Along the Tracks

Thursday, April 11, 2002
 

Time Machine, Part 2


Maybe it’s just the sunshine and warm temps, but I’m feeling a lot more optimistic today than I was when I wrote my first look at five years in the future. So let’s warm up the crystal ball one more time and consider these news reports from 2007:

  • Israel - Religious leaders from three faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - joined in a special prayer service at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem today, calling for an end to religious persecution and greater dialog between the faiths. The leaders strode from the Wailing Wall around the historic site of the Jewish Temple then up to the al Aqsa Mosque, joined by hundreds of fellow worshippers carrying Torahs, Korans and Bibles. In other news, the Labor Party announced it had enough commitments from minor parties to form a coalition government. The broad governing coalition is expected to focus on education and investment programs for recent immigrants and Arab-Israelis.
  • Palestine - The Palestinian president urged Parliament to pass a new trade agreement with Israel and the United States. The agreement would end all tariffs between the three nations and spur investment in the rapidly growing economy of Palestine, she said. Meanwhile, the joint Palestine-Israeli refugee resettlement effort achieved the 2 million mark this month. Directors of the endeavor said requests for repatriation have plummeted this year, indicating the goal of returning or compensating all Palestinian refugees is largely completed.
  • Iraq - Iraq’s oil exports reached another new record last month as the Al Daiobi field went online. The combination of increased oil revenues and rapidly increasing industrial production led to predictions of economic growth rates approaching 20% again this year. The capital of Baghdad is in the midst of a flurry of building, painting and cleaning in preparation for the arrival of leaders from the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, India, Canada, Australia and South Korea for a summit on investment, free markets and democracy.
  • Iran - The newly-elected president spoke to parliament in a nationally-televised broadcast to thunderous applause and ovations, calling his country’s return to freedom and democracy “the very breath of Allah.” In his speech, he called for amnesty for former government officials and religious leaders who were not directly implicated in past crimes of violence or theft in office. “The failure of their distorted ideas and the disgrace which follows should be punishment enough,” he stated. The president also announced plans to work with United States military and intelligence experts to break up any terrorist cells which may remain in Iran.
  • Afghanistan - The body of King Shah was laid to rest in a small plot outside Kabul today, as representatives from around the world paid their respects to the monarch. Although wielding no official power, Shah’s presence was credited with uniting the fractious ethnic groups in the country during the months following the overthrow of the Taliban, helping to set the stage for what even cynics admit is a real success story in the reconstruction of this formerly war-torn nation. In other news, the minister of agriculture announced spring planting is well underway and, despite a dry winter and limited snowpack in the mountains, he is standing by his department’s prediction that the country will achieve self-sufficiency in food production this year.
  • Egypt - The president warned Muammar Qaddafi not to use unrest in Libya as an excuse to cause trouble along Egypt’s western border, even as popular protests against the Libyan dictator grew stronger. The Egyptian president added a call for calm among Libya’s masses, saying “freedom is at the doorstep, but can only enter by peace.” At the Middle East conference in Cairo, representatives agreed to a basic framework for economic modernization and investment in poorer member states and accepted offers of technical assistance from Europe and the United States.
  • Arabia - Saudi family leader Abdullah signed his name to a scathing letter printed in the Riyadh daily newspaper, calling his family’s eviction from power “criminal” and proceedings to recoup wealth the Saud family had skimmed from the country’s coffers for decades “banditry.” In a sometimes raucous session, members of parliament officially approved the prime minister’s court actions calling for the return of $145 billion dollars from Saudi accounts to the national treasury. Some royalist members were unhappy with the treatment of “a family which has served this nation so well,” why others felt the former “crown prince” should stand trial and all of the family’s holdings should be confiscated by parliamentary action. Meanwhile, the new pilgrim’s complex near Mecca was given an official opening date of January 1, 2008. The huge project - comparable to the construction of an entire large city - will provide housing, food, transportation and other necessities to an estimated 50 million Muslim pilgrims each year. The holding company, created by the Arabian government, will be the largest single employer in the Middle East.
  • United States - At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, President George W. Bush met with soldiers returning from duty in Iraq and Syria, thanking them for “protecting the freedom we hold dear, and bringing freedom to people on the other side of the world.” In answer to reporters, Bush said the war “is largely over, but the need for vigilance remains.” He pointed to instability in Libya and Sudan as areas of concern, but said the world community has the few nations which still pose a danger “largely isolated,” and he believed popular rebellion inside those countries would eventually end the threats. “Even so, we’re watching,” he added. In another line of questioning, Bush said he is “intrigued” by the number of current and former administration officials who are testing the waters for a presidential bid next year. He added that he will leave the choice up to “Republican Party members as a whole” - but he does have fundraisers scheduled this month for both his brother Jeb Bush and for Vice President Condi Rice.

    A lot better world than the one I contemplated last week, eh? Just as certainly as last week’s dark future is a real threat, the world above is a real possibility, well within our grasp - and one we should not allow to fall by the wayside.


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