Because America is a nation in constant need of lists, we will be fed this month with list after list of predictions about next year. They will range from the psychic and nonsensical forecasts of the tabloids to the self-serving and sanctimonious pronouncements of the various media pundits. * We chose a slightly different approach: We asked the editors and reporters of the Los Angeles Times to tell us what will happen next year--guaranteed. *Some may make you say "sure, of course." Some will amaze you to a small degree. But the predictions are based on history, experience and common sense. If you are expecting a prediction that we'll make first contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, forget it. (Although, who knows?) *Should you take a second mortgage out on the house and head for Las Vegas? Well, nothing in life is guaranteed, except death. But what about taxes, you say? We deal with that in Prediction 14.
1. L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan will easily win a second term.
2. L.A. Police Chief Willie L. Williams will not.
3. Researchers will isolate the genes that cause Parkinson's disease and inherited prostate cancer.
4. Tree-hugger, cyberpunk and dust bunny will be included for the first time in Webster's, as will 67 other words.
5. House Speaker Newt Gingrich will get a slap on the wrist from the House Ethics Committee.
6. Timothy McVeigh will be sentenced to death in the Oklahoma City bombing. His Army buddy, Terry Nichols, will get life by pleading guilty or go to trial and be found guilty of a lesser charge than capital murder.
7. The Dow Jones industrial average will hit both 7,000 and 6,000, but don't try to pin us down on which will come first.
8. NATO will add Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to the 16-nation alliance.
9. "The Lost World," Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" sequel, will enjoy record-gobbling opening grosses. Look for $70 million after four days over the Memorial Day weekend.
11. Hypericum perforatum, the herb also known as St. John's wort, will become the popular "natural" alternative for treating mild to moderate depression. Look for an explosion in the number of scientific studies about hypericum and new products containing it.
12. The amount of rain we get will remain uncertain, but the Fourth of July will again be foggy.
13. Evidence for "supersymmetry"--a big step toward a "theory of everything," which says that every particle in the universe has a mirror-image particle that is so far undetected----will be discovered at the CERN accelerator in Switzerland
14. We'll pay way too much in taxes, and they will not be well spent.
15. Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri will be elected president of Iran.
16. The 1997 North American Car of the Year, selected by auto writers in January, will be the Jaguar XK8. A steal at $65,000 to $70,000.
18. Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon," Philip Roth's "American Pastoral" and anything by John Grisham or Judith Krantz will head the best-seller lists. John McPhee's "Irons in the Fire" is a darkhorse.
19. A major gastrointestinal outbreak will occur aboard a cruise ship.
20. The Internet will bog down further or crash because of wildly popular new 56- kilobyte- per-second modems.
21. Lady Di will take a lover.
22. Neither Bill nor Hillary Rodham Clinton will be indicted by the Whitewater grand jury, but two former high-ranking presidential aides will.
23. Traditional fabrics such as wool and cotton will be increasingly replaced by stretch-wool and stretch-cotton blends that are comfortable and retain their shape.
24. Southern California will still be without professional football.
25. Smog in the L.A. Basin will continue to improve, but we'll still be breathing the most disgusting air in the country.
26. George Clooney's star presence will drive "Batman and Robin" to bigger numbers than any of the first three "Batman" films. Figure $55 million after three days.
27.. In general, Southern California real estate values will climb.
28. The value of your own home, however, will fall.
29. Scientists will not be able to prove whether those tube-shaped forms on the Martian rock are really fossils of ancient life.
30. Proposition 187, Proposition 209 and welfare reform will spend all year in the courts.
31. Congress will crack down again on HMOs and managed care with more rules such as the recent guarantee of a 48-hour hospital stay for new mothers. Look for laws that guarantee hospital stays for women who have had mastectomies.
32. More unexpected sources, such as stockbrokers, will add frequent-flier miles as incentives for customers.
33. The political helm in Great Britain will change hands; the Labor Party will be in power for the first time in nearly two decades.
