THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND:
The British government:
Britain consists of four countries: England (London capital), Scotland (Edinburgh), Wales (Cardiff) and North Ireland (Belfast). London, the capital is the centre of government for the whole of Britain but local authorities are also partly responsible for education, health care, roads, the police and some other things.
Laws are made by Parliament. There are two houses. The House of Commons and The House of Lords (which has little power). Members of the House of Commons are called MPs (it means Member of Parliament) and MP is elected by people from a particular area. Parliamentary elections are held every five years or less. The leader of the majority party in Parliament becomes Prime minister and he or she chooses the MPs, who will run the different departments of government - ministers. The Prime minister and the most important ministers make up the Cabinet, which is the real government of the country. There are three main political parties: the Labour Party (left wing), the Conservative Party (right wing) and the Social Democrat Liberal Alliance (the middle). This time the Prime Minister is Tony Blair (replaces John Major). Britain has a ceremonial head of State, the King or Queen, who has no political power. Now it is the Queen Elizabeth II. The royal family lives in Buckingham Palace. Prime minister lives at 10 Downing Street.
National flag and anthem:
British national flag is sometimes called "Union Jack". It symbolises the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland. Each country has its cross in the flag: England has St. George's Cross (white oblong and red cross), Scotland has St. Andrew's Cross (blue with white diagonal) and Ireland has St. Patrick's Cross (white with red diagonal). National anthem is "God Save the Queen!". Each part of Great Britain also has its own symbol: England has the red rose, Wales has the leek and daffodil, and Scotland has the thistle and Ireland the shamrock.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
The USA with the president as the head of state is a federation of 50 states with 48 on the continent, Alaska in the North and Hawaii in the Mid-Pacific south-west of San Francisco. There is also one district, D.C. - District of Columbia - it means the land of Columbus - this territory isn't a state, the state capital is situated here. The largest state is Alaska, the smallest is Rhode Island. The capital is Washington, D.C. Other big cities according to the population are New York, Los Angels, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Detroit. The USA is the member of all major international organisations: UN, OAS, NATO and OECD.
American political system:
The form of government was established in March 1789in the "Constitution of the United States". The Constitution set up a federal system of states with a strong central government. Rights and powers were divided between the individual states and the central or federal government.
The original Constitution has been changed 26 times since 1789. Ten of these amendments were in the "Bill of Rights" (1791), which guaranteed the basic rights of individual Americans. The power in the USA is divided into three branches - legislative, executive and judicial.
The legislative branch is made up of elected representatives. The main body is called the Congress - its seat is in the Capitol the Congress is divided into two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives consists of 435lwmakers who are elected according to the population of each state (serve for two years). The Senate has 100 members - two members from each state (serve for six years). The main task of the Congress is to make federal laws, declare war etc.
The executive branch is represented by the President and 13 executive departments. The President together with his Vice-President is chosen in nation-wide elections every four years. The President can be elected only two terms. Presidential powers are rather big - he proposes bills, can veto or refuse a bill, he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, makes treaties, appoints federal judges, ambassadors. The head of each department is appointed by the president and is responsible to him. The present departments are: State, Treasury, Defence, Justice, Interior, Agriculture… The Vice-President, elected from the same political party as the President, is the chairman of the Senate. Now the USA have the 42nd president Bill Clinton, whose Vice-President is Al Gore, both of the Democratic Party.
The judicial branch is made up of Federal District Courts (91), 11 Federal Courts and at the top the Supreme Court.
The Democratic Party is more liberal - they think that the government should provide wide social and economic programmes for those, who need them (the poor, students, unemployed, etc.).
The Republican Party puts more emphases on private enterprise and individual initiative.
The American flag and anthem:
The American flag consists of two parts - one smaller blue oblong with 50 white stars symbolising 50 American states and one larger oblong consisting of six white and seven red stripes symbolising the original 13 states which used to be the British colonies. The flag is sometimes called "Old Glory" or "Stars and stripes". The American national anthem is called "The Star - Spangled Banner".
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