United StatesThe United States of America (U.S.A.), also referred to as the United States, the U.S., America, or the States, is a federal republic in North America with a strong democratic tradition. It shares land borders with Canada in the north and Mexico in the south and shares a marine border with Russia in the west. It was established in 1776 when thirteen American colonies of Britain broke away from their mother nation. Since then it has eclipsed most other nations in terms of relative economic, political, and military power as well as cultural influence. Table of contents National mottos (1776 - ): E Pluribus Unum (Latin: "Out of many, one") (1956 - ): In God We Trust Official language None at federal level, some states specify Capital Washington, DC President George W. Bush Area Ranked 3rd Ê- Total 9,372,610 km² Ê- % water 2.198% Population Ranked 3rd Ê- Total (2000) 281,421,906 Ê- Density 31/km² - Independence Revolutionary War Ê- Declared July 4, 1776 Ê- Recognised September 3, 1783 Currency US dollar ($) Time zone UTC -5 to UTC -10 National anthem The Star-Spangled Banner Internet TLD .US .EDU .GOV .MIL Calling Code 1 Following the European colonization of the Americas, the United States became a federal republic and the world's first modern democracy after its break with Great Britain (1776) and the adoption of a constitution (1789). During the 19th century, many new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. Two of the major traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the American Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World War I and World War II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation-state and only superpower. Politics The United States of America consists of 50 states with limited autonomy in which federal law takes precedence over state law. In general, matters that lie entirely within state borders are the exclusive concern of state governments. These include internal communications; regulations relating to property, industry, business, and public utilities; the state criminal code; and working conditions within the state. Many state laws are quite similar from state to state. Finally, there are many areas of overlap between state and federal jurisdictions. In recent years, the federal government has assumed broader responsibility in such matters as health, education, welfare, transportation, and housing and urban development. The constitutions of the various states differ in some details but generally follow a pattern similar to that of the federal Constitution, including a statement of the rights of the people and a plan for organizing the government. On such matters as the operation of businesses, banks, public utilities, and charitable institutions, state constitutions are often more detailed and explicit than the federal constitution. The federal government itself consists of three branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. The head of the executive branch is the President of the United States of America. The legislative branch consists of the United States Congress, while the Supreme Court of the United States is the head of the judicial branch. The federal and state government is dominated by two political parties, the Republicans (center-right) and the Democrats (center-left), although minor party candidates and independents are occasionally elected especially to local or state office. Both major parties draw some support from all the diverse socio-economic classes which compose the mature multi-ethnic capitalist society which makes up the United States. Business interests provide the major funding and support to the Republican Party while labor unions and minority ethnic groups provide major support to the Democrats. Access to funds is vital in the political system due to the financial costs of mounting political campaigns. Thus, the political interests of corporations and other organized segments of the society in a position to provide funds and other political support play a major role in determining the political agenda of political parties, and ultimately, government decision making. States At the Declaration of Independence, the United States consisted of 13 states. In the following years, this number has grown steadily due to expansion to the west, conquest and purchase of lands by the American government, and division of existing states to the current number of 50 : * Alabama * Louisiana * Ohio * Alaska * Maine * Oklahoma * Arizona * Maryland * Oregon * Arkansas * Massachusetts * Pennsylvania * California * Michigan * Rhode Island * Colorado * Minnesota * South Carolina * Connecticut * Mississippi * South Dakota * Delaware * Missouri * Tennessee * Florida * Montana * Texas * Georgia * Nebraska * Utah * Hawaii * Nevada * Vermont * Idaho * New Hampshire * Virginia * Illinois * New Jersey * Washington * Indiana * New Mexico * West Virginia * Iowa * New York * Wisconsin * Kansas * North Carolina * Wyoming * Kentucky * North Dakota The contiguous part of the US (i.e. without Hawaii and Alaska) is called continental United States. The states are divided into smaller administrative regions, called counties in most states - exceptions being Alaska (boroughs) and Louisiana (parishes). Counties can include a number of cities and towns, or sometimes just a part of a city. District of Columbia A separate federal district under the direct authority of congress, the District of Columbia, was formed independent of any state. It is there that the nation's capital city resides. Dependent areas Several islands in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea are dependent territories of the United States: * American Samoa * Johnston Atoll * Palmyra Atoll * Baker Island (uninhabited) (uninhabited) (uninhabited) * Kingman Reef * Puerto Rico * Guam (uninhabited) * U.S. Virgin Islands * Howland Island * Midway Islands * Wake Island (uninhabited) * Navassa Island (uninhabited) * Jarvis Island (uninhabited) (uninhabited) * Northern Mariana Islands (The term "commonwealth" expresses the political relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas). US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease. US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but has reserved the right to do so. From July 18, 1947 until October 1, 1994, the US administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, but recently entered into a new political relationship with all four political units. The