Take a trip around the globe and learn more about some of the countries making the headlines in world news content.
The Iranian flag has three horizontal bands, green, white and red, with a red Islamic emblem in the center white stripe, and the phrase "God is great" repeated along the borders with the color bands. The national food dish of Iran is chelow kabab, the official bird is the nightingale, and the official flowers are the tulip and the lotus. The lion is a national symbol.
In southeastern Asia, with a southern coast on the Gulf of Thailand, a southeastern border with Vietnam, a northern border with Laos, and a northwestern border with Thailand. The Mekong River runs through the country and the Tonle Sap is a lake and river system - the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia - that is central to the country. In land comparison, Cambodia is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Oklahoma, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The region on which modern Turkey rests is one of the most ancient continuously habitated areas on the globe. Legendary sites include the city of Troy, site of the Trojan War, and Byzantium, capital of the Roman Empire that would later become Constantinople (which became Istanbul with the founding of the modern Turkey). The Ottomans would rule the region for more than 600 years, but World War I prompted the growth of a Turkish nationalist movement that waged a war of independence, which resulted in the founding of the Republic of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who led the drive for independence, was the first president and led Turkey toward modernization and secularization.
The capital is Taipei, located at the northern tip of the island and central to the largest metropolitan area. Founded in the early 18th century and built out with extensive urban planning after the Japanese took control of Taiwan in 1895 (Chinese Kuomintang took over in 1945). A vibrant economic center as well as a political hub. The city proper has more than 2.6 million people, with a nearly 100 percent literacy rate, and is mostly populated by Hoklos, mainland Chinese, Hakka Han Chinese and indigenous Taiwanese.
Over 62 million people in metropolitan France and nearly three million more in the five overseas regions. In France it is not legal for the government to collect information on ethnic and racial breakdowns. The country is highly secular though the vast majority of people identify as Roman Catholic, between 83 percent and 88 percent. There is a growing Muslim community due largely to immigration now estimated at 5 percent to 10 percent of the population. There are also small minorities of Protestants, Jews and those who don't affiliate themselves with a religion. The country has a nearly 100 percent literacy rate and one of the top life expectancy rates in the world. Eighty-five percent of the population lives in urban centers.
Poverty remains a problem from the apartheid era (more than a quarter of the population receives government assistance and about half live below the poverty line), though the country ranks 25th in the world in GDP and is a solidly middle-income nation with well-developed financial and industrial sectors. The unemployment rate is high: about 24 percent in 2009. The country's biggest trading partners are Germany and China (imports) and Japan and the U.S. (exports). South Africa is the world's largest producer of platinum, gold and chromium.
Poland has a rich history dating back to prehistory, and got its first official ruler over a united, Catholic nation in 966. It was spared the Black Death bubonic plague that wiped out much of Europe in the 14th century, and experienced a golden age in the 16th century as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during which the country's borders were expanded to become the largest country in Europe. Poland experienced a series of partitions and rebellions, the devastating blow from the Nazi invasion in World War II and the postwar Soviet communist rule. The pro-democracy Solidarity movement defeated communism in 1989.
Spanish is the official language, with Mapudungun, an indigenous language spoken by the Mapuche (who represent some 4 percent of the population; about 20 percent can speak the native tongue), German and English spoken as well.
The flag has a star of David in blue on a white background, with two blue stripes that resemble the Jewish prayer shawl. The coat of arms has a menorah flanked by olive branches. HaTikva, the national anthem, means "the hope" in Hebrew.
The first predecessor of the modern Russian state was founded in 862. Mongol invaders overran Kievan Rus in the 13th century. After their 15th century defeat, subsequent Russian rulers -- including the infamous Ivan the Terrible, 1530-1584 -- expanded Russian territory. Czars Peter the Great and Catherine the Great would continue expansion and modernization. In 1917, Vladimir Lenin led the Bolsheviks to oust Czar Nicholas II and conquer new territory to establish the USSR in 1922. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to Boris Yeltsin becoming the first president of the Russian Federation.