The Week/the Spin

Guns Don’t Kill Baptists

A gunman killed seven people in a Fort Worth, Texas, church. The shooter, a “loner” with no criminal record, yelled anti-Baptist rhetoric as he opened fire at a youth worship service. He then killed himself. The Washington Post criticized congressional inaction on gun control in the wake of recent shootings. Texas Gov. George W. Bush countered that the killings were “a wave of evil” that legislation could not stop.

Hurricane Floyd drenched the East Coast. It came ashore in North Carolina, causing floods and power outages throughout the Southeast, then was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved north. Most population centers avoided major damage. Last week’s East Coast spin: We’re going to get hammered. This week’s East Coast spin: OK, we didn’t get hammered, but we got really wet. (Slate’s David Plotz assesses the weather reporting industry.)

PresidentClinton refused to disclose details of his administration’s deliberations over Puerto Rican clemency. Citing executive privilege, he denied congressional Republicans’ request for records relating to last month’s release of 12 imprisoned Puerto Rican nationalists. The Republican spin: Clinton played politics with clemency and is trying to cover it up. The White House spin: Congress is playing politics with investigations and is harassing the president.

The United Auto Workers and DaimlerChrysler tentatively agreed to a new contract. The four-year deal is believed to include a 3 percent annual wage increase and a guarantee that the company will not block unionization of additional plants. It must still be approved by DaimlerChrysler’s 75,000 union employees. The UAW had argued that workers deserved to share in automakers’ record-breaking profits. Industry analysts suggested that even with the wage increases, labor costs per car will decline due to efficiency gains.

The House passed campaign finance reform. The bill, which was opposed by the Republican leadership, would ban unregulated “soft money” donations and curb “issue ads” by advocacy groups. Senate leaders may eliminate the issue ad provision to overcome a promised filibuster. The New York Times and Washington Post say the change will call the bluff of Senate leaders who had objected to the bill on free speech grounds. Republican opponents say that without additional limits on labor unions’ political expenditures, the revised bill remains unfair.

The United Nations is sending peacekeeping troops to East Timor. Australia and Asian nations will provide most of the forces, and President Clinton has promised limited U.S. involvement. Indonesia said its military would withdraw as international forces arrive. The United Nations hopes to restore peace and bring back refugees. Others foresee a bloody conflict with pro-Indonesia soldiers and militia members who are part of a nationalist backlash against intervention. (Slate’s  “International Papers” explores the prospects for intervention.)

Another bombing rocked Russia. The fourth explosion in two weeks killed at least 18 people, bringing the death toll to nearly 300. Russian police, who suspect Caucasus rebels in the bombings, are sweeping the country and interrogating darker-skinned people. President Boris Yeltsin says his government has “the strength and resources to wipe out terrorism.” But Moscow skeptics are questioning Yeltsin’s ability to govern in the wake of the crisis, speculating that he may: 1) resign within days, 2) fire Prime Minister Putin, or 3) delay parliamentary elections.

Major airlines unveiled service improvement plans. The voluntary changes were offered as an alternative to proposed “passenger rights” legislation in Congress. Airlines claim their initiatives will greatly improve baggage handling, ticket refunds, and information on flight delays. Congressional critics say the plans are legal “gobbledygook” offering no new protections to passengers.

Pat Buchanan may run for president in the Reform Party. Despite pleas from Republicans to remain loyal, he’s becoming increasingly vocal about his frustrations with GOP moderates. Pundits variously characterized the likely move as 1) politically astute, since Buchanan would gain a platform for his views; 2) a sign of desperation, given his poor performance in the polls; and 3) misguided, since a three-way race would hurt the Republican nominee. (Slate’s Jacob Weisberg writes that the move would be good for the Republican Party.)

FBI documents show that the use of incendiary tear gas at Waco was disclosed in 1995. Records indicate that Congress and the Justice Department received files detailing the devices used in the raid much earlier than previously thought. Last week, former Sen. John Danforth agreed to head an independent investigation of Waco in response to suspicions of a cover-up. Pundits debated who was more damaged by the new information: Congressional Republicans who cried “cover-up” while the information was under their noses; or the attorney general, who was unaware of her own department’s reports.