeans manufacturing facilities is located there. Also in Lesotho is one of Russell Athletic plants.

Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labor, primarily miners who remain in South Africa for 3 to 9 months.

The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earns some income through crop cultivation or animal husbandry, with over half the country’s income coming from the agricultural sector.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Tokelau: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of Tokelau.svgTokelau (pronounced /ˈtoʊkəlaʊ/) is a territory of New Zealand that consists of three tropical coral atolls with a combined land area of 10 km2 and a population of approximately 1,400 in the South Pacific Ocean. The atolls lie north of the Samoas, east of Tuvalu, south of the Phoenix Islands, southwest of the more distant Line Islands (both islands groups belonging to Kiribati) and northwest of the Cook Islands.

The United Nations General Assembly designated Tokelau a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Until 1976 the official name was Tokelau Islands. Tokelau is sometimes referred to by Westerners by the older, colonial name of The Union Islands.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the atolls of Tokelau — Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo — were settled about 1,000 years ago, probably by voyages from Samoa, the Cook Islands and Tuvalu.

Oral history traces local traditions and genealogies back several hundred years. Inhabitants followed Polynesian mythology with the local god Tui Tokelau; and developed forms of music and art. The three atolls functioned largely independently while maintaining social and linguistic cohesion. Tokelauan society was governed by chiefly clans, and there were occasional inter-atoll skirmishes and wars as well as inter-marriage. Fakaofo, the “chiefly island,” held some dominance over Atafu and Nukunonu. Life on the atolls was subsistence-based, with reliance on fish and coconut.

According to the US Central Intelligence Agency’s list of countries by GDP (PPP) Tokelau has the smallest economy of any country in the world. Tokelau has an annual purchasing power of about US$1,000 (€674) per capita. The government is almost entirely dependent on subsidies from New Zealand. It has annual revenues of less than US$500,000 (€336,995) against expenditures of some US$2.8 million (€1.9 million). The deficit is made up by aid from New Zealand.

Tokelau annually exports around US$100,000 (€67,400) of stamps, copra and woven and carved handicrafts and imports over US$300,000 (€202,197) of foodstuffs, building materials, and fuel to, and from, New Zealand. New Zealand also pays directly for the cost of medical and education services. Local industries include small-scale enterprises for copra production, wood work, plaited craft goods, stamps, coins, and fishing. Agriculture and livestock produces coconuts, copra, breadfruit, papayas, bananas, pigs, poultry and few goats. A large number of Tokelauans live in New Zealand and support their families in Tokelau through remittances.

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Notes from Wikipedia

Nicaragua: History, Culture and Economy

July 31, 2010 by  

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File:Flag of Nicaragua.svgNicaragua (pronounced /ˌnɪkəˈrɑːɡwə/ nik-ə-RAH-gwə) officially the Republic of Nicaragua (Spanish: República de Nicaragua,pronounced [reˈpuβlika ðe nikaˈɾaɣwa]), is a representative democratic republic. It is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373 km2.

The country is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west of the country, the Caribbean Sea to the east. The country’s Caribbean coast is part of the Western Caribbean Zone. Falling within the tropics, Nicaragua sits between 11 degrees and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere.

Nicaragua’s abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot. The capital city of Nicaragua isManagua. Roughly one quarter of the nation’s population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, making it the second largest city and metropolitan area in Central America.

The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the sixteenth century and the territory became associated with the Viceroyalty of New Spain and later the Captaincy General of Guatemala. Alongside the Spanish, the British established a protectorate on the eastern seaboard beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, and ending roughly two centuries later with the rise of the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada in the coast.

The eastern seaboard retains its colonial heritage; English and Jamaican Patois are commonly spoken and the culture in the Atlantic region identifies itself as being more caribbean. In 1821, Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain and joined the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823, later leaving the Federal Republic in 1838.

Nicaragua increasingly became a subject of substantial interest because of its geographic position for a canal that would service the Windward Passage. Roughly a century after operations of the Panama Canal commenced and one hundred and eighty five years after the initial plans for the Nicaraguan Canalwaterway, the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal has remained the subject of interest, with its construction in progress.

Eighteen years after leaving the federal Republic it also became the epicenter of William Walker’s Golden Circle filibustering in Central America.

Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, military intervention on behalf of the United States, dictatorship and fiscal crisis—the most notable causes that lead to the Nicaraguan Revolution. Although the Somoza family ruled the country in the form of a dictatorship for forty years, Nicaragua was the first country to sign the UN Charter in 1945.

Prior to the revolution, Nicaragua was one of Central America’s wealthiest and most developed countries. However, the revolutionary conflict, paired with Nicaragua’s 1972 earthquake reversed the country’s prior economic standing.

Despite the harsh economic effects of both phenomena, post-revolution Nicaragua has maintained democratic practices and has experienced economic growth and political stability. In 1990, Nicaragua elected Violeta Chamorro as its president, making it the first country in the Americas and in Latin American history to democratically elect a female head of state and the second country in the Western Hemisphere to do so, following Iceland’s democratic election of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir.

The population in Nicaragua, hovering at approximately 6 million, is multiethnic. Segments of the population include indigenous native tribes from the Mosquito Coast, Europeans, Africans, Asians and people of Middle Eastern origin. The main language is Spanish, although native tribes on the eastern coast speak their native languages.

Nicaragua is widely considered the epicenter of the voseo pronoun form in Central America. Its location, along with the Nicaraguan Diaspora, has influenced Spanish among the other nations of Central America. The mixture of cultural traditions has cultivated a substantial amount of diversity in art, cuisine, literature, and music.

Nicaragua has earned itself recognition and various colloquial names in reference to its geographic location, cultural achievements and recent economic development. The Central American Volcanic Arc runs through the spine of the country, earning Nicaragua its commonly known colloquial name: La Tierra de Lagos y Volcanes, which translates to: The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.

Nicaragua’s biological diversity, warm tropical climate, and active volcanoes make it an increasingly popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. The country has also been dubbed La Tierra de Poetas: The Land of Poets, due to various literary contributions of renown Nicaraguan writers, including Ruben Dario, Ernesto Cardenal and Gioconda Belli.

Lastly, due to its biological diversity and competitively low priced accommodations for tourists, Nicaragua has also gained international attention of its touristic offerings.

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Notes from Wikipedia

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