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Water Landscape & Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Gorge, New York State, United States Of America.

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posted by DM PHOTOGRAPHY alias [email protected] on Thursday 10th of December 2015 06:59:33 PM

Niagara Gorge is an 11 km (6.8 mi) canyon carved by the Niagara River along the Canada–United States border, between the U.S. state of New York and the Canadian province of Ontario.[1] It begins at the base of Niagara Falls and ends down river at the edge of the geological formation known as the Niagara Escarpment near Queenston, Ontario, where the Falls originated about 12,500 years ago.[1][2] The position of the falls has receded upstream toward Lake Erie due to the falling waters' slow erosion of the riverbed's hard Lockport dolomite (a form of limestone that is the surface rock of the escarpment), combined with rapid erosion of the relatively soft layers beneath it.[3] This erosion has created the gorge. The force of the river current in the gorge is one of the most powerful in the world; because of the dangers this presents, kayaking the gorge has generally been prohibited. On multiple occasions, the rapids of the gorge have claimed the lives of people attempting to run them.[4] However, on isolated occasions, world-class experts have been permitted to navigate the stretch.[5] Tourists can bounce and splash through the rapids of the Niagara Gorge on commercial tours in rugged jetboats, which are based at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, at Lewiston, New York, at Youngstown, New York, and in midsummer at Niagara Glen Nature Centre on the Niagara Parkway in Ontario. The Niagara Falls International Rainbow Bridge, commonly known as the Rainbow Bridge, is an arch bridge across the Niagara River gorge. It connects the cities of Niagara Falls, New York, United States (to the east), and Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada (west). Construction The Rainbow Bridge was built near the site of the earlier Honeymoon Bridge, which collapsed on January 27, 1938, due to an ice jam in the river. A joint Canadian and American commission had been considering a new bridge to replace it, and the collapse added urgency to the project.[citation needed] Engraved text on the bridge includes a biblical reference to rainbows (click on image to read). A design by architect Richard (Su Min) Lee was chosen (and used again for the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, approximately 10 kilometres (6 mi) downriver). The bridge's Rainbow Tower and Canadian plaza are the work of Canadian architect William Lyon Somerville.[3] King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, during their visit to Niagara Falls as part of the 1939 royal tour of Canada, dedicated the site of the Rainbow Bridge; a monument was erected to commemorate the occasion. Construction began in May 1940. The bridge officially opened on November 1, 1941.[citation needed] The origin of the bridge's name is unknown, with one possible source being T. B. McQuesten, then chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission. An engraving on the Canadian side of the bridge includes a biblical quote from the Book of Genesis which references a "bow in the clouds." Regardless of its origin, the NRBC used the name as early as March 1939.[4] Description and specifications The New York State Department of Transportation designates the bridge as NY 955A, an unsigned reference route, while the Ontario Ministry of Transportation designates it as part of Highway 420 (and the original routing of the Queen Elizabeth Way), even though it is separated from the rest of the route by a regional road. On the American side, a number of state and national routes end at a set of intersections in front of the bridge. New York routes 104 and 384, as well as the northern section of the Robert Moses State Parkway, all terminate at the final intersection before the bridge, and none of the designations passes onto the bridge. U.S. Route 62 terminates two blocks north at route 104, which then continues to the bridge. The Rainbow Tower, part of the plaza complex on the Canadian side, houses a large carillon, which plays several times daily. The bridge permits no commercial trucks; the nearest border crossing for these is the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.[5] The toll to cross the bridge for each pedestrian and bicycle is $1.00 US or CAD, and $4.00 US or $5.50 CAD for automobiles as of January 2021. Car tolls are collected when leaving the United States. Pedestrian toll is collected by an automatic turnstile when leaving Canada, payable in U.S. or CAD quarters or $1 CAD 'loonies'.[2] Change machines are available from $1 and $5 US bills and $1 (loonies) and $2 (toonies) Canadian coins. The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territories, 326 Indian reservations, and some minor possessions.[g] At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million square kilometers), it is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area.[c] With a population of more than 331 million people, it is the third most populous country in the world. The national capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Paleo-Indians migrated from Siberia to the North American mainland at least 12,000 years ago, and European colonization began in the 16th century. The United States emerged from the thirteen British colonies established along the East Coast. Disputes over taxation and political representation with Great Britain led to the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), which established independence. In the late 18th century, the U.S. began vigorously expanding across North America, gradually acquiring new territories, frequently displacing Native Americans, and admitting new states; by 1848, the United States spanned the continent. Slavery was legal in the southern United States until the second half of the 19th century when the American Civil War led to its abolition. The Spanish–American War and World War I established the U.S. as a world power, a status confirmed by the outcome of World War II. During the Cold War, the United States fought the Korean War and the Vietnam War but avoided direct military conflict with the Soviet Union. The two superpowers competed in the Space Race, culminating in the 1969 spaceflight that first landed humans on the Moon. The Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 ended the Cold War, leaving the United States as the world's sole superpower. The United States is a federal republic and a representative democracy with three separate branches of government, including a bicameral legislature. