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Did You Know?
Per Capita Income
Luxemburg has the highest per capita income ($55,100 in 2003), and East Timor has the lowest ($500 in 2001).

Americans at age 65 or older.
Today, about 13% of Americans, or 35 million people, are aged 65 and older. But between 2010 and 2030, this segment of the population is expected to swell to over 69 million, and one in five of us will be considered “elderly.” By 2050, the elderly population is projected to reach 79 million. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Deaths from HIV/AIDS
South Africa has the most people who died of AIDS (370,000 in 2003), compared to Svalbard (0 in 2001).

Teen Pregnancy
USA has the highest rate of teen pregnancy among the industrialized countries.

$17 billion spent on pet food a year in Europe and USA
According to the UN, Americans and Europeans together spend $17 billion a year on pet food, $4 billion more than the estimated yearly additional amount needed to provide everyone in the world with basic health and nutrition.

Geography

This category includes the entries dealing with the natural environment and the effects of human activity.
Country
Geography
Afghanistan: landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
Albania: strategic location along Strait of Otranto (links Adriatic Sea to Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea)
Algeria: second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)
American Samoa: Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean
Andorra: landlocked; straddles a number of important crossroads in the Pyrenees
Angola: Cabinda is separated from rest of country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Anguilla: the most northerly of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles
Antarctica: the coldest, windiest, highest (on average), and driest continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period; mostly uninhabitable
Antigua and Barbuda: Antigua has a deeply indented shoreline with many natural harbors and beaches; Barbuda has a very large western harbor
Arctic Ocean: major chokepoint is the southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait); strategic location between North America and Russia; shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western Russia; floating research stations operated by the US and Russia; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over the frozen ocean; snow cover lasts about 10 months
Argentina: second-largest country in South America (after Brazil); strategic location relative to sea lanes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Cerro Aconcagua is South America's tallest mountain, while the Valdes Peninsula is the lowest point on the continent
Armenia: landlocked in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains; Sevana Lich (Lake Sevan) is the largest lake in this mountain range
Aruba: a flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches; its tropical climate is moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean; the temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit)
Ashmore and Cartier Islands: Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve established in August 1983
Atlantic Ocean: major chokepoints include the Dardanelles, Strait of Gibraltar, access to the Panama and Suez Canals; strategic straits include the Strait of Dover, Straits of Florida, Mona Passage, The Sound (Oresund), and Windward Passage; the Equator divides the Atlantic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean
Australia: world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer
Austria: landlocked; strategic location at the crossroads of central Europe with many easily traversable Alpine passes and valleys; major river is the Danube; population is concentrated on eastern lowlands because of steep slopes, poor soils, and low temperatures elsewhere
Azerbaijan: both the main area of the country and the Naxcivan exclave are landlocked
Bahamas, The: strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain
Bahrain: close to primary Middle Eastern petroleum sources; strategic location in Persian Gulf which much of Western world's petroleum must transit to reach open ocean
Baker Island: treeless, sparse, and scattered vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, and low growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife
Bangladesh: most of the country is situated on deltas of large rivers flowing from the Himalayas: the Jamuna unites with part of the Ganges to form the Padma which, after joining with a third large river, the Meghna, continues to the Bay of Bengal
Barbados: easternmost Caribbean island
Bassas da India: the islands emerge from a circular reef that sits atop a long-extinct, submerged volcano
Belarus: landlocked; glacial scouring accounts for the flatness of Belarusian terrain and for its 11,000 lakes; the country is geologically well endowed with extensive deposits of granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay
Belgium: crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels which is the seat of both the European Union and NATO
Belize: only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean
Benin: sandbanks create difficult access to a coast with no natural harbors, river mouths, or islands
Bermuda: consists of about 360 small coral islands with ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes; some land, reclaimed and otherwise, was leased by US Government from 1941 to 1995
Bhutan: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes
Bolivia: landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru
Bosnia and Herzegovina: within Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognized borders, the country is divided into a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation (about 51% of the territory) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska or RS (about 49% of the territory); the region called Herzegovina is contiguous to Croatia and traditionally has been settled by an ethnic Croat majority
Botswana: landlocked; population concentrated in eastern part of the country
Bouvet Island: covered by glacial ice; declared a nature reserve
Brazil: largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador
British Indian Ocean Territory: archipelago of 2,300 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility
