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Predictions for 2005
by The Washington Staff of The Scripps Howard News Service


January 01, 2005

Washington - Two Supreme Court vacancies touch off bitter fights on Capitol Hill ... a 41-cent stamp for first-class mail ... Osama remains at large ... Social Security reform stalls .... no al Qaeda attacks in the United States.

Those are the highlights of what our crystal ball sees ahead in 2005. Here are the details:

gif arrow The departure of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and another justice touches off a bitter battle in the Senate that will surpass the venomous 1987 defeat of Robert Bork. There will be a vicious filibuster that will defy GOP efforts to crack it, and Democrats will use the Supreme Court fights as a logjam to stop President Bush's legislative agenda.

gif arrow Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice finds her biggest headaches come from our so-called "allies" in Europe, who will increasingly forge an independent diplomacy for dealing with Iran, Russia, China and Africa.

Even Britain sets a policy different from that of the United States. Tony Blair's government falls apart, and the prime minister gambles on moving the election up from 2006, with disastrous results when he is deserted by his party's left wing.

gif arrowPresident Bush will find little comfort in his 55-seat GOP majority in the Senate, as maverick Republicans will derail his Social Security privatization plan and tax package. New restrictions on civil suits for medical fraud will pass, but doctors will pay a price in much lower general reimbursement rates under Medicare and Medicaid.

Expect community and general hospitals to close up shop, as reliance on new drugs and creative use of outpatient clinics reduce need for them.

gif arrowThere will be much hand-wringing over looming shortages of doctors to take care of retiring baby boomers.

gif arrowNASA will resume space shuttle flights by late summer or early fall. The campaign by astronomers to use one of the shuttle flights to save the Hubble telescope wins support in Congress, but it's going to be 2006 before the repair mission is launched.

Despite the constant shortage of supplies due to shuttle grounding, the International Space Station will continue to have a crew, but the shuttles will play a diminishing role in serving the station's needs.

The big development in 2005 will be the launching of more private ventures lofting both satellites and people into orbit, with space projects costing millions, rather than billions.

gif arrowSen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., will make it clear she's not running for president in '08.

gif arrowLifestyle and entertainment developments:

Jamie Foxx wins the best-actor Oscar for his depiction of Ray Charles. "The Aviator" wins as the best movie of 2004.

In the vast wasteland, "The Bachelor" runs its course. The same goes for "ER" and "The West Wing." Also heading for the exits: reality TV.

"The O.C." rules as popular teen angst drama on TV.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan becomes Hollywood's reigning starlet, Britney Spears finds a new role in motherhood and ditsy Jessica Simpson is forgotten.

Freed from house detention, home-style maven Martha Stewart fails to make a TV comeback.

Hot: Digital music, including MP3 players. Not hot: CDs.

gif arrowOn the sports pages:

Expect an all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl in February, when the Pittsburgh Steelers square off against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Breaking 60 years of futility, the Chicago Cubs win the National League pennant and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

The Major League Baseball players' union caves to public pressure, and agrees to a tougher steroid testing policy.

Tiger Woods returns to form, and wins one of the four major tournaments. But he won't regain his title as the No. 1 golfer in the world.

Despite being decimated by suspensions after a nasty brawl with Detroit Piston fans, the Indiana Pacers thumb a nose at critics and still make the playoffs.

Steve Spurrier's return to college football at South Carolina is mixed as he falls short of winning the SEC title, but upsets his former team, Florida, led by new coach Urban Meyer.

gif arrowFormer communist economies in China and Russia roar this year. But Chinese central planners are going to fret about inflation accompanying all the economic exuberance and take the first steps to stifle the growth. That can only be good news for what remains of America's textile manufacturers, battered by cheap Chinese imports.

gif arrowSevere drought conditions spread in Wyoming and Montana this summer. And a busier-than-average hurricane season is also in the cards for the Southeast.

gif arrowThe elusive Osama bin Laden will not be captured or killed this year.

gif arrow A series of elections will occur in Iraq, with minor disruptions. But the violence won't subside. Washington will pull nearly 20,000 troops out of Iraq during the year.

gif arrow The United States will not attack or otherwise go to war with any country this year, even though the nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea will cause no end of dyspepsia in Washington. The administration is particularly concerned that North Korea's careless rush to build more nuclear weapons could result in a deadly accident.

gif arrowOther global hot spots: Kosovo, Haiti, and breakaway Soviet territories such as Moldova and Abkhazia.

gif arrowThe Postal Rate Commission will OK a 4-cent increase in the 37-cent rate for first-class stamps.

And how did we do last year?

We were spot on about the Bush-Cheney ticket having electoral magic, and we forecast the Cabinet departures that followed. We were right on the mark, too, in seeing the impact gay marriage would have in the election. We told you there would be no terrorist attacks in the United States, and forecast the Fed would reverse course and begin ratcheting up interest rates in 2004. But we didn't expect Saddam Hussein to be captured so quickly, and we certainly didn't see John Kerry's winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

Happy New Year.


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service...


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