A Look Ahead To 2001

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The past year produced an unimaginably close presidential election, a diplomatic tug-of-war over a 6-year-old Cuban boy, a triumph for democracy in Yugoslavia and more setbacks for Middle East peace. Here is a sampling of major developments to look for in the coming year:

DOMESTIC:

The new, narrowly divided Congress, with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and a slim GOP lead in the House, will be sworn in on Jan. 3. George W. Bush will be sworn in as president Jan. 20, faced with the daunting task of governing after the most closely contested election in more than a century.

In late April, top government bank and financial officials from around the world gather for the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Last year, the two organizations were targeted by protesters.

Two racially charged murder trials are expected in Pittsburgh. One defendant is Ronald Taylor, a black man accused of killing three men during a rampage. Police said they found writings in Taylor's apartment expressing hatred for whites and other groups. The other defendant is Richard Baumhammers, a white man accused of killing five people in a racially motivated shooting spree.

Regional units of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will vote on whether to ratify an amendment to ban ceremonies for same-sex couples that was narrowly approved by the national assembly last June. Liberals are expected to seek repeal of the church's ban on actively homosexual clergy and lay officers at the 2001 assembly June 9-13 in Louisville, Ky. The issue will continue to roil the Episcopal Church and United Methodist Church as well.

INTERNATIONAL:

In Israel, the new year dawns ominously for Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has called early elections for February. His best chance for political survival would be to forge that elusive peace deal with the Palestinians, then bring it to conflict-weary Israeli voters. However, the violence that exploded at the end of September shows no signs of abating, and peace talks seem very far away.

In Mexico, President Vicente Fox is opening his six-year term with a push to eradicate corruption, overhaul the police, end the rebel conflict in Chiapas and rev up the economy. It won't be easy: Congress is fragmented, with no party holding a majority. The Institutional Revolutionary Party, ousted from the presidency for the first time in 71 years, holds the largest number of seats.

BUSINESS:

One of the biggest questions of 2001 is just how soft, or hard, the cooling U.S. economy will "land." Will the Federal Reserve's efforts to slow down the economy and keep inflation in check succeed, or is recession ahead? Afer years of rising corporate profits, Wall Street spent much of last year nervous and pessimistic, particularly about high-technology businesses that once seemed strong enough to carry the economy through any troubles.

Some of the biggest companies are expected to come together, or come apart, in 2001. Federal regulators were having their say in AOL and Time Warner's efforts to merge, a plan that had some other media and Internet companies worried about getting unfairly shut out of markets. Microsoft, meanwhile, wants the courts to overturn a judge's order that it be split in two.

The new year is expected to be a do-or-die period for many once-hot Internet companies, from search engine/portal sites like Altavista to e-shopping centers like Amazon.com. Their high-flying days, when investors threw money at enterprises with no profits and uncertain futures, crashed in the so-called dot-com shakeout of 2000. New financing is now in much shorter supply, but competition isn't: the biggest brick-and-mortar companies, from Wal-Mart to GM, are moving onto the Web in a big way and presenting a major challenge.

SPORTS:

Baseball's collective bargaining agreement is set to expire Oct. 31, and all signs point to a management lockout starting the following day in an effort to gain restraints against salaries and decrease disparity between the large-and small-market teams. It would be baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972.

In golf, the impact of Tiger Woods will be clearly defined when the PGA Tour negotiates a new four-year television contract. The last contract was signed in the months after Woods won the 1997 Masters, a $500 million deal that led to a 40 percent increase in prize money. From a competition standpoint, Europe is still seething over the way the United States behaved in their great Ryder Cup comeback. The matches are played in England this time.


© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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