Whatever Happened To... Bird Flu?You couldn't find a hotter health story in 2006 than bird flu–specifically, the H5N1 variety, which killed 60 percent of the people it infected and was predicted to kill between 5 million and 150 million more if a full-on outbreak were to occur. So why are we all still here? Mostly because the virus never mutated into a form that could transmit easily from birds to humans, and its spread in farmed birds has been largely contained through vaccination. Wild birds still contract and spread the disease, but outbreaks in 2008 were a fifth of what they were the year before, and the human death count last year was 59. The potential for a pandemic persists, but our lack of preparation has not, as yet, come home to roost.Photo Murdo Macleod / Polaris
Whatever Happened To... Killer Robots in Iraq?Lots, actually. Last year saw the first-ever deployment of fearless and bloodless armed robots on the ground in Iraq (three of them), and iRobot, one of the U.S. military's main suppliers of robots, just shipped the Army its 2,000th PackBot, a recon robot. The Pentagon has made a commitment of $2 billion over the next five years, so Iraqi insurgents should expect to see even more of them. Next up: A.I. that can think for itself (but hopefully won't turn on its masters)
Whatever Happened To… The Axis of Evil?We took care of one point pretty handily (for now). While it's hard to say what will happen once our troops leave Iraq, that county's current incarnation has no place on the Axis. Meanwhile, after many heartfelt promises by Kim Jong Il to abandon North Korea's nuclear program, the Bush administration lifted trade sanctions on the country, and, in October, North Korea was removed from the terror watch list. So, while there is no official "Axis of Evil" list to speak of, we can assume North Korea wouldn't be on it anymore if there were, since the media took both of these actions as signs that Kim and his cronies had turned over a new, non-evil leaf. That leaves Iran-still incredibly, aggressively unfriendly, and potentially up to a lot of no good-which leaves us with a small, solitary Dot of Evil.