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of American States, NATO, and other international organizations. It is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Considered a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, its population has been profoundly shaped by centuries of immigration. The U.S. ranks high in international measures of economic freedom, reduced levels of perceived corruption, quality of life, quality of higher education, and human rights. However, the country has received criticism in regard to inequality related to race, wealth and income, the use of capital punishment, high incarceration rates, and lack of universal health care. The United States is a highly developed country, and continuously ranks high in measures of socioeconomic performance. It accounts for approximately a quarter of global GDP and is the world's largest economy by GDP at market exchange rates. By value, the United States is the world's largest importer and the second-largest exporter of goods. Although its population is only 4.2% of the world total, it holds 29.4% of the total wealth in the world, the largest share held by any country. Making up more than a third of global military spending, it is the foremost military power in the world and is a leading political, cultural, and scientific force internationally. Etymology See also: Naming of the Americas, Names of the United States, Names for United States citizens, and American (word) The first known use of the name "America" dates back to 1507, when it appeared on a world map created by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. On his map, the name is shown in large letters on what would now be considered South America, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci. The Italian explorer was the first to postulate that the West Indies did not represent Asia's eastern limit but were part of a previously unknown landmass.[21][22] In 1538, the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator used the name "America" on his own world map, applying it to the entire Western Hemisphere.[23] The first documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" dates from a January 2, 1776 letter written by Stephen Moylan to George Washington's aide-de-camp Joseph Reed. Moylan expressed his wish to go "with full and ample powers from the United States of America to Spain" to seek assistance in the revolutionary war effort.[24][25][26] The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[27] The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed no later than June 17, 1776, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the 'United States of America'."[28] The final version of the Articles, sent to the states for ratification in late 1777, stated that "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'."[29] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[28] This draft of the document did not surface until June 21, 1776, and it is unclear whether it was written before or after Dickinson used the term in his June 17 draft of the Articles of Confederation.[28] The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms are the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names are the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in American poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia". Many landmarks and institutions in the Western Hemisphere bear his name, including the country of Colombia. The phrase "United States" was originally plural in American usage. It described a collection of states—e.g., "the United States are." The singular form became popular after the end of the Civil War and is now standard usage in the U.S. A citizen of the United States is an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). In English, the word "American" rarely refers to topics or subjects not directly connected with the United States.[30] History Main articles: History of the United States and Outline of United States history Indigenous peoples and pre-Columbian history Further information: Native Americans in the United States, Prehistory of the United States, and Pre-Columbian era The Cliff Palace, built by the Native American Puebloans between AD 1190 and 1260 It has been generally accepted that the first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 12,000 years ago; however, some evidence suggests an even earlier date of arrival.[31][32][33] The Clovis culture, which appeared around 11,000 BC, is believed to represent the first wave of human settlement of the Americas.[34][35] This was likely the first of three major waves of migration into North America; later waves brought the ancestors of present-day Athabaskans, Aleuts, and Eskimos.[36] Over time, indigenous cultures in North America grew increasingly complex, and some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture in the southeast, developed advanced agriculture, architecture, and complex societies.[37] The city-state of Cahokia is the largest, most complex pre-Columbian archaeological site in the modern-day United States.[38] In the Four Corners region, Ancestral Puebloan culture developed from centuries of agricultural experimentation.[39] The Haudenosaunee, located in the southern Great Lakes region, was established at some point between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.[40] Most prominent along the Atlantic coast were the Algonquian tribes, who practiced hunting and trapping, along with limited cultivation. Estimating the native population of North America at the time of European contact is difficult.[41][42] Douglas H. Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution estimated that there was a population of 92,916 in the south Atlantic states and a population of 473,616 in the Gulf states,[43] but most academics regard this figure as too low.[41] Anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns believed the populations were much higher, suggesting around 1.1 million along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, 2.2 million people living between Florida and Massachusetts, 5.2 million in the Mississippi Valley and tributaries, and around 700,000 people in the Florida peninsula.[41][42] European settlements Further information: Colonial history of the United States and Thirteen Colonies Claims of very early colonization of coastal New England by the Norse are disputed and controversial. The first documented arrival of Europeans in the continental United States is that of Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, who made his first expedition to Florida in 1513. Even earlier, Christopher Columbus had landed in Puerto Rico on his 1493 voyage, and San Juan was settled by the Spanish a decade later.[44] The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico, such as Saint Augustine, often considered the nation's oldest city,[45] and Santa Fe. The French established their own settlements along the Mississippi River, notably New Orleans.[46] Successful English settlement of the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and with the Pilgrims' colony at Plymouth in 1620.[47][48] The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses, was founded in 1619. Documents such as the Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut established precedents for representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[49][50] Many settlers were dissenting Christians who came seeking religious freedom. In 1784, the Russians were the first Europeans to establish a settlement in Alaska, at Three Saints Bay. Russian America once spanned much of the present-day state of Alaska.[51] In the early days of colonization, many European settlers were subject to food shortages, disease, and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at war with neighboring tribes and European settlers. In many cases, however, the natives and settlers came to depend on one another. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts; natives for guns, tools and other European goods.[52] Natives taught many settlers to cultivate corn, beans, and other foodstuffs. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Native Americans and urged them to adopt European agricultural practices and lifestyles.[53][54] However, with the increased European colonization of North America, the Native Americans were displaced and often killed.[55] The native population of America declined after European arrival for various reasons,[56][57][58] primarily diseases such as smallpox and measles.