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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Ravi Agrawal for CNN
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(CNN) -- Journalists are good at reporting what's happened, not so good at predicting what is going to happen. But even though the future is inherently unpredictable, papers around the world are not holding back: Let's a take at how some of them are forecasting the world in 2007.

In a special feature on the world in 2007, The Economist asks Harvard historian Niall Ferguson to look at how well the paper has predicted the future -- in the past. Ferguson found that one of the most consistent mistakes has been to predict the fall of Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"Whether or not Fidel survives 2007, it will be a year of change at the top. Among the safe predictions for the year ahead is that Britain will get a new prime minister after 10 years of Tony Blair, and that France will elect a new president after a dozen years of Jacques Chirac.

"Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has only recently taken over. Canada's Stephen Harper, Germany's Angela Merkel and Italy's Romano Prodi all came to office in the past year or so. Which leads to a surprising fact: By the summer of 2007 George Bush will be the most experienced leader around the G7 table.

"A fact that reminds us once again of the perils of prediction, for 'The World in 2000' could not foresee the saga of the hanging chads here in Broward County."

The last year has seen violence and chaos in the Middle East, and Soumaya Ghannoushi writes in The Guardian that 2007 will be no different.

"Today, as 2007 dawns, the 'New American Century' is more illusion than reality. But more so is Condoleezza Rice's promise of constructive chaos in the Middle East. From Baghdad to Gaza and Beirut, the region is sliding further towards chaos, and chaos of the deconstructive type. Iraq's 'democratic moment' gave birth to a government of thugs, thieves, militias and sectarians.

"2007 will be a year of great upheaval, a year of unrest, uncertainty and tragedy, but also the year of the retreat of American power in the region. Such is the curse of the Middle East. Before Bush, it had struck Eden. After Suez, the sun finally set over the empire where the sun never sets. And with Iraq, the 'American century' has been strangled in the cradle."

On a lighter note, here's what might carry some weight in 2007: Fashion.

Robin Givhan writes in The Washington Post that fashion is an industry that is built on obsolescence -- which means that much that was touted in 2006 will be forgotten in 2007.

"There will be no need to fret about leggings, wide belts, sweater coats and the various expensive handbags -- the Chloe Edith, Chanel's Coco Cabas -- that once seemed so essential. The industry will be on to something else ... It's unlikely that designers will start sending size 8 models down the catwalk. But the fretfulness over reed-thin models is part of a larger, reinvigorated debate over the impact the fashion industry has on how women are perceived by others and themselves."

The Times of India says despite what we hear from the purveyors of doom and gloom, we have some reason to cheer in 2007.

"If one takes a critical human development indicator such as life expectancy, the gap between rich and poor nations has declined from 25 years in the 1950s to 12.2 years now. Indians born today can expect to live 64 years, as opposed to 39 years for those born then. For low-income countries infant deaths per 1,000 live births reflect a secular decline from 159 in 1960 to 77 in 1999. Sub-Saharan Africa, at the bottom of the human development heap, also shows a similar decline. In all cases the gap with rich nations is closing. Another study has shown that the proportion of the world's population living below $1 a day, adjusted for inflation, shrank from 63 per cent in 1950 to 35 per cent in 1980 to 12 per cent in 1999. Clearly some things are going right with the world."

Lebanon's Daily Times says while from the last year it may seem Israelis are "winning the Palestinian-Israeli war," this may be a mistaken assessment in 2007. Rami Khouri writes that seven events in the past five months lend credence to the view that Israel is losing its dominance over the Arab world.

"History will clarify if these events indeed signify a change in the military or political balance of power in Arab-Israeli confrontations. We must hope for now that the trend these events signify will open the eyes and brains of Arab and Israeli leaders who have relied mainly on military force to achieve their goals, and instead propel them toward negotiations as a more effective and humane route to achieving their rights, and living a normal life in peace, security and mutual recognition."

And The New York Times, a paper that we have covered extensively in this section of The Briefing Room, takes a philosophical look at the start of 2007.

"New Year's Day is the simplest holiday in the calendar, a Champagne cork of a day after all the effervescence of the evening before. There is no civic agenda, no liturgical content, only the sense of something ended, something begun. It is a good day to clean the ashes out of the wood stove, to consider the possibilities of next summer's garden, to wonder how many weeks into the new year you will be before you marvel at how quickly 2007 is going. 'This will be the year ...,' you find yourself thinking, but before you can finish the thought you remember what all the previous years have taught you -- that there's just no telling."


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Supporters of Fidel Castro in Havana, Cuba.

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