Рефераты. The USA: its history, geography and political system

the treaty, and the United States did not participate in the league.

The majority of Americans did not mourn the defeated treaty. They turned

inward, and the United States withdrew from European affairs. At the same

time, Americans were becoming hostile to foreigners in their midst. In 1919

a series of terrorist bombings produced the "Red Scare." Under the

authority of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, political meetings were

raided and several hundred foreign-born political radicals were deported,

even though most of them were innocent of any crime. In 1921 two Italian-

born anarchists, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were convicted of

murder on the basis of shaky evidence. Intellectuals protested, but in 1927

the two men were electrocuted. Congress enacted immigration limits in 1921

and tightened them further in 1924 and 1929. These restrictions favored

immigrants from Anglo-Saxon and Nordic countries.

The 1920s were an extraordinary and confusing time, when hedonism

coexisted with puritanical conservatism. It was the age of Prohibition: In

1920 a constitutional amendment outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Yet drinkers cheerfully evaded the law in thousands of "speakeasies"

(illegal bars), and gangsters made illicit fortunes in liquor. It was also

the Roaring Twenties, the age of jazz and spectacular silent movies and

such fads as flagpole-sitting and goldfish-swallowing. The Ku Klux Klan, a

racist organization born in the South after the Civil War, attracted new

followers and terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. At the

same time, a Catholic, New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, was a Democratic

candidate for president.

For big business, the 1920s were golden years. The United States was now a

consumer society, with booming markets for radios, home appliances,

synthetic textiles, and plastics. One of the most admired men of the decade

was Henry Ford, who had introduced the assembly line into automobile

factories. Ford could pay high wages and still earn enormous profits by

mass-producing the Model T, a car that millions of buyers could afford. For

a moment, it seemed that Americans had the Midas touch.

But the superficial prosperity masked deep problems. With profits soaring

and interest rates low, plenty of money was available for investment. Much

of it, however, went into reckless speculation in the stock market. Frantic

bidding pushed prices far above stock shares' real value. Investors bought

stocks "on margin," borrowing up to 90 percent of the purchase price. The

bubble burst in 1929. The stock market crashed, triggering a worldwide



By 1932 thousands of American banks and over 100,000 businesses had

failed. Industrial production was cut in half, wages had decreased 60

percent, and one out of every four workers was unemployed. That year

Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president on the platform of "a New Deal

for the American people."

Roosevelt's jaunty self-confidence galvanized the nation. "The only thing

we have to fear is fear itself," he said at his inauguration. He followed

up these words with decisive action. Within three months -- the historic

"Hundred Days" -- Roosevelt had rushed through Congress a great number of

laws to help the economy recover. Such new agencies as the Civilian

Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration created millions

of jobs by undertaking the construction of roads, bridges, airports, parks,

and public buildings. Later the Social Security Act set up contributory old-

age and survivors' pensions.

Roosevelt's New Deal programs did not end the Depression. Although the

economy improved, full recovery had to await the defense buildup preceding

America's entry into World War II.


Again neutrality was the initial American response to the outbreak of war

in Europe in 1939. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii by

the Japanese in December 1941 brought the United States into the war, first

against Japan and then against its allies, Germany and Italy.

American, British, and Soviet war planners agreed to concentrate on

defeating Germany first. British and American forces landed in North Africa

in November 1942, proceeded to Sicily and the Italian mainland in 1943, and

liberated Rome on June 4, 1944. Two days later -- D-Day -- Allied forces

landed in Normandy. Paris was liberated on August 24, and by September

American units had crossed the German border. The Germans finally

surrendered on May 5, 1945.

The war against Japan came to a swift end in August of 1945, when

President Harry Truman ordered the use of atomic bombs against the cities

of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nearly 200,000 civilians were killed. Although

the matter can still provoke heated discussion, the argument in favor of

dropping the bombs was that casualties on both sides would have been

greater if the Allies had been forced to invade Japan.


