The Week/the Spin

A Great and Gross Festival

{{990719_Kennedy#32225}} John F. Kennedy Jr. was laid to rest. The ashes of Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law were scattered at sea. The Los Angeles Times attributed the crash to a {{piloting error#2:}} by Kennedy, but a tidal wave of eulogies (including {{this one#2:}} from the Washington Post) blamed a curse on the Kennedy clan. Other explanations: The New York Times cited {{hazy flying conditions#2:}}, James Fallows explained the {{obvious danger#2606:Show=7/19/99&idMessage=3235}} of the flight in Slate, the New York Post reported that Kennedy had been obliged to schedule the Vineyard landing {{by his wife#2:}}, and Fortune says that Wall Street is blaming Morgan Stanley for making JFK Jr.’s sister-in-law work late. The Jerusalem Post pointed to a “novelty-seeking and risk-taking gene discovered in Israel” (see “International Papers” for {{more#32201}}). Michael Kelly asks Washington Post readers why “we lard up the sorrow with this {{great and gross festival of national media blah-blah#2:}} about Camelot and royalty and The Kennedy Curse.” Slate’s William Saletan examines the debate over whether the {{Kennedys are reckless#32290}}.

Republicans gathered support for a $792 billion tax-cut plan. GOP leaders appeased moderates by agreeing to condition the cuts on yearly reductions in the federal debt. In the Washington Post, House Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, accuses Democrats of supporting “{{big governmentonautopilot#2:}}” and argues that the cuts epitomize compassionate conservatism. But deficit-hawk ex-Sens. Sam Nunn and Warren Rudman assert in the same pages that the surplus should be used to {{pay down the deficit#2:}}. President Clinton warned, “I will not allow a risky plan to become law.”

The Pentagon spent hundreds of millions of dollars on projects unapproved by Congress. According to the New York Times, a congressional report accuses the Pentagon of funding a top-secret Air Force program, an $800 million satellite, a high-tech missile defense system previously rejected by Congress, and other unapproved purchases. The report expresses shock at the flagrant illegality of the expenditures. “Do we get it right 100 percent of the time? Of course not,” the Pentagon responded.

Ehud Barak pledged to strike peace deals with Syria and the Palestinians within 15 months. Syria responded by asking radical Palestinian groups in Damascus to end their attacks on Israel. His meetings last week with President Clinton and Yasser Arafat were roundly applauded for rebuilding relationships former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had soured, but David Plotz explains in Slate why Israelis are {{less than optimistic#32060}}. In the Washington Post, Henry Kissinger warned Israelis {{not to leave the United States out#2:}} of the peace process, while an op-ed piece in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz cautioned that congressional Republicans, under the sway of the right-wing Israeli Likud Party, will “throw spikes into the newly energized peace train.”

{{Iranian Student#31965}} Security forces quelled student protests in Iran. Young people in 18 cities had staged protests, thrown stones, and set police vehicles on fire. Pro-government conservatives rallied right back. “{{International Papers#31989}}” compares the uprising to civil war and the fall of the Iron Curtain, but the Iranian newspaper Neshat argues that revolution is “neither possible nor desirable.” The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman calls them both wrong, saying Iranians simply want the government “{{to get out of their lives#2:}} so they can freely partake of the prosperity, cultural options, and opportunities that today’s world-without-walls offers.”

U.S. diplomats will try to soothe tension between Taiwan and China. The island abandoned its “one China” policy, which implied China’s sovereignty over and eventual reunification with Taiwan. “Don’t underestimate the Chinese government’s firm determination to uphold national sovereignty, dignity, and territorial integrity,” warned the Chinese Foreign Ministry in response. An editorial from the Chinese Xinhua news agency vilified Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui for venturing down “a dead alley” and swimming against the “historical tide” of unification. The Weekly Standard argues that America {{should back Lee#2:}} with words now and, if necessary, military force later, but the Washington Post reports that the U.S. envoys will {{pressure him#2:}} to back down. The Wall Street Journal predicted that the spat will blow over when Lee steps down in eight months.