[59][60] The original Thirteen Colonies (shown in red) in 1775 European settlers also began trafficking of African slaves into Colonial America via the transatlantic slave trade.[61] Because of a lower prevalence of tropical diseases and better treatment, slaves had a much higher life expectancy in North America than in South America, leading to a rapid increase in their numbers.[62][63] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery, and several colonies passed acts both against and in favor of the practice.[64][65] However, by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves had supplanted European indentured servants as cash crop labor, especially in the American South.[66] The Thirteen Colonies (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) that would become the United States of America were administered by the British as overseas dependencies.[67] All nonetheless had local governments with elections open to most free men.[68] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly, eclipsing Native American populations.[69] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest both in religion and in religious liberty.[70] During the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War, British forces captured Canada from the French. With the creation of the Province of Quebec, Canada's francophone population would remain isolated from the English-speaking colonial dependencies of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and the Thirteen Colonies. Excluding the Native Americans who lived there, the Thirteen Colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about a third that of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas.[71] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their unprecedented success motivated British monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[72] Independence and expansion Further information: American Revolution and Territorial evolution of the United States Declaration of Independence, painting by John Trumbull, depicts the Committee of Five presenting their draft of the Declaration to the Continental Congress, July 4, 1776 The American Revolutionary War fought by the Thirteen Colonies against the British Empire was the first successful war of independence by a non-European entity against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism", asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their "rights as Englishmen" and "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[73] The Second Continental Congress unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776; this day is celebrated annually as Independence Day.[74] In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a decentralized government that operated until 1789.[74] After its defeat at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Britain signed a peace treaty. American sovereignty became internationally recognized, and the country was granted all lands east of the Mississippi River. Tensions with Britain remained, however, leading to the War of 1812, which was fought to a draw.[75] Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three branches in 1789, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances. George Washington, who had led the Continental Army to victory, was the first president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[76] Territorial acquisitions of the United States between 1783 and 1917 Although the federal government outlawed American participation in the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the slave population.[77][78][79] The Second Great Awakening, especially in the period 1800–1840, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. In the North, it energized multiple social reform movements, including abolitionism;[80] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave populations.[81] Beginning in the late 18th century, American settlers began to expand westward,[82] prompting a long series of American Indian Wars.[83] The 1803 Louisiana Purchase almost doubled the nation's area,[84] Spain ceded Florida and other Gulf Coast territory in 1819,[85] the Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845 during a period of expansionism,[86] and the 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain led to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[87] Victory in the Mexican–American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of the present-day American Southwest, making the U.S. span the continent.[82][88] The California Gold Rush of 1848–1849 spurred migration to the Pacific coast, which led to the California Genocide[89] and the creation of additional western states.[90] The giving away of vast quantities of land to white European settlers as part of the Homestead Acts, nearly 10% of the total area of the United States, and to private railroad companies and colleges as part of land grants spurred economic development.[91] After the Civil War, new transcontinental railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade, and increased conflicts with Native Americans.[92] In 1869, a new Peace Policy nominally promised to protect Native Americans from abuses, avoid further war, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship. Nonetheless, large-scale conflicts continued throughout the West into the 1900s. Civil War and Reconstruction era Main articles: American Civil War and Reconstruction era The Battle of Gettysburg, fought between Union and Confederate forces on July 1–3, 1863, around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, marked a turning point in the American Civil War. Irreconcilable sectional conflict regarding the enslavement of Africans and African Americans ultimately led to the American Civil War.[93] With the 1860 election of Republican Abraham Lincoln, conventions in thirteen slave states declared secession and formed the Confederate States of America (the "South" or the "Confederacy"), while the federal government (the "Union") maintained that secession was illegal.[94] In order to bring about this secession, military action was initiated by the secessionists, and the Union responded in kind. The ensuing war would become the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the deaths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[95] The Union initially simply fought to keep the country united. Nevertheless, as casualties mounted after 1863 and Lincoln delivered his Emancipation Proclamation, the main purpose of the war from the Union's viewpoint became the abolition of slavery. Indeed, when the Union ultimately won the war in April 1865, each of the states in the defeated South was required to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which prohibited slavery except as penal labor. Two other amendments were also ratified, ensuring citizenship for blacks and, at least in theory, voting rights for them as well. Reconstruction began in earnest following the war. While President Lincoln attempted to foster friendship and forgiveness between the Union and the former Confederacy, his assassination on April 14, 1865 drove a wedge between North and South again. Republicans in the federal government made it their goal to oversee the rebuilding of the South and to ensure the rights of African Americans. They persisted until the Compromise of 1877 when the Republicans agreed to cease protecting the rights of African Americans in the South in order for Democrats to concede the presidential election of 1876. Southern white Democrats, calling themselves "Redeemers", took control of the South after the end of Reconstruction, beginning the nadir of American race relations. From 1890 to 1910, the Redeemers established so-called Jim Crow laws, disenfranchising most blacks and some poor whites throughout the region. Blacks faced racial segregation, especially in the South.