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However for your second question on advantages of getting a country specific domain, on MSN & Google locals it does include sites that are from that particular country & IP only.
While for Yahoo, I do notice that they return mixed SERPS base on the searchers IP (i.e: including sites hosted in the country of your IP is coming from ).
So it all depends for where you choose to host your site.It boils down to your target audience.
the top level domain that is delegated to the usa is .us
there can be huge advantages to country specific domain names if you are targetting a specific country. reading through previous posts here
country specific domains [google.com]
will point you to many many discussions about the advantages or not of using country specific domains.