what's the next Big Story? As much as the media has learned from
September 11, we believe media decision makers haven't internalized
the most important lesson of all - prioritizing what really matters
to the American public. No better example can be made than the Condit-Levy
case. When poor Ms. Levy's body was found in late May, threats
of nuclear attack were once again pushed off the front pages and screens
of American media for 'live' reports from the scene.
Following are our prognostications of what the next Big Story might
For the last few years, China has undoubtedly been booming with some
of the world's fastest economic development and a huge inflow of foreign
capital - more than $10 billion in direct and contracted investment
in January 2002 alone.
lets priests marry
Though sexual abuse is a horrific crime, some liberal elements
within the church see it as an opportunity for reform.
For instance, attention is now turning to the elimination of
celibacy as a requirement for priesthood, with the hopes that
it will draw more people into the dwindling echelons of the church.
Since Pope Paul VI upheld celibacy as the church's "brilliant
jewel" in a 1967 writing, the number of priests in the United
States has dropped from 60,000 to 40,000. With church coffers
running low, the Vatican will be forced to reconsider its celibacy
policy to prevent its financial demise.
Many states are expected to pass laws allowing suits naming both
the Vatican and the pope. Financial settlements that juries awarded
to abuse victims coupled with dwindling donations from churchgoers
will drive the church into the red.
In addition, California will be the first state to remove the
statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes, opening up the
courts for even more litigation.
According to an April 5 New York Times article, lawyers had collected
the names of 1,200 priests (from a pool of 46,000) accused of
sex crimes against minors. Of the named, only about 120 had been
charged with a crime, and fewer than 80 served time in prison.
- Marc Johnson
But all is not well in the Far East. Analysts question whether an economy
can really grow quickly under a Marxist dictatorship. Also, much of
China's growth depends on exports, which depend on a strong American
dollar and economic stability in Asia - two forces that seem almost
guaranteed not to last. Finally, much of China's employment and infrastructure
are provided by struggling state-owned industries, which have been propped
up with government subsidies and - far worse - bad loans by
the country's four teetering and corrupt big banks. The banks and state
are mired in debts believed to be equivalent to nearly 100 percent of
the country's gross domestic product.
The collapse of a state-owned business on a scale as large as Enron
would disrupt the fragile prosperity that China has convinced many of
the world's largest companies and governments is strong and sustainable.
Unlike the United States and other mature western economies, China does
not have the infrastructure to prevent business failures from spreading
like wildfire across all sectors of the economy. China learned some
lessons from the Asian currency crisis of the late 1990s, but a major
shock to the economy could very easily put China flat on its back.
Unless current prosperous conditions continue indefinitely, the Chinese
economy seems destined to fall. That would be bad news for the rest
of Asia, worse news for the Chinese relationship with the United States
and the west, and far worse news for hundreds of millions of workers
barely subsisting in this Giant Tiger. The collapse of China? A Very
Big Story indeed.
- Eric Meyerson
Ever since the Soviet Union dissolved in the 1990s, U.S. and international
oil companies have connived to build a gas and oil pipeline from the
Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean. But this new silk road has been marred
by chronically volatile Afghanistan. Many ask whether the estimated
Caspian oil reserves would really reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern
oil, and some in the international press theorize that Afghanistan is
simply a reprise of the Gulf War.
But there are multiple motivations why a pipeline should and will go
through Afghanistan. The most important reason is that the pipeline
could lay the foundation for internal stability in the wartorn country
by giving it desperately needed income and infrastructure.
But no matter how prosperous, any big oil deal could promote regional
conflict. If the United States tries to isolate Iran from South and
Central Asia and Russia doesn't follow suit, the area could erupt.
As in the Gulf War, the United States can pursue a foreign policy based
solely on energy interests. But how this administration develops the
pipeline will affect the South and Central Asian economies as well as
America's long-term security and moral authority.
So why is this the next Big Story?
Once the war on terrorism in Afghanistan is completed to the satisfaction
of the Bush administration, the United States will initiate quiet discussions
with the U.S.-backed Afghanistan (as they did with Saudi Arabia and
Kuwait after the Gulf War), about how America would like to be compensated
for stabilizing the fledgling government. This discussion could lead
to a hasty agreement that serves the interests of large American oil
companies - but at the expense of the Afghani people and the environment.
The result? America's war on terrorism loses its moral authority,
and we create another breeding ground for another September 11.
- Chris Raphael