Loved and hated - probably no other country
evokes such strong feelings as the United States, the
world's only superpower after the dissolution of the
Soviet Union. The United States is admired throughout
the world as a champion of democracy and human rights,
but is disliked by at least as many for its self-assumed
role as world police and the tendency to intervene in
other countries' affairs, both politically and
militarily. Regardless of opinions, no one can deny that
US dominance in the economy, research and entertainment
industry is affecting the world.
Brief profiles of United States, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
The United States occupies a large part of
North America and is one of the world's largest
countries, in terms of both surface and population. From
coast to coast, the United States measures approximately
400 miles, while the distance from Canada in the north
to Mexico in the south is around 250 miles. The terrain
in the continental United States can be divided into
four main areas counted from the west: high mountain
ranges, an extensive lowland area, a lower mountain
range and the coastal plain at the far east.
For the most part, the US is in the temperate zone,
but the climate varies greatly. Most of the country has
a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters.
Arctic cold prevails in northern Alaska, while the
climate is partly tropical in Hawaii and southern
Florida. It can rain a lot on the west coast as well as
in the eastern and southeastern United States, while the
great plains in the central part of the country are
often affected by drought. The east coast, especially
the southern part, is regularly hit by hurricanes.
The system of mountain ranges in the western United
States is part of the Cordillarians, mountain ranges
that extend in a north-south direction along the entire
American continents, from Alaska to southern Chile (and
include the Andes in South America). In the US part of
the Cordillarians are, for example, the Sierra Nevada
and Cascades, inland, and the Rocky Mountains in the far
east. Between the mountain ranges lie both fertile
valleys and desert areas, partly entirely in the rain
The Continental Basin, the lowland area of the
central United States, measures 250 miles at its widest
point. The vast area includes one of the world's largest
river systems that includes the Mississippi, Missouri
and Ohio rivers.
The Appalachian east of the lowlands is a relatively
low mountain range that runs virtually unbroken from
Canada down to Alabama in the southern United States.
The mountains are largely covered with forest. In the
valleys there are significant coal resources.
The Atlantic coastal plain is a broad lowland area
that rises from the sea towards the land. It covers the
entire Atlantic coast and coast along the Gulf of
In addition to the topographic division (which
describes the terrain), regional divisions are also made
in different contexts. The regions can describe
geography but also reflect cultural, political, economic
and historical characteristics. For example, the United
States can be divided into seven main areas:
Although the US economic and population center of
gravity has shifted to the south and west, there are
still many major cities along the north east coast and
into the Great Lakes at the border with Canada. Foreign
trade, which started in the major port cities of New
York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore, is of great
importance while traditional, heavy industry has been
replaced by a more modern service sector. It was in
these cities that the term "crucible" was coined to
describe how different nationalities and ethnic groups
were mixed. New York's skyscrapers, Detroit's car
factories and Pittsburgh's steel mills became early
symbols of a United States that attracted millions of
immigrants from Europe.
Central lowland is a fertile agricultural area that
extends from the Great Lakes south and west across the
prairie down to Texas. Here are the world's most
productive farms, which are often run on very large
The major cities located in or adjacent to the region
- such as Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee - have been
built around slaughterhouses, mills, dairies or other
industries related to agriculture.
After the independence of the United States in the
late 18th century, the southern states also lived long
in a colonial economy, built around cotton production
and other commodities exported both to the northern
states and to Europe in exchange for finished goods.
Slavery and the devastating civil war from 1861 to 1865
(see Older history) hampered the development in the
south and contributed to an extensive emigration north.
After the Second World War, however, the economy of
the southern states was rapidly modernized. Industries
have grown around new raw materials such as forest and
oil. Today, there are both a number of high-tech
companies and a growing service sector. In recent
decades, significant immigration has taken place from
the rest of the United States, not least from the
Cities such as Atlanta in Georgia, Charlotte in North
Carolina and Houston in Texas, with their dazzling
skyscrapers, have become symbols of the new South. But
despite all the progress, the average standard of living
in the more undeveloped parts of the south is still
lower than in the northern United States.
