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I spent the Christmas holidays in two very similar nations, with two radically different histories.
Country 1 is my native Canada: a resource-rich nation of 33 million people that has grown from an exporter of the products of forest, mine and farm into one of the world's most advanced economies. Gross Domestic Product per capita in 2008, according to the World Bank: $42,031 U.S., just behind the United Kingdom, just ahead of Japan.
Country 2 is sunny Argentina: a resource-rich nation of 39 million people that started as an exporter of agricultural products. A century ago, Argentina was probably a richer country than Canada. Argentina's GDP per capita in 2008: $8,236 - just behind Brazil, just ahead of Montenegro.
The Argentine experience is one of tragic falling away from a once glorious promise. It's a story often told, even the subject of a musical, and I'm not proposing to retell it. Instead, in this season of intense debate over the future of American capitalism, let me just draw two morals, one for the political left, one for the political right.
For the left:
Here's a story I heard last week from a onetime foreign investor in Argentina. The thing that drove him out of the country was a 5 percent tax on his company. Five percent may not sound like much, but what mattered was not the amount of the tax. It was the way it was imposed. The tax was not enacted by Congress. It was not even ordered by the president.
CNN Deputy Political Director
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Houston will become the largest city in the country to be governed by an openly-gay person when Anise Parker takes over Monday as the city's mayor.
Parker was sworn in over the weekend in a private ceremony as chief executive of the nation's fourth largest city. Public events are planned for Monday.
The 53-year-old three-term city controller has never tried to shield her sexual orientation in any of her campaigns for public office. Parker has been with her partner for 19 years and has two adopted children.
Parker won nearly 54 percent of the vote in a runoff election last month, topping former city attorney Gene Lock in the battle to succeed Bill White, who was term limited. White is now aiming for a higher office: Texas governor.
Atlanta gets a new mayor Monday as well, as Kasim Reed is sworn in. Reed, who topped Mary Norwood in a runoff election last month, replaces two-term mayor Shirley Franklin.
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I'm not the world's most physical guy, but I have a hero fantasy I play over and over in my head.
I'm on a plane and a guy a few rows up starts to make some suspicious moves. In some dream sequences, he's taking out a box cutter. Other times, he's trying to set his shoe on fire.
Everyone else is sleeping, but I'm doing my patriotic duty by staying vigilant, and I see this guy try to take us down and I'm not going to let him. I yell "TERRORIST!" just as the blade comes out or the match lights up. It startles him just for a second, buying me enough time to lunge over two rows and knock the object out of his hands.
There are going to be some new details in my hero fantasy after the failed terrorist attempt on Christmas Day bags of explosive powder taped to legs, syringes full of chemicals, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
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Things are looking up in Dubai. Way, way up.
The Arab emirate's colossal, multibillion-dollar skyscraper, Burj Dubai, opens for business Monday, stretching 168 stories and 2,684 feet into the desert sky.
The "At the Top" observation deck, at the 123rd floor, isn't really at the top, but it's plenty high enough.
"No question, the tower is going to be a huge draw for people who want to get up there," said George Efstathiou, Burj Dubai's lead architect and managing partner for the Chicago, Illinois, architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Burj Dubai boasts a towering list of superlatives:
• World's tallest building
• World's tallest free-standing structure
• World's highest occupied floor
• World's highest outdoor observation deck
• World's longest-traveling elevator (1,640 feet, traveled in two minutes)
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AC360° Associate Producer
Happy New Year everyone!
Tonight we’re drilling deeper into Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s background. Abdullmutallab is the alleged terror suspect who boarded a U.S.-bound airplane with explosives on Christmas Day. We’ll look into the specific places and people who impacted him along his journey to radicalism.
According to reports, Abdulmutallab went to Yemen to take a course in Arabic after graduating from high school and during his university studies in London he became head of the college’s Islamic Society. It was also reported that he justified killing in the name of jihad on a website, but many say he was not a radical in person.
So who convinced him to become a terrorist? How will U.S. intelligence officials get him to talk about al Qaeda? The U.S. Embassy in Yemen closed on Sunday, prompted by alleged ongoing threats by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack American interests in Yemen. A senior administration official said there was a specific and credible threat against the embassy. The British and French Embassies in Yemen also announced closures due to security concerns.
Reporter's Note: President Obama is returning to DC and all of its turmoil after some relaxing time on the beach. Truth is, presidents never really get away from their jobs what with modern communications and all. Like me. I’m writing my daily letter to the White House at my kitchen counter while the family watches a movie and the dog keeps walking by trolling for snacks.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
Welcome back! I’m sure you’re eager to get down to business in this new year, but here is a word to the wise: Don’t forget when signing bills into law to write 2010 instead of 2009. I mean, if I get it wrong I can just cross it out, but then my notes are not going to wind up in a presidential library some day.
When you left for vacation, it looked like you would be returning to the health care battle, but it now it seems as if this terrorism business has pretty much swirled up into a blizzard that can’t be ignored.
This is an interesting case. The actual attempt at terrorism failed, but your administration’s response to it has been…well, let’s just say a tad uneven. And that is what has provoked the outcry. (Granted, Republicans have smelled blood and their feeding frenzy has certainly helped drive interest a bit, so it’s not like a wholly organic public fury...) So here is another bit of straightforward advice that I would give to any president: When something goes wrong on your watch, don’t let anyone on your team go out there and say things worked pretty well. That’s kind of like watching a stray bullet whistle through your living room, and saying “Well, it didn’t hit anyone, so I guess everything is ok.”
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Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN
Almost as soon as the botched Christmas airplane bombing hit the airwaves, the politics of national security reared its head.
Many Republicans quickly attacked President Obama for being responsible for the fact that Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was able to walk onto an airplane with dangerous explosives despite the fact that the government had received warnings about him. They argued that the failure proved the White House was weak on terrorism.
"Soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo," warned South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, "these things are not going to appease the terrorists..." Representative Dan Burton of Indiana called for Janet Napolitano, who said the system "had worked," to step down. Napolitano, said Burton, "does not have the background or experience necessary to execute her responsibilities." Former Vice President Dick Cheney asked of the president, "Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war."
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Special to CNN
It's almost that time: the once-a-decade-moment when the U.S. Bureau of the Census tries to determine the population.
Counting more than 300 million residents is a complex and costly operation (an estimated $14 billion), but the results yield the basis for how we apportion Congress, distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds and understand basic changes to the number and geographic distribution of U.S. residents.
The largest challenge that the Census Bureau faces is ensuring everyone is counted, regardless of where they live, who they live with and perhaps most controversially, regardless of whether they are authorized to live in the United States.
Most households will receive a census form by mail in mid-March to be filled out as of Census Day, April 1. First results of state counts for redistricting purposes must be delivered by December 31. The rest of the results will be released over a period of time that ends in 2013.