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Alaska: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Alaska: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Alaska

Alaska is the largest state of the United States of America by area; it is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait. Approximately half of Alaska’s 683,478 residents reside within the Anchorage metropolitan area. As of 2009, Alaska remains the least densely populated state of the U.S.

The U.S. Senate approved the purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867, for $7.2 million at two cents per acre, about five cents per hectare. The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory on May 11, 1912 and the 49th state of the U.S. on January 3, 1959. The name “Alaska” was already introduced in the Russian colonial time, when it was used only for the peninsula and is derived from the Aleut alaxsxaq, meaning “the mainland” or more literally, “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed.” It is also known as Alyeska, the “great land,” an Aleut word derived from the same root.

Demographics

The United States Census Bureau, as of July 1, 2008, estimated Alaska’s population at 686,293, which represents an increase of 59,361, or 9.5%, since the last census in 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 60,994 people (that is 86,062 births minus 25,068 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 5,469 people out of the state.

Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 4,418 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 9,887 people. In 2000 Alaska ranked the 48th state by population, ahead of Vermont and Wyoming (and Washington D.C.). Alaska is the least densely populated state, and one of the most sparsely populated areas in the world, at 1.0 person per square mile (0.42/km²), with the next state, Wyoming, at 5.1 per square mile (1.97/km²). It is the largest U.S. state by area, and the 6th wealthiest (per capita income).

Race and ancestry

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, White Americans made up 69.3% of Alaska’s population. Blacks or African Americans made up 3.5% of Alaska’s population. In addition, American Indians and Alaska Natives were the largest minority group; they made up 15.6% of Alaska’s population. Asian Americans made up 4.0% of Alaska’s population. Pacific Islander Americans made up 0.5% of Alaska’s population. Individuals from some other race made up 1.6% of Alaska’s population while individuals from two or more races made up 5.4% of the state’s population. In addition, Hispanics and Latinos made up 4.1% of Alaska’s population.

In terms of ancestry, German Americans were the largest single ethnic group in Alaska; they made up 16.6% of Alaska’s population and they were the only ethnic group in the state to number over 100,000 members. Irish Americans made up 10.8% of Alaska’s population while English Americans made up 9.6% of the state’s population. Norwegian Americans made up 4.2% of Alaska’s population and French Americans made up 3.2% of the state’s population.

As of the 2005-2007 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, White Americans made up 68.5% of Alaska’s population. Blacks or African Americans made up 3.8% of Alaska’s population. American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 13.4% of Alaska’s population; still remaining the largest minority group. Asian Americans made up 4.6% of Alaska’s population. Pacific Islander Americans remained at 0.5% of the state’s population. Individuals from some other race made up 1.9% of Alaska’s population while individuals from two or more races made up 7.2% of the state’s population. Hispanics or Latinos made up 5.5% of Alaska’s population.

In terms of ancestry, German Americans remained the largest single ethnic group in Alaska; they made up 19.3% of Alaska’s population and were still the only ethnic group in the state with over 100,000 members. Irish Americans made up 12.5% of Alaska’s population while English Americans made up 10.8% of the state’s population. Norwegian Americans remained at 4.2% of Alaska’s population and French Americans made up 3.6% of the state’s population.

Languages

According to the 2005-2007 American Community Survey, 84.7% of people over the age of five speak only English at home. About 3.5% speak Spanish at home. About 2.2% speak an Indo-European language other than English or Spanish at home and about 4.3% speak an Asian language at home. And about 5.3% speak other languages at home.

A total of 5.2% of Alaskans speak one of the state’s 22 indigenous languages, known locally as “native languages”. These languages belong to two major language families: Eskimo-Aleut and Na-Dene. As the homeland of these two major language families of North America, Alaska has been described as the crossroads of the continent, providing evidence for the recent settlement of North America via the Bering land bridge.

