United States

United States of America

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The United States of America—commonly referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America—is a constitutional federal republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to its east and Russia to the west across the Bering Strait, and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories, or insular areas, scattered around the Caribbean and Pacific.

At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km²) and with more than 300 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and third largest by land area and by population. The United States is one of the world's most ethnically diverse nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the largest national economy in the world, with a nominal 2006 gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$13 trillion (over 25% of the world total based on nominal GDP and almost 20% by purchasing power parity).

The nation was founded by thirteen colonies of Great Britain located along the Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they jointly issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their independence from Great Britain and their formation of a cooperative union. The rebellious states defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, the first successful colonial war of independence. A federal convention adopted the current United States Constitution on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.

In the nineteenth century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia, and annexed the Republic of Texas and the Republic of Hawaii. Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over states' rights and the expansion of the institution of slavery provoked the American Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of legal slavery in the United States. The Spanish-American War and World War I confirmed the nation's status as a military power. In 1945, the United States emerged from World War II as the first country with nuclear weapons, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and a founding member of NATO. In the post–Cold War era, the United States is the only remaining superpower—accounting for approximately 50% of global military spending—and a dominant economic, political, and cultural force in the world.

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In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge demonstrated the power of photography to capture motion. In 1894, the world's first commercial motion picture exhibition was given in New York City, using Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope. The next year saw the first commercial screening of a projected film, also in New York, and the United States was in the forefront of sound film's development in the following decades. Since the early twentieth century, the U.S. film industry has largely been based in and around Hollywood, California. Director D. W. Griffith was central to the development of film grammar and Orson Welles's Citizen Kane (1941) is frequently cited in critics' polls as the greatest film of all time. American screen actors like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe have become iconic figures, while producer/entrepreneur Walt Disney was a leader in both animated film and movie merchandising. The major film studios of Hollywood are the primary source of the most commercially successful movies in the world, such as Star Wars (1977) and Titanic (1997), and the products of Hollywood today dominate the global film industry.

Americans are the heaviest television viewers in the world,and the average time spent in front of the screen continues to rise, hitting five hours a day in 2006. The four major broadcast networks are all commercial entities. Americans listen to radio programming, also largely commercialized, on average just over two-and-a-half hours a day. Aside from web portals and web search engines, the most popular websites are eBay, MySpace, Amazon.com, The New York Times, and Apple. Twelve million Americans keep a blog.

The rhythmic and lyrical styles of African American music have deeply influenced American music at large, distinguishing it from European traditions. Elements from folk idioms such as the blues and what is now known as old-time music were adopted and transformed into popular genres with global audiences. Jazz was developed by innovators such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington early in the twentieth century. Country music, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll emerged between the 1920s and 1950s. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan emerged from the folk revival to become one of America's greatest songwriters and James Brown led the development of funk. More recent American creations include hip hop and house music. American pop stars such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna have become global celebrities.


Since the late nineteenth century, baseball has been regarded as the national sport; American football, basketball, and ice hockey are the country's three other leading professional team sports. College football and basketball also attract large audiences. Football is now by several measures the most popular spectator sport in the United States. Boxing and horse racing were once the most watched individual sports, but they have been eclipsed by golf and auto racing, particularly NASCAR. Soccer is played widely at the youth and amateur levels and is growing in popularity as a professional spectator sport. Tennis and many outdoor sports are also popular.

While most major U.S. sports have evolved out of European practices, basketball, volleyball, skateboarding, and snowboarding are American inventions. Lacrosse and surfing arose from Native American and Native Hawaiian activities that predate Western contact. Eight Olympic Games have taken place in the United States. The United States has won 2,301 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, more than any other country, and 216 in the Winter Olympic Games, the second mos. (Credit: Wikipedia).



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