USA -- Geography --
Official Name: United States of America
Capital City: Washington, D.C.
Languages: English (official), Spanish, Indo-European, Asian and Pacific island
Official Currency: Dollar
Religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim and others
Population: 302, 000, 000
Land Area: 9, 372, 600 sq km
Climate: mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.
Natural Resources: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber.
Administrative division: 50 states and 1 district.
USA -- History --
Pre-Columbian period: The earliest known inhabitants of what is now the United States are thought to have arrived in Alaska, at least 14,000 - 30,000 years ago. These were the ancestors to modern Native Americans in the United States and Alaskan Native peoples, as well as all indigenous peoples of the Americas. Many indigenous peoples were semi-nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers; others were sedentary and agricultural civilizations. Many formed new tribes or confederations in response to European colonization.
Colonial period: After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on what would one day become U.S. territory when he came to Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493, during his second voyage. In the 15th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe corn, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash.
Spanish colonization: The first confirmed landing in the continental US was by a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de Leîn, who landed in 1513 on a lush shore he christened La Florida. Within three decades of Ponce de Leîn's landing, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains. In 1540, De Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present US. The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. Later Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most Spanish settlements were along the California coast or the Santa Fe River in New Mexico.
French colonization: New France was the area colonized by France in North America.The territory was divided in five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. Also during this period, French Huguenots, attempted to found a colony in what became the southeastern coast of the United States. Most of the colonists moved south, founding the colony of Fort Caroline at the mouth of the St. Johns River in what is now Jacksonville, Florida on June 22, 1564. Fort Caroline was destroyed in 1565 by the Spanish who moved in from St. Augustine.
British colonization: The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. A new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip's War in New England. The area of New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733.
Formation of the United States of America (1776–1789): The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776. They subsequently constituted the first thirteen states of the United States of America, which became a nation in 1781 with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation. The 1783 Treaty of Paris represented Great Britain's formal acknowledgement of the United States as an independent nation. The United States defeated the Kingdom of Great Britain with help from France and Spain in the American Revolutionary War.
Declaration of Independence: On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, still meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of "the United States of America" in the Declaration of Independence. Although the states were not yet formally bound in a legal union, July 4 is celebrated as the nation's birthday. The new nation was dedicated to principles of republicanism. The Continental Congress that convened on September 5, 1774 played an important role among the thirteen colonies in dealing with Great Britain, including the American Revolutionary War from 1775. Samuel Huntington became the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled and the territory of the newly formed USA was much smaller than it is today.
Westward expansion (1789–1849): George Washington—a renowned hero of the American Revolutionary War—became the first President of the United States under the new U.S. Constitution. The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when settlers in the Pennsylvania counties protested against a federal tax on liquor and distilled drinks, was the first serious test of the federal government. He announced his resignation from the presidency and his vice president John Adams succeeded him in presidency. Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, defeated Adams for the presidency in the 1800 election. The Louisiana Purchase, in 1803, removed the French presence from the western border of the United States and provided U.S. settlers with vast potential for expansion west of the Mississippi River. President James Madison declared war on Britain in 1812. The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed the United States' opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the American's. This was a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States. It was not until the Presidential Administration of Teddy Roosevelt that the Monroe Doctrine became a central tenet of American foreign policy. After the Mexican-American War in 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California, New Mexico, and adjacent areas to the United States.
Civil War era (1849–1865): After Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 Election, eleven Southern states seceded from the union between late 1860 and 1861. By 1860, there had been nearly four million slaves residing in the United States; within the same time period cotton production in the U.S. boomed from one thousand to nearly one million per year. There were some slave rebellions but they all failed. The Civil War began when Confederate General Pierre Beauregard opened fire upon Fort Sumter, in the Confederate state of South Carolina. The Confederacy made its first invasion of the North when General Robert E. Lee led 55,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River into Maryland. The Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history. At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made General Ulysses S. Grant commander of all Union armies. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and an extraordinary 18% in the South.