British Virgin Islands: strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico
Brunei: close to vital sea lanes through South China Sea linking Indian and Pacific Oceans; two parts physically separated by Malaysia; almost an enclave of Malaysia
Bulgaria: strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia
Burkina Faso: landlocked savanna cut by the three principal rivers of the Black, Red, and White Voltas
Burma: strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes
Burundi: landlocked; straddles crest of the Nile-Congo watershed; the Kagera, which drains into Lake Victoria, is the most remote headstream of the White Nile
Cambodia: a land of paddies and forests dominated by the Mekong River and Tonle Sap
Cameroon: sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa; throughout the country there are areas of thermal springs and indications of current or prior volcanic activity; Mount Cameroon, the highest mountain in Sub-Saharan west Africa, is an active volcano
Canada: second-largest country in world (after Russia); strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route; approximately 85% of the population is concentrated within 300 km of the US/Canada border
Cape Verde: strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site
Cayman Islands: important location between Cuba and Central America
Central African Republic: landlocked; almost the precise center of Africa
Chad: landlocked; Lake Chad is the most significant water body in the Sahel
Chile: strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions
China: world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and US); Mount Everest on the border with Nepal, is the world's tallest peak
Christmas Island: located along major sea lanes of Indian Ocean
Clipperton Island: reef about 8 km in circumference
Cocos (Keeling) Islands: two coral atolls thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation
Colombia: only South American country with coastlines on both North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea
Comoros: important location at northern end of Mozambique Channel
Congo, Democratic Republic of the: straddles Equator; very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo river and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands
Congo, Republic of the: about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them
Cook Islands: the northern Cook Islands are seven low-lying, sparsely populated, coral atolls; the southern Cook Islands consist of eight elevated, fertile, volcanic isles where most of the populace lives
Coral Sea Islands: important nesting area for birds and turtles
Costa Rica: four volcanoes, two of them active, rise near the capital of San Jose in the center of the country; one of the volcanoes, Irazu, erupted destructively in 1963-65
Cote d'Ivoire: most of the inhabitants live along the sandy coastal region; apart from the capital area, the forested interior is sparsely populated
Croatia: controls most land routes from Western Europe to Aegean Sea and Turkish Straits
Cuba: largest country in Caribbean
Cyprus: the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily and Sardinia)
Czech Republic: landlocked; strategically located astride some of oldest and most significant land routes in Europe; Moravian Gate is a traditional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in central Europe
Denmark: controls Danish Straits (Skagerrak and Kattegat) linking Baltic and North Seas; about one-quarter of the population lives in greater Copenhagen
Djibouti: strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland; Lac Assal (Lake Assal) is the lowest point in Africa
Dominica: known as "The Nature Island of the Caribbean" due to its spectacular, lush, and varied flora and fauna, which are protected by an extensive natural park system; the most mountainous of the Lesser Antilles, its volcanic peaks are cones of lava craters and include Boiling Lake, the second-largest, thermally active lake in the world
Dominican Republic: shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti (eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, western one-third is Haiti)
Ecuador: Cotopaxi in Andes is highest active volcano in world
Egypt: controls Sinai Peninsula, only land bridge between Africa and remainder of Eastern Hemisphere; controls Suez Canal, shortest sea link between Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea; size, and juxtaposition to Israel, establish its major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics; dependence on upstream neighbors; dominance of Nile basin issues; prone to influxes of refugees
El Salvador: smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea
Equatorial Guinea: insular and continental regions rather widely separated
Eritrea: strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993
Estonia: the mainland terrain is flat, boggy, and partly wooded; offshore lie more than 1,500 islands
Ethiopia: landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993; the Blue Nile, the chief headstream of the Nile, rises in T'ana Hayk (Lake Tana) in northwest Ethiopia
Europa Island: wildlife sanctuary
Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas): deeply indented coast provides good natural harbors; short growing season
Faroe Islands: archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands
Fiji: includes 332 islands of which approximately 110 are inhabited
Finland: long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain
France: largest West European nation
French Guiana: mostly an unsettled wilderness; the only non-independent portion of the South American continent
French Polynesia: includes five archipelagoes; Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru
French Southern and Antarctic Lands: islands component is widely scattered across remote locations in the southern Indian Ocean
Gabon: a small population and oil and mineral reserves have helped Gabon become one of Africa's wealthier countries; in general, these circumstances have allowed the country to maintain and conserve its pristine rain forest and rich biodiversity
Gambia, The: almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa
Gaza Strip: there are 25 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Gaza Strip (August 2000 est.)
