The year ahead

As the year draws to a close, we’re subjected to another round of “year in review” stories and guesses of what we’ll see in the year ahead. And I’ll probably engage in some prognostication as we begin transitioning to our new roles at SkyWatchTV during the first quarter of 2015.

One of the big stories of the year nearly gone, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, is showing more staying power than many expected, since it dropped out of the public eye here in the U.S. before Thanksgiving. The conspiracy-minded see a link to President Obama’s appointment of Ron Klain to coordinate the federal response to the disease, which seems to have coincided with a shift in news coverage by the major media.

However, the virus is showing its staying power.  The number of dead in Africa is approaching 8,000, and the World Health Organization reports that the total number of cases now exceeds 20,000.

Yesterday, the U.K. confirmed its first case, health care volunteer Pauline Cafferkey.  Ms. Cafferkey returned to Glasgow, Scotland by way of Heathrow Airport in London, the busiest in the U.K.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on a time in the spring when experts in Guinea thought the outbreak was contained. Sadly, two Ebola cases just across the border in Sierra Leone were never brought to the attention of health officials there.  Since May, over 17,000 infections in Sierra Leone and Liberia are linked to those missed cases.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Ebola will be a fact of life in West Africa, and possibly elsewhere, in 2015.

The situation in the Middle East, as always, will be on the front burner. Another story to watch, less obvious but potentially significant: The Chinese economy is in transition from an investment-based pattern of growth to one driven by consumer spending. Experts suggest that economic reform is necessary to rebalance the economy without a contraction, and those policies are likely to face resistance from local governments and powerful families that have profited from the recent economic boom.

If China’s economy tanks, its size means all of us will probably feel some impact.

While I claim no gift of prophecy, it’s safe to say that 2015 will be another wild ride.

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