Reconstruction (1865–1890): Reconstruction took place for most of the decade following the Civil War. During this era, the "Reconstruction Amendments" were passed to expand civil rights for black Americans. Those amendments included the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment that guaranteed citizenship for all people born or naturalized within U.S. territory, and the Fifteenth Amendment that granted the vote for all men regardless of race.
Progressivism, imperialism, and World War I (1890–1918): The United States began its rise to international power in this period with substantial population and industrial growth. Also at stake were U.S. interests in acquiring Cuba, an island nation fighting for independence from Spanish occupation; Puerto Rico and the Philippines were also two former Spanish colonies seeking liberation. In December 1898, representatives of Spain and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Paris to end the war, with Cuba becoming an independent nation and Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines becoming U.S. territories. President Woodrow Wilson declared U.S. entry into World War I in April 1917 following a yearlong neutrality policy; the U.S. had previously shown interest in world peace by participating in the Hague Conferences. American participation in the war proved essential to the Allied victory.
Post-World War I and the Great Depression (1918–1940): Following World War I, the U.S. grew steadily in stature as an economic and military world power. In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol were prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Prohibition encouraged dealers to make substantial amounts of money selling alcohol illegally. The Prohibition ended in 1933. During most of the 1920s, the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity: farm prices and wages fell, while new industries, and industrial profits grew. The boom was fueled by a rise in debt and an inflated stock market. The ensuing Great Depression led to government efforts to restart the economy. The recovery was rapid in all areas except unemployment, which remained fairly high until 1940.
World War II (1940–1945): As with World War I, the United States did not enter World War II until after the rest of the active allied countries had done so. On December 7, 1941 Japan launched a surprise attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor. The following day, Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully urged a joint session of Congress to declare war on Japan. Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 11, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States.
Battle against Germany: Upon entering the war, the United States and its allies decided to concentrate their efforts on fighting Hitler in Europe, while maintaining a defensive position in the Pacific until Hitler was defeated. The American army's first ground action was fighting alongside the British and Australian armies in North Africa. By May 1943, the British Army had expelled the Germans from North Africa and the Allies controlled this vital link until the end of the war. The Americans contributed greatly to the outcome of the war. The battles took a heavy toll on the Americans. On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. On May 8, 1945, the war with Germany was over.
Battle against Japan: Due to the United States commitment to defeating Hitler in Europe, the first years of the war against Japan was largely a defensive battle with the United States Navy attempting to prevent the Japanese Navy from asserting dominance of the Pacific region. Initially, Japan won the majority of its battles in a short period of time.The turning point of the war was the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Following this, the Americans began fighting towards China where they could build an airbase suitable to commence bombing of mainland Japan. The Pacific war became the largest naval conflict in history. On April 12, 1945, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died and Vice President Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States. The decision to use nuclear weapons to end the conflict has been one of the most controversial decisions of the war. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 15, 1945, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally.
Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement: Following World War II, the United States emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers. The post-war era in the United States was defined internationally by the beginning of the Cold War, in which the United States and the Soviet Union attempted to expand their influence at the expense of the other. Within the United States, the Cold War resulted in government efforts to encourage math and science. John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960. Known for his charisma, he is so far the only Roman Catholic to be President. During his time in office, the Cold War reached its height with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Meanwhile, the American people completed their great migration from the farms into the cities and experienced a period of sustained economic expansion. At the same time, institutionalized racism across the United States, but especially in the American South, was increasingly challenged by the growing Civil Rights movement and African American leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. During the 1960s, the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between Whites and Blacks came to an end. The Cold War continued through the 1960s and 1970s. Gorbachev tried to save Communism in Russia but in 1991 communism finally collapsed, ending the US-Soviet Cold War.
