Norway world’s best place to live

I’m not sure if everybody wants to live in Norway, but it’s certainly at the top of the global list. The United Nations Development Program determined this based on data GDP, education and life expectancy – among other metrics – to find the best of the best, as well as the other end of the spectrum. The data’s from 2007, though, so it doesn’t reflect a post-financial crisis world.

Joining Norway are Australia and Iceland, the latter of which was a hot location until a year ago, when the entire country got an International Monetary Fund package normally reserved for the third-est of third-world countries. Yet, even with the recession in mind, Iceland (a favorite destination of mine) is still far better than Niger, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, which sit at the bottom of the list. Several other sub-Saharan African states also ranked toward the bottom because of ongoing war and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS.

The spread is most evident in life expectancy, where a mailing address in Norway would add 30 years relative to Niger. In Niger, the current average life expectancy is 50. And, for every dollar that someone earns in Niger, the same person would pick up $85 in Norway. In Afghanistan, one can expect to live only 43.6 years.

Money matters, still. Lichtenstein continues to boast the world’s highest GDP per capital at $85,383. The 35,000 people who live there share the small principality with 15 banks and more than 100 wealth management companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the lowest income in the world: $298 per person per year.

The top climbers on the list for 2007 were China, Iran and Nepal.

Most survive (yet another) Congo plane crash

How is that for a positive plane crash headline for you? You always hear about “no survivors,” but all plane crashes clearly don’t have to be fatal. Not for everyone, at least.

BBC reports that at least nine people were killed today when an airliner ploughed into a commercial area during take-off in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It appears the plane skidded in wet weather, smashing through a wall and catching fire. Most of the 85 people aboard survived.

According to Reuters, Congo has one of the world’s poorest air safety records with eight crashes in 2007. In October 2007, for example, a plane crashed into a residential area in Goma, killing all 27 people on board. Third of the runway at Goma’s airport was apparently affected by a lava flow from a volcanic eruption that occurred there six years ago. This makes Goma a particularly difficult spot for take-off.

Seven (screwed up) wonders of the totalitarian world

There is something terribly crazy about totalitarian governments and their sense of architecture: monumental, gaudy, pompous, and, more often than not, in extraordinarily poor taste.

That’s whey the fine folks over at Esquire Magazine have compiled a list of what they feel are the world’s most “colossal monument[s] to narcissism.”

The Seven Wonders of the Totalitarian World, as you might imagine, is a rather bizarre assortment of architectural toy things by those drunk with power and devoid of taste. I can’t say I agree with all of them–there are certainly others that should make the list such as Kim Il Sung’s massive bronze statue in Pyongyang (above). But the ones that are included are still worth checking out nonetheless. And remember, when dictators fall, as Esquire points out, their statues soon follow–so be sure to visit soon.

Fist Crushing U.S. Fighter Plane, Libya
Monument to President Laurent Kabila, Congo
Lenin’s Mausoleum, Russia
Monument to President Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan
Mao Leading the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, China
The Hands of Victory, Iraq
Monument to the Founding of the North Korean Worker’s Party, North Korea

The World’s Most Dangerous Destinations for 2007

BurundiHere at Gadling, we usually profile places people WANT to go. However, sometimes it’s useful to mention places to avoid. Consequently, here’s an interesting (and not altogether surprising) list of the 2007’s 12 Most Dangerous Destinations:

  • Somalia
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Pakistan
  • Burundi
  • Sri Lanka
  • Haiti
  • Chad
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia

Of course, you probably don’t think of these places as vacation destinations, unless you’re a whacked-out Robert Young Pelton. However, employees of governments, oil and mining industries, and telecom industries are increasingly being dispatched to these locations. If you work for one of those groups, be certain to ask about insurance, hazard pay — and a bodyguard.

Interestingly, the piece argues that the world is NOT getting more dangerous right now. Rather, globalization and the attendant “shrinking” of the planet is largely responsible for making the world APPEAR more dangerous now than before. Whether or not you agree with that assertion, the article is interesting, and the gallery is frightening.

Hiking and Hacking Through the Jungle to See Congolese Gorillas

There are only about 700 mountain gorillas in the world; half of them are spread across a range of mountains straddling the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Last month, rebels in eastern Congo killed and ate 2 gorillas living in that country’s Virunga National Park. Then amazingly, about three weeks ago, the rebels responsible for the slayings promised to stop killing the animals.

Travelers braving the 4+ hour hike into the park, shooting pictures of their experience with the gorillas, and then hiking back out, is one of the best ways to create awareness of these animals’ situations and bring them back from the brink of extinction. That’s where Mark Inns comes in.

Mark is a guy form the UK who decided to take a 16-month break and travel the world. One of his stops included a visit with these threatened, majestic creatures. Traveling with a local guide, Mark encountered a mountain gorilla family: a Silverback, 2 females, 2 infants, and 2 younger males. Here’s what he saw:

If you want to learn more about these animals, Wildlife Direct maintains a great blog updated regularly by a local wildlife conservationist: lots of news — and lots of pictures.