34. Light olive oil will become a substitute for butter in baking.
35. The year's most boring topics of conversation will include the word millennium.
36. An accused or convicted felon will be mistakenly released from an L.A. County Jail.
37. The National Cancer Institute will issue new guidelines on what age women should undergo regular mammograms. Two years ago, it recommended that most women can forgo routine screening until age 50. With new data, and pressure from health groups, the NCI will backtrack to age 40.
38. A shakeout will begin in the Internet publishing and entertainment business as infrastructure problems and a lack of truly compelling content dull consumer interest.
39. Hard-edged bands such as Korn and Tool and eclectic jammers like 311 and Cake will lead a shift in alternative rock as a new generation of fans moves away from R.E.M. and Pearl Jam. (Carefully store your flannel shirts--they'll look great at the '90s nostalgia parties in 2010.)
40. Fanatically Fit, Part I: The hypoxic room, a 9-by-9-foot chamber that simulates a low-oxygen altitude of 9,000 feet and helps outdoor types prep for high-elevation sports, will debut in January at Crunch Fitness, as the trendy New York gym chain opens its first L.A. location in West Hollywood.
41. Remainder racks at Kmart, Target and other deep discounters will be littered with such O.J. titles as: "Journey to Justice," "The Search for Justice" and "In Contempt."
42. The Betty Ford Treatment Center will again see more stars than the space probe Galileo.
43. The Supreme Court won't ban sex talk on the Internet, as justices rule that government cannot limit free speech in cyberspace.
44. Whispers will grow louder over why Japan's Imperial Family can't seem to produce a male heir, as Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako remain childless.
45. With the range and performance of a motor scooter, but priced higher than some Caddys, Lexi and Bimmers, the GM EV1 electric coupe will have sales that can best be measured in the dozens.
46. The '90s boom in coffee houses will be overtaken by a new wave of fresh juice bars.
47. Tiger Woods will win more than $1 million on the PGA tour but will finish no higher than second in any of the four majors.
48. The federal deficit, which fell during all four years of President Clinton's first term, will start going back up again, causing real budget problems for him and Congress.
49. The world cherry-pit mouth-spitting record of 88 feet, 51/2 inches, set in Langenthal, Germany, in 1992, will not be broken this year.
50. The $4.5-million Australian film "Shine" will grab at least two Oscars this spring.
51. Undaunted by fires, floods and mudslides, celebrities will continue paying the big bucks for Malibu real estate.
52. President Clinton will take credit for all the new jobs created by the private sector.
53. The Fed, deciding that recession is a greater risk than inflation, will cut short-term interest rates twice.
54. Neurologists still won't be able to explain consciousness.
55. China's July 1, 1997, takeover of capitalist Hong Kong will boost the slowing economy, as hordes of newly resident Chinese snap up luxury housing and thousands of tourists pay triple the going rate for hotels and restaurants during the historic handover.
56. O.J. will keep golfing.
57. The FDA will approve a new weight-loss drug that is better than Redux.
58. While "Lost World" and "Batman and Robin" out-gross all other 1997 films, the gross-out title will go to Howard Stern's "Private Parts."
59. There will be lots of talk but no action on Social Security. The White House will boot the problem to a new presidential commission, which will study the program's long-range financial health.
60. Cuba will open to U.S. tourists, and Iceland, Nicaragua and Uzbekistan will be hot travel destinations.
61. Outfielder Karim Garcia will be the sixth straight Dodger to win the National League's rookie of the year award.
62. On the heels of tofu chicken, duck and hot dogs, 1997 will be the year of the tofu rib eye.
63. A young Hollywood executive will seriously suggest: "Hey, I got a great idea. How about we do an animated version of '101 Dalmatians'?"
64. The Solidarity trade union will return to power in Poland, ending four years of rule by the former Communists.
65. NBC will win the prime-time ratings for the second consecutive year.
66. After accusing Japan of failing to live up to some of the nearly two dozen trade agreements reached during his first term, President Clinton will renew pressure on Tokyo for further market-opening measures.
