NEW YORK-The New York Police Department tightened security along several blocks of the city as private envoys beelined for East 47th Street and First Avenue. There, 121 heads of state and representatives from the UN's 193 members gathered to convene the 2011 General Assembly.
President Barack Obama made his appearance at the UN on Sept. 21, urging a return to peace talks between Israel and Palestinians while retaining U.S. support for Israel. He promised to veto any Palestinian application to the UN Security Council: "I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN."
For others in the Middle East, the president pledged U.S. support for countries that "transition to democracy," specifically Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The floor opened for general debate that day.
But the livelier stage seemed to be New York's streets, where activists hoped to direct international attention to their causes with organized events.
One block from UN headquarters a dozen Sudanese men wearing horns and feathers danced around a circular collection of skulls to the sound of another dozen women singing in their native tongue. The performance was part of a four-hour protest against the Khartoum regime-the Islamic government that many say is fueling the war and genocide devastating several regions of Sudan.
On Sept. 17, police shut down the notorious Wall Street Bull due to "A Day of Rage," a protest designed to condemn corporate control of the U.S. political system. Police set up barricades along Wall Street to keep protesters retained in a small park off Broadway where they gathered in circles with posters and guitars, cheering on break dancers and public speeches.
Most of them had the same complaint. Alex Holmes, 26, explained: "I feel that the influence that a corporation has on Congress and lawmaking ... is far more influential than all of our voices combined." He had an interesting solution: "Only allow everyone to donate one dollar to presidential campaigns," he said. "That will put everyone on the same playing field."
With his debt plan, unveiled Sept. 19 during a partisan speech in the White House's Rose Garden, President Barack Obama bluntly threw down a policy gauntlet ahead of next year's elections. Before an occasionally chuckling audience, Obama both outlined his $1.5 trillion in new taxes and lectured Republicans that raising taxes on the wealthy "is not class warfare. It's math."
"We can't just cut our way out of this hole," said Obama, who left Social Security untouched and threatened to veto any deficit reduction plan that does not include new revenues: "It's only right we ask everyone to pay their fair share."
House Speaker John Boehner laid down his own marker during a speech to the Economic Club in Washington on Sept. 15. Tax increases, Boehner said, "are off the table. It is a very simple equation. Tax increases destroy jobs." Further complicating the fiscal landscape, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a Sept. 20 report, reduced its global growth forecasts, warning that the unsolved debt crisis is pushing the United States and Europe back into a recession. "Policy indecision has exacerbated uncertainty and added to financial strains, feeding back into the real economy," the report said.