Government

Government is a key part of any society and culture. Learn more about different types of government, politics and civic issues.

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In an election year, political conventions take over the U.S. media, with political-party platforms and propaganda. But what real purpose do the conventions serve? And have they outlived their usefulness?

By Ed Grabianowski & Kathryn Whitbourne

Just about every U.S. president of the past 80 years has released his memoirs. But they don't all take the same format. We'll look at the variations and why -- apart from historical record -- former presidents feel compelled to put pen to paper.

By Katherine Neer

The FCC is the government group that reacted to Janet Jackson's Super Bowl exposure and to indecency violations by Bubba the Love Sponge. Learn about the FCC's obscenity criteria.

By Robert Valdes

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A caucus, like a primary, is held to determine the party's nomination for president. Those candidates face their first big test during the Iowa caucuses. Why is it such an unusual piece of the election process?

It's an all too terrifying reality: Thousands of children are kidnapped each year. The AMBER Alert system gets the word out quickly when a child is taken. Find out how AMBER Alert works.

By Kevin Bonsor

The idea of a "war crime" seems to be pretty redundant, but there are countless treaties that declare otherwise. Learn about the basic rules of war and about specific acts that have been designated as war crimes by the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

By Julia Layton

The world looks to the United Nations for guidance on important international matters. Find out what goes on inside the United Nations and what role it really plays in international politics.

By Marshall Brain

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When the president goes anywhere by plane, he travels in the most amazing private jet in the world -- a flying White House complete with a gym! Take a tour of this amazing aircraft and see pictures from past and present.

By Tom Harris

While the U.S. has no draft currently, it does require military registration via the Selective Service System. What does that mean and what would happen if a draft was reinstated?

By Tom Harris & Sydney Murphy

Is it just a random number? Moreover, do they recycle Social Security numbers so that if someone dies, that number goes back into action?

By HowStuffWorks.com Contributors

During an emergency, Americans know to dial 911 for help. How and why was that number selected as the emergency phone number for the entire country?

By Kathryn Whitbourne

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It's easy to tap a phone. Keeping a wiretap secret, now that's the tricky part. That’s where the recording equipment and surveillance teams come in. Learn how government spies and other pros go about listening in.

By Tom Harris

The 54 percent voter turnout may not be as bad as it seems.

By Dave Roos

The Electoral College is not an Ivy League school. Rather, it's a process for selecting the next U.S. president that actually carries more weight than the popular vote. Why is it there and should it be continued?

By Kevin Bonsor & Laurie L. Dove

In the U.S. presidential election system, the Electoral College plays an extremely important role in determining who the next president will be. Learn about the Electoral College system in this article.

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What do the numbers on a Social Security card mean? Are they random? And how easy is it for someone to steal your identity using your Social Security number?

By Patrick J. Kiger

U.S. customs officers do far more than looking through people's bags at the airport. They enforce hundreds of laws for 40 different government agencies. We'll examine what U.S. Customs does and what you need to know about bringing goods into the U.S.

By Laurie L. Dove

Many buildings in my area have a big red, yellow and blue diamond-shaped sign with numbers on it. Do you know what this sign means?

On my census form it says, 'Your response is required by law.' What happens to me if I don't fill it out? Will anyone even notice?

By Kathryn Whitbourne

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State dinners are hosted by the president of the United States to honor a visiting head of state -- kings, queens, presidents or head of a government. How do you prepare for a state dinner?

By Melissa Russell-Ausley

You've probably noticed that there are power outages all the time -- but water outages? Much less common... How does the system work, and work so well? It's simpler than you may think. Find out how the design and location of water towers keep the water flowing.

By Marshall Brain

Movies and TV shows depict emergency rooms as insanely intense places. But do you want to know what an emergency department in a hospital is really like? Learn all about what goes on in a real-life ER.

By Carl Bianco, M.D.

Even in the digital age, newspapers continue, although they've had to change dramatically to survive. We'll look at all aspects of putting a newspaper together as well as unusual strategies newspapers are using to bring in revenue.

By Julia Layton & Bob Wilson