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2012 News Predictions: The Stories Of Tomorrow!

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MAYAN CALENDAR
Part of a calendar used by Maya priests, depicting gods and symbolic creatures. | CP

After a year of near-nuclear holocausts, tyrant-topplings across the Middle East and Egyptian deities popping up in testicular tumours, we're all asking the same question.

Anything else? Surely, that's all the news there could possibly be. Can we go home now?

But news is funny in a self-perpetuating sort of way.

The daily barrage of newspaper headlines often give the impression that the news is a pitter-patter of isolated events -- surprising us daily with a flourish of drama that no one could have seen coming.

And sometimes, the news really is that random.

Who could have foreseen, for instance, the ravages of Slave Lake, Alberta -- a forest fire in May that reduced a third of the town to rubble, leaving some 2,000 people homeless.

And who called the Japanese tsunami, along with the near-nuclear holocaust that attended it? A geologist would have had to keep a mighty close ear to the ground to hear the tectonic plates shift and thrust against each other under in the north Pacific.

But follow the news long enough and it doesn't take a psychic to see a certain interconnectedness.

A sterling example is the chain of events that led from a Tunisian fruit vendor's wounded pride to the fall and abject humiliation of Muammar Gadaffi in Libya.

With that in mind, these are the top stories of tomorrow -- so accurate that, if you're inclined, you really could take a holiday from the news in 2012.

1. The Arab Hangover Will Be Brutal

It's been a monumental year in the Arab world, as dictators dropped like dominoes from Tunisia to Egypt to well, Libya. But it was the latter that brought jubilation among Western observers (safely enshrined behind computer screens) to a hard stop.

Sometimes, waking up in Libya isn't always a good thing. Muammar Gaddafi didn't hold onto absolute power over the north African state for nearly 42 years by falling sway to every popular notion that should seize the popular mindset.

So in February, when protests erupted in Tripoli, he went iron-fist on his people, even calling in an air strike on the capital. Over the months that followed atrocities piled high on either side.

Maybe there was something in the man's final words. Nabbed outside his hometown in Sirte, the veteran dictator reportedly pleaded, 'Don't kill me, my sons'. Of course, they did. There was too much blood under that bridge already. But the fact that Gaddafi styled himself a parental figure, as dictators are known to do, shouldn't be overlooked.

As the rage settles, we're starting to see an unbridled Libya -- one that got caught up in its own revenge-lust and snapped the neck of its perceived oppressor (among other things) only to find itself system-less. Without order or the apparatus to rebuild itself, Libya is veering towards more violent fragmentation as tribes, ethnicities and interest groups fall against each other. What will emerge from the new Libya?

For better or worse, we'll see it this year.

And while we're at it, we'll hear from the rest of the Awakened -- Tunisia, and especially Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak's downfall has unhinged the military -- with terrifying results. It may not be going too far out on a limb to suggest that these terrible despots just might be missed some day.

2.Paging Mr. Assad

And the next candidate for an 'Arab Awakening?'

Would a Mr. Bashar al-Assad step up to the stage? That's right, the Syrian president is well on his way to being Gaddafi'd in 2012. Thrust into the political spotlight in 2000, the trained opthamologist has shown a real knack for old-school totalitarianism. While Gaddafi would occasionally betray a doddering kind of softness in his old age, Assad has proven a real student of popular repression. Snuffing out entire villages, bringing tanks to bear against unarmed protesters, Assad appears to be playing the numbers game here -- as in, you can't have a protest if there aren't any people.

To make things worse, Syrians are getting no help from the rest of the world. Where NATO air support proved a decisive advantage for rebels in Libya, the Syrian people find themselves very much on their own.

As a result, this Arab domino will be the toughest to topple, and most certainly accompanied by an unprecedented bloodbath.

But Assad's Macbeth is most certainly doomed.

Count on him to be spotted, filthy and cowering, in some Syrian ditch trying to convince a rag-tag crew of raging rebels that he's their daddy.

3.North Korea Will Keep On Keeping On

In the hours following the death of North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-il, all eyes were on the Korean People's Army. Foreign powers scanned satellite imagery, analysing every tic of troop movement. Was that a missile silo opening? Or a barn door? It was as if the country, in its infinite grieving, would attack the world.

Nonsense. North Korea, apparently, likes its suicide slow. Besides, there was a tightly choreographed funeral featuring rapturous praise and hysterical weeping to attend.

While political dominoes may fall across the Middle East, perhaps even tipping a heavyweight over in Vladimir Putin's Russia, don't expect much from December's 'Supreme Leader' swap. The new guy, Kim Jong-un is inheriting a fiefdom that's been on cruise control to oblivion for decades.