Georgia: strategically located east of the Black Sea; Georgia controls much of the Caucasus Mountains and the routes through them
Germany: strategic location on North European Plain and along the entrance to the Baltic Sea
Ghana: Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial lake; northeasterly harmattan wind (January to March)
Gibraltar: strategic location on Strait of Gibraltar that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea
Glorioso Islands: the islands and rocks are surrounded by an extensive reef system
Greece: strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands
Greenland: dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast, but close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice cap
Grenada: the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada
Guadeloupe: a narrow channel, the Riviere Salee, divides Guadeloupe proper into two islands: the larger, western Basse-Terre and the smaller, eastern Grande-Terre
Guam: largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago; strategic location in western North Pacific Ocean
Guatemala: no natural harbors on west coast
Guernsey: large, deepwater harbor at Saint Peter Port
Guinea: the Niger and its important tributary the Milo have their sources in the Guinean highlands
Guinea-Bissau: this small country is swampy along its western coast and low-lying further inland
Guyana: the third-smallest country in South America after Suriname and Uruguay; substantial portions of its western and eastern territories are claimed by Venezuela and Suriname respectively
Haiti: shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)
Heard Island and McDonald Islands: primarily used for research stations
Holy See (Vatican City): urban; landlocked; enclave of Rome, Italy; world's smallest state; outside the Vatican City, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo (the pope's summer residence) enjoy extraterritorial rights
Honduras: has only a short Pacific coast but a long Caribbean shoreline, including the virtually uninhabited eastern Mosquito Coast
Hong Kong: more than 200 islands
Howland Island: almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; small area of trees in the center; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife
Hungary: landlocked; strategic location astride main land routes between Western Europe and Balkan Peninsula as well as between Ukraine and Mediterranean basin
Iceland: strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
India: dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes
Indian Ocean: major chokepoints include Bab el Mandeb, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, southern access to the Suez Canal, and the Lombok Strait
Indonesia: archipelago of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited); straddles Equator; strategic location astride or along major sea lanes from Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean
Iran: strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport
Iraq: strategic location on Shatt al Arab waterway and at the head of the Persian Gulf
Ireland: strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe; over 40% of the population resides within 97 km of Dublin
Israel: there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 25 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 2000 est.); Sea of Galilee is an important freshwater source
Italy: strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe
Jamaica: strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for Panama Canal
Jan Mayen: barren volcanic island with some moss and grass
Japan: strategic location in northeast Asia
Jarvis Island: sparse bunch grass, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife
Jersey: largest and southernmost of Channel Islands; about 30% of population concentrated in Saint Helier
Johnston Atoll: strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; Johnston Island and Sand Island are natural islands, which have been expanded by coral dredging; North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina) are manmade islands formed from coral dredging; egg-shaped reef is 34 km in circumference; closed to the public; former US nuclear weapons test site; site of Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS); some low-growing vegetation
Jordan: strategic location at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and as the Arab country that shares the longest border with Israel and the occupied West Bank
Juan de Nova Island: wildlife sanctuary
Kazakhstan: landlocked; Russia leases approximately 6,000 sq km of territory enclosing the Baykonur Cosmodrome
Kenya: the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers are found on Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest peak; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value
Kingman Reef: barren coral atoll with deep interior lagoon; closed to the public
Kiribati: 20 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru
Korea, North: strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated
Korea, South: strategic location on Korea Strait
Kuwait: strategic location at head of Persian Gulf
Kyrgyzstan: landlocked; entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high-altitude lakes
Laos: landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Latvia: most of the country is composed of fertile, low-lying plains, with some hills in the east
Lebanon: Nahr al Litani only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity
Lesotho: landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level
Liberia: facing the Atlantic Ocean, the coastline is characterized by lagoons, mangrove swamps, and river-deposited sandbars; the inland grassy plateau supports limited agriculture
