1) Dead Night of Space 2012
Here's a relatively short description based off of the future history of an obscure RPG done by Scott Palter, one of the owners of the defunct RPG company West End Games. The main settin for DNOS is in the late 24th century. The POD for this is naturally, China's leadership in the 1990s deciding to put more effort into space with a corrosponding US response. A followon butterfly from this, is the election of a more charismatic, competent and warlike president in 2000 than Bush.
Initially, outside of the announcement of a plan to land on the moon again by 2003, more money in NAFTA the McCain administration went roughly as OTL's bush administration. The first noticable change came with 9/11's seeing the fourth plane hitting the washington monument and taking it down. Following the first attack, President McCain ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, which was followed up in early 2003 with a multinational invasion of Sudan -- done to root out 'extremism', and doing the PR work to form an international coalition against Iraq. Unlike Bush, McCain emphasized the fact it was wartime and used it to justify removing various tax deduction, imposing a national sales tax, a stronger national security state along with increasing vetaran's benefits. Thanks to McCain's PR skills, the rest of the world is more willing to work with the US in fighting terror than OTL -- the fact that he authorized certain strategic technological transfers in 2002, 2003 and onwards helped smooth things over with Russia and China. McCain even has smoothed this over domestically by being rather less gung-ho about social issues than dubya, which keeps moderates and some democrats supporting him on naitonal security grounds.
One sunny day in september, Al Qeada managed to strike again by blowing up the IMF's headquarters, the world bank building, The New York stock exchange, the citigroup building and the Prudential building using a mix of explosives, with one of the weapons used against the NYSE being a dirty bomb. The Equinox attacks killed 15,000 people. After the horrifying Equinox attacks, President McCain rallied the world once again to get approval for invasions of Iraq, Syria and Somalia along with a joint Sino-American offensive in North Korea and American-Indian attacks on Pakistan. With the world's financial sector being attacked, the financial sectrs of the world mobilized to promote anti-terror efforts both at home and overseas. This includes extensive coordination to try preventing a depression. Russia was even given de facto NATO status and a blind eye to how it handled it's near abroad in return for working with the United States. Like with 9/11, the equinox events led to further clampdowns on civil liberties, particularly on the internet. For example, encryption isn't banned but enough regulations have been put into place to make encryption de facto banned. Commentators have referred to this as the singaporization of the first world.
While america was busy with it's international efforts to root out the various enemies to globalization, China's rulers have pushed into space. The first sign of this was launching a test solar power sattelite in 2004, which they followed up with by sending a large space station in 2006. This triggered a new space race, with the stakes being military and political this time around instead of mere prestige and science. There are solar power sattelites along with military assets of both the United States and China. The European union largely piggybacks on American efforts, but in 2011 launched their own commercial space station to test the possibility of microgravity for manufacturing.
The world changed yet again, in the aftermath of the Third Taiwan Straits crisis in february 2011. Chinese drones attacked US military communications sattelites in what is recognized as being the first attack on space assets. Quickly, Congress voted to authorize he formation of the United States Space Force(USSF) from elements of Air Force Strategic and Space commands, which is now given the role of defense of American assets in space. China's rulers decided to form their own space force in response. Europe's own efforts to form a ESSF have been stymied due to the fact that coordinating 30 nations's space effort isn't easy.
Recently, the idea of an emissions control treaty has been proposed again and is making more headway than the Kyoto treaty proposed in OTL. So far, the plan involves the G8 nations, The US, Canada, Japan and Korea agreeing to control carbon emissions by moving most heavy industry and power generation to orbit. The stumbling points to this are getting large third world nations such as Mexico, Brazil, China and India on board with the plan. A second more serious stumbling block is the lack of some new central authority, a federation of some sort to help coordinate this. However, Beijing's allowin Hong Kong to participate in the emerging financial keriretsu is touted as a positive sign, even if China won't officially join. Mexico and India's legislatures, at least are more receptive. Besides just emissions control, there are now informal treaties coordinating the actions of the major financial centers to float the necessary bond issues.
THE BIG PLAYERS
The United States of America under McCain's successor Mitt Romney is broadly similar to OTL's 2012 America, except there's more paranoia and militarization. Overall, it's a more militarized and authoritarian nation; the TSA operates even in subways and gun control is stricter than OTL with several states outright banning handguns. On social issues, it's a little bit to the left as President McCain was more interested in the international war on terror than bush and figured largely ignoring social issues at home would get him democrat votes -- a few more states have gay marriage, there's some more places with medical marijuana and TV is (slightly) less censored post-2004 than OTL. However, it's tougher on illegal immigration and the federal government maintains a much larger security state than OTL. The overall cultural flavor can be compared to the early post-9/11 days of OTL except extended thanks to the fact that the attacks have kept on coming.
