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Bermuda

Bermuda occupies a group of more than 100 small islands that spread over roughly 53 km2 in the Atlantic Ocean. The closest landmass is the state of North Carolina (United States), some 1,000 km to the northwest. Town Hill is the highest point on the islands, at approximately 79 m. The subtropical climate is mild, with temperatures ranging from 18C to 31C, and an average annual rainfall of 1,400 mm. Surrounding the whole archipelago, and covering an area of about 750 km2 is the worlds most northerly coral reef platform.

Bermuda's per-capita income is approximately 50% higher than that of the United States; according to the Bermuda Government's Economic Statistics Division, Bermuda's GDP was $5.85 billion in 2007, or $91,477 per-capita, giving Bermuda the highest GDP per capita in the world at that time.

As an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, Bermuda has no seat in the United Nations and is represented by the UK in foreign affairs. Bermuda is the oldest self-governing British Overseas Territory and is governed through the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy. The government consists of a governor, deputy-governor, cabinet, and legislature. The territory is divided into nine parishes: Sandys, Southampton, Warwick, Paget, Pembroke, Devonshire, Hamilton, Saint Georges, and Smiths. The capital city of Hamilton is located in Pembroke, which is the most densely populated parish. The largest seven islands are linked by bridges.

Defence and foreign affairs remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, which also retains responsibility to ensure good government. It must approve any changes to the Constitution of Bermuda. Bermuda now exists as an overseas territory of Britain, but it is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a Royal Assent granted Bermuda limited self-governance, thus making the Parliament of Bermuda the fifth oldest in the world, behind only the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Tynwald of the Isle of Man, the Althing of Iceland and Sejm of the Republic of Poland. Of these, it is the only one to have met continuously as a legislature since its inception through to today.

The Bermuda Regiment is a battalion-sized, deployable, largely reservist infantry unit which supports the Civil Authority.The elected Government of Bermuda is financially responsible for the Regiment, although the UK retains ultimate responsibility for the islands security. Like their Caribbean neighbours, Bermudians are well used to post-hurricane operations, but the Bermuda Regiment also contributes wider operational experience which is not available locally (with Bermuda Regiment personnel having deployed, e.g. as part of the International Military Advisory Team to Sierra Leone).Looking ahead, the Bermuda Regiment seeks to expand its training remit in the international arena.

The Progressive Labour Party leadership favors independence from the United Kingdom, although polls have indicated that this is not supported by the population. While a referendum in 1995 on independence was defeated by a substantial margin, the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Progressive Labour Party (then in the Opposition) had called for a boycott of the referendum, having an unquantified impact on the result.

There are few accredited diplomats in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda, comprising both the United States Consulate and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services at the Bermuda International Airport. The United States is by far Bermuda's largest trading partner (providing over 71% of total imports, 85% of tourist visitors, and an estimated $163 billion of U.S. capital in the Bermuda insurance/re-insurance industry alone, and the fact that an estimated 5% of Bermuda residents are U.S. citizens, which represents 14% of all foreign-born persons), American diplomatic presence is seen as an important element in the Bermuda political landscape.

Buses, ferries and taxis are generally safe, frequent and efficient. Visitors cant hire a car in Bermuda, but 50cc scooters are readily available for public hire. Driving is on the left, as in the UK. Roads are narrow, winding and undulating, and traffic may be heavy. Road accidents involving scooters are relatively common, and have resulted in serious injury or even death. The age-standardized rate of traffic fatalities per 100,000 population was 28.2 in Bermuda, compared to 9.2 in countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD). For males, the rate was 59.0 in Bermuda compared to 14.9 for OECD countries.

Bermuda has a moderate crime rate driven in part by the drugs scene. Serious incidents, including use of weapons, do occur. Common crimes include burglary, mugging, theft of unattended baggage and belongings, and theft of items from rental scooters.

For decades, the Atlantic Oceans fabled Bermuda Triangle has captured the human imagination with unexplained disappearances of ships, planes, and people.

Some speculate that unknown and mysterious forces account for the unexplained disappearances, such as extraterrestrials capturing humans for study; the influence of the lost continent of Atlantis; vortices that suck objects into other dimensions; and other whimsical ideas. Some explanations are more grounded in science, if not in evidence. These include oceanic flatulence (methane gas erupting from ocean sediments) and disruptions in geomagnetic lines of flux.

Environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances. The majority of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes pass through the Bermuda Triangle, and in the days prior to improved weather forecasting, these dangerous storms claimed many ships.

No official maps exist that delineate the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle. The US Board of Geographic Names does not recognize the Bermuda Triangle as an official name and does not maintain an official file on the area.





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