Nevermind that the former 'Dear Leader' cost his country dearly -- international alienation and sanctions have resulted in a slow-burning disaster for desperately malnourished North Koreans.

Despite that chronic need, North Korea doesn't seem to want much. You see, for all his apparent faults, Kim Jong-il has done one thing exceptionally well -- keeping expectations critically low for his people.

Kim Jong-un, who is believed to be in his late 20s (yes, that's how good the state is in locking down information) can expect a good, long run of selling arms to dubious foreign states, rattling the occasional missile at South Korea, and watching his people dance with tears in their eyes.

And he can thank Dear Daddy for that.

4. The Keystone XL Pipeline Is Toast

Give it up for protesters in 2011. Sure the deal to funnel crude oil and bitumen from the Athabasca Oil Sands to thirsty maws in the U.S. is still alive, but it's the battered shell of its former slick self.

The deal was touted back in February 2005 by TransCanada Corporation as a win-win for both the Canadian and American economies and would spread Canada's natural abundance to the States for fuel and profit.

Since then, the project has been assailed by lawsuits from not-at-all pleased American oil refineries and those pesky environmentalists, who claim the pipeline would have disastrous consequences on every ecosystem it punctures.

U.S. President Barack Obama was doubtless looking to cool things off a bit when he posponed a decision until 2013 -- sidestepping what has become an all-too vigorous public debate over the project. The move also conveniently swept all that untidy public vitriol off the table until the U.S. elections were safely behind him.

Well, not so fast. On November 30, crafty Republicans in the Senate introduced legislation that would force Obama to make a call on the pipeline within 60 days. Whether it's a yay or a nay, there's no denying the sky-high stakes no matter what side of the pipeline you're on.

The U.S. guzzles some 15 million barrels of oil every day -- most of that of the imported vintage. Indeed, Keystone XL is expected to bring about 1.1 million barrels to the table. And with few indications of any profound shift in oil reliance in sight, that southern slurp is only going to get bigger. Energy is one thing, but pipeline proponents may make their strongest case when they talk about jobs.

Earlier this month, TransCanada CEO Russ Girling decried the "tragic" delays, while proclaiming the benefits to Postmedia News.

"We haven't been able to put 20,000 people to work, and we haven't been able to bring those benefits to those communities (along the pipeline route)," he said.

A Cornell University study has since adjusted those figure to account for reality. But there's certainly some promise of jobs in troubled times.

For its part, TransCanada's resolve is unshaken, though certainly stirred.

"It is too important to the U.S. economy and its national interest," the company explains on its website. "As well, Keystone XL remains the best option for producers to supply crude oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries."

But it says right here, it's not going to happen.

This pipeline has already burst. Public opinion, galvanized by the likes of Daryl Hannah and Julia Louis Dreyfus and the usual scenes of police over-responding to protesters has made this pipeline a political deathwish. No one will touch it. And if Obama is pushed to make a decision on it before 2013, expect the whole project to be deemed 'not in the national interest'.

Methinks, they protested too much.

5. We're All Going To Die

In case you missed it, we tried predicting the news last year. And you know what? It turned out pretty, almost just about practically dead on. But we'll also admit that those forecasts didn't exactly leave any limbs dangling, basically taking current events and extending them into the new year. We played the safe bet. This year, our final prediction for 2012 is a real barn-burner.

In fact, we're prepared to take a hit on a few of the above predictions for this gem -- because on December 21, 2012, we'll all be rather dead.

Cause of death? A reversal in the earth's magnetic fields. Or a mass bombardment from asteroids. Maybe gamma rays. Or--- whatever. Does it really matter? Who's going to be around for the post-mortem anyway?

Sure, it's been done before. Many, many times, actually. But there's always been a fatal flaw in the calculations. Take, for instance, the
plottings of Johan Jacob Zimmerman in the late 17th Century. He worked out a complex formula, drawing from both theology AND astronomy to come up with his Doomsday date -- 1694. Zimmerman gathered some pilgrims and made plans to sail for America, where he was convinced Jesus would be landing. Air-tight reasoning so far, right?

But Zimmerman managed to die in February of that year -- the same day the pilgrims were scheduled to begin their voyage. Luckily, another true believer, Johannes Kelpius was able to lead the expedition to the New World. Unluckily, Jesus didn't show. The world kept on ticking.

It goes without saying that the pilgrims were bitterly disappointed. But, honestly, they should have seen it coming. Jesus doesn't do astronomy. Remember how hard the Catholic Church came down on Galileo?

Consider instead, the cold logic of the Mayan doomsday forecast. One day in the 5th Century BCE, the sky god Itzamna swooped down from the heavens to hand deliver a calendar. When the days on that time-keeper, called the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, run out, so too, do our own.

And that, dear readers, is when the news will finally take a holiday.

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