A flat, dry area - called the Great Plains - starts
at the rain limit that runs from north to south almost
in the middle of the US and then spreads out to the
mountains to the west. The lack of water in combination
with an unpredictable and windy climate that alternates
between extreme cold and extreme heat has caused great
hardship for farmers in the region. For a long time, the
plains were mostly an inhospitable wasteland that was
passed on the way to the dream of better conditions
It was only after the railways reached the area in
the 1860s that immigrants began to search there on a
larger scale. The indigenous people were displaced when
farmers and herdsmen settled on the great plains.
Livestock carriers provided the big cities in the east
with leather and meat. A cowboy culture, partly built
around livestock management, took over.
Attempts in the early 1900s to encourage settlers to
cultivate the dry land resulted in many tragedies.
Incorrect cultivation methods helped the thin soil layer
more or less blew away.
The mountain and desert areas
Compared to the Appalachians in the east, the Rocky
Mountains are a young mountain range whose high mountain
peaks are sharp and rough. Even far south they can be
snow-covered. Until the middle of the 19th century, the
mountain range was considered to be almost impervious.
However, when the big gold rush broke out in California,
many fortune seekers managed to cross the mountains on
trails discovered by hunters.
Today, a number of railways and highways cross the
mountains. At the same time, dams and irrigation
projects have given life to parts of the region's desert
areas. In recent years, immigration has risen sharply to
states such as Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.
However, there are still desolate areas and the region
is more sparsely populated than any other part of the
The West Coast
The western coastal strip has symbolized the dream of
a new country offering freedom and opportunity to
wealth. However, due to the Cordillarians, the west
coast was long isolated from the rest of the United
Immigration from the east began in earnest in the
1840s and then the population increased rapidly. Today,
California is the United States' most populous state
with 40 million inhabitants.
The region is - partly with the help of irrigation -
a leading producer of fruits, vegetables and wine.
Forestry and fishing are important industries in the
northern parts. But the West Coast economy now consists
of a large number of sectors, many of which are at the
forefront of global development. The IT companies in
Silicon Valley south of San Francisco represent an
important concentration of high-tech industry. The
entertainment industry in Los Angeles plays a major role
in the US economy, not least through the export of
movies, TV shows and music.
The new states
Two of the 50 states are located outside the
continent and became part of the United States only in
1959: Alaska and Hawaii.
Alaska, separated from the rest of the United States
by Canada, is on the surface the largest state but has
no more than 735,000 inhabitants (2019). Oil recovery
has changed Alaska's economy somewhat, but forestry,
fishing and mining still play a dominant role.
Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, about a third
of the California-Japan bird trail. The archipelago is a
tourist paradise and tourism is the state's most
important source of income. Cultivation of sugar cane as
well as pineapple and other fruits are also important
sources of income for the population of 1.4 million
In the Pacific and the Caribbean, there are several
more or less autonomous territories that belong to the
United States. Five of them are populated: Puerto Rico
and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean as well as
the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa in
the Pacific. The approximately 4 million residents there
are US citizens (of which about 3.5 million are in
FACTS - GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
9 372 614 km2 (2018)
Swedish –6 to –9 hours 1
Adjacent country (s)
Capital with number of inhabitants
Washington DC 700,000 (2018)
Other major cities
New York 8.4 million, Los Angeles 4.0 million,
Chicago 2.7 million, Houston 2.3 million, Phoenix 1.7
million, Philadelphia 1.6 million, San Antonio 1.5
million, San Diego 1.4 million, Dallas 1.3 million
Mount McKinley (Alaska, 6 198 m asl)
Average Precipitation / month
Washington DC 70mm (Feb), 107mm (May) 2
Average / day
New York 0 °C (Jan), 25 °C (July) 3
- Eastern Coast (Eastern Standard Time) –6,
Midwest (Central Time) –7 hours, Rocky Mountain
(Mountain Time) –8 hours, West Coast (Pacific Time)
2. Phoenix 27 mm (March), 2 mm (June)
3. Los Angeles 14 °C (Jan), 21 °C (July)Sources
Wikileaks delivers sensitive data
The Internet site Wikileaks publishes sensitive documents from US embassies
and consulates around the world, with, among other things, less flattering
statements about leaders in different countries. The publication is a blow to
American diplomacy and is expected to damage future negotiations with other
countries. Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton says the revelations are "an attack
on the entire world community". A criminal investigation is started which will
find out who is behind the leaks and answer the guilty.
The Democrats are backing in congressional elections
The Democrats lose as expected their majority in the House of Representatives
in the midterm elections. The election applies to all 435 seats in the House of
Representatives and a third - or 37 - of the 100 seats in the Senate.
