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Flow Charts

Finding the best examples of the world’s most popular drink

WEST VIRGINIA – Eleven judges sit in a semicircle, swirling, sniffing and sipping the contents of numbered glasses. They perform the task in silence, brows furrowed as they mull the complexities of body and bite, seeking to identify the provenance of the world’s finest tap water.

“Municipal: Best in World” is just one of the categories at the International Water Tasting contest, an event held annually in Berkeley Springs, W.Va. The various kinds of H²O in contention for an award (bottled, sparkling, etc.) are judged according to things like appearance, odor and aftertaste. Entries come from as far away as Bosnia and South Korea.

Comparing different types of water might sound a little like comparing different shades of white, but the reality is apparently far more complex. “Evian flows through the Swiss Alps,” explains Michael Cervin, a senior editor at the website Bottled Water Web, “so [it’s] going to be different from water that flows through the shale mountains of Tennessee.”

Indeed, when given a chance to sample the various types of water, even the non-experts in attendance today are brimming with discernment. “I can’t decide whether I like it or not,” opines an elderly man in a flannel shirt, referring to one from British Columbia. “It has a weird aftertaste,” remarks a woman with pink hair, wrinkling her nose at a sample from Niagara.

In the end, the coveted municipal award is bestowed on an entry that was driven 1,100 miles from Emporia, Kan. “Best Purified” goes to Rain Fresh Oxygen-Rich Purified from Garland, Texas—although this distinction may not carry the same weight. As one judge puts it, “The purifieds all tasted the same.

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How America’s most famous icon stacks up against her fellow statues

NEW YORK CITY – Just in time for Fourth of July celebrations, the Statue of Liberty reopens to the public this month, having been closed for extensive repairs since Hurricane Sandy struck last October. This is good news for those who like their fireworks with a little outsize symbolism, and the site—which typically draws 3.7 million visitors a year—is expected to do brisk business over the holiday.

Famous as she is, though, Lady Liberty can’t lay claim to being the world’s most gazed-upon statue (the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for one, attracts 2 million more visitors a year). In fact, a number of statues around the globe might claim primacy over this American icon—albeit in sometimes obscure categories.


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