Libya: more than 90% of the country is desert or semidesert
Liechtenstein: along with Uzbekistan, one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world; variety of microclimatic variations based on elevation
Lithuania: fertile central plains are separated by hilly uplands that are ancient glacial deposits
Luxembourg: landlocked; the only Grand Duchy in the world, it is the smallest of the European Union member states
Macau: essentially urban; one causeway and two bridges connect the two islands of Coloane and Taipa to the peninsula on mainland
Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of: landlocked; major transportation corridor from Western and Central Europe to Aegean Sea and Southern Europe to Western Europe
Madagascar: world's fourth-largest island; strategic location along Mozambique Channel
Malawi: landlocked; Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature
Malaysia: strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea
Maldives: 1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago of strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean
Mali: landlocked; divided into three natural zones: the southern, cultivated Sudanese; the central, semiarid Sahelian; and the northern, arid Saharan
Malta: the country comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited; numerous bays provide good harbors; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration
Man, Isle of: one small islet, the Calf of Man, lies to the southwest, and is a bird sanctuary
Marshall Islands: two archipelagic island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range
Martinique: the island is dominated by Mount Pelee, which on 8 May 1902 erupted and completely destroyed the city of Saint Pierre, killing 30,000 inhabitants
Mauritania: most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
Mauritius: the main island, from which the country derives its name, is of volcanic origin and is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs
Mayotte: part of Comoro Archipelago; 18 islands
Mexico: strategic location on southern border of US
Micronesia, Federated States of: four major island groups totaling 607 islands
Midway Islands: a coral atoll managed as a national wildlife refuge and open to the public for wildlife-related recreation in the form of wildlife observation and photography, sport fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving
Moldova: landlocked; well endowed with various sedimentary rocks and minerals including sand, gravel, gypsum, and limestone
Monaco: second smallest independent state in the world (after Holy See); almost entirely urban
Mongolia: landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia
Montserrat: the island is entirely volcanic in origin and contains seven active volcanoes
Morocco: strategic location along Strait of Gibraltar
Mozambique: the mighty Zambezi flows through the north-central and most fertile part of the country
Namibia: first country in the world to incorporate the protection of the environment into its constitution; some 14% of the land is protected, including virtually the entire Namib Desert coastal strip
Nauru: Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator
Navassa Island: strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock, but enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig-like trees, scattered cactus
Nepal: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest on the border with China, which is the world's tallest
Netherlands: located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)
Netherlands Antilles: the five islands of the Netherlands Antilles are divided geographically into the Leeward Islands (northern) group (Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten) and the Windward Islands (southern) group (Bonaire and Curacao)
New Caledonia: consists of the main island of New Caledonia (one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean), the archipelago of Iles Loyaute, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls
New Zealand: about 80% of the population lives in cities; Wellington is the southernmost national capital in the world
Nicaragua: largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua
Niger: landlocked; one of the hottest countries in the world: northern four-fifths is desert, southern one-fifth is savanna, suitable for livestock and limited agriculture
Nigeria: the Niger enters the country in the northwest and flows southward through tropical rain forests and swamps to its delta in the Gulf of Guinea
Niue: one of world's largest coral islands
Norfolk Island: most of the 32-km coastline consists of almost inaccessible cliffs, but the land slopes down to the sea in one small southern area on Sydney Bay, where the capital of Kingston is situated
Northern Mariana Islands: strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean
Norway: about two-thirds mountains; some 50,000 islands off its much indented coastline; strategic location adjacent to sea lanes and air routes in North Atlantic; one of most rugged and longest coastlines in world; Norway is the only NATO member having a land boundary with Russia
Oman: strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil
Pacific Ocean: the major chokepoints are the Bering Strait, Panama Canal, Luzon Strait, and the Singapore Strait; the Equator divides the Pacific Ocean into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; dotted with low coral islands and rugged volcanic islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean
Pakistan: controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent
Palau: westernmost archipelago in the Caroline chain, consists of six island groups totaling over 200 islands; includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands
Palmyra Atoll: about 50 islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall
Panama: strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean
Papua New Guinea: shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; one of world's largest swamps along southwest coast
Paracel Islands: composed of 130 small coral islands and reefs divided into the northeast Amphitrite Group and the western Crescent Group
Paraguay: landlocked; lies between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil; population concentrated in southern part of country
Peru: shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake, with Bolivia; remote Lake McIntyre is the ultimate source of the Amazon River
Philippines: favorably located in relation to many of Southeast Asia's main water bodies: the South China Sea, Philippine Sea, Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Luzon Strait
Pitcairn Islands: Britain's most isolated dependency; only the larger island of Pitcairn is inhabited but it has no port or natural harbor; supplies must be transported by rowed longboat from larger ships stationed offshore
Poland: historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain
Portugal: Azores and Madeira Islands occupy strategic locations along western sea approaches to Strait of Gibraltar
Puerto Rico: important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north
Qatar: strategic location in central Persian Gulf near major petroleum deposits
Reunion: this mountainous, volcanic island has an active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise
Romania: controls most easily traversable land route between the Balkans, Moldova, and Ukraine
Russia: largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture; Mount Elbrus is Europe's tallest peak
Rwanda: landlocked; most of the country is savanna grassland with the population predominantly rural
Saint Helena: harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns
Saint Kitts and Nevis: with coastlines in the shape of a baseball bat and ball, the two volcanic islands are separated by a three-km-wide channel called The Narrows; on the southern tip of long, baseball bat-shaped Saint Kitts lies the Great Salt Pond; Mount Nevis sits in the center of its almost circular namesake island and its ball shape complements that of its sister island
Saint Lucia: the twin Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton), striking cone-shaped peaks south of Soufriere, are one of the scenic natural highlights of the Caribbean
Saint Pierre and Miquelon: vegetation scanty
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada
Samoa: occupies an almost central position within Polynesia
San Marino: landlocked; smallest independent state in Europe after the Holy See and Monaco; dominated by the Apennines
Sao Tome and Principe: the smallest country in Africa; the two main islands form part of a chain of extinct volcanoes and both are fairly mountainous
Saudi Arabia: extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal
Senegal: westernmost country on the African continent; The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal
Seychelles: 40 granitic and about 50 coralline islands
Sierra Leone: rainfall along the coast can reach 495 cm (195 inches) a year, making it one of the wettest places along coastal, western Africa
Singapore: focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes
Slovakia: landlocked; most of the country is rugged and mountainous; the Tatra Mountains in the north are interspersed with many scenic lakes and valleys
Slovenia: despite its small size, this eastern Alpine country controls some of Europe's major transit routes
Solomon Islands: strategic location on sea routes between the South Pacific Ocean, the Solomon Sea, and the Coral Sea
Somalia: strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal
South Africa: South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: the north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in this century, live on South Georgia
Southern Ocean: the major chokepoint is the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica; the Polar Front (Antarctic Convergence) is the best natural definition of the northern extent of the Southern Ocean; it is a distinct region at the middle of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that separates the very cold polar surface waters to the south from the warmer waters to the north; the Front and the Current extend entirely around Antarctica, reaching south of 60 degrees south near New Zealand and near 48 degrees south in the far South Atlantic coinciding with the path of the maximum westerly winds
Spain: strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar
Spratly Islands: strategically located near several primary shipping lanes in the central South China Sea; includes numerous small islands, atolls, shoals, and coral reefs
Sri Lanka: strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes
Sudan: largest country in Africa; dominated by the Nile and its tributaries
Suriname: smallest independent country on South American continent; mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, most of which lives along the coast
Svalbard: northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area
Swaziland: landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa
Sweden: strategic location along Danish Straits linking Baltic and North Seas
Switzerland: landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France and northern Italy, contains the highest elevations in Europe
Syria: there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1999 est.)