[96] They also occasionally experienced vigilante violence, including lynching.[97] Further immigration, expansion, and industrialization Main articles: Economic history of the United States and Technological and industrial history of the United States Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, was a major entry point for European immigration into the U.S.[98] In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrialization and transformed its culture.[99] National infrastructure, including telegraph and transcontinental railroads, spurred economic growth and greater settlement and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric light and the telephone would also affect communication and urban life.[100] The United States fought Indian Wars west of the Mississippi River from 1810 to at least 1890.[101] Most of these conflicts ended with the cession of Native American territory and their confinement to Indian reservations. Additionally, the Trail of Tears in the 1830s exemplified the Indian removal policy that forcibly resettled Indians. This further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, increasing surpluses for international markets.[102] Mainland expansion also included the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[103] In 1893, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and formed the Republic of Hawaii, which the U.S. annexed in 1898. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in the same year, following the Spanish–American War.[104] American Samoa was acquired by the United States in 1900 after the end of the Second Samoan Civil War.[105] The U.S. Virgin Islands were purchased from Denmark in 1917.[106] Rapid economic development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries fostered the rise of many prominent industrialists. Tycoons like Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie led the nation's progress in the railroad, petroleum, and steel industries. Banking became a major part of the economy, with J. P. Morgan playing a notable role. The American economy boomed, becoming the world's largest.[107] These dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.[108] This period eventually ended with the advent of the Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms including women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, and greater antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.[109][110][111] World War I, Great Depression, and World War II Further information: World War I, Great Depression, and World War II The Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world when completed in 1931, during the Great Depression. The United States remained neutral from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1917 when it joined the war as an "associated power" alongside the Allies of World War I, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Paris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of Nations. However, the Senate refused to approve this and did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[112] In 1920, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage.[113] The 1920s and 1930s saw the rise of radio for mass communication and the invention of early television.[114] The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal.[115] The Great Migration of millions of African Americans out of the American South began before World War I and extended through the 1960s;[116] whereas the Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.[117] U.S. Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in one of the most iconic images of the war. At first effectively neutral during World War II, the United States began supplying materiel to the Allies in March 1941 through the Lend-Lease program. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis powers, and in the following year, to intern about 120,000[118] U.S. residents (including American citizens) of Japanese descent.[119] Although Japan attacked the United States first, the U.S. nonetheless pursued a "Europe first" defense policy.[120] The United States thus left its vast Asian colony, the Philippines, isolated and fighting a losing struggle against Japanese invasion and occupation. During the war, the United States was one of the "Four Powers"[121] who met to plan the postwar world, along with Britain, the Soviet Union, and China.[122][123] Although the nation lost around 400,000 military personnel,[124] it emerged relatively undamaged from the war with even greater economic and military influence.[125] The United States played a leading role in the Bretton Woods and Yalta conferences, which signed agreements on new international financial institutions and Europe's postwar reorganization. As an Allied victory was won in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active after the war.[126] The United States and Japan then fought each other in the largest naval battle in history, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[127][128] The United States eventually developed the first nuclear weapons and used them on Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945; the Japanese surrendered on September 2, ending World War II.[129][130] Cold War and civil rights era Main articles: History of the United States (1945–1964), History of the United States (1964–1980), and History of the United States (1980–1991) Further information: Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, War on Poverty, Space Race, and Reaganomics Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, 1963 U.S. president Ronald Reagan (left) and Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva, 1985 After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for power, influence, and prestige during what became known as the Cold War, driven by an ideological divide between capitalism and communism.[131] They dominated the military affairs of Europe, with the U.S. and its NATO allies on one side and the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies on the other. The U.S. developed a policy of containment towards the expansion of communist influence. While the U.S. and Soviet Union engaged in proxy wars and developed powerful nuclear arsenals, the two countries avoided direct military conflict.[132] The United States often opposed Third World movements that it viewed as Soviet-sponsored and occasionally pursued direct action for regime change against left-wing governments, occasionally supporting authoritarian right-wing regimes.[133] American troops fought communist Chinese and North Korean forces in the Korean War of 1950–1953.[134] The Soviet Union's 1957 launch of the first artificial satellite and its 1961 launch of the first crewed spaceflight initiated a "Space Race" in which the United States became the first nation to land a man on the Moon in 1969.[134] The United States became increasingly involved in the Vietnam War (1955–1975), introducing combat forces in 1965.[135] At home, the U.S. had experienced sustained economic expansion and a rapid growth of its population and middle class following World War II. After a surge in female labor participation, especially in the 1970s, by 1985, the majority of women aged 16 and over were employed.