1991–present: The 1990s, saw one of the longest periods, of economic expansion. Under Bill Clinton, elected in 1992, an attempt to universalize health care, led by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton failed after almost two years of work on the controversial plan. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing by Al-Qaida was the first of many terrorist attacks upon Americans during this period. These attacks were followed by others including the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Next came the 2000 millennium attack plots which included an attempted bombing of Los Angeles International Airport. In 1998, Clinton was impeached for an inappropriate sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky and a sexual harassment lawsuit from Paula Jones. The presidential election in 2000 between George W. Bush (R) and Al Gore (D) was one of the closest in the U.S. At the beginning of the new millennium, the United States found itself attacked by Islamic terrorism, with the September 11, 2001 attacks in which 19 extremists hijacked four transcontinental airliners and intentionally crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, destroying the entire complex. In response to the attacks, under the administration of President George W. Bush, the United States (with the military support of NATO and the political support of some of the international community) launched Operation Enduring Freedom which overthrew the Taliban regime which had protected and harbored bin Laden and al-Qaeda. With a coalition of other countries including Britain, Spain, Australia, Japan and Poland, in March 2003 President Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq which led to the overthrow and capture of Saddam Hussein. Since 9/11, Islamic extremists made various attempts to attack the US homeland. Such attacks include a plan to crash airplanes into the U.S. Bank Tower (aka Library Tower) in Los Angeles; the 2003 plot by Iyman Faris to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City; the 2004 Financial buildings plot which targeted the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, DC, the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions; the 2004 Columbus Shopping Mall Bombing Plot; the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot; the 2006 Sears Tower plot; the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot; and the 2007 John F. Kennedy International Airport attack plot.
USA -- Economy --
Gneneral Information: By various measures the United States remains the world's most productive, competitive, and influential large economy. Yet more and more the U.S. economy is itself influenced by dynamic economies overseas. The U.S. economy is at or near the top in a number of international rankings: 1) No. 1 in economic output, called gross domestic product, amounting to $13.13 trillion in 2006. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, at about 302 million, the United States accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of world GDP; 2) No. 1 in total imports, some $2.2 trillion in 2006, about twice that for the country with the next highest level, Germany; 3) No. 3 in exports of goods, $1 trillion in 2007, behind Germany and China. No. 1 in exports of services, $422 billion in 2006; 4) No. 1 in external debt, estimated at more than $10 trillion mid-2006; 5) No. 1 destination for foreign investment, an inflow of more than $1.5 trillion in 2006; 6) No. 1 for inflow of foreign direct investment—businesses and real estate—about $177.3 billion in 2006. No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment by the world's 100 biggest multinational corporations, including corporations from developing countries; 7) No. 5 in holdings of reserve assets in 2005 at $188.3 billion, 4 percent of the world's share, behind Japan and China (each with 18 percent), Taiwan and South Korea, and just ahead of Russia. No. 15 in reserves of foreign exchange and gold, about $69 billion in mid-2006; 8) No. 1 in petroleum consumption, about 20.6 million barrels a day in 2006, and No. 1 in crude oil imports, more than 10 million barrels a day.
Goods and Services: A national economy comprises a country's production of goods and services. Real gross domestic product (GDP) measures such output produced by labor and property in the United States. The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $40,100. The United States is rich in mineral resources. It has much fertile farm soil and a moderate climate. It has extensive coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. Rivers flow from far within the continent, and the five Great Lakes on the border with Canada provide additional shipping access. Since the United States abolished slavery during the Civil War in 1863, all U.S. workers own their own labor and are free to sell it to employers for wages or work for themselves—self-employment. Governments set rules for hiring and employing workers. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy considerably greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to entry in their rivals' home markets than the barriers to entry of foreign firms in US markets.
