THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Geography. The United States of America occupies the central part of the North American continent and is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. It is a federal republic of 50 states. The 48 states occupy the middle latitudes of the continent. The state of Alaska is separated from the rest of the country by Canada and the island state of Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean. The national capital is Washington, DC. District of Columbia is a 100-square-mile region created as the seat of the federal government.
The major characteristic of the United States is its great variety. Its climate ranges from the Arctic to the subtropical. The country has rain forests, deserts, mountain peaks and the flat prairie.
The United States is relatively young, being little more than 225 years old. America was the first of the European colonies gain independence. The flag of the United States is called ‘Stars and Stripes’. The 50 stars represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent 13 original English colonies, which in 1776 became free and independent of England.
Manufacturing. The United States is one of the world’s greatest economic powers in terms of gross national product (GNP). The nation’s wealth is partly a reflection of its rich natural resources, but it owes more to the highly developed industry of the country. Heavy industry dominates in the USA, including such branches as mining, metallurgical, engineering, chemical and high-tech industries. Since the mid-20th century, services (health care, entertainment and finance) have grown faster than other sectors of the economy. But, while manufacturing jobs have declined, manufacturing output has remained rather constant (at about one-fifth of GNP) due to advances in productivity.
The manufacture of transportation equipment (motor vehicles, aircraft and space equipment) is a leading sector. Computer and telecommunications firms (including software and hardware) remain strong, despite a downturn in the early 21st century. Other important sectors are biotechnology, health services, food products, chemicals, electrical and nonelectrical machinery.
The United States is the world’s biggest consumer of energy. Therefore, its major imports have included petroleum and fuel products. It is one of the world’s leading producers of refinedpetroleum.
Population.The population of the United States is large by world standards (about 250 mln.), and is very diverse. Probably no other country has a wider range of racial, ethnic, and cultural types than does the USA. It is often called ‘a nation of immigrants’ because the country was built and developed by generations of immigrants. Millions of them came to America hoping for greater social, political and economic opportunities than they had in their native land. They have enriched the national character in addition to the presence of Native Americans (American Indians) and descendants of Africans taken as slaves to the New World.
Government and society.The American political system is generally described as a constitutional democracy. The U.S. Constitution adopted in 1789 is the world’s oldest written constitution still in force, and George Washington was the country’s first president. In the more than two centuries, there have been 27 amendments. The first 10 amendments, adopted in 1791, are known as the Bill of Rights, which state certain rights that belong to every person. Under the Constitution, the federal government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The legislative power is vested in theCongress, made up of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 435 member in the House of Representatives and 100 senators in the Senate. Each state elects two senators for a six-year term. The members of the House of Representatives are chosen by the direct vote and serve two-years. Their number from each state is based on its population. The Congress makes laws, controls finances (foreign and domestic spending), ratifies or rejects treaties made by the President and has the right to impeach the president.
The executive branch is headed by the president. A president is elected indirectly by the people through an electoral college system to a four-year term with a limit of two terms of office. The president proposes bills to the Congress, enforces federal laws, controls foreign policy, serves as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and appoints ministers. The President can veto a bill unless Congress by a two-thirds vote overrules it. The President’s official residence and office is the White House.
The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court of the United States.
The political life of the country has always been dominated by the two major parties: the Democratic party and the Republican party which contest presidency and the majority of seats in the Congress at an election time.
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