[136] Construction of an Interstate Highway System transformed the nation's infrastructure over the following decades. Millions moved from farms and inner cities to large suburban housing developments.[137][138] In 1959, the United States formally expanded beyond the contiguous United States when the territories of Alaska and Hawaii became, respectively, the 49th and 50th states admitted into the Union.[139] The growing Civil Rights Movement used nonviolence to confront segregation and discrimination, with Martin Luther King Jr. becoming a prominent leader and figurehead.[140] A combination of court decisions and legislation, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1968, sought to end racial discrimination.[141][142][143] Meanwhile, a counterculture movement grew, which was fueled by opposition to the Vietnam war, the Black Power movement, and the sexual revolution.[144] The launch of a "War on Poverty" expanded entitlements and welfare spending, including the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, two programs that provide health coverage to the elderly and poor, respectively, and the means-tested Food Stamp Program and Aid to Families with Dependent Children.[145] The 1970s and early 1980s saw the onset of stagflation. After his election in 1980, President Ronald Reagan responded to economic stagnation with free-market oriented reforms. Following the collapse of détente, he abandoned "containment" and initiated the more aggressive "rollback" strategy towards the Soviet Union.[146][147] The late 1980s brought a "thaw" in relations with the Soviet Union, and its collapse in 1991 finally ended the Cold War.[148][149][150] This brought about unipolarity[151] with the U.S. unchallenged as the world's dominant superpower.[152] Contemporary history Main articles: History of the United States (1991–2008) and History of the United States (2008–present) The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan during the September 11 terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda in 2001 After the Cold War, the conflict in the Middle East triggered a crisis in 1990, when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait, an ally of the United States. Fearing the spread of instability, in August, President George H. W. Bush launched and led the Gulf War against Iraq; waged until January 1991 by coalition forces from 34 nations, it ended in the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and restoration of the monarchy.[153] Originating within U.S. military defense networks, the Internet spread to international academic platforms and then to the public in the 1990s, greatly affecting the global economy, society, and culture.[154] Due to the dot-com boom, stable monetary policy, and reduced social welfare spending, the 1990s saw the longest economic expansion in modern U.S. history.[155] Beginning in 1994, the U.S. signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), causing trade among the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to soar.[156] On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda terrorist hijackers flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.[157] In response, President George W. Bush launched the War on Terror, which included a war in Afghanistan and the 2003–2011 Iraq War.[158][159] A 2011 military operation in Pakistan led to the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda.[160] Government policy designed to promote affordable housing,[161] widespread failures in corporate and regulatory governance,[162] and historically low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve[163] led to the mid-2000s housing bubble, which culminated with the 2008 financial crisis, the nation's largest economic contraction since the Great Depression.[164] During the crisis, assets owned by Americans lost about a quarter of their value.[165] Barack Obama, the first African-American[166] and multiracial[167] president, was elected in 2008 amid the crisis,[168] and subsequently passed stimulus measures and the Dodd–Frank Act in an attempt to mitigate its negative effects and ensure there would not be a repeat of the crisis. In 2010, President Obama led efforts to pass the Affordable Care Act, the most sweeping reform to the nation's healthcare system in nearly five decades.[169] In the presidential election of 2016, Republican Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States, a result viewed as one of the biggest political upsets since the 1948 election.[170] In the presidential election of 2020, Democrat Joe Biden was elected as the 46th president.[171] On January 6, 2021, supporters of outgoing President Trump stormed the United States Capitol in an unsuccessful effort to disrupt the presidential Electoral College vote count.[172] Geography Main article: Geography of the United States Köppen climate classifications of U.S. states and territories The 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia occupy a combined area of 3,119,885 square miles (8,080,470 km2). Of this area, 2,959,064 square miles (7,663,940 km2) is contiguous land, composing 83.65% of total U.S. land area.[173][174] Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, is 10,931 square miles (28,311 km2) in area. The five populated but unincorporated territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands together cover 9,185 square miles (23,789 km2).[175] Measured by only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[176] The United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest nation by total area (land and water), ranking behind Russia and Canada and nearly equal to China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted, and how the total size of the United States is measured.[c][177][178] The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont.[179] The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest.[180] 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 of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast.[180] The Rocky Mountains, west of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, peaking around 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in Colorado.[181] Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Chihuahua and Mojave.[182] The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast, both ranges reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m). The lowest and highest points in the contiguous United States are in the state of California,[183] and only about 84 miles (135 km) apart.[184] At an elevation of 20,310 feet (6,190.5 m), Alaska's Denali is the highest peak in the country and in North America.[185] Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[186] The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south.[187] The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains have an alpine climate. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Hawaii and the southern tip of Florida are tropical, as well as its territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific.[188] States bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur in the country, mainly in Tornado Alley areas in the Midwest and South.[189] Overall, the United States receives more high-impact extreme weather incidents than any other country in the world.[190] Wildlife and conservation Main articles: Fauna of the United States and Flora of the United States A bald eagle The bald eagle has been the national bird of the United States since 1782.[191] The U.S. is one of 17 megadiverse countries containing a large amount of endemic species: about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and more than 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland.[192] The United States is home to 428 mammal species, 784 bird species, 311 reptile species, and 295 amphibian species,[193] as well as about 91,000 insect species.[194] There are 62 national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[195] Altogether, the government owns about 28% of the country's land area,[196] mostly in the western states.[197] Most of this land is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching, and about .86% is used for military purposes.[198][199] Environmental issues include debates on oil and nuclear energy, dealing with air and water pollution, the economic costs of protecting wildlife, logging and deforestation,[200][201] and climate change.[202][203] The most prominent environmental agency is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), created by presidential order in 1970.[204] The idea of wilderness has shaped the management of public lands since 1964, with the Wilderness Act.[205] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is intended to protect threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[206] The United States is ranked 24th among nations in the Environmental Performance Index.[207] The country joined the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016 and has many other environmental commitments.[208] It left the Paris Agreement in 2020,[209] and rejoined it in 2021.[210] Demographics Main articles: Americans, Demographics of the United States, Race and ethnicity in the United States, and Family structure in the United States Population See also: List of U.S. states by population and List of United States cities by population Historical population CensusPop.%± 17903,929,214— 18005,308,48335.1% 18107,239,88136.4% 18209,638,45333.1% 183012,866,02033.5% 184017,069,45332.7% 185023,191,87635.9% 186031,443,32135.6% 187038,558,37122.6% 188050,189,20930.2% 189062,979,76625.5% 190076,212,16821.0% 191092,228,49621.0% 1920106,021,53715.0% 1930123,202,62416.2% 1940132,164,5697.3% 1950151,325,79814.5% 1960179,323,17518.5% 1970203,211,92613.3% 1980226,545,80511.5% 1990248,709,8739.8% 2000281,421,90613.2% 2010308,745,5389.7% 2020331,449,2817.4% Note that the census numbers do not include Native Americans until 1860.[211] The U.S. Census Bureau reported 331,449,281 residents as of April 1, 2020.[212] This figure, like most official data for the United States as a whole, excludes the five unincorporated territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands) and minor island possessions. According to the Bureau's U.S. Population Clock, on January 28, 2021, the U.S. population had a net gain of one person every 100 seconds, or about 864 people per day.[213] The United States is the third most populous nation in the world, after China and India. In 2020 the median age of the United States population was 38.5 years.[214] In 2018, there were almost 90 million immigrants and U.S.-born children of immigrants in the United States, accounting for 28% of the overall U.S. population.[215] The United States has a diverse population; 37 ancestry groups have more than one million members.[216] White Americans of European ancestry, mostly German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish and French,[217] including White Hispanic and Latino Americans from Latin America, form the largest racial group, at 73.1% of the population. African Americans constitute the nation's largest racial minority and third-largest ancestry group, and are around 13% of the total U.S. population.[216] Asian Americans are the country's second-largest racial minority (the three largest Asian ethnic groups are Chinese, Filipino, and Indian).[216] In 2017, out of the U.S. foreign-born population, some 45% (20.7 million) were naturalized citizens, 27% (12.3 million) were lawful permanent residents, 6% (2.2 million) were temporary lawful residents, and 23% (10.5 million) were unauthorized immigrants.[218] Among current living immigrants to the U.S., the top five countries of birth are Mexico, China, India, the Philippines and El Salvador. Until 2017, the United States led the world in refugee resettlement for decades, admitting more refugees than the rest of the world combined.[219] About 82% of Americans live in urban areas, including suburbs;[178] about half of those reside in cities with populations over 50,000.[220] In 2008, 273 incorporated municipalities had populations over 100,000, nine cities had more than one million residents, and four cities had over two million (namely New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston).[221] Many U.S. metropolitan populations are growing rapidly, particularly in the South and West.[222] As of 2018, 52% of Americans age 15 and over were married, 6% were widowed, 10% were divorced, and 32% had never been married.[223] The total fertility rate was 1820.5 births per 1000 women in 2016.[224] In 2013, the average age at first birth was 26, and 41% of births were to unmarried women.[225] In 2019, the U.S. had the world's highest rate of children living in single-parent households.[226] Language Main article: Languages of the United States English (specifically, American English) is the de facto national language of the United States. Although there is no official language at the federal level, some laws—such as U.S. naturalization requirements—standardize English, and most states have declared English as the official language.[227] Three states and four U.S. territories have recognized local or indigenous languages in addition to English, including Hawaii (Hawaiian),[228] Alaska (twenty Native languages),[h][229] South Dakota (Sioux),[230] American Samoa (Samoan), Puerto Rico (Spanish), Guam (Chamorro), and the Northern Mariana Islands (Carolinian and Chamorro). In Puerto Rico, Spanish is more widely spoken than English.[231] According to the American Community Survey, in 2010 some 229 million people (out of the total U.S. population of 308 million) spoke only English at home. More than 37 million spoke Spanish at home, making it the second most commonly used language in the United States. Other languages spoken at home by one million people or more include Chinese (2.8 million), Tagalog (1.6 million), Vietnamese (1.4 million), French (1.3 million), Korean (1.1 million), and German (1 million).[232] The most widely taught foreign languages in the United States, in terms of enrollment numbers from kindergarten through university undergraduate education, are Spanish (around 7.2 million students), French (1.5 million), and German (500,000). Other commonly taught languages include Latin, Japanese, American Sign Language, Italian, and Chinese.[233][234] 18% of all Americans claim to speak both English and another language.[235] Religion Main article: Religion in the United States Percentage of respondents in the United States saying that religion is "very important" or "somewhat important" in their lives (2014).[236] The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion and forbids Congress from passing laws respecting its establishment. The United States has the world's largest Christian population.[237] In a 2014 survey, 70.6% of adults in the United States identified themselves as Christians;[238] Protestants accounted for 46.5%, while Roman Catholics, at 20.8%, formed the largest single Christian group.[239] In 2014, 5.9% of the U.S. adult population claimed a non-Christian religion.[240] These include Judaism (1.9%), Islam (0.9%), Hinduism (0.7%), and Buddhism (0.7%).[240] The survey also reported that 22.8% of Americans described themselves as agnostic, atheist or simply having no religion—up from 8.2% in 1990.