Religion

Alaska has been identified, along with Pacific Northwest states Washington and Oregon, as being the least religious in the U.S. According to statistics collected by the Association of Religion Data Archives, only about 39% of Alaska residents were members of religious congregations. Evangelical Protestants had 78,070 members, Roman Catholics had 54,359, and mainline Protestants had 37,156.

After Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, the largest single denominations are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons/LDS) with 29,460, Southern Baptists with 22,959, and Orthodox with 20,000. The large Eastern Orthodox (with 49 parishes and up to 50,000 followers[33]) population is a result of early Russian colonization and missionary work among Alaska Natives.[34] In 1795, the First Russian Orthodox Church was established in Kodiak.

Intermarriage with Alaskan Natives helped the Russian immigrants integrate into society. As a result, more and more Russian Orthodox churches[35] gradually became established within Alaska. Alaska also has the largest Quaker population (by percentage) of any state. In 2003 there were 3,000 Jews in Alaska (for whom observance of the mitzvah may pose special problems).[37] Estimates for the number of Alaskan Muslims range from 2,000 to 5,000. Alaskan Hindus often share venues and celebrations with members of other religious communities including Sikhs and Jains.

Roads

Alaska has few road connections compared to the rest of the U.S. The state’s road system covers a relatively small area of the state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway, the principal route out of the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by road, only a car ferry, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system, or building a road connection from Haines. The western part of Alaska has no road system connecting the communities with the rest of Alaska.

One unique feature of the Alaska Highway system is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, an active Alaska Railroad tunnel recently upgraded to provide a paved roadway link with the isolated community of Whittier on Prince William Sound to the Seward Highway about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Anchorage. At 2.5 miles (4.0 km) the tunnel was the longest road tunnel in North America until 2007. The tunnel is the longest combination road and rail tunnel in North America.

Rail

Built around 1915, the Alaska Railroad (ARR) played a key role in the development of Alaska through the 20th century. It links north Pacific shipping through providing critical infrastructure with tracks that run from Seward to Interior Alaska via South Central Alaska, passing through Anchorage, Eklutna, Wasilla, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks, with spurs to Whittier, Palmer and North Pole. The cities, towns, villages, and region served by ARR tracks are known statewide as “The Railbelt”. In recent years, the ever-improving paved highway system began to eclipse the railroad’s importance in Alaska’s economy.

The railroad, though famed for its summertime tour passenger service, played a vital role in Alaska’s development, moving freight into Alaska while transporting natural resources southward (i.e., coal from the Usibelli coal mine near Healy to Seward and gravel from the Matanuska Valley to Anchorage.)

The Alaska Railroad was one of the last railroads in North America to use cabooses in regular service and still uses them on some gravel trains. It continues to offer one of the last flag stop routes in the country. A stretch of about 60 miles (100 km) of track along an area north of Talkeetna remains inaccessible by road; the railroad provides the only transportation to rural homes and cabins in the area; until construction of the Parks Highway in the 1970s, the railroad provided the only land access to most of the region along its entire route.

In northern Southeast Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad also partly runs through the State from Skagway northwards into Canada (British Columbia and Yukon Territory), crossing the border at White Pass Summit. This line is now mainly used by tourists, often arriving by cruise liner at Skagway. It featured in the 1983 BBC television series Great Little Railways.


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Mexico – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mexico – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mexico

The United Mexican States, commonly known as Mexico is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2 million square kilometres, Mexico is the fifth-largest country in the Americas by total area and the 14th largest independent nation in the world. With an estimated population of 109 million, it is the 11th most populous country. Mexico is a federation comprising thirty-one states and a Federal District, the capital city.

In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica many cultures matured into advanced civilizations such as the Olmec, the Toltec, the Teotihuacan, the Maya and the Aztec before the first contact with Europeans. In 1521, Spain created the New Spain which would eventually become Mexico as the colony gained independence in 1821. The post-independence period was characterized by economic instability, territorial secession and civil war, including foreign intervention, two empires and two long domestic dictatorships. The latter led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, which culminated with the promulgation of the 1917 Constitution and the emergence of the country’s current political system. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time that an opposition party won the presidency from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI).

