Some predictions for the year ahead

Once again, it's time for seers, sages and oracles to share their predictive powers with those mere mortals floundering about from event to event without a clue as to what the heavens have in store for the coming 365 days. Not that I'm a seer, sage or oracle; I simply have an old orb handed down for generations from matriarch to future matriarch in my long line of orb-reading relatives.

Rumor has it that one or two may have been burned alive several centuries ago when the Church, in its infallible wisdom, decided to rid Europe of those pesky women whose practices threatened the pope and his male minions. But I digress; back to what's uppermost on your mind: What will we witness in 2005?

Although my lack of divination ability is surely an embarrassment to the wise women who preceded me, my confidence never waivers, and this year I'm sure I'll get it right.

As some dear readers may recall--and despite my humiliating prediction record--the orb did manage to get one thing sorta correct: Patty Weiss did "retire." OK, maybe willingly wasn't part of the deal, but you can be sure that before too long, we won't be seeing Patty anchor any broadcast.

Instead, she will found an organization dedicated to keeping aging female newscasters on the air. Run by a phalanx of tough lawyers working pro bono, the group will have one focus: suing the pants off pricks who fire women after years of loyal service.

Heralded as Tucson's salvation, the Rio Nuevo project will find itself the beneficiary of an unexpected influx of money when Rupert Murdoch, following the demise of both the Citizen and the Star, decides to add the Old Pueblo to his media empire. So in addition to chichi shops, posh restaurants and the ponderous presence of the University of Arizona, a four-story newspaper plant will be built on the banks of the Santa Cruz.

The paper, under the unimaginative flag, Tucson Sun, will be modeled after the New York Post and, following an initial rumble of discontent from the foothills crowd, will enjoy soaring subscription rates and circulation numbers defying the new media's mantra: "Nobody reads newspapers anymore."

Responding to Murdoch's carpetbagger strategy, Wick Communications will senses the need for a daily geared to readers capable of comprehending polysyllabic words. Wick challenges the odds, as well as a cadre of naysayers, by going head-to-head with Murdoch's monopoly and launches a vibrant daily staffed with a minimum of three investigative reporters. With Jim Nintzel and Emil Franzi as lead political reporters, Pima County politics will be forever altered.

Witnessing the exciting changes in the Old Pueblo's media show, and inspired by a spirit of "anything's possible," a group of disgruntled parents--concerned about the nutritional value of lunches served at Tucson Unified School District cafeterias--mounts a successful campaign requiring the district to make real food available to their children rather than the chemically laden, genetically modified, flavor-enhanced, hormone-drenched, all-but-artificial swill currently on the menu. As a result, and over the objections of dead-flesh eaters, Govinda's restaurant becomes the primary supplier for all TUSD cafeterias, and the district makes national news as it becomes the first school district in the country to go vegetarian.

In a striking departure from their usual laid back attitude of che sera sera, a significant number of Tucsonans awaken from their electronically induced stupor and conclude that despite the dribble published in the Star before it folded, the leveraged buyout of a public utility such as TEPCO is a really bad idea. In living rooms across the city, citizens form ad hoc action committees designed to thwart the plans of the corporate greedheads behind the buyout plans and embark on a vigorous campaign to make certain the Arizona Corporation Commission does not change its decision.

By now, resigned to billboards adding to the increasingly ugly and generic city landscape, desert denizens are stunned one morning during their commute to work to discover all billboards mysteriously vanished. In their place: nothing but a few more precious places to glimpse the sky.

Further from home, Julia Roberts decides she'd like to live the rest of her life with lips approximating normal. After elective surgery, her box office appeal plummets, and she is forced into early retirement.

Madonna concludes her embrace of all things Kabbalistic is a tad too mentally taxing and opts for a different hobby. At a press conference attended by stenographers pretending to be journalists, she divulges her latest diversion: restoring antiques and selling them on eBay.

Her announcement coincides with Donald Rumsfeld's shocking epiphany. The secretary of defense awakens on the fateful Ides of March after a night of troubled sleep; realizes he has neither the skill nor savvy to be secretary; publicly acknowledges that invading Iraq was a mistake; then promptly resigns. He is last seen leaving Washington wearing a hair shirt and flaying himself with a leather whip en route to a monastery for penitents.

With Rumsfeld's departure, 2005 may just turn out a fine year indeed.

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