The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
June 15 1997 3:30 AM

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Irish voters threw out the government of Prime Minister John Bruton despite the country's strong economy--they have done this to every government since 1969. The new government is not expected to differ significantly from the old one: It will focus on reducing taxes, unemployment, and crime. Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, won a seat in Parliament and, for the first time, will take it. The Wall Street Journal continued its unbroken record of blaming conservatives' recent defeats and mixed election results (in the United States, Britain, France, Canada, and now Ireland) on their insufficient conservatism. (6/11)

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Africa is in turmoil. 1) There is now widespread evidence that Congolese boss Laurent Kabila's soldiers have massacred Congolese citizens as well as Hutu refugees. 2) Civil war in the neighboring Republic of Congo (as distinguished from Congo, which used to be known as "Zaire" and before that as "the Congo") has become so intense that France is sending in hundreds of troops, and citizens are fleeing into Kabila's country--from which Congolese (i.e., Zairian) citizens were fleeing the other way just a few weeks ago. 3) Citizens of Sierra Leone are suffering an epidemic of theft, rape, and killing, reportedly at the hands of soldiers and rebels, since the army staged a coup two weeks ago. The New York Times pointed out cheerfully that the Congo and Sierra Leone crises have inspired many African countries to take charge of settling virulent regional conflicts. (6/9)

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Police arrested a former student and an alleged accomplice in the murder of Jonathan Levin, the son of Time Warner chief Gerald Levin. Instead of following in his dad's footsteps, Jonathan taught poor kids in a Bronx public high school. Fingerprints and other evidence indicate that the former student, on parole for a drug violation, killed Levin in his apartment for his ATM card. Initially, reporters lauded Levin for getting close to his students and inviting them to visit him at home (thereby illustrating "the power of gifted and dedicated teachers to transform young lives," according to the New York Times). Later, reporters suggested Levin's fatal mistake may have been getting close to his students and inviting them to visit him at home. The bright side of the story: Widespread coverage of Levin's altruism made the suspect's associates so angry at the suspect that they turned him in. The dark side: Levin's altruism would never have received such widespread coverage if his father hadn't been rich and powerful. (6/9)

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An ethics-commission report solicited by President Clinton recommended that scientists be 1) allowed to clone human embryos for experiments but 2) banned from implanting these embryos in women and developing them into babies. Pro-lifers attacked the proposal for inviting researchers to toy with human life and then requiring them to abort it. Other critics argued that if human-embryo cloning remains legal in the private sector but illegal in government-funded research, unsupervised quacks will control it. But the commissioners decided not to ask Congress to ban human-embryo cloning outright, reportedly because they trust Congress even less than they trust scientists. Analysts have become increasingly skeptical of the near-term feasibility of human cloning, and of Congress' constitutional authority to regulate it. Related updates: "Human Chromosomes Transplanted Into Mice" (the Washington Post, May 30); "Rush Is on for Cloning of Animals" (the New York Times, June 3). (6/9)

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Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat disavowed, denounced, and pledged to prosecute perpetrators of the recent executions of three Arabs who allegedly sold land to Jews. Israeli police claim to have arrested an armed Palestinian squad in the process of abducting a fourth Arab land dealer, and Israel's Jerusalem police chief has fingered a Palestinian security-agency boss in the first two killings. Arafat's remarks conflict with his justice minister's previous endorsement of such executions. Despite human-rights groups' increasing concern several reports indicate that the Palestinian public supports the executions. (For a backgrounder, see Slate's "The Gist" on land sales to Jews.) (6/9)

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