United States is an occupying power of the following countries: * Iraq, this power is shared with the United Kingdom. Iraq retains its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Geography As the world's third largest nation (land area), the United States landscape varies greatly: temperate forestland on the East coast, mangrove forests in Florida, the Great Plains in the centre of the country, the Mississippi-Missouri river system, the Rocky Mountains west of the plains, deserts and temperate coastal zones west of the Rocky Mountains. Including the arctic regions of Alaska and the volcanic islands of Hawaii only increases the diversity. The climate varies along with the landscape from sub-tropic in Florida to tundra in Alaska. Large parts of the country have a continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Economy The economy is organized on the capitalist model and is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, a large trade deficit, and rapid advances in technology. The American economy can be regarded as the most important in the world. Several countries have coupled their currency with the dollar, or even use it as a currency, and the American stock markets are globally seen as an indicator of world economy. The country has rich mineral resources, with extensive gold, oil, coal and uranium deposits. Agriculture brings the country among the top producers of, among others, maize, wheat, sugar and tobacco. American industry produces cars, airplanes and electronics. The biggest sector is however service industries; about three-quarters of Americans are employed in that sector. By far, the largest trading partner of the USA is its neighboring country Canada with the next a distant second. Other partners are Mexico, the European Union and the industrialized nations in the Far East, such as Japan and South Korea. Trade with China is important. Demographics Most of the 280 million people currently living in the United States descend from European immigrants that have arrived since the establishment of the first colonies. Major components of the European segment of the United States population are descended from immigrants from Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland and Italy with many immigrants also from Scandinavian countries and the Slavic and other populations of eastern and southern Europe and French Canada; few immigrants came directly from France. Likewise, while there were few immigrants directly from Spain, Hispanics from Mexico and South and Central America are considered the largest minority group in the country, comprising 13.4% of the population (38.6 million people) in 2002. This has brought increasing use of the Spanish language in the United States (see Languages in the United States). About 12% (2000 census) of the people are African Americans who largely descend from the African slaves that were brought to America. A third significant minority is the Asian American population (3.6%), which is especially present on the West Coast. The native population of Native Americans, such as American Indians and Inuit make up less than 1% of the population. A majority of Americans are Christians, with relatively small but politically significant Jewish and Muslim minorities. Although most American Christians are Protestant, the Catholic church is the Christian denomination with the greatest number of members because there are many more Protestant denominations. Also, in contrast to Europe, atheists and agnostics are a small minority in the United States. The actual level devotion of Americans to their faith is often debated. The social structure of the United States, a capitalist country, is highly stratified with a large proportion of the wealth of the country controlled by a small fraction of the population which exerts disproportionate cultural and political influence. However, in terms of relative wealth, most Americans nevertheless enjoy a standard of personal economic wealth that is still far greater than that known in the majority of the world. For example, 51% of all households have access to a computer and 41% had access to the Internet in 2000. Furthermore, 67.9% of US households owned their dwellings in 2002. Culture and society American culture has a large influence on the rest of the world, especially the Western world. American music is heard all over the world, and American movies and television shows can be seen almost anywhere. In American literature, authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, and more recently, Ernest Hemingway, J. D. Salinger and Flannery O'Connor, mastered the "short story." Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler pioneered gritty detective fiction that has had great influence on other genres and in other countries. After World War I, authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald developed new techniques for novels. Other noted American writers include John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, and Toni Morrison. U.S. poets with international notoriety include: T. S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, E. E. Cummings, Robert Frost. American music has a long and diverse history and has been an important influence on popular music worldwide. Some of the U.S.A.'s more famous and important musicians and singers include Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Chuck Berry, Mariah Carey, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Kurt Cobain, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Eminem, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Benny Goodman, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holliday, Buddy Holly, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, B. B. King, Carole King, Madonna, Willie Nelson, Thelonius Monk, Stevie Nicks, Charlie Parker, Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, and Hank Williams. American inventor Thomas Alva Edison played an important role in the invention of motion pictures, and David Wark Griffith pioneered a filmic vocabulary that still dominates. Other famous American film directors include Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, John Ford, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Iconic American actors include Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Bette Davis, James Dean, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Julia Roberts, Jimmy Stewart, Meryl Streep, Shirley Temple, and John Wayne.