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Lonely Planet ranks ultimate travel destinations in new list

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(CNN) — Many of us have been forced to rethink travel plans in the wake of Covid-19, but if you’re soothing your canceled-vacation-blues by daydreaming about future adventures, Lonely Planet’s new “Ultimate Travel List” might be just what you need.

The new list, collated by Lonely Planet’s team of experts, spotlights must-see and must-do experiences, from spotting wildlife on the Galapagos Islands to admiring the spectacular Iguazú Falls waterfall that spans Argentina and Brazil, to wandering the geothermal landscapes of Yellowstone National Park.

The team scoured past Lonely Planet guidebooks and also reviewed each destination’s commitment to sustainability.

“The options to travel are clearly limited right now, but the list is aimed at inspiring to 2021 and beyond when travel starts recovering,” Tom Hall, Lonely Planet’s vice president of experience, tells CNN Travel.

“This is intended to be something that really drives people’s bucket list, not just for now, but for the future.”

Read on for Lonely Planet’s top 10, and to see which destination grabbed the top spot.

10. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

The Annapurna circuit trek is a hike you won't forget.

The Annapurna circuit trek is a hike you won’t forget.

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This jaw-dropping trek is a must for climbers, hikers and on-foot travelers. Traversing Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit, you’ll pass through rice paddies, yak grasslands and a snowy mountain pass named Thorung La.

Parts of the walk are very high altitude, including the stunning Tilicho Lake, which only adds to the appeal for thrill-seekers. According to Lonely Planet, the Annapurna Circuit is “everything a good trek should be.”

9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Visiting Salar de Uyuni, the biggest salt flat in the world, feels like you’re walking through the clouds. After rainfall, water on the lake’s salty surface creates a glossy, glass-like illusion, turning the lake into a mirror that reflects the sky above.

Salar de Uyuni is also pretty impressive when it’s arid, and the surface becomes cracked with geometric patterns. Plus, when it’s dry you can visit the two lake islands, Isla Incahuasi and Isla del Pescado.

8. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Buddhist monks enter the Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Buddhist monks enter the Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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The atmospheric surrounds of Angkor, a cluster of beautiful crumbling temples surrounded by jungle, comes in at number eight on Lonely Planet’s list. Cambodia’s top tourist attraction, this vast UNESCO World Heritage Site is a remarkable place to visit.

Angkor Wat, the most famous Angkor temple complex, was designed as a visual representation of Mount Meru, the home of the Hindu gods, and Lonely Planet calls Angkor “a monument to human ingenuity.”

7. Iguazú Falls, Argentina-Brazil

The Río Iguazú Falls is a spectacular cascading waterfall, located between Argentina and Brazil. Watching the water cascading over the vertical ledge is an incredible experience — in part because of the sheer scale: Iguazú is actually made up of 275 waterfalls and the tallest, the Devil’s Throat, is 80 meters deep.

It’s the drama of Iguazú, as well as its beauty, that nabs it a spot on this list: “The thundering vibrations of crashing water remind you in no uncertain terms of the power and splendor of nature,” says Lonely Planet.

6. Lake Bled, Slovenia

The stunning Lake Bled is number six on Lonely Planet's list.

The stunning Lake Bled is number six on Lonely Planet’s list.

Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet

Picturesque Lake Bled is home to a quaint, white church, sitting on a verdant island and surrounded by aqua-blue water, silhouetted against the backdrop of the Julian Alps.

Back in the day, pilgrims would travel to the church to worship and later it was the vacation hangout for 19th-century royalty. Today, tourists enjoy walking and cycling around the lake — while those who want to test the waters can opt for a ride in a pletna boat — a type of Slovenian gondola.

5. Yellowstone National Park, USA

Ponng! Bluughh! Poowee! Once smelled, Yellowstone’s not easily forgotten, but this US National Park is also the largest geothermal area on earth, dancing to a tune of burps and bubbles.

Visiting the park, home to more than 500 active geysers including the famous Old Faithful, is a wondrous experience. The park’s also home to wildlife including bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears and wolves.

Grand Prismatic is another must-see Yellowstone attraction — the largest hot spring in the US, it’s a shining rainbow of multicolored water.

4. Okavango Delta, Botswana

Each year when the Okavango River floods with water, it transforms into a spectacular wilderness.

Each year when the Okavango River floods with water, it transforms into a spectacular wilderness.

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Each year the Okavango River is flooded by water from the Angolan highlands, transforming this extraordinary wilderness.

The Okavango Delta is also a wildlife hotspot — home to everything from majestic elephants to exquisite reptiles — and one of Africa’s greatest and most exclusive safari destinations.

