While You Were Out: What's Happened to the Other Big Stories

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BEN MARGOT/AP

In December Gary Condit, one of the big stories of 2001, filed to run again for office

In the space of a single horrific morning, the September 11th terrorist attacks knocked a slew of news stories off the front page — and wiped them from the public consciousness. Some of the stories were ripe for disposal (Gary Condit, anyone?) while others were left languishing for the attention they deserved (the perennial budget battle).

Because we've all had other things on our minds over the past three months, TIME.com has dredged up a few of the stories that were making headlines the morning of September 11th. Here's an update on the stories that might have defined 2001:

Gary Condit/Chandra Levy

You didn't think this tawdry story was just going to go away, now, did you? Gary Condit certainly wishes it would — especially now that the 53-year-old Congressman has decided he will run for another term next year. That's despite outspoken criticism from the Democratic leadership, many of whom surfaced, shaking disapproving fingers, after Condit's much-hyped interview with Connie Chung. Local Democrats are already lining up in Condit's central California district, primed to challenge the battered pol in the March primaries.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]There is no further news of Levy, the 24-year-old intern who disappeared in May. Her parents, whose anguished faces haunted the daily news back in August, have thus far declined to speak with Condit. The Congressman is eager to speak with the Levys, but less eager to talk to their lawyers.

Cloning and stem cells

Despite aggressive legislation from Minority Leader Trent Lott, the Senate has declined to schedule a vote on a six-month moratorium on cloning into this year's docket (which was enthusiastically endorsed in the House pre-9/11). Apparently they prefer to wait until 2002 — when presumably everyone will have more time to debate the intellectually demanding subject matter. On the stem cell front, efforts of anti-abortion activists were also stymied by the terror attacks, when their congressional allies were forced to sideline challenges to President Bush's announcement that he will allow limited stem cell research.

The budget battle

So long, budget — hello economic stimulus package. The 9/11 terror attacks (and subsequent economic nosedive) essentially extinguished Congressional debate over the federal budget, replacing it with an equally frustrating standoff over a stimulus package aimed at jump-starting the nation?s troubled economy.

As it stands, the White House and most Republicans want cuts in corporate and income tax, which they argue will ease the strain on beleaguered companies. Congressional Democrats counter with demands for increased aid to unemployed and better health insurance for laid-off workers. This is stalemate at its best: occasional hints at compromise (and they have surfaced) have been overwhelmed by partisan bickering.

Michael Jordan

Ah, M.J. How we thrilled to the idea of your return. But that was then — before our priorities shifted in the wake of the attacks, and before you showed us you're not the all-powerful superman we'd come to expect. Don't get us wrong, there's something endearing about your bad knees, your sore wrist, your human frailties. Now, at 38, you seem more, well, a little bit more like the rest of us, playing for a spectacularly mediocre team, still showing us those flashes of sheer brilliance, but generally slowing down a bit. You haven't gotten the coverage you would have if tragedy had not struck, but there's still plenty of pressure on you: pressure from the fans, who want the old Jordan back, pressure from the press, who want you to make news, already, pressure from your few detractors, who desperately want you to fail, to demonstrate unequivocally that sometimes, enough is enough.

Missile Defense

Domestic opponents of missile defense may have taken September 11th as vindication of their argument that the program devotes maximum resources to countering the least likely threat, but they mostly kept quiet about it. The administration insisted that the attacks showed American vulnerability, and that missile defense was now more urgent than ever. And in the political climate of the war on terrorism, nobody was going to challenge that logic. Moreover the spectacle of Russia's President Vladimir Putin chowing down on barbecue at the Bush ranch allayed fears of new tensions with Moscow, even though the bonhomie failed to produce an agreement to allow the U.S. to proceed. A successful test of a missile interceptor vehicle in November buoyed the administration's confidence, and President Bush looks set to announce U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty this week. Administration officials insist the Russians will learn to live with missile defense — just like the Senate Democrats have.

China

Before the war on terrorism, China had been the primary focus of Washington's hawks. But Beijing has dutifully taken its place among the nations "with us" in the war against terror, which has put everything else on the back burner. The old issues remain, of course: Taiwan's electorate handed the vigorously pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party a landslide parliamentary election victory two weeks ago, setting off alarm bells in Beijing. But the really big news that scarcely brooked a headline was China's formal induction into the World Trade Organization. Having plunged its economy into a giddy capitalist roller-coaster ride that will forever change Chinese society, the Communist Party leaders are now bracing themselves for the political fallout from the inevitable spike in unemployment and poverty as state-supported industries are allowed to collapse in the face of foreign competition.

Kyoto

Remember that treaty on global warming nixed by the Bush administration? Well, it appears to be showing signs of life despite Washington pronouncing it dead on arrival. To take effect the treaty requires the endorsement of countries responsible for 55 percent of greenhouse gas outputs, which means that even without the participation of the world's largest carbon gas polluter Kyoto can still be implemented if all the other industrialized nations agree. To that end, a conference was held in Marrakech, Morocco, last month to hammer out a rulebook that would turn the treaty into law, and agree on sanctions for non-compliance. Although the agreement at Marrakech has reduced the ambitions of the treaty to a 2 percent cut on 1990 emissions levels, Kyoto optimists argue that even such a largely symbolic cut heralds a breakthrough moment in international collective action to counter global warming.