Service Economy: Services produced by private industry accounted for 67.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product in 2006, with real estate and financial services such as banking, insurance, and investment on top. Some other categories of services are wholesale and retail sales; transportation; health care; legal, scientific, and management services; education; arts; entertainment; recreation; hotels and other accommodation; restaurants, bars, and other food and beverage services. Production of goods accounted for 19.8 percent of GDP: manufacturing—such as computers, autos, aircraft, machinery—12.1 percent; construction, 4.9 percent; oil and gas drilling and other mining, 1.9 percent; agriculture, less than 1 percent. Federal, state, and local governments accounted for the rest—12.4 percent of GDP. The most rapidly expanding sectors are financial services; professional, scientific, and technical services; durable goods manufacturing, especially computers and electronic products; real estate; and health care. Decreasing their share of GDP growth are agriculture and mining and some other kinds of manufacturing, such as textiles. Yet the United States remains the world's top manufacturing country, its factories producing goods worth $1.49 trillion in 2005, 1.5 times the level in the next country, Japan. And the value of U.S. agricultural production trails that of only China and India. In 2002 the market value of U.S. farm production amounted to more than $200 billion, including $45 billion for cattle and calves; nearly $40 billion for grains, such as corn and wheat; nearly $24 billion for poultry and eggs; $20 billion for milk and other dairy products; and $12 billion for pigs. Despite its overall trade deficit, the United States has a surplus in agriculture. U.S. farm exports in 2007 are $78 billion. About one-fourth of U.S. farm output is exported. The United States also maintains a trade surplus in services, $79.7 billion in 2006. The biggest U.S. services export category was travel by foreigners to the United States, $85.8 billion that year. In contrast, the United States runs a large and growing deficit in merchandise goods trade. While the United States exported more than $1 trillion in goods in 2006, it imported more than $1.8 trillion worth. By far the top imports that year were autos and auto parts, $211.9 billion, and crude oil, $225.2 billion. The top sources of U.S. imports were Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. Among the top U.S. exports in 2006 were autos and auto parts, semiconductors, and civilian aircraft. The top U.S. export destinations were Canada, Mexico, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. In 2000-2006, even though U.S. goods exports increased 33 percent, U.S. goods imports went up even faster, 52 percent; the goods deficit nearly doubled over those years. The $758.5 billion trade deficit amounted to 5.7 percent of 2006 GDP, a level viewed as unsustainable by many economists because it relies on continuing inflows of foreign investment to pay for it.
Creative Distruction: With a large land mass, natural resources, a stable government, and a relatively well-educated workforce, the U.S. economy has some competitive advantages in the world marketplace. In a free market, decisions about what to produce and what prices to charge for products are made through the give and take of independent buyers and sellers not by government or powerful private interests. Prices set this way best reflect the value of goods and services and best guide production of what is most needed. Americans also view free markets as a way of promoting individual freedom. Vigorous competition and a regulatory system have made the U.S. economy productive and provided American households with relatively high incomes. U.S. productivity went up briskly in the 1990s, with a peak 4.1 percent gain in 2002. This widened a lead over the European Union and Japan, mostly by more effective application of information technology. Since then, productivity gains have fallen off, only 1.6 percent in 2007. In 2005 the U.S. government recorded the creation of about 671,800 businesses and the demise of about 544,800 others. Many small, little-known businesses start up each year; some succeed, some fail. Tens of thousands of businesses enter bankruptcy each year, and some of them shut down permanently. In 2005 more than 39,000 businesses filed for bankruptcy. In the United States even well-known big businesses fail. Trans World Airlines, United Air Lines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, US Airways, Continental Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and Pan Am are just some of the major commercial airlines that have filed for bankruptcy. Some have re-emerged; others have disappeared forever, their assets scavenged by surviving competitors. Another measure of the U.S. economy's dynamism: Of the 12 companies that Dow Jones listed in 1896 when it created its famous stock index to represent the industrial sector, only one, General Electric, remains on the index now. Others disappeared from the index as they were acquired by other companies, split into smaller companies, became relatively smaller players in the economy, or simply dissolved. Some of the companies that replaced them started out as small businesses.
