The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Jan. 10 1999 3:30 AM

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U.N. aides accused the United States of using U.N. weapons inspectors to spy against Iraq. The accusation has raised a furor because the inspectors are supposed to be independent. The conspiracy theory is that the weapons inspectors were U.S. spies. The counterconspiracy theory is that Iraq's U.N. allies are fanning the conspiracy theory in order to soften or get rid of the inspections. U.S. officials admit they supplied spying equipment to the inspectors but offer several alibis: 1) We were just helping the inspectors in response to their request. 2) They authorized everything we did. 3) We gathered information only to find out about Iraq's weapons programs, not to find out how to kill Saddam Hussein. 4) At least we were discreet. Other countries put spies directly on the weapons inspection team. 5) Of course the weapons inspectors spied against Iraq. That's their job. 6) Without spies, the U.N. building would be empty. (1/8/99)

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.


Linda Tripp says she saw Hillary Clinton's Whitewater "billing records" in Vince Foster's safe in 1993, when the White House claimed they were missing. She says something around that time, possibly Mrs. Clinton's "initials" on the records, indicated that they belonged to Hillary Clinton. This is the fourth claim that puts Tripp at the nexus of all Clinton scandals. (She also claims she was the last person to see Foster before his alleged suicide, she was pressured to commit perjury by Monica Lewinsky in 1997, and she was the person to whom Kathleen Willey confided a sexual encounter with President Clinton in November 1993.) Tripp issued her latest claim in a deposition for the conservative interest group Judicial Watch. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Tripp has sent out a fund-raising letter asking for donations to her legal defense fund to protect her from Clinton "henchmen" who "have me in their cross hairs."(1/8/99)

Julie Hiatt Steele was indicted for lying about the Kathleen Willey incident. Steele had denied under oath Willey's claim that Willey told her about being groped by President Clinton. The indictment is being brought by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The spins: 1) This proves Willey was telling the truth. 2) It proves Clinton's lawyers orchestrated Steele's false testimony. 3) Starr is cynically bringing the indictment now to inject the Willey story into Clinton's Senate trial. 4) It proves once again that in independent counsel investigations, the little fish get caught and the big fish get away. (1/8/99)

There were no fatal U.S. airline accidents in 1998. It was the first year without an air travel fatality in three decades. This achievement was ignored by most major newspapers, eventually earning an inside page wire story in the Jan. 7 Los Angeles Times. The spins: 1) Hats off to the airlines for focusing on safety. 2) Hats off to the Federal Aviation Administration for making the airlines focus more on safety than they cared to. 3) Good news is no news. (1/7/99)


The National Basketball Association is back in business. NBA Commissioner David Stern, representing the owners, and union chief Billy Hunter, representing the players, struck a deal one day before the league was expected to cancel the rest of the season. The standoff had already wiped out three months of the season. The maximum player salary will be capped at $14 million, with a maximum annual increase of 12 percent, and the players' total share of league revenues will be capped at 55 percent after three years. The deal still must be ratified by the owners and players. The league will play a short season of about 50 games per team beginning in early February. The spins: 1) Why did it take the players so long to reach a deal? 2) Why did it take the owners so long to reach a deal? 3) A pox on both their houses. We'll never watch another game. We don't care what happens to this stupid league. 4) Hey, do you think Michael Jordan is going to retire? (1/6/99)


The 2000 Republican presidential field was shaken up. 1) Elizabeth Dole announced she is leaving the Red Cross and giving "serious consideration" to running. 2) Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., announced he won't run after all. 3) Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., formed exploratory committees. The subtle theories: Dole is running because the country is ready for a woman, Ashcroft is bowing out because the 1998 elections rebuked his religious right constituency, and McCain is running because conservatives like his Vietnam heroism and moderates like his positions on tobacco and campaign reform. The unsubtle theory: The people who are running are those who can raise $20 million or who come from New Hampshire. (1/6/99)

A New York City woman was pushed in front of a subway train and killed. The mentally ill man who pushed her evidently chose her at random. The spins: 1) The subways are getting dangerous again. 2) Don't be silly, crime has declined in New York, this was an exceptional incident, and you're more likely to be struck by lightning. The thousands of New Yorkers who are avoiding the subways since the incident are fools. 3) No, the thousands of New Yorkers who are standing on the edges of subway platforms reading newspaper stories about the incident are fools. (1/6/99)


Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was elected speaker of the House. Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura was sworn in as governor of Minnesota. Jerry Brown was sworn in as mayor of Oakland, Calif. Marion Barry stepped down as mayor of Washington, D.C. These events surprised nobody, having been foreordained weeks and months ago. Nevertheless, they were trumpeted throughout the nation, because the media had little else to talk about. (1/6/99)


Eleven European countries adopted a common currency, the euro. The member countries have more people and exports than the United States but a somewhat smaller gross domestic product. Spins on the monetary union: 1) It will make Europe the United States' new economic rival. 2) It will make Europe the United States' new political rival. 3) European trade will be good for the U.S. economy. 4) European meddling will be bad for U.S. foreign policy. 5) The euro pact will promote fiscal responsibility by limiting countries' authority to run deficits and devalue their currency. 6) The pact will promote fiscal irresponsibility by reducing stern German domination of European fiscal policy. 7) Stern German domination? Now there's a loss. 8) The common currency will help global corporations while stripping each European nation of its power to make its own destiny. 9) European nationalism? Now there's a loss. (1/4/99)


A winter storm blanketed the Midwest. Weather experts hyped it as one of the worst snowstorms in decades. The spins: 1) In the Northeast, it didn't live up to billing. 2) Yeah, but it killed dozens of people in the Midwest. 3) Yeah, but many of them died of heart attacks while shoveling snow. 4) Yeah, but the 21 inches of snow that fell on O'Hare airport in Chicago shut down most cross-country air travel. 5) OK, so it did mess up the Northeast after all. (1/4/99)

David Duke is back. The congressional seat in Duke's district, which is 85 percent white, is being vacated by House speaker wouldabeen Bob Livingston, R-La. Duke came to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., last weekend to raise money for the race. He told the audience he would "stand up openly" for white Christians, adding, "If we lose European-Americans, we lose America." The spins: 1) He's scary. 2) No, he's washed up. 3) If he becomes a serious threat, Livingston and other GOP leaders will make sure to stop him. 4) Stop him? Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and House impeachment leader Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., have given speeches to a white citizens' group whose members attended Duke's latest fund raiser. They should be ashamed. 5) That's why they'll make sure to stop him. (1/4/99)