[239][241][242] Membership in a house of worship fell from 70% in 1999 to 47% in 2020, much of the decline related to the number of Americans expressing no religious preference. However, membership also fell among those who identified with a specific religious group.[243][244] Protestantism is the largest Christian religious grouping in the United States, accounting for almost half of all Americans. Baptists collectively form the largest branch of Protestantism at 15.4%,[245] and the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest individual Protestant denomination at 5.3% of the U.S. population.[245] Apart from Baptists, other Protestant categories include nondenominational Protestants, Methodists, Pentecostals, unspecified Protestants, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, other Reformed, Episcopalians/Anglicans, Quakers, Adventists, Holiness, Christian fundamentalists, Anabaptists, Pietists, and multiple others.[245] The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the Southern United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. By contrast, religion plays the least important role in New England and in the Western United States.[246] Health See also: Health care in the United States, Health care reform in the United States, and Health insurance in the United States The Texas Medical Center in downtown Houston is the largest medical complex in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the United States had an average life expectancy at birth of 78.8 years in 2019 (76.3 years for men and 81.4 years for women), up 0.1 year from 2018.[247] This was the second year that overall U.S. life expectancy rose slightly after three years of overall declines that followed decades of continuous improvement. The recent decline, primarily among the age group 25 to 64, was largely due to record highs in the drug overdose and suicide rates; the country still has one of the highest suicide rates among wealthy countries.[248][249][250] From 1999 to 2019, more than 770,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.[251] Life expectancy was highest among Asians and Hispanics and lowest among blacks.[252][253] Increasing obesity in the United States and improvements in health and longevity outside the U.S. contributed to lowering the country's rank in life expectancy from 11th in the world in 1987 to 42nd in 2007. In 2017, the United States had the lowest life expectancy among Japan, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and seven nations in western Europe.[254][255] Obesity rates have more than doubled in the last 30 years and are the highest in the industrialized world.[256][257] Approximately one-third of the adult population is obese and an additional third is overweight.[258] Obesity-related type 2 diabetes is considered epidemic by health care professionals.[259] In 2010, coronary artery disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and traffic accidents caused the most years of life lost in the U.S. Low back pain, depression, musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety caused the most years lost to disability. The most harmful risk factors were poor diet, tobacco smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, and alcohol use. Alzheimer's disease, drug abuse, kidney disease, cancer, and falls caused the most additional years of life lost over their age-adjusted 1990 per-capita rates.[260] U.S. teenage pregnancy and abortion rates are substantially higher than in other Western nations, especially among blacks and Hispanics.[261] Government-funded health care coverage for the poor (Medicaid, established in 1965) and for those age 65 and older (Medicare, begun in 1966) is available to Americans who meet the programs' income or age qualifications. Nonetheless, the United States remains the only developed nation without a system of universal health care.[262] In 2017, 12.2% of the population did not carry health insurance.[263] The subject of uninsured and underinsured Americans is a major political issue.[264][265] The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in early 2010 and informally known as "ObamaCare", roughly halved the uninsured share of the population. The bill and its ultimate effect are still issues of controversy in the United States.[266][267] The U.S. health care system far outspends that of any other nation, measured both in per capita spending and as a percentage of GDP.[268] However, the U.S. is a global leader in medical innovation.[269] Education Main articles: Education in the United States and Higher education in the United States The University of Georgia, founded in 1785, is the oldest chartered public university in the United States. Universal government-funded education exists in the United States, while there are also many privately funded institutions. American public education is operated by state and local governments and regulated by the United States Department of Education through restrictions on federal grants. In most states, children are required to attend school from the age of six or seven (generally, kindergarten or first grade) until they turn 18 (generally bringing them through twelfth grade, the end of high school); some states allow students to leave school at 16 or 17.[270] About 12% of children are enrolled in parochial or nonsectarian private schools. Just over 2% of children are homeschooled.[271] The U.S. spends more on education per student than any nation in the world,[272] spending an average of $12,794 per year on public elementary and secondary school students in the 2016–2017 school year.[273] Some 80% of U.S. college students attend public universities.[274] Of Americans 25 and older, 84.6% graduated from high school, 52.6% attended some college, 27.2% earned a bachelor's degree, and 9.6% earned graduate degrees.[275] The basic literacy rate is approximately 99%.[178][276] The United Nations assigns the United States an Education Index of 0.97, tying it for 12th in the world.[277] The United States has many private and public institutions of higher education. The majority of the world's top universities, as listed by various ranking organizations, are in the U.S.[278][279][280] There are also local community colleges with generally more open admission policies, shorter academic programs, and lower tuition. In 2018, U21, a network of research-intensive universities, ranked the United States first in the world for breadth and quality of higher education, and 15th when GDP was a factor.[281] As for public expenditures on higher education, the U.S. trails some other OECD (Organization for Cooperation and Development) nations but spends more per student than the OECD average, and more than all nations in combined public and private spending.[282][283] As of 2018, student loan debt exceeded 1.5 trillion dollars.[284][285] Government and politics Main articles: Federal government of the United States, Politics of the United States, State governments of the United States, and Local government in the United States The United States Capitol The United States Capitol, where Congress meets: the Senate, left; the House, right The White House The White House, residence and workplace of the U.S. President The Supreme Court Building The Supreme Court Building, where the nation's highest court sits The United States is a federal republic of 50 states, a federal district, five territories and several uninhabited island possessions.[286][287][288] It is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a federal republic and a representative democracy "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law."