A new international congress, the United Nations, came into being after

the war, and this time the United States joined. Soon tensions developed

between the United States and its wartime ally the Soviet Union. Although

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had promised to support free elections in all

the liberated nations of Europe, Soviet forces imposed Communist

dictatorships in eastern Europe. Germany became a divided country, with a

western zone under joint British, French, and American occupation and an

eastern zone under Soviet occupation. In the spring of 1948 the Soviets

sealed off West Berlin in an attempt to starve the isolated city into

submission. The western powers responded with a massive airlift of food and

fuel until the Soviets lifted the blockade in May 1949. A month earlier the

United States had allied with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland,

Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United

Kingdom to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

On June 25, 1950, armed with Soviet weapons and acting with Stalin's

approval, North Korea's army invaded South Korea. Truman immediately

secured a commitment from the United Nations to defend South Korea. The war

lasted three years, and the final settlement left Korea divided.

Soviet control of eastern Europe, the Korean War, and the Soviet

development of atomic and hydrogen bombs instilled fear in Americans. Some

believed that the nation's new vulnerability was the work of traitors from

within. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy asserted in the early 1950s that

the State Department and the U.S. Army were riddled with Communists.

McCarthy was eventually discredited. In the meantime, however, careers had

been destroyed, and the American people had all but lost sight of a

cardinal American virtue: toleration of political dissent.

From 1945 until 1970 the United States enjoyed a long period of economic

growth, interrupted only by mild and brief recessions. For the first time a

majority of Americans enjoyed a comfortable standard of living. In 1960, 55

percent of all households owned washing machines, 77 percent owned cars, 90

percent had television sets, and nearly all had refrigerators. At the same

time, the nation was moving slowly to establish racial justice.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy was elected president. Young, energetic, and

handsome, he promised to "get the country moving again" after the eight-

year presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aging World War II general. In

October 1962 Kennedy was faced with what turned out to be the most drastic

crisis of the Cold War. The Soviet Union had been caught installing nuclear

missiles in Cuba, close enough to reach American cities in a matter of

minutes. Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on the island. Soviet Premier

Nikita Khrushschev ultimately agreed to remove the missiles, in return for

an American promise not to invade Cuba.

In April 1961 the Soviets capped a series of triumphs in space by sending

the first man into orbit around the Earth. President Kennedy responded with

a promise that Americans would walk on the moon before the decade was over.

This promise was fulfilled in July of 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong

stepped out of the Apollo 11 spacecraft and onto the moon's surface.

Kennedy did not live to see this culmination. He had been assassinated in

1963. He was not a universally popular president, but his death was a

terrible shock to the American people. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson,

managed to push through Congress a number of new laws establishing social

programs. Johnson's "War on Poverty" included preschool education for poor

children, vocational training for dropouts from school, and community

service for slum youths.

During his six years in office, Johnson became preoccupied with the

Vietnam War. By 1968, 500,000 American troops were fighting in that small

country, previously little known to most of them. Although politicians

tended to view the war as part of a necessary effort to check communism on

all fronts, a growing number of Americans saw no vital American interest in

what happened to Vietnam. Demonstrations protesting American involvement

broke out on college campuses, and there were violent clashes between

students and police. Antiwar sentiment spilled over into a wide range of

protests against injustice and discrimination.

Stung by his increasing unpopularity, Johnson decided not to run for a

second full term. Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968. He pursued a

policy of Vietnamization, gradually replacing American soldiers with

Vietnamese. In 1973 he signed a peace treaty with North Vietnam and brought

American soldiers home. Nixon achieved two other diplomatic breakthroughs:

re-establishing U.S. relations with the People's Republic of China and

negotiating the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Soviet

Union. In 1972 he easily won re-election.

During that presidential campaign, however, five men had been arrested for

breaking into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate office

building in Washington, D.C. Journalists investigating the incident

discovered that the burglars had been employed by Nixon's re-election

committee. The White House made matters worse by trying to conceal its

connection with the break-in. Eventually, tape recordings made by the

president himself revealed that he had been involved in the cover-up. By

the summer of 1974, it was clear that Congress was about to impeach and

convict him. On August 9, Richard Nixon became the only U.S. president to

resign from office.


After World War II the presidency had alternated between Democrats and

Republicans, but, for the most part, Democrats had held majorities in the

Congress -- in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A string

of 26 consecutive years of Democratic control was broken in 1980, when the

Republicans gained a majority in the Senate; at the same time, Republican

Ronald Reagan was elected president. This change marked the onset of a

volatility that has characterized American voting patterns ever since.

