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23. THE USA

16. 2. 2009

 23. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 
1) GEOGRAPHY
 
   The USA covers an area about 9 million sq km.
   It is composed of 50 states. The states are joined together in a federal republic, plus the District of Columbia with the capital of the USA – Washington D.C.
   The USA borders on Mexico in the south, the Atlantic Ocean in the east, Canada in the north and the Pacific Ocean in the west.  Part of the USA is Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands.
   The second longest American river is the Mississippi. Its name is of Indian origin and means „great water“.  The longest river is the Missouri.
   On the Canadian border the five Great Lakes are situated: Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Niagara Falls are situated in this area.
   In the west, the Rocky Mountains can be found.
   The highest mountain is Mount Mc Kinley (6194 m) in Alaska.
   The climate is varied – from the arctic climate in the north to the subtropical climate in the south. Death Valley in California is the hottest place on earth in summer. California, Arizona, New Mexico and Florida belong among the so-called Sun Belt States.
   American National Parks are visited by millions of people. Some of them are Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.
 
2) POPULATION AND CITIES
 
   The total U.S. population is more than 280 million.
    The majority of the population originally came from Europe. The blacks in America were originally brought from Africa as slaves. There are also many Asians, and Chinese and Japanese people in America.

    The biggest cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans.

 Cities in the north:

 Chicago: the third largest city in the USA
- situated on the bank of Lake Michigan
- industrial city
- the busiest airport in the world (called "O'Hare")
 
Detroit - notorious for its car industry
 
In the south:
New Orleans - famous for jazz music
 
In the east:
New York - a cosmopolitan city, there are lots of nations
- called "Big Apple" or "City which never sleeps"
- lots of skyscrapers
- 5 parts: Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island (with the Statue of Liberty)
Philadelphia - originally it was the capital of the USA

Washington D.C. - the capital of the USA; the seat of the President in the White House; the seat of Congress in Capitol Building

In the west:

San Francisco - with its hilly streets; there are trams
 - the dominant of the city is Golden Gate Bridge - in reality it is orange (or light red); nearby is an island where the prison Alcatraz is situated
 
Los Angeles - "City of Angels"
 - second largest American city
- its district called "Beverly Hills" is a very expensive place to live for famous actors and wealthy people

3) THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT:

 The American system of government is based on the Constitution of 1789. Power is divided between the Federal Government (which has control over national matters, such as defense, foreign affairs and finance) and the state governments (which are responsible for law and order and education, among other things). Each state has its own state government, laws, courts, police etc. There is also a federal police force, the FBI (federal Bureau of Investigation).
 
   The Federal Government consists of three departments:
           1) the Executive Department (the president),
           2) the Congress
           3) the Supreme Court
 
 The President is head of the Executive Department. His official residence is The White House, Washington. He is elected for four years and cannot be elected more than twice. He must be at least 35 years old. He is head of the armed forces and conducts foreign policy. He appoints members of the government and can sack them. He can veto (forbid) legislation. All laws must be signed by the President.
 
   The Congress has 2 houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives. They vote for or against new legislation. Each state has 2 senators, and at least one representative in the House of Representatives.
 
   The Supreme Court ensures that all new laws are in accordance with the constitution. It can declare new legislation unconstitutional and therefore forbid it.
 
 

4) HOLIDAYS:

Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King´s Day

 

 5) SOME HISTORY FACTS

- America was discovered by Christopher Columbus who was searching for a new way to India; he landed in America in 1492; actually he believed he was in India, that is why he called the original American inhabitants "Indians"

- America is called after Amerigo Vespucci, who first recognized it was a new continent

- in 1620 the ship Mayflower brought the people from Britain to America; they were called Pilgrim Fathers (they left England for religious reasons) and they founded a colony. Most of them didn't survive the first winter. The rest of them managed to have their first harvest with the help of Indians; since that, the Thanksgiving Day has been celebrated (they thanked for the harvest)

- after that, more and more colonies were founded. These colonies were dependent on England. The colonists had to pay very high taxes. Soon the colonists refused to pay the taxes. In 1773 a group of patriots dressed as Indiansthrew tea into the Boston Harbor. This event is known as "Boston Tea Party"

- on July 4th 1776 the declaration of Independence was signed. It was written by Thomas Jefferson. After that, Britain recognized USA as a sovereign state.

- the first American President was George Washington in the 18th century .

 In the 19th century the Civil War (War between the North and the South) started. It was because of the slavery in southern states. The North won the war and slavery was abolished.

In 1917 the USA entered World War I.

In 1929 the stock market crashed in New York (this event was called "Black Friday" and caused economical crisis worldwide).

In 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and the USA entered World War II. In 1945 US forces dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

6) OUTSTANDING PERSONALITIES

In literature: Nobel Prize winners Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck

In science: Thomas Alva Edison - invented the electric bulb

Albert Einstein - German born physicist; later he lived in the USA; he formulated the theories of relativity

In music: Ella Fitzgerald - jazz singer

George Gershwin - a composer of both serious music and popular music (musicals, songs)

Elvis Presley - rock-and-roll singer and the "first rock symbol of teenage rebellion"

 

 
 

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