The Senate agreed that a new agency should supervise nuclear weapons research. The agency would report directly to the secretary of energy. Sponsors of the plan said it would institute accountability for security breaches, but the House reportedly prefers an even stronger independent agency.

California enacted the country’s strictest ban on assault weapons. It eliminates loopholes that previously allowed gun manufacturers to evade restrictions by renaming or slightly altering their weapons. Another new law restricts gun buyers to one weapon purchase per month. The Los Angeles Times gives its {{blessing#2:}}, and the New York Times reports that the ban {{bodes well#2:}} for tighter gun control in other states.

Rep. Michael Forbes, R-N.Y., defected to the Democratic Party. The Washington Post reports that Democratic leaders {{courted#2:}} Forbes, a conservative who opposes abortion and gun control, in a drive to claim the six seats they need for a majority. National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Davis denigrated Forbes’ decision by likening it to “many of his past actions, inconsistent and erratic.” Jodi Kantor {{explains#1790:Show=7/20/99&idMessage=3244}} in Slate how Forbes made the move, and David Brooks explains in the New York Times why: “party loyalty and gratitude are never allowed to get in the way of the epic personal drama that exists in a politician’s own mind.”

The Senate passed compromise patients’ rights legislation. Republicans defeated a plan to let patients sue their HMOs but approved more access to emergency care and specialists. Democrats protested that the reforms would apply to fewer than one-third of the 161 million Americans with private insurance. The Washington Post awards the GOP “{{a clean win#2:}} on an issue of prime importance to the American public” but foresees an election-time brawl. “Today we saw what ‘compassionate conservativism’ pretends to be,” harrumphed Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert asserts that managed care has {{bought Republican votes#2:}} and that patients will die as a result.

Cigars will carry warnings similar to those on cigarettes. The Federal Trade Commission said the {{current absence of labels#2:}} implies “that cigars are a safe alternative to cigarettes.” Industry honchos protested that “cigar smokers are mature, well-informed adults who smoke on an occasional basis.”

Ohio Democrats want Jerry Springer to run for Congress. Democratic officials in the Columbus area have discussed the idea with Springer and the state party. Politics has become entertainment, a political consultant {{shrugged#2:}} to the Associated Press.

A generic drug may prevent death by heart failure. Researchers announced that Spironolactone, a 40-year-old, inexpensive medication used to treat water retention, cut death from congestive heart failure by 30 percent in experimental trials. Twenty million people suffer from this heart condition worldwide. Half of them die within five years of diagnosis. The New England Journal of Medicine rushed the {{story#2:}} to press.

Apple introduced iMac laptops. The iBook, pictured {{here#2:}}, can function like a cordless phone, allowing users to connect to the Internet while roaming up to 150 feet from a telephone jack. Analysts predict it will fuel sales of laptops to the home market in general and Apple’s turnaround in particular.

{{Fiorina#32297}}Hewlett-Packard chose a female president and CEO. Carleton S. Fiorina will be the first female CEO among the country’s 20 biggest publicly held companies and the third among the Fortune 500. The Wall Street Journal says the choice proves that H-P “is serious about continuing to revamp its stodgy image,” while a New York Times editorial calls it evidence that the glass ceiling “is at least cracking.”

David Cone of the New York Yankees pitched a perfect game. It was the 16th perfect game in Major League Baseball history. The New York Daily News boasted of “{{Yankee magic#2:}},” fueled by Yogi Berra and Don Larsen’s presence at the game. Even the Canadian Globe and Mail{{agreed#2:}}.

{{990719_Lawrie#32227}} Paul Lawrie won golf’s British Open. Lawrie, ranked 159th in the world, began the final round 10 strokes back but advanced to a three-way playoff when tournament leader Jean Van de Velde choked away a three-stroke lead on the final hole. The Associated Press effused that “the most stunning collapse in golf gave way to the {{greatest comeback#2:}} in the history of major championships.” The Scottish Press and Journal celebrated the triumph of its {{native son#2:}}.