Large and Small Businesses: Small businesses, those having fewer than 500 employees, loom large in the U.S. economy. They can respond quickly to changing economic conditions and customer needs with innovative technical solutions to production problems. Their share of nonfarm GDP reached 50.7 percent in 2004. A few expanded small businesses quickly into large, powerful corporations. Some examples: software manufacturer Microsoft, sports clothing manufacturer Nike, online service provider AOL. Persons from minority groups run many small businesses. Of all U.S. nonfarm firms in 2002, 6.8 percent were owned by Hispanic Americans, 5.2 percent by African Americans, 4.8 percent by Asian Americans, 0.9 percent by American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 0.1 percent by Native Hawaiian. Many U.S. businesses large and small are organized as publicly traded corporations. To raise money, corporations sell stock (ownership shares in their assets) or bonds (loans of money) to investors. A major corporation may be owned by a million or more people, most of them holding shares worth tiny fractions of the company's total worth. About half of all U.S. households own common stock.
Workers and Productivity: America's high standard of living is due to the fact that American workers are among the most productive in the world. About 146 million people in the United States were working in paid jobs at the end of 2006, with another 7 million unemployed; the 153 million total makes up the world's third largest labor force, after China's and India's. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. working-age people participate in the labor force. About 15 percent of them are foreign born. Some 5 to 6 percent of them work more than one job. U.S. workers do not typically endure long-term unemployment. In 2005 only 12 percent of unemployed U.S. workers could not find work within a year, compared to 46 percent in the European Union. Contributing to U.S. workers' productivity has been the emphasis on education, including technical and vocational training, as well as willingness to experiment and change. Change includes Americans' willingness to move from place to place to find work. Not all workers leave jobs voluntarily, of course. Mass layoffs by big companies occur commonly—13,998 companies reported mass layoffs during 2006. From late 2005 through early 2007, the Big Three U.S. automakers—General Motors Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and DaimlerChrysler AG—eliminated more than 90,000 U.S. jobs. U.S. airlines laid off 174,000 workers from August 2001 to February 2007.
Macroeconomic Policy: The federal government aims to promote the conditions required for steady economic expansion and high levels of employment, especially a stable general price level and a tolerable tax burden. The Federal Reserve, the independent U.S. central bank, manages the money supply and use of credit (monetary policy), while the president and Congress adjust federal spending and taxes (fiscal policy). Since the inflation of the 1970s, Federal Reserve monetary policy has emphasized preventing rapid escalation of general price levels. When the general price level is rising too fast, the Federal Reserve acts to slow economic expansion by reducing the money supply, thus raising short-term interest rates. When the economy is slowing down too fast, or contracting, the Federal Reserve increases the money supply, thus lowering short-term interest rates. The most common way it effects these changes in interest rates, called open-market operations, is by buying and selling government securities among a small group of major banks and bond dealers. A particularly tricky situation for monetary policy makers, called stagflation, occurs when the economy is slowing down and inflation is rising too fast.
Problems: The U.S. economy has not only fundamental strengths but also fundamental problems. Like U.S. economic strengths, however, U.S. economic problems evolve over time. Consider income inequality. The United States is No. 10 in gross domestic product per person, at about $43,500 in 2006, behind Bermuda, Luxembourg, Jersey, Equatorial Guinea, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Guernsey, the Cayman Islands, and Ireland, but ahead of all other major economies. The distribution of income in the United States, however, is the most unequal of all major economies. In 2004, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the top fifth of U.S. households earned 53.5 percent of all U.S. income, while the bottom fifth earned only 4.1 percent. What is the reason for this two-tier labor market? The prevailing view is that those at the bottom lack the education or skills of those at the top. Ňhey fail to get comparable pay raises and other benefits. Yet the statistics conceal dynamic changes going on in income mobility. From 1989 to 1998, for example, 47 percent of households in the bottom fifth moved up into one of the other groups, and 47 percent of those in the top fifth moved down. Among all households, about 60 percent moved up or down from one group to another over those years.
