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United States of America


Motto: In God We Trust E Pluribus Unum  From Many, One
Anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Capital Washington, D.C.
Largest city New York City
Demonym American
Government Constitutional federal presidential republic
Independence from Great Britain –  Declared, July 4, 1776 / Recognized, September 3, 1783
Area 9,826,630 km²  (3rd) / 3,794,066 sq mi
Population 2008 estimate / 304,139,000 (3rd)
Currency United States dollar

[show-map id=’20’] Geography
The United States is situated almost entirely in the western hemisphere: the contiguous United States stretches from the Pacific on the west to the Atlantic on the east, with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, and bordered by Canada on the north and Mexico on the south. Alaska is the largest state in area; separated from the contiguous U.S. by Canada, it touches the Pacific on the south and Arctic Ocean on the north. Hawaii occupies an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America. The United States is the world’s third or fourth largest nation by total area, before or after China. The ranking varies depending on (a) how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is calculated.   Including only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.  The United States also possesses several insular territories scattered around the West Indies (e.g., the commonwealth of Puerto Rico) and the Pacific (e.g., Guam). The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. The Mississippi-Missouri River, the world’s fourth longest river system, runs mainly north-south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie land of the Great Plains stretches to the west. The Rocky Mountains, at the western edge of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the continental United States, reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet in Colorado.  The area to the west of the Rocky Mountains is dominated by the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Mojave. The Sierra Nevada range runs parallel to the Rockies, relatively close to the Pacific coast. At 20,320 feet, Alaska’s Mount McKinley is the country’s tallest peak. Active volcanoes are common throughout the Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and the entire state of Hawaii is built upon tropical volcanic islands. The super volcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent’s largest volcanic feature. Because of the United States’ large size and wide range of geographic features, nearly every type of climate is represented. The climate is temperate in most areas, tropical in Hawaii and southern Florida, polar in Alaska, semi-arid in the Great Plains west of the 100th meridian, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in Coastal California, and arid in the Great Basin. Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world’s tornadoes occur within the continental United States, primarily in the Midwest.

The United States is a culturally diverse nation, home to a wide variety of ethnic groups, traditions, and values.  There is no “American” ethnicity, as nearly all Americans or their ancestors immigrated within the past five centuries. The culture held in common by the majority of Americans is referred to as mainstream American culture, a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of Western European migrants, beginning with the early English and Dutch settlers. German, Irish, and Scottish cultures have also been very influential.  Certain Native American traditions and many cultural characteristics of enslaved West Africans were absorbed into the American mainstream.  Westward expansion integrated the Creoles and Cajuns of Louisiana and the Hispanics of the Southwest and brought close contact with the culture of Mexico. Large-scale immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from Southern and Eastern Europe introduced many new cultural elements. More recent immigration from Asia and especially Latin America has had broad impact. The resulting mix of cultures may be characterized as a homogeneous melting pot or as a pluralistic salad bowl in which immigrants and their descendants retain distinctive cultural characteristics.  While American culture maintains that the United States is a classless society, economists and sociologists have identified cultural differences between the country’s social classes, affecting socialization, language, and values.  The American middle and professional class has been the source of many contemporary social trends such as feminism, environmentalism, and multiculturalism. Americans’ self-images, social viewpoints, and cultural expectations are associated with their occupations to an unusually close degree.  While Americans tend to greatly value socioeconomic achievement, being ordinary or average is generally seen as a positive attribute. Women, formerly limited to domestic roles, now mostly work outside the home and receive a majority of bachelor’s degrees.  The changing role of women has also changed the American family. The extension of marital rights to homosexual persons is an issue of debate, with more liberal states permitting civil unions and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court having ruled that state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in 2003.  Forty-four states still legally restrict marriage to the traditional man-and-woman model.

*Content gathered from Wikipedia