67. The QE2 will be sold.
68. Even though the California gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections are two years away, many candidates will declare their candidacies by early spring. (Can you say Panetta? Or Feinstein?)
69. Madonna, Michael Jackson and Mr. and Mrs. JFK Jr. will appear on at least a dozen major magazine covers each and together will fill space on 50% of the major tabloid covers.
70. Online investing in stocks, bonds and other securities will soar as the number of individual accounts climbs from about 1.5 million to almost 2.8 million.
71. Traditional medicine and alternative practitioners will go head to head in their biggest battle ever as Congress debates passage of the Access to Medical Treatment Act, which would allow any health practitioner to prescribe unproven therapies. Expect big protests (and big lobbying dollars) from the traditional medical establishment to defeat it.
72. Crown Prince Abdullah will succeed his ailing half-brother, King Fahd, as ruler of Saudi Arabia.
73. The TV industry will implement a historic ratings system. Politicians, parents and producers will ridicule it for going either too far or not far enough. Programming will change not a whit. Neither will viewing habits.
74. Congress will again try to reform the system of financing political campaigns. And will again fail to do so.
75. Quasimodo dolls will still occupy considerable shelf space. In the 99-cent stores.
76. Fanatically Fit, Part II: A Marine style boot-camp workout, replete with push-ups, sit-ups, weight-training, boxing and an order-barking instructor, will be hot among West Coast gym rats at Sports Club/LA.
77. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's wife, Sara, will fire yet another nanny.
78. The musical genre-of-the-moment for '97 will be dance music. No, not ballroom, nor even disco. This is the throbbing, electronic-beat-driven music (and its more soothing "ambient" cousin) that's had a lock on Euro-pop for years and has been brewing in a strong U.S. underground.
79. Total number of HIV infections worldwide will surpass 30 million.
80. Congress will pass a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget but will not pass a balanced budget.
81. Some 1,000 new bank branches will open nationwide--in supermarkets. In addition, the number of people banking online will almost double in 1997--to nearly 2 million.
82. For the first time ever, more Southern California runners/walkers will participate in 5K road races than in the more traditional 10K or marathon events.
83. The emphasis in health-care reform will be on children. Democrats will push a "Families First" agenda featuring legislation that would require private insurers to offer adults the option of purchasing child-only health coverage.
84. Competition will run wild in the mobile telephone arena as new "PCS" (personal communications services) systems challenge cellular.
85. Airlines will tout new fare cuts and discount offers, but average fares will, in reality, continue to rise.
86. Turmoil will continue in the executive suite at Disney/ABC.
87. South Korea will elect a new president, but the political culture won't produce any fresh leaders independent of the dominant "three Kims": Kim Young Sam, Kim Dae Jung and Kim Jong Pil.
88. Ingredient chic will continue to the point that foodies will fight for seats at a sold-out seminar on the history of millet.
89. FCC Chairman Reed E. Hundt will resign to become Commerce secretary or to return to private practice to head Al Gore's presidential fund-raising committee.
90. China's long-ailing paramount leader Deng Xiaoping will die, putting to rest pundits' claims that he's been dead for two years.
91. With the departure of FDA Commissioner David Kessler and the difficulty in confirming an anti-tobacco replacement, the FDA will weaken its efforts to regulate smoking and tobacco use.
92. Vying for the too-busy-carpooling-to-cook soccer mom business, supermarkets and fast-food chains will offer even more ready-made complete meals. Mmmmm--just like home cooking!
93. President Clinton will force Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to deliver on his treaty commitment to withdraw Israeli forces from Hebron, touching off a major crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.
94. Conservative justices will thwart Clinton's hopes by refusing to retire. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist stays put to keep the court in Republican hands.
95. Las Vegas will top 100,000 hotel rooms by 1997's end, as the New York New York casino opens and expansions are completed at Harrah's, Rio and Caesars Palace. Some weekends, however, it'll still be tough to get a room.
96. With the rise of a third generation of non-cooks, more cooking classes will be offered to teach novices how to measure flour as well as other kitchen basics.
97. Your check will still be in the mail.