Foreign Investment: Some economists identify as another serious problem the dependence of the U.S. economy on inflows of foreign capital for investment. Even as the United States has prospered, its workers have built high and rising levels of household debt. For the first time since the 1930s' Great Depression, households overall are actually spending more than they earn in after-tax income. At the same time, the federal government has been running budget deficits—$435 billion in 2006—much of it financed by foreign central banks. U.S. federal public debt, approaching $9 trillion, is estimated at about 65 percent of GDP, about the same proportion as in France and Germany, and a lot smaller proportion than in Japan and Italy. Individuals and central banks and other institutions, even from developing countries such as China, have been pouring enormous sums of money into U.S. markets. Foreign investors own about 10 percent of total U.S. publicly traded financial assets, including corporate stocks and bonds and marketable government securities. They also invest directly in U.S. business plant and equipment and in real estate. In 2006 foreigners invested nearly $1.8 trillion in the U.S. economy, about $184 billion of that in direct investment and the rest in stocks and bonds. By different measures, the cumulative amount of foreign direct investment in the United States in 2005 came out somewhere between $1.6 trillion and $2.8 trillion. Foreign investors own more than half of all publicly traded U.S. Treasury securities. In 2006, Japan was the country having the largest holdings of long-term Treasury securities, about $644 billion, followed by China, about $350 billion. In the meantime, all that foreign money flowing into U.S. markets has kept U.S. interest rates and prices lower than they would otherwise have been, fostering massive consumption of goods, including imports. Except for 1991, the U.S. current account deficit has risen steadily from about $12 billion in 1982 to $856.7 billion in 2007. By the end of 2005, U.S. residents held about $9.6 trillion in foreign assets, while residents of foreign countries held about $12.5 trillion in U.S. assets. As a result, what is called the U.S. net international investment position reached a negative $2.8 trillion in 2005.
USA -- Culture --
Literature: In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American art and literature took most of its cues from Europe. Writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary voice by the middle of the nineteenth century. Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman were major figures in the century's second half; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, would be recognized as America's other essential poet. Eleven U.S. citizens have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently Toni Morrison in 1993. Ernest Hemingway, the 1954 Nobel laureate, is often named as one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. A work seen as capturing fundamental aspects of the national experience and character—such as Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851), Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925)—may be dubbed the "Great American Novel." Popular literary genres such as the Western and hardboiled crime fiction developed in the United States.
Comic books: Since the invention of the comic book format in the 1930s, the United States has been the leading producer with only the British comic books and the Japanese manga as close competitors in terms of quantity. Comic book sales began to decline after World War II, when the medium was competing with the spread of television and mass market paperback books. The 1960s also saw the advent of the underground comics. Later, the recognition of the comic medium among academics, literary critics and art museums helped solidify comics as a serious artform with established traditions.
Visual arts: In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Developments in modern art in Europe came to America from exhibitions in New York City such as the Armory Show in 1913. After World War II, New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world. Painting in the United States today covers a vast range of styles.
Architecture: The United States has a history of architecture that includes a wide variety of styles.Ňhe overriding theme of American Architecture is modernity: the skyscrapers of the 20th century are the ultimate symbol of this modernity. Architecture in the US is diverse and has been shaped by many external forces, not only English. US Architecture can therefore be said to be eclectic, something unsurprising in such a multicultural society.
Theater: Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from the performance styles prevalent in Europe, especially England. Today, it is heavily interlaced with American literature, film, television, and music, and it is not uncommon for a single story to appear in all forms. Regions with significant music scenes often have strong theater and comedy traditions as well. Musical theater may be the most popular form: it is certainly the most colorful. Broadway in New York City is generally considered the pinnacle of commercial U.S. theatre. Another city of particular note is Chicago, which boasts of the most diverse and dynamic theater scenes in the country.
Cuisine: Mainstream American culinary arts are similar to those in other Western countries. Wheat is the primary cereal grain. Traditional American cuisine uses ingredients such as turkey, venison, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, and maple syrup, indigenous foods employed by Native Americans and early European settlers. Slow-cooked pork and beef barbecue, crab cakes, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies are distinctively American styles. Sour food, developed by African slaves, is popular around the South and among many African Americans elsewhere.American dishes such as apple pie, fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs derive from the recipes of various immigrants. Pasta is also a kind of American dish that is widely consumed. Americans generally prefer coffee to tea, with more than half the adult population drinking at least one cup a day. Marketing by U.S. industries is largely responsible for making orange juice and milk ubiquitous breakfast beverages. Highly sweetened soft drinks are widely popular; sugared beverages account for 9% of the average American's daily caloric intake.