Visitors to Okavango Delta can journey along its rivers by powerboat and in traditional dugout canoes called mokoro. Lonely Planet reckons it’s the perfect trip for travelers looking to be at one with nature.

3. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia

Visiting the spectacular Uluru sandstone monolith — an Australian landmark — is an unforgettable experience. Brassy bronze in color and beautifully glowing when the sun sets, Uluru is considered sacred by the original inhabitants, the Anangu people, who believe that the spirits of their ancestors live on there.

Head to Uluru to walk around the circumference of the rock, and learn about its history and tradition.

2. The Galápagos Islands, South America

Wildlife is one of the top attractions of the Galapagos Islands.

Wildlife is one of the top attractions of the Galapagos Islands.

Shutterstock

A nature lover’s dream and eco-traveler’s paradise, the Galápagos are home to some of the world’s most colorful creatures, including glorious iguanas, ancient tortoises, diving penguins and lively seals.

Volcanic rocks, turquoise-blue waters and a stunningly diverse eco-system are some of the reasons why this destination is ranked second on Lonely Planet’s list.

1. Petra, Jordan

While the ancient city of Petra is simply a famous archaeological site to most of the world, for university professor Sami Alhasanat, it’s home

A once almost abandoned “lost city,” largely forgotten by Europeans for 1000 years, Petra is the perfect place for adventurers who want to visit a destination like no other. The Nabataean people lived in Petra from the fourth century BCE to the first century CE, and this sandstone city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lonely Planet’s Tom Hall calls the site a “really mysterious and evocative place.”

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World

Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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Classic toy tie-up: Etch A Sketch maker to acquire Rubik’s Cube

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Spin Master Corp., the company behind the Etch A Sketch and Paw Patrol brands, has agreed to acquire Rubik’s Brand Ltd. for about $50 million, tying together two of the world’s most iconic toy brands.

The merger comes at a boom time for classic toymakers, as parents turn to familiar products to entertain kids stuck in lockdown. Like sales of Uno, Monopoly and Barbie dolls, Rubik’s Cube purchases have spiked during the pandemic, according to the puzzle maker’s chief executive officer, Christoph Bettin. He expects sales to jump 15% to 20% in 2020, compared with a normal year, when people purchase between 5 million and 10 million cubes.

By acquiring Rubik’s, Toronto-based Spin Master can better compete with its larger rivals, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. All three companies have pivoted to become less reliant on actual product sales, diversifying into television shows, films and broader entertainment properties based on their toys. Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie said he wouldn’t rule out films or TV shows based on Rubik’s Cubes, but he was focused for now on creating more cube-solving competitions and crossmarketing it with the company’s other products, like the Perplexus.

“Whoever you are, it really has a broad appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Rabie said in an interview. “It’s actually going to become the crown jewel; it will be the most important part of our portfolio worldwide.”

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube in 1974, a solid block featuring squares with colored stickers that users could twist and turn without it falling apart. It gained popularity in the 1980s and has remained one of the best-selling toys of all time, spawning spinoff versions, international competitions of puzzle solvers, books and documentaries.

The toy has been particularly well-suited to pandemic conditions. During lockdowns, parents have sought to give kids puzzles that boost problem-solving skills useful in math and science careers. Normally, toys tied to major film franchises are among the most popular products headed into the holidays, but studios have delayed the release of major new movies because of coronavirus. So classic products are experiencing a mini-renaissance.

“The whole pandemic has really increased games and puzzles,” Rabie said. “But whether the pandemic existed or didn’t exist, we’d still buy Rubik’s. It’s had such steady sales for decades.”

Rubik’s CEO Bettin said it was the right time to sell the company, with the founding families behind it ready to move on. London-based Rubik’s Brand was formed out of a partnership between Erno Rubik and the late entrepreneur Tom Kremer, while private equity firm Bancroft Investment holds a minority stake in the company.

Early on, Bettin felt Spin Master was the right home for the puzzle toy, he said. Spin Master, which was started by a group of three friends in 1994, has expanded through the purchase of well-known brands, including Erector sets and Etch A Sketch. Rabie says he works to honor the “legacy” of those products, which Bettin cited as a key reason to sell the brand to Spin Master over larger companies that were interested.

“It was important for us to not be lost in the crowd, and to be sufficiently important and cared for,” Bettin said. “And there’s a balance between being with someone large enough to invest, and agile enough to ensure you are key part of their plans.”

Spin Master won’t own Rubik’s Cubes in time for the holiday season – the transaction is expected to close on Jan. 4. At that time, the company will move Rubik’s operations from a small office in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood to Spin Master’s new games operations center in Long Island.

Some of Rubik’s Brand’s 10 employees will be part of the transition, but they won’t stay permanently, Bettin said.

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