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Thursday, September 23, 2010

THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD: Honorable Mention Finalists (Part 18, Section A))

The following continues the serialization of the final chapter from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.  There will be at least three sections, for there were a lot of near finalists:



The Honorable Mention Finalists

 

         


Andorra

 
A tiny (population of 82,000 and 181 square miles), mountainous (starts at 2,854 feet and goes up) and rich ($38,800 GDP/capita, easily in the top ten) country which belongs to the United Nations, I included Andorra because it has the highest life expectancy (83.52 years in 2007) in the world and draws 9 million tourists each year. It is located between France and Spain in the Eastern Pyrenees.


           

United Arab Emirates

 
The United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971 after Britain left the Persian Gulf. There are seven states (Bahrain and Qatar almost joined, but decided to go independent that same year) and you know of only two, as described below. It’s an Islamic country with hereditary leadership. The population is around 4.5 million, where in the 16-65 age group, there are 2.75 males to each female because 85% of the population are foreigners, mostly laborers. The GDP/capita is $42,275 and is ranked #3 by the CIA Factbook to Luxembourg and Equatorial Guinea (no, you don’t want to go there), but #12 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Abu Dhabi is the capital and one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. The city has a population of 2 million and is actually an island. It is said to be the richest city in the world. Each natural citizen is worth an average of $17 million. In 2008, this emirate announced a $15 billion clean energy and hydrogen program, a breakthrough, being the first major Arab commitment to solar energy. The first paved road came in 1961, but in 2011 will open the $200 million Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

Dubai, the other known emirate, has no personal, corporate nor sales tax, and, surprisingly, less than 6% of its revenues comes from oil and natural gas. The twin World Trade Center towers had 110 floors. While the tallest current building (in Taiwan) has 101 floors, the Burj Dubai (now called Burj Khalifa because Emir Khalifa--he runs the country--came up with the funds to finish the project) has shot past 158 floors and is expected to rise to 164, 170 or 200 stories by 2009 at a cost of around $4 billion, finally returning this honor to the Middle East. (Officially, there are 160 useful floors.)  The Great Pyramid of Giza had the title for 4000 years. Samsung, from South Korea, which built the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and Taipei 101, is handling the construction. To discourage competitors, Al Burj, on the Dubai Waterfront, has been proposed to be nearly 1000 feet taller.

It was a quarter century ago that I landed in Dubai when Pan Am had a world route. I did not see anything of consequence then, but, certainly, times have changed the landscape, and I look forward to returning to the United Arab Emirates by 2010 and staying at the Burj Dubai, while also venturing forth to Abu Dhabi.  (Except that I was invited to Qatar, so deleted Abu Dhabi and Dubai from my Fall around the world itinerary.  I looked into staying in the Burj Al Arab (right), but the $1600/night cost was out of my range.  So I instead booked the Armani, occupying the lower 39 floors of that tallest building in the world... for only $650/night.  Maybe next time.)

Next in Section B:  Iceland (which also subsequently went bankrupt, and Australia).

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The Dow Jones Industrials sunk 77 to 10,662, and so did virtually most of world markets, including the Japan Nikkei, down 120 to 9,447.  Gold again broke an all time high, plus $2/toz to $1294, while crude oil is just under $75/barrel.

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There are six ocean storms, with Tropical Storm Matthew at 45 MPH looking to be the most troublesome.  Matthew is expect to attain hurricane strength tonight, roll over Nicaragua, weaken, then re-attain hurricane strength and head for Belize.

In the West Pacific, Typhoon Malakas is at 95 MPH, and will strengthen into a Category 3 storm tonight, but maintain a pathway east and parallel to Japan.  By Tuesday of next week when I'm flying into Tokyo, Malakas should be near Alaska.

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