Fashion: Apart from professional business attire, fashion in the United States is predominantly informal. Blue jeans were popularized as work clothes in the 1850s by merchant Levi Strauss, a German immigrant in San Francisco, and adopted by many American teenagers a century later. They are now widely worn on every continent by people of all ages and social classes. Along with mass-marketed informal wear in general, blue jeans are arguably U.S. culture's primary contribution to global fashion. The country is also home to the headquarters of many leading designer labels such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Labels such as American Eagel, Hollister, and Ecko cater to various niche markets.
Popular culture: American popular culture has expressed itself through nearly every medium, including movies, music, and sports. Mickey Mouse, Elvis Presley, Madonna, Baseball, American football, Basketball, jazz, Rap & Hip Hop, Michael Jackson, Gone with the Wind, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jordan, Indiana Jones, Sesame Street—these names, genres, and phrases have joined more tangible American products in spreading across the globe. It is worth noting that while the U.S. tends to be a net exporter of culture, it absorbs many other cultural traditions with relative ease, for example: origami, soccer and yoga.
USA -- Political system, law and government --
Overview: The United States is an indirect democracy -that is, the people rule through the representatives they elect. In the beginning, only white men with property could vote. Over time, the vote has been given to more and more people. Today any citizen who is at least 18 years old can vote. The USA consists of 50 states. The capital of the country is the City of Washington, situated in the Columbia District - a territory not included in any of the states.
The Constitution: The United States Constitution, written in 1787, established the country's political system and is the basis for its laws. In the 200 years of its history, the United States has greatly grown and changed. Yet the Constitution works as well today as when it was written. One reason is that the Constitution can be amended (for example, the Fifteenth Amendment gave black Americans the right to vote and the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote). Another reason is that the Constitution is flexible: its basic principles can be applied and interpreted differently at different times.
Federalism: The United States has a federalist system. It means that there are individual states, each with its own government, and there is a federal, or national, government. The US Constitution gives certain powers to the federal government, other powers to the state governments, and yet other powers to both. For example, only the national government can print money; the states establish their own school systems; and both the national and the state governments can collect taxes.
Three Branches of Government: Within the national government, power is divided among three branches: the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. A) The legislative branch is represented by Congress, which consists of two parts - the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress's main function is to make laws. There are 100 senators (two from each state) and 435 representatives (the number from each state depends on the size of the state's population).
B) The executive branch is headed by the President, who is also head of the country. The executive branch administers the laws. In addition to the President and the Vice-President, the executive branch consists of departments and agencies. The President appoints the department heads, or advisers, who together make up the President's Cabinet. Although the United States is often cited as an example of a democratic system where the president has a very powerful rule, the formal powers of the office are few and structure of the American government prevents the president from acting directly, without the advice and consent of the other branches of government. C) The judicial branch interprets the laws and makes sure that new laws are in keeping with the Constitution. The judicial branch is represented by several levels of federal courts- U.S. Supreme Court ,U.S. Courts of Appeal, U.S. District Courts, Special Courts. The Supreme Court is the most important body. It has nine members, who are appointed for life.
There is a system of checks established by the Constitution, which is meant to prevent any of the three branches from having too much power. Each branch has certain controls over the other branches. For example, Congress makes the laws, but the President can veto a law, and the Supreme Court can decide that the law is unconstitutional.
State and Local Government: Each state has its own constitution. Like the national government, state governments are divided into legislative, executive and judicial branches. In each state there are state senators and representatives, state court systems, and, like the President of the country, a governor of the state. Below the state level of government, there are county and city governments.
Two-Party System: The United States has two main political parties -the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There are other, much smaller, parties, which play little, if any, role. There are no clear differences between the Republican and Democratic parties. In general, the Republicans tend to be more conservative and to have more support among the upper classes, while the Democrats tend to be more liberal and to have more support among the working class and the poor.