The People's Republic of China isn't much different from OTL. In a world where fears of terrorism and lawlessness are rife, the first world is more willing to let Chinese conduct at home slide than OTL. The fact that they can claim that unrelated unrest is somehow tied to muslim seperatists in East turkestan is just an additional bonus. The fact that the great recession of OTL's 2007 and onwards hasn't happens means China is about 10-15% richer and it shows.
The European union may be a bit more conservative and filled with security cameras than OTL but it'd be recognizable to a visitor from our world. As a rule, conservative parties tend to predominate with some states even featuring right-populist parties in their governing coalitions. Even the left has rediscovered it's secularism and is in the process of jettisoning any sympathy for europe's muslim populations. While it hasn't gotten to the point of deportation yet, the old tolerance of muslim urban ghettoes has eroded and there are assimilatory pushes to ensure that they become more european, or at least jettison headgear. The fact that these pushes just generate unrest only gains more support for the right.
As is the trend for everywhere else, India is well to the right of OTL. India may be missing a few cities thanks to the kargil war, but it's rebuilt and is doing roughly as well as OTL. Indian troops frequently make the news due to their... rough conduct in the indian occupation zone in pakistan. The Daily mail newspaper in Britain is currently running a story about sensational claims of "thuggee sacrifices" and Fox news has even started running with it, since their story about the suicide of lady gaga is starting to get old.
THE REST OF THE WORLD
Following certain agreements made in 2001-3, Mexico has started to do better. President McCain offered Mexico economic assistance, labor mobility and exclusive free trade for a few hand-picked low wage industries in return for Mexican cooperation on security issues, environmental issues and prevention of third country illegals from sneaking in through Mexico. Presidente Fox quickly accepted. Mexico isn't first world, but is only a decade or so away from convergence with the lower first world.
Brazil is roughly as OTL but most of latin america outside of Brazil isn't doing so great. Uruguay, Argentina and Chile are roughly as OTL but the rest of latin america besides those four looks like it's going to have a troubled future.
Israel isn't even thinking about leaving the occupied territories and PM Lieberman is working on turning Israel into a panopticon. In order to further this goal, he has pumped tens of millions of dollars into university computer departments in the hopes of creating a native israeli cadre of hackers.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria are all occupied by the US and it's allies. There are now US special forces 'advisors' helping the shaky post-"Middle Eastern summer" new democracies in Libya, Iran, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan along with keeping the peace along the sudanese and Darfuri borders.
The Saudis are still repressive, but unlike OTL aren't in the business of state sponsorship of terror or even money laundering for terrorists anymore. Not even King Fuad wants to anger both the United States and People's Republic of china.
Much of the third world is of course screwed even worse than OTL thanks to the fact that the big powers are monopolizing the oil and other resources more than OTL to name a few reasons. Some say, with justification that the increased number of failed states will prove problematic. The fact that recent terror attacks have emanated from groups working in muslim west africa and ex-soviet central asia seems to back this up.
Unlike OTL, the big powers are clearly monopolizing the oil and other vital resources. This means lower prices in the US, Europe, India, Japan, China and those nations willing to work with the emerging G-12 consensus. The rest of the planet shall we say gets a reduced share of oil if they're lucky. This causes instability.
There is an emerging international consensus that states should have strong national security states. In fact, states which are allied such as the US and the European Union even have their national security organs doing extensive cooperation. There are more efforts to record all phone or net communications than OTL. More of the planet is like the current 2012 United Kingdom with cameras everywhere.
Space, materials science, medicine and certain aspects of biotechnology still cotninue to show visible advances. However, most other other pieces of science largely cease to do so as the research pipeline has largely dried up -- the force draft push of 1945-1991 is long over and the spinoffs from it havr all been explored. Electorates are willing to fund security and health, but most regard basic research as a risky and expensive luxury. This is most visible in military technology where research has largely ceased due to the great powers all already having the best weapons. Also, increasing percentages of what research end up behind governmental or corporate security walls for one reason or another.
Islamophobia is of course at a high worldwide in this troubled world.