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Palau? Here's A Cheat Sheet

Here are a few conversation starters you might want to know if your office, like ours, is abuzz with questions this morning about Palau — the tiny Pacific island nation that has agreed to take 17 Uighurs from northwestern China who have been held by the U.S. at the Guantanamo Bay detention center:

— The islands are a long way from Cuba. Check out the blue dot in the middle of this Google Earth map, courtesy of maplandia.com. We're talking far, far, far western Pacific. For those who are geographically oriented, the location is 7 degrees 30' North Latitude, 133 degrees 30' East Longitude.

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— Spain took control of the islands in 1885, but quickly flipped them in a sale to Germany in 1899.

— After WWI, Japan took over.

— The islands and surrounding seas were the scenes of critical battles. As About.com writes, "the first step in liberating the Philippines was the capture of Peleliu in the Palau Islands."

— As you might have guessed, the U.S. assumed control following World War II and was in charge until Oct. 1, 1994, when Palau became independent thanks to very aptly named Compact of Free Association.

— The official currency, though, is still the American dollar.

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— The population totals just under 20,000, according to the U.S. State Department. It says the capital, Melekeok, has a population of 391 (yes, State says it's 391; we're not missing any zeroes).

— It has, Lonely Planet says, "among the world's most spectacular diving and snorkelling."

— Palau's economy is doing pretty well. According to State, the per capita gross domestic product is $8,412 making it "one of the wealthier Pacific Island states." The main industry: tourism.

Know more about the island nation? Feel free to add your nuggets in the comment thread.

Update at noon ET: Reader Micah Snead asked about how to say "Palau." Click here for Merriam-Webster's audio guide.

An aerial view of the islands. Tim Laman/National Geographic via Getty Images hide caption

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Tim Laman/National Geographic via Getty Images