Whatever their attitudes toward Reagan's policies, most Americans credited

him with a capacity for instilling pride in their country and a sense of

optimism about the future. If there was a central theme to his domestic

policies, it was that the federal government had become too big and federal

taxes too high.

Despite a growing federal budget deficit, in 1983 the U.S. economy entered

into one of the longest periods of sustained growth since World War II. The

Reagan administration suffered a defeat in the 1986 elections, however,

when Democrats regained control of the Senate. The most serious issue of

the day was the revelation that the United States had secretly sold arms to

Iran in an attempt to win freedom for American hostages held in Lebanon and

to finance antigovernment forces in Nicaragua at a time when Congress had

prohibited such aid. Despite these revelations, Reagan continued to enjoy

strong popularity throughout his second term in office.

His successor in 1988, Republican George Bush, benefited from Reagan's

popularity and continued many of his policies. When Iraq invaded oil-rich

Kuwait in 1990, Bush put together a multinational coalition that liberated

Kuwait early in 1991.

By 1992, however, the American electorate had become restless again.

Voters elected Bill Clinton, a Democrat, president, only to turn around two

years later and give Republicans their first majority in both the House and

Senate in 40 years. Meanwhile, several perennial debates had broken out

anew -- between advocates of a strong federal government and believers in

decentralization of power, between advocates of prayer in public schools

and defenders of separation of church and state, between those who

emphasize swift and sure punishment of criminals and those who seek to

address the underlying causes of crime. Complaints about the influence of

money on political campaigns inspired a movement to limit the number of

terms elected officials could serve. This and other discontents with the

system led to the formation of the strongest Third-Party movement in

generations, led by Texas businessman H. Ross Perot.

Although the economy was strong in the mid-1990s, two phenomena were

troubling many Americans. Corporations were resorting more and more to a

process known as downsizing: trimming the work force to cut costs despite

the hardships this inflicted on workers. And in many industries the gap

between the annual compensations of corporate executives and common

laborers had become enormous. Even the majority of Americans who enjoy

material comfort worry about a perceived decline in the quality of life, in

the strength of the family, in neighborliness and civility. Americans

probably remain the most optimistic people in the world, but with the

century drawing to a close, opinion polls showed that trait in shorter

supply than usual.

Geography and regional characteristics.

The USA stretches from the heavily industrialized, metropolitan Atlantic

coast, across the rich farms of the Great Plains, over the Appalachian and

the Rocky Mountains to the densely populated West coast. Alaska and the

island state of Hawaii are detached from the main mid-continental group of

48 states. America is the land of physical contrasts, including the

weather. Most of the USA is the temperate zone with four distinct seasons,

while the northern states and Alaska have extremely cold winters, and the

southern parts of Florida, Texas, California have warm weather year round.

The area of the United States is 9 629 091 square km.

The United States is the land of bountiful rivers and lakes. Minnesota is

the land of 10.000 lakes. The Mississippi River runs nearly 6 thousand km

from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The St. Lawrence Seaway connects the

Great lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.

Underground, a wealth of minerals provides a solid base for American

industry. History has glamorized the gold rushes of California and Alaska

and the silver finds in Nevada.


North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North

Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico

Map references: North America


total area: 9,372,610 sq km

land area: 9,166,600 sq km

comparative area: about half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the

size of Africa; about one-half the size of South America (or slightly

larger than Brazil); slightly smaller than China; about two and one-half

times the size of Western Europe

note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia

Land boundaries: total 12,248 km, Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with

Alaska), Cuba 29 km (US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay), Mexico 3,326 km

Coastline: 19,924 km

Climate: mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida and arctic in

Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River and arid

in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the

northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm

chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains

Terrain: vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in

east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic

topography in Hawaii

Natural resources: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium,

bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc,

petroleum, natural gas, timber

Land use: arable land: 20%, permanent crops: 0%, meadows and pastures: 26%,

forest and woodland: 29%, other: 25%, irrigated land: 181,020 sq km (1989



current issues: air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and

Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the

burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and

fertilizers; very limited natural fresh water resources in much of the

western part of the country require careful management; desertification.

natural hazards: tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquake activity around

Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic coast; tornadoes in the

midwest; mudslides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding;

permafrost in northern Alaska is a major impediment to development

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