2000 is only days old, and already Tank Town is awash in smart thoughts and prescient predictions. Here's a look at more of the Big Ideas that local thinkers say will be important in the years to come:

* "Now that Internet traffic has surpassed voice traffic on the nation's telecom network, telecom taxes have become de facto taxes on the Internet. With rates averaging over 18 percent, the Internet--far from being undertaxed--is actually paying more than its share. Expect a serious effort to repeal the 3 percent federal excise tax on telecommunications, and the first signs of a state and local telecom tax revolt that will rival the 'Prop. 13' movement of the '70s and '80s." -- Jeff Eisenach, president, Progress and Freedom Foundation.

* "Growing cooperation among China, Russia and India to contain U.S. global power and influence. That cooperation is not yet at the stage of a full-blown alliance, but it is an increasingly evident entente. The existence of a Moscow-Beijing axis is visible enough that even the dim bulbs in the U.S. State Department finally seem to be paying attention. (Some of us at Cato were warning about the mounting Russian-PRC strategic cooperation and its anti-U.S. focus three years ago.) The less obvious but equally significant development, though, is the surprising rapprochement between India and China--the start of which just happened to begin around the same time as the U.S.-led crusade got underway in the Balkans this past spring." -- Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president, defense and foreign policy studies, Cato Institute.

* "Suburban sprawl will continue to dominate local and regional politics in many parts of the country. The response to sprawl will illustrate two major national trends: the growing significance of state legislatures in setting the domestic agenda and the blending of issues (e.g., traffic congestion, urban reinvestment, farm preservation, land conservation, environmental protection) that have generally been kept separate and distinct." -- Bruce Katz, director, Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, Brookings Institution.

* "The natural full human lifespan of about 120 years will be reached by more and more people; then that lifespan itself will be extended. The effects on society of all these chipper geezers will be profound and can only be guessed at, though one thing is for certain: The current Social Security system is already dead. It just doesn't know it yet." -- Michael Fumento, senior fellow, Hudson Institute.

* "The 'Battle After Seattle' will be fought over permanent U.S. trade relations with China. If U.S. political leaders classify trade as a 'third rail,' they may duck the China vote in 2000. Seeing three U.S. trade defeats in a row (counting fast track in 1997, along with Seattle and China), the rest of the world might well conclude that the United States has abdicated its postwar role as trade champion. Europe, and even Japan, might pick up the leader's baton, and charge with their own regional arrangements." -- Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow, Institute for International Economics.

GREEK TO REPORTERS? It can be hard to be holy amongst the heathens of the Fourth Estate.

David Aikman, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and free-lance writer, knows. In mid-1998, the longtime Time magazine reporter founded a loose-knit, international group of Christians working in the media called Gegrapha (Greek for "I have written") to provide fellowship. The group held its first conference last year in England, and will hold a smaller one in Malaysia in April. There's also a monthly breakfast meeting here in Washington as well as a group starting in New York and perhaps Chicago.

"Christian journalists often feel lonely. They feel often their editors don't understand them, or in some cases are even a little suspicious of them," said Aikman. "They also find sometimes the churches they go to don't like journalists. They're caught between a rock and a hard place."

Aikman doesn't agree with those who say reporters' tendency to agnosticism or atheism affects their product.

"If you fired every single journalist in America and you replaced all of them with right-wing Christians, if they were halfway truthful to the business of journalism, you would end up with substantially the same kind of reporting," said Aikman.

NEW FOR THE NEW YEAR: Let the administration exodus begin. The Center for Strategic and International Studies is one of the first to benefit, bringing on Steve Morrison as the new director of its Africa program from his current job handling African affairs on the secretary of state's policy planning staff. Morrison, who is an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has also worked for USAID and the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa.

CSIS also is welcoming Sherman Katz to its Scholl Chair in International Business. Katz comes from the law firm of Kelley, Drye & Warren, where he was chairman of the international trade and investment practice group. Among Katz's honors: He was knighted by the Kingdom of Sweden, receiving the Royal Order of the North Star in 1989.

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