Country of the World United States of America Part 1

About the country the United States of America, its location, size, population, leaders and rulers.




Lay of the Land: The United States of America consists of 48 contiguous states, stretching across North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific; the tropic volcanic island state of Hawaii in the mid-Pacific; and the large (one sixth of U.S. land area) state of Alaska on the Arctic northwest of the North American continent. In addition, the U.S. governs colonies in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and the Pacific Ocean (Micronesia, Guam, and eastern Samoa). Hawaii is the southernmost state, and Alaska is the furthest north and west.

Within the 48 contiguous states, the western third of the country contains the nation's major mountain ranges; the central portion--corresponding roughly to the Mississippi River basin--is relatively flat; and the eastern quarter is generally hilly. The northern states, particularly in the east and center, have colder climates than the southern rim. The northwest and southeast are the wettest regions, while the southwest contains the nation's deserts. Alaska, which includes temperate rainy sections along its southern coast as well as Arctic tundra and ice, contains the country's tallest mountains, including 20,320-ft. Mt. McKinley.

Size: 3,548,974 sq. mi. (9,363,123 sq. km.).

Population: 220.8 million. Languages: English, 89.4%; Spanish, 5.5%; Italian, 0.5%; German, 0.4%; American Indian, 0.4%; other, 3.8%. Religions: Roman Catholic, 24.1%; Baptist, 13.1%; Methodist, 6.3%; Lutheran, 4.3%; Eastern Orthodox, 2.1%l Presbyterian, 1.9%; Jewish, 1.9%; Episcopal, 1.4%; Latter-day Saints, 1.3%; other or no religion, 43.6%.

Who Rules: Under the constitution of 1789, the U.S. is a federated republic. The federal government, headquartered in Washington (situated in the nonstate jurisdiction of the District of Columbia), has exclusive responsibility for foreign policy, military affairs, and interstate commerce, and it shares its other authority with the states.

There are three branches of the federal government. The executive branch, headed by the president, operates the government, conducts the foreign policy, and proposes policies and budgets. The president is elected every four years, according to a system which approaches direct popular vote. The Congress, which passes laws, allocates funds, and reviews certain actions of the executive branch, consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House includes 435 voting members, each of whom is elected every two years from districts of approximately 500,000 people. Each state elects two senators by popular vote; the senators' six-year terms are staggered so that one third of the body, which numbers 100, is up for reelection every two years. The third branch, the judiciary, has the power to review the actions of the Congress and the executive and interprets the constitution, which places limits on the powers of all three branches. In addition, the judiciary tries accused criminals and decides civil suits. The president appoints all federal judges, subject to the approval of the Senate, and they serve indefinite terms. The Supreme Court, consisting of nine justices, heads the judicial branch.

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