Predictions: Here is the news (maybe)

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The Independent Online
Big news usually comes as a bolt from the blue. But here are some points to watch, where you can at least decide whether your favourite commentator has got things right or embarrassingly wrong.

If Helmut Kohl wins the federal elections in September, he will become the longest-serving Chancellor in German history.

He has been written off again and again. Current opinion polls suggest that 70 per cent of Germans think now is the time for a change. But he has faced worse problems than that before - and come out a winner on election day.

In the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government could collapse as his coalition unravels and Yasser Arafat may become too ill to lead the Palestinian Authority.

Barely two years ago, there were high hopes of the peace process, as negotiated by Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination. Now, hopes are few. Pessimists have the upper hand.

The so-called "Tiger" economies of Asia enter 1998 after their most dramatic and turbulent year ever.

The markets that were supposed to expand for all eternity have suddenly gone into an astonishing tailspin. The IMF may not have seen the last of the currency crises, as speculators continue to test the underlying strengths of east Asia's economies.

When Boris Yeltsin gets a cold (or seems to be suffering from an over- long hangover), the news agencies put out bulletins marked "urgent", and the markets go into turmoil, because of the fears associated with his demise.

But economics, not politics, could also make the headlines in Russia in 1998. With the rouble re-denominated, a more efficient tax-collection system, and more deregulation, Yeltsin may be laying foundations for himself or his chosen successor to win the presidential elections of 2000, if he survives that long.

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