As a regional power and the only Latin American member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1994, Mexico is firmly established as an upper middle-income country, considered as a newly industrialized country and has the 11th largest economy in the world by GDP by purchasing power parity, and also the largest GDP per capita in Latin America according to the International Monetary Fund. The economy is strongly linked to those of its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners. Despite being considered an emerging power, the uneven income distribution and the increase in drug-related violence are issues of concern.

Tourism

According to the World Tourism Organization, Mexico has one of the largest tourism industries in the world. In 2005 it was the seventh most popular tourist destination worldwide, receiving over 20 million tourists per year; it is the only country in Latin America to be within the top 25.

Tourism is also the third largest sector in the country’s industrial GDP. The most notable tourist draws are the ancient Meso-American ruins, and popular beach resorts. The coastal climate and unique culture – a fusion of European (particularly Spanish) and Meso-American cultures; also make Mexico attractive.

The peak tourist seasons in Mexico are during December and during July and August, with brief surges during the week before Easter and during spring break at many of the beach resort sites which are popular among vacationing college students from the United States. Mexico is the twenty-third highest tourism spender in the world, and the highest in Latin America.

Transportation

The paved-roadway network in Mexico is the most extensive in Latin America at 116,802 km in 2005; 10,474 km were multi-lane freeways or expressways, most of which were tollways. Nonetheless, Mexico’s diverse orography—most of the territory is crossed by high-altitude ranges of mountains—as well as economic challenges have led to difficulties in creating an integrated transportation network and even though the network has improved, it still cannot meet national needs adequately.

Being one of the first Latin American countries to promote railway development, the network, though extensive at 30,952 km, is still inefficient to meet the economic demands of transportation. Most of the rail network is mainly used for merchandise or industrial freight and was mostly operated by National Railway of Mexico (Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México, FNM), privatized in 1997.

In 1999, Mexico had 1,806 airports, of which 233 had paved runways; of these, 35 carry 97% of the passenger traffic. The Mexico City International Airport remains the largest in Latin America and the 44th largest in the world[120] transporting 21 million passengers a year. There are more than 30 domestic airline companies of which only two are known internationally: Aeroméxico and Mexicana.

Mass transit in Mexico is modest. Most of the domestic passenger transport needs are served by an extensive bus network with several dozen companies operating by regions. Train passenger transportation between cities is limited. Inner-city rail mass transit is available at Mexico City—with the operation of the metro, elevated and ground train, as well as a Suburban Train connecting the adjacent municipalities of Greater Mexico City—as well as at Guadalajara and Monterrey, the first served by a commuter rail and the second by an underground and elevated metro.

Communications

The telecommunications industry is mostly dominated by Telmex (Teléfonos de México), privatized in 1990. As of 2006, Telmex had expanded its operations to Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and the United States. Other players in the domestic industry are Axtel and Maxcom.

Due to Mexican orography, providing landline telephone service at remote mountainous areas is expensive, and the penetration of line-phones per capita is low compared to other Latin American countries, at twenty-percent. Mobile telephony has the advantage of reaching all areas at a lower cost, and the total number of mobile lines is almost three times that of landlines, with an estimation of 57 million lines.[122] The telecommunication industry is regulated by the government through Cofetel (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones).

Usage of radio, television, and Internet in Mexico is prevalent.[119] There are approximately 1,410 radio broadcast stations and 236 television stations (excluding repeaters).[122] Major players in the broadcasting industry are Televisa—the largest Spanish media company in the Spanish-speaking world[123]—and TV Azteca.


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Las Vegas – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Las Vegas – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Lonely Planet author Sara Benson is a big fan of Las Vegas. Traditionally a city of dirty little secrets, it’s now a high-rolling playground where the $20 hotel room is now a thing of the past.

It’s all that you would expect – casinos, strip bars, drive-thru wedding chapels, $5 steaks – and some things you would not: chic art galleries, the Atomic Testing Museum and a serious underground punk scene. Beware, there’s absolutely no rest for the good nor the wicked.

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