[289] The U.S. ranked 25th on the Democracy Index in 2018.[290] On Transparency International's 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, its public sector position deteriorated from a score of 76 in 2015 to 69 in 2019.[291] In the American federalist system, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local. The local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.[292] The original text of the Constitution establishes the structure and responsibilities of the federal government and its relationship with the individual states. Article One protects the right to the writ of habeas corpus. The Constitution has been amended 27 times;[293] the first ten amendments, which make up the Bill of Rights, and the Fourteenth Amendment form the central basis of Americans' individual rights. All laws and governmental procedures are subject to judicial review and any law ruled by the courts to be in violation of the Constitution is voided. The principle of judicial review, not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, was established by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803)[294] in a decision handed down by Chief Justice John Marshall.[295] The federal government comprises three branches: Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse,[296] and has the power of impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government.[297] Executive: The president is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law (subject to congressional override), and appoints the members of the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.[298] Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional.[299] The House of Representatives has 435 voting members, each representing a congressional district for a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population. Each state then draws single-member districts to conform with the census apportionment. The District of Columbia and the five major U.S. territories each have one member of Congress—these members are not allowed to vote.[300] The Senate has 100 members with each state having two senators, elected at-large to six-year terms; one-third of Senate seats are up for election every two years. The District of Columbia and the five major U.S. territories do not have senators.[300] The president serves a four-year term and may be elected to the office no more than twice. The president is not elected by direct vote, but by an indirect electoral college system in which the determining votes are apportioned to the states and the District of Columbia.[301] The Supreme Court, led by the chief justice of the United States, has nine members, who serve for life.[302] Political divisions Main articles: Political divisions of the United States, U.S. state, Territories of the United States, List of states and territories of the United States, and Indian reservation Further information: Territorial evolution of the United States Map of the United States showing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the 5 major U.S. territories The 50 states are the principal political divisions in the country. Each state holds jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory, where it shares sovereignty with the federal government. They are subdivided into counties or county-equivalents and further divided into municipalities. The District of Columbia is a federal district that contains the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C.[303] The states and the District of Columbia choose the president of the United States. Each state has presidential electors equal to the number of their representatives and senators in Congress; the District of Columbia has three because of the 23rd Amendment.[304] Territories of the United States such as Puerto Rico do not have presidential electors, and so people in those territories cannot vote for the president.[300] The United States also observes tribal sovereignty of the American Indian nations to a limited degree, as it does with the states' sovereignty. American Indians are U.S. citizens and tribal lands are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress and the federal courts. Like the states they have a great deal of autonomy, but also like the states, tribes are not allowed to make war, engage in their own foreign relations, or print and issue currency.[305] Citizenship is granted at birth in all states, the District of Columbia, and all major U.S. territories except American Samoa.[i][309][306] State and district flags and statehood dates (listed alphabetically) (listed chronologically) Statehood date is the date of ratifying the Constitution (for the first 13) or being admitted to the Union (for subsequent states) *District of Columbia is a district not a state Territory and district flags and dates (listed alphabetically) (listed chronologically) Territory date is the date the territory was acquired by the United States. The USMOI are not listed. Parties and elections Main articles: Political parties in the United States, Elections in the United States, and Political ideologies in the United States Joe Biden 46th President since January 20, 2021 Kamala Harris 49th Vice President since January 20, 2021 The United States has operated under a two-party system for most of its history.[310] For elective offices at most levels, state-administered primary elections choose the major party nominees for subsequent general elections. Since the general election of 1856, the major parties have been the Democratic Party, founded in 1824, and the Republican Party, founded in 1854. Since the Civil War, only one third-party presidential candidate—former president Theodore Roosevelt, running as a Progressive in 1912—has won as much as 20% of the popular vote. The president and vice president are elected by the Electoral College.[311] In American political culture, the center-right Republican Party is considered "conservative" and the center-left Democratic Party is considered "liberal".[312][313] The states of the Northeast and West Coast and some of the Great Lakes states, known as "blue states", are relatively liberal. The "red states" of the South and parts of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains are relatively conservative. Democratic Joe Biden, the winner of the 2020 presidential election and former vice president, is serving as the 46th president of the United States. Leadership in the Senate includes vice president Kamala Harris, president pro tempore Patrick Leahy, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.[314] Leadership in the House includes Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.[315] In the 117th United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate are narrowly controlled by the Democratic Party. The Senate consists of 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats with two Independents who caucus with the Democrats; the House consists of 222 Democrats and 211 Republicans.[316] Of state governors, there are 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Among the D.C. mayor and the five territorial governors, there are three Democrats, one Republican, and one New Progressive.[317] Foreign relations Main articles: Foreign relations of the United States and Foreign policy of the United States Diplomatic relations of the United States United States Countries that have diplomatic relations with the United States Countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the United States Disputed territori



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