12 Stories to Watch in 2013

Article excerpt

From India to a[umlaut]Lebanon to Hollywood, a[umlaut]our writers and a[umlaut]editors name the stories you're likely a[umlaut]to be hearing a[umlaut]about THIS year.

1

women's rights in india

BY TUNKU VARADARAJAN

"Spring" is a metaphor that lost its luster last year in the Arab world. But in India--that vast, complex, democratic country to the east of Syria's badlands and Egypt's seething streets--the word is starting to be uttered with increasing fervor. A gang rape of indescribable vileness has stirred a movement for social and political change that could, in 2013, prove unstoppable.

India's democracy has long been an impressive and, in many ways, improbable phenomenon: it functions in a land of a billion people who speak 20-odd languages, worship an array of increasingly incompatible gods, and divide themselves incurably by caste and region. And yet it votes, and elects governments, year after year--almost always peacefully.

Notwithstanding the current stagnation, democracy has delivered breakneck economic growth in recent years, enriching and empowering citizens in equal measure. Yet socially, India is a country with monstrous problems, none more so than its treatment of women. The rape in December, which took place in a moving bus on the streets of New Delhi, was one of thousands that occurred in India last year, and those would merely be the ones that were accounted for officially. But its brazenness, its bestiality, and the fact that the victim died--to national shame--in a hospital in Singapore, to which she'd been flown for life-saving attention, has pushed a nation over the edge. India's urban youth, traditionally indifferent to politics (largely out of a cynicism spawned by a perfectly comprehensible contempt for India's political class), has been transformed in weeks into a juggernaut of political passion. As a respected Indian commentator wrote, "The people are changing and the political class isn't. This mismatch will not be unending. Sooner, rather than later, the yearnings of an assertive India will find political expression." Expect an "Indian Spring" this year.

2

fracking

BY DANIEL GROSS

Those wondering where the next jolt of stimulus for the slow-growing U.S. economy will come from shouldn't look to Washington and public dollars. Instead, they should look to the heartland and America's growing energy surplus.

Fracking has boosted the production of natural gas (up nearly a quarter in the past five years) and oil. The U.S. produced more petroleum in 2012 than in any year since 1998. But that's just the beginning. The Department of Energy projects that U.S. production will rise another 10 percent to 10.6 million barrels per day by the end of 2013--with a great deal of the fuel to be produced in North Dakota, Montana, and Texas. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments are in the, um, pipeline, from all over the world, to harness, transport, and use these hydrocarbons. Among the beneficiaries are small startups that refit pickup trucks to run on natural gas in Kentucky, a multibillion-dollar terminal that will allow for the export of natural gas in Louisiana, and a huge new fertilizer plant in Iowa that runs on natural gas. AECOM Technology Corp. believes companies will spend $45 billion on energy transportation infrastructure in 2013 alone--from oil-toting railcars to pipelines.

Meanwhile, coal, loathed by environmentalists and increasingly displaced by natural gas at home, is growing in popularity around the world. That should create more jobs for shippers and dockworkers on both coasts. Throw in lower electricity, heating-oil, and gasoline costs, and now energy--whose high price was previously a drag on the U.S. economy--is poised to act as an extra burner.

3

drones

BY DANIEL KLAIDMAN

Liberals and civil libertarians hoping that 2013 would be the year Barack Obama finally shuts down Guantanamo shouldn't hold their breath. …