[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/11/06/obama.transition2/art.obama.gi.jpg caption="The election in 2008 of an African-American to the presidency in a country whose economy once revolved around slavery was historic."]
Special to CNN
The first decade of the 21st century in the United States was defined by terrorism, crisis and uncertainty. The exuberance of the 1990s, with its strong economic growth and the sense of American military omnipotence, came to an end.
Most Americans have been left reeling from nine very difficult years, even though the decade neared its close with a presidential election that spoke to the promise and potential of the nation.
We must remember that any "most important" list should be seen as the beginning of a conversation, not a definitive judgment.
Historians learn that it is extraordinarily difficult to discern exactly which events will be transitory and which will have the most long-lasting effects.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/12/14/iran.nuclear/t1larg.nuclear.facility.cam.afp.gi.jpg caption="A camera, right, installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, monitors a nuclear facility in Isfahan, Iran, in February 2007." width=300 height=169]
World powers are discussing next steps against Iran if it fails to meet a year-end deadline for addressing international concern over its nuclear program, the White House and State Department said Tuesday.
Top officials from the so-called P5 plus one – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the US held a conference call Tuesday to discuss possible sanctions against Iran, Assistant Secretary PJ Crowley told reporters.
Crowley said the powers were "united its resolve that Iran must either answer the questions that we have about its nuclear aspirations or face additional pressure" and that Washington would "consulting broadly across the international community in the coming days and weeks" about its options.
In October the powers offered Iran a deal to send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into fuel for a medical reactor in Tehran.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that time is running out for Iran to accept the deal, nothing the major international powers who offered the deal urged Iran to accept it.
"The decision for them to live up to their responsibilities is their decision," said Gibbs. "We have offered them a different path. If they decide not to take it, then the (major powers) will move accordingly."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad dismissed the deal, telling Iranians at a speech in the Southern city of Shiraz that the international community can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want, we don't care." Ahmadinejad also accused the US of fabricating a document said to detail Iranian plans for critical components of a nuclear device.
Gibbs countered his defiance, saying the international community was prepared to take additional steps if the year-end deadline comes and goes without any Iranian action.
"Mr.. Ahmadinejad may not recognize, for whatever reason, the deadline that looms, but that is a very real deadline to the international community," Gibbs said.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/18/obama.copenhagen.transcript/story.obama.copenhagen.afp.gi.jpg caption="President Obama arriving in Copenhagen for the final day of climate change talks." width=300 height=169]
Special to CNN
When the United States, China, Brazil, India and South Africa struck an agreement in the United Nations' climate change summit in Copenhagen, many other countries were unhappy with the outcome.
Roberta Alenius, a spokesperson for the European Union presidency, initially denied any unanimous consensus, but the EU eventually wound up supporting the accord.
Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese head of the G77 group of developing countries, has objected that the U.S.-backed proposals would be devastating for the poorer countries. "This is an idea, not a deal," Di-Aping is reported to have said. "Sudan will not be a signatory to a deal that destroys Africa."
The defining tone of the summit was resounding discord. Ban Ki-moon, U.N. secretary-general, called it "not everything we hoped for." A number of developing countries, led by Venezuela and Bolivia, did not even support the deal. At the same time, the full body of 193 countries agreed to "take note of the Copenhagen Accord" without accepting it. Even President Obama acknowledged that the agreement was "not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/europe/12/06/copenhagen.climate.talks/story.copenhagen.cnn.jpg caption="Delegates arrive at the summit building in Copenhagen earlyer this month." width=300 height=169]
Special to CNN
Two weeks ago, representatives from nearly 200 countries flew to Copenhagen to hammer out an agreement to limit the emissions that cause global warming.
Now that the carbon-heavy contrails of the diplomats' jets have cleared from Copenhagen's airspace, it's clear that while they failed to make history, the modest three-page unsigned Copenhagen Accord is a surprisingly futuristic document.
Personally engineered by the leaders of the next century's economic powerhouses - China, India, Brazil, South Africa and the United States - the accord suggests a new style of diplomacy, and (happily) a possible mainstreaming of environmental standards as conditions of trade rather than a boutique environmental issue. But we have a long way to go, and the United States needs to show more leadership.
In hindsight, the idea that nearly 200 countries could hold a diplomatic Olympics in a freezing northern city to create an agreement that would cause virtually everyone pain, but contain global warming to a certain number of degrees, was probably politically, scientifically and practically naive.
Reporter's Note: As more details emerge from the health care vote in the Senate, so are the deals that were struck for passage. I got a great deal on tires for my car once. Here’s my daily letter to the president.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
If you have the power, and heaven knows as President you ought to, I wish you would issue some sort of decree against anyone ever again saying that old “it’s like making sausage” quote in regard to lawmaking.
For starters, it’s just not true. No matter what goes into sausage making (and I don’t want to know, thank you) the result is a tasty breakfast morsel that nestles down steamy and hot alongside the eggs. It’s spicy, filling, and delicious. Who could ask for more? On the other hand, lawmaking is something best not contemplated before breakfast, it often doesn’t go well with anything except campaign contributions, and plenty of times lawmaking eaves everyone asking for more!
A case in point: This whole health care bill out of the Senate this week. As details emerge of precisely how the deal was done, I find myself thinking it is a great disservice to throw sausage into the comparison. But more, I can’t help but feel disappointed in some of our elected officials.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/21/politicians.sex.scandals/art.eliotspitzer.gi.jpg caption="Don't miss Christine Romans' interview with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer."]
CNN New York
Third time’s a charm, unless you’re talking about GDP estimates. The federal government today downwardly revised its estimate of how fast the economy grew in the third quarter. The Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 2.2% in the July through September period, the figure’s third and final revision. The number is smaller than expected and it represents a sharp decline from the original number reported two months ago – a gain of 3.5% (the number was revised last month to a gain of 2.8%).
Still it was the first quarter of growth we’ve seen after four straight quarters of contraction, and the best reading in two years. The growth has led many economists to speculate that the recession is over.
Christine Romans has a great interview with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. He’s speaking out about big banks, big bonuses and the financial crisis.