United States of America

 

History of United States of America

United States of America Flag
Flag

Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65), in which a northern Union of states defeated a secessionist Confederacy of 11 southern slave states, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, an economic downturn during which about a quarter of the labor force lost its jobs. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful nation state. Since the end of World War II, the economy has achieved relatively steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.

After the Cold War, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history, ending in 2001. Originating in U.S. defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic networks, and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly impacting the global economy, society, and culture. On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorists struck the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people. In response the United States launched the War on Terror, which includes the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the 2003–11 Iraq War. In 2008, amid the Great Recession, Barack Obama was elected president, becoming the first African-American to take the office

Government

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The United States is a federal republic comprising 50 states, the District of Columbia (Washington DC), and several dependent areas overseas. The federal government derives its power from the Constitution of the United States, the oldest written constitution in the world in continuous use. Although federal law supersedes state law in the event of an express or implied conflict (known in legal jargon as "federal preemption"), each state is considered to be a separate sovereign, maintains its own constitution and government, and retains considerable autonomy within the federation. State citizens enjoy the power to vote for federal representatives, federal senators, and the federal President.

By way of contrast, the District of Columbia and the overseas territories have limited federal representation, as they can only elect "delegates" to the federal House of Representatives who cannot participate in votes by the Committee of the Whole on the House floor. (D.C. does, however, get three electoral votes with respect to the election of the federal President.) Because they lack state sovereignty, the governments of D.C. and the territories exist at the mercy of the federal government, which theoretically could dissolve them at any time.

The President of the United States is elected indirectly every four years by the people via an electoral college, and serves as both head of government and head of state. The Congress is bicameral; the lower House of Representatives have seats assigned to the states proportionally, while the upper house, the Senate, comprises exactly two seats per state.

The United States has two major political parties at both the federal and state levels, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Their dominance over the American political landscape has remained largely unchallenged since the end of the American Civil War and leads to a heavily criticized and frequently corrupt system of "pork-barrel politics" where necessary change is too-often subject to deadlock and bi-partisan point scoring. While smaller political parties exist, the American winner-take-all electoral system means that they are rarely competitive in elections at any level.

Americans value their rights to political expression strongly, and politics are fiercely debated in American society. In fact, there are many popular web sites and cable channels devoted primarily to political opinion programming. American politics are very complex and change quickly. For example, gay people were not allowed to marry in any US state as recently as 2003, whereas now, 17 states allow gay marriage, while over 20 states have passed amendments to their state constitutions explicitly outlawing gay marriage. Many Americans hold and passionately defend strong opinions on a wide range of political issues, many Americans, especially older Americans, are loyal to one party, and political debates often become heated and lead to insults, vulgarities, and personal attacks being exchanged. For these reasons, unless you are intimately familiar with American politics or already know and agree with the political views of the person you are talking to, you are best off not talking about politics at all.

Language

Most Americans speak English. They generally use a standard accent (native to the Midwest), popularized in the 20th century by radio, TV and movies. In many areas, especially the South and Texas, in New England, in New York City, and in the upper Midwest, you'll find distinctive regional accents and dialects. Nowhere should this pose any problem to a visitor, as Americans often admire foreign accents and most will approximate the standard accent to help you understand them, or try to speak your language if they can.

Culture

The United States is made up of many diverse ethnic groups and its culture varies greatly across the vast area of the country and even within cities - a city like New York will have dozens, if not hundreds, of different ethnicities represented within a neighborhood. Despite this difference, there exists a strong sense of national identity and certain predominant cultural traits. Generally, Americans tend to believe strongly in personal responsibility and that an individual determines his or her own success or failure, but it is important to note that there are many exceptions and that a nation as diverse as the United States has literally thousands of distinct cultural traditions. One will find Mississippi in the South to be very different culturally from Massachusetts in the North.

Weather and Climate

United States of America Climate

The overall climate is temperate, with notable exceptions. Alaska is cold and dominated by Arctic tundra, while Hawaii and South Florida are tropical. The Great Plains are dry, flat and grassy, turning into arid desert in the far West and Mediterranean along the California coast.

In the winter, the northern and mid-western regions of the country can see as much as 2 feet (61cm) of snowfall in one day, with cold temperatures. Summers are humid, but mild. Temperatures over 100°F (38°C) sometimes invade the Midwest and Great Plains. Some areas in the northern plains can experience cold temperatures of -30°F (-34°C) during the winter. Temperatures below 0°F (-18°C) sometimes reach as far south as Oklahoma.

The climate of the South also varies. In the summer, it is hot and humid, but from October through April the weather can range from 60°F (15°C) to short cold spells of 20°F (-7°C) or so. .

The Great Plains and Midwestern states also experience tornadoes from the late spring to early fall, earlier in the south and later in the north. States along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, may experience hurricanes between June and November. These intense and dangerous storms frequently miss the US mainland, but evacuations are often ordered and should be heeded.

The deserts of the Southwest are hot and dry during the summer, with temperatures often exceeding 100°F (38°C). Thunderstorms can be expected in the southwest frequently from July through September. Winters are mild, and snow is unusual. Average annual precipitation is low, usually less than 10 inches (25cm).

Cool and damp weather is common in the coastal northwest (Oregon and Washington west of the Cascade Range, and the northern part of California west of the Coast Ranges/Cascades). Rain is most frequent in winter, snow is rare, especially along the coast, and extreme temperatures are uncommon. Rain falls almost exclusively from late fall through early spring along the coast. East of the Cascades, the northwest is considerably drier. Most of eastern Oregon and a substantial part of eastern Washington are either semi-arid or desert.

Northeastern and cities of the Upper South are known for summers with temperatures reaching into the 90's (32°C) or more, with extremely high humidity, usually over 80%. This can be a drastic change from the Southwest. High humidity means that the temperature can feel hotter than actual readings. The Northeast also experiences snow, and at least once every few years there will be a dumping of the white stuff in enormous quantities.


 


Entry Requirements

The United States has exceptionally onerous and complicated visa requirements. Read up carefully before your visit, especially if you need to apply for a visa, and consult the US State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. Travellers have been refused entry for many reasons, often trivial.

Public Holidays

United States of America Federal Holidays
New Year’s Day 1st January
Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Third Monday in January
Washington's Birthday Third Monday in February (Presidents' Day)
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4th July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day 11th November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day 25th December
   


Notes:

If a holiday falls on a Saturday, the federal government celebrates it the preceding Friday; if a holiday falls on a Sunday the federal government celebrates it the following Monday. Most, but not all, states also observe a Sunday holiday on the following Monday. States may observe a Saturday holiday on the preceding Friday, on the following Monday, or not at all.

Private companies and other businesses are not required to follow either the federal government or state government holidays. In particular, banks that close on Saturdays do not observe a federal holiday when it falls on Saturday.


Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for United States of America(U.S.). Exercise normal security precautions.

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.


The hurricane season normally runs from June to November and can affect US coastal regions. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms on the US National Hurricane Centre website.

Tipping
If you're really pleased with your service, most experts will tell you to tip 20 percent. If you think the service was bad but not terrible, put down 10 percent. If you think the service was abominable, you can feel good about not leaving a tip.

Travel to United States of America now - Visit The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave!