Editor's note: The New York Times, citing sources, says General Motors is negotiating what may be a record penalty with the US government for failing to disclose a defect in his autos that led to unintended acceleration. - Tom
Editor's note: Fed Chair Janet Yellen, in comments to the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce in Providence, R.I., signaled that a rate hike in June is unlikely. 'I think it will be appropriate at some point this year to take the initial step to raise the federal-funds rate target and begin the process of normalizing monetary policy.' - Tom
The United States of America (USA or U.S.A.), commonly referred to as the United States (US or U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.71 million square miles (9.62 million km2) and with around 318 million people, the United States is the world's 3rd or 4th-largest country by total area and third-largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century. This involved displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states. The American Civil War ended legal slavery in the country. By the end of the 19th century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean, and its economy was the world's largest. The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War II as a global superpower, the first country with nuclear weapons, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower.
The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national economy, with an estimated GDP in 2013 of $16.8 trillion—23% of global nominal GDP and 19% at purchasing-power parity. The economy is fueled by an abundance of natural resources and high worker productivity, with per capita GDP being the world's sixth-highest in 2010. While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, it continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers. The U.S. has the highest mean and 4th highest median household income in the OECD as well as the highest gross average wage, though it has the 4th most unequal income distribution, with roughly 15% of the population living in poverty as defined by the U.S. Census. The country accounts for 37% of global military spending, being the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.