Republicans take home 242 seats in the House of Representatives, an increase of
63 seats compared to before the election. 193 seats go to the Democrats. In the
Senate, the Democrats manage to retain a tight majority, even if the party backs
by 6 seats to 53. Republicans increase by 6 seats to 47.
Planned terrorist acts are averted
Two bombs in packages addressed to synagogues in the United States are
discovered. The packages have been sent by airmail from Yemen and found hidden
in printers following tips from, among other things, a defunct al-Qaeda member.
One package is discovered in the UK and the other in Dubai. One of the bombs was
set to detonate over US airspace according to bomb experts. The al-Qaeda
regional terror group on the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) claims to be behind the
Stricter rules for finance and banking
President Obama signs the so-called Wall Street Reform (or Dodd-Frank), the
most comprehensive regulation of the financial sector since the depression in
the 1930s. The purpose is to try to prevent a new serious financial crisis. The
government is given the opportunity to bankrupt large-scale companies in
bankruptcy without affecting the taxpayers as before, a consumer authority for
financial issues, reducing banks' risk-taking and improving capital adequacy.
Russian spies are revealed
One sign that relations with Russia have reached a warmer level is the
cautious reactions on both sides when a Russian spy ring is revealed in the US.
The US authorities arrest ten Russians who flew to Vienna after pleading guilty.
In Vienna, the ten are exchanged for four Russians who have been imprisoned in
Russia for spying on the West's behalf. The entire deal is completed in just
under two weeks and both countries choose to keep a low profile in the meantime
Nominations for congressional elections
Primary elections begin in several states to elect Democrats and Republicans
candidates in the November 2010 congressional elections. In May, eye surgeon
Rand Paul, a representative of the Tea Party movement, wins the Republicans
nomination of a candidate for a Kentucky Senate seat. It's a shock to the
Republican establishment in Washington and is seen as a sign that more and more
Americans are joining the Tea Party movement.
Environmental disaster when oil platform explodes
One of the worst environmental disasters in US history occurs when the Gulf
of Mexico oil rig Deepwater Horizon explodes. Eleven people die in the explosion
itself and the platform drops after two days. At the borehole on the seabed, a
leak occurs and several million barrels of crude oil spurt out, resulting in
enormous environmental damage. Only after almost three months is the leak
sealed. Oil company BP, platform owner Transocean and exploration company
Halliburton can later pay tens of billions of dollars in damages to individuals,
companies, the federal government and affected states along the US south coast.
Clear sign for "Obamacare"
The House of Representatives votes by a slight margin yes to a proposal for a
new health insurance law, the Affordable Care Act - which will generally be
known as Obamacare. No Republican endorses the bill passed by the Senate at the
end of December 2009. In a special procedure, the House of Representatives also
approves a series of changes to the Health Insurance Act. These changes have
been agreed in advance by the Democrats in the Senate and House of
Representatives in consultation with the Obama administration. The changes must
then be approved as a separate bill in the Senate, where a simple majority is
enough for them to pass. By this tactic, called "reconciliation" in
congressional contexts, Democrats can avoid Republicans in the Senate delaying
approval of the reform. A few days later, Obama signs the health insurance
reform, which thus becomes applicable law. Shortly thereafter, the change
package is also approved by Congress, following minor adjustments made after
HD approves campaign grants without limit
In a case of great explosive power, the Supreme Court concludes that the
statutory guarantees of freedom of expression mean that companies have the right
to spend money to express their opinions. The court's decision opens the door
for unlimited donations from companies and organizations to political campaigns,
as long as the money does not go directly to a political candidate or party.
This eliminates a restriction that has existed since 1907. The construction of
"independent" actors who receive money also means that it is not possible to see
who donates money for political purposes. The target is known as Citizens
United, following the organization that pushed it against the Federal Election
The Democrats are losing Senate seats
Republicans win an election held to fill the vacancy in the Senate after
Democrat Ted Kennedy, who passed away in August 2009. Kennedy represented
Massachusett in the United States Senate for several decades. For President
Obama and the Democrats, the loss of the Senate seat, the party's 60th term, is
a major defeat. That meant that the party no longer had enough votes to push
through its Senate proposals without the hassle and delays of the Republicans.