Taiwan: strategic location adjacent to both the Taiwan Strait and the Luzon Strait
Tajikistan: landlocked; mountainous region dominated by the Trans-Alay Range in the north and the Pamirs in the southeast; highest point, Pik Imeni Ismail Samani (formerly Communism Peak), was the tallest mountain in the former USSR
Tanzania: Kilimanjaro is highest point in Africa; bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria (the world's second-largest freshwater lake) in the north, Lake Tanganyika (the world's second deepest) in the west, and Lake Nyasa in the southwest
Thailand: controls only land route from Asia to Malaysia and Singapore
Togo: the country's length allows it to stretch through six distinct geographic regions; climate varies from tropical to savanna
Tokelau: consists of three atolls, each with a lagoon surrounded by a number of reef-bound islets of varying length and rising to over three meters above sea level
Tonga: archipelago of 170 islands (36 inhabited)
Trinidad and Tobago: Pitch Lake, on Trinidad's southwestern coast, is the world's largest natural reservoir of asphalt
Tromelin Island: climatologically important location for forecasting cyclones; wildlife sanctuary
Tunisia: strategic location in central Mediterranean; Malta and Tunisia are discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for oil exploration
Turkey: strategic location controlling the Turkish Straits (Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link Black and Aegean Seas; Mount Ararat, the legendary landing place of Noah's Ark, is in the far eastern portion of the country
Turkmenistan: landlocked; the western and central low-lying, desolate portions of the country make up the great Garagum (Kara-Kum) desert, which occupies over 80% of the country; eastern part is plateau
Turks and Caicos Islands: 30 islands (eight inhabited)
Tuvalu: one of the smallest and most remote countries on Earth; five of the coral atolls enclose sizable lagoons, but the other four are just pinnacles
Uganda: landlocked; fertile, well-watered country with many lakes and rivers
Ukraine: strategic position at the crossroads between Europe and Asia; second-largest country in Europe
United Arab Emirates: strategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil
United Kingdom: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters
United States: world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Mt. McKinley is highest point in North America and Death Valley the lowest point on the continent
Uruguay: second-smallest South American country (after Suriname); most of the low-lying landscape (three-quarters of the country) is grassland, ideal for cattle and sheep raising
Uzbekistan: along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world
Vanuatu: a Y-shaped chain of some 80 islands, 70 of which are inhabited; several of the islands have active volcanoes
Venezuela: on major sea and air routes linking North and South America; Angel Falls in the Guiana Highlands is the world's highest waterfall
Vietnam: extending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point
Virgin Islands: important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural, deepwater harbors in the Caribbean
Wake Island: strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; emergency landing location for transpacific flights
Wallis and Futuna: both island groups have fringing reefs
West Bank: landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers; there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)
Western Sahara: the waters off the coast are particularly rich fishing areas
World: the world is now thought to be about 4.55 billion years old, just about one-third of the 13-billion-year age estimated for the universe
Yemen: strategic location on Bab el Mandeb, the strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, one of world's most active shipping lanes
Yugoslavia: controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East; strategic location along the Adriatic coast
Zambia: landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe: landlocked; the Zambezi forms a natural riverine boundary with Zambia; in full flood (February-April) the massive Victoria Falls on the river forms the world's largest curtain of falling water
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