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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday June 29, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 115) 

ABC Pushed UN Report on Guns; Nets Ignored How China To Test Missile

1) All but FNC led Monday with the surplus announced by Clinton which Dan Rather credited to the "zooming, booming U.S. economy." Only FNC noted that the Starr/Hubbell plea deal could be bad news for Hillary Clinton since Hubbell admitted "covering up" for her.

2) ABC promoted a UN report: "As increasingly restrictive gun laws are enacted in major industrial countries, gun-makers around the globe are flocking to the biggest and least regulated gun market in the world -- the United States."

3) "China is making final preparations to test fire a new mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that the CIA believes will incorporate stolen U.S. missile and warhead secrets," The Washington Times revealed to network apathy.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC led Monday night, June 28, with Bill Clinton's announcement of a larger than expected surplus and his plan to spend much of it on Social Security and Medicare. FNC went first with an apparent plea deal between Webster Hubbell and Ken Starr's office, a story mentioned on ABC, discussed with Tim Russert on NBC and also given a full story on CBS and CNN. Only FNC raised the possibility that Hubbell's confession that he did cover up the Castle Grande deal with Hillary Clinton could mean an even more critical final report from the independent counsel on her role.

     -- Budget surplus:
     Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News by celebrating:
     "Good evening. President Clinton talked today about a remarkable financial and political accomplishment resulting from the zooming, booming U.S. economy. The President said a new and rosier long-range federal budget surplus forecast could help wipe-out the national debt, bolster health and retirement programs for older Americans and perhaps even expand your budget with a tax cut."

     NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams characterized the surplus as a "problem" since it means figuring how to spend it all:
     "Good evening. The only thing they fight about in Washington more than how to save money is how to spend it. Tonight that means your government has a huge problem on its hands. With much fanfare the President announced today the U.S. is about to have a huge surplus, about a trillion dollars to put somewhere."

      -- Starr/Hubbell deal:
     Jim Stewart provided a full report for the CBS Evening News about how Hubbell had agreed to plead guilty to a felony for covering up the sham Castle Grande deal and a misdemeanor for tax evasion. Stewart concluded: "Barring any surprises this should just about do it for independent counsel Ken Starr. After five years and $40 million the investigation that rocked America is apparently out of targets to shoot at."

     On NBC Nightly News Williams talked about the deal with Tim Russert who termed it a "win, win, win" as it means Hubbell avoids jail, Starr avoids a trial he could have lost and Hillary avoids having to testify. Williams also asked Russert about the story that Bill Clinton will run for Senate from Arkansas in 2002. Russert called it unlikely.

     At the top of FNC's Fox Report David Shuster handled the Hubbell/Starr deal and uniquely observed that avoiding testifying may not be all good news for the First Lady:
     "The independent counsel law requires that Starr issue a final report. Now with an admission from Hubbell about covering up for Mrs. Clinton the criticism for the President and First Lady is expected to be even stronger."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) ABC's World News Tonight on Sunday and Monday night ignored a Sunday, June 27 front page New York Times story about how contrary to Clinton administration assertions they learned of Chinese espionage in 1995, not 1996. But Monday night ABC jumped on a story about guns played on the front page of the Monday Washington Post, even getting soundbites from the very same liberal activists quoted in the Post story.

     Under the heading of "Targeting Guns: Exporters to the U.S.," the June 28 Washington Post headline declared: "Selling in a Land of Opportunity: Foreign Firms Find a Big Market." Post reporter Sharon Walsh began:
     "As increasingly restrictive gun laws are enacted in major industrial countries, gun-makers around the globe are flocking to the biggest and least regulated gun market in the world -- the United States."

     Citing a United Nations study on how 29 nations have tightened gun laws in the past five years, Walsh used Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center and Wendy Cukier of the Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, as her experts.

     Now check out how ABC picked up the Post story without any credit. World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings asserted:
     "The United Nations tells us that 29 countries have now tightened the rules on gun ownership so considerably that it is more difficult for the gun manufacturers to sell their product. Now none of those countries has a Second Amendment so that makes the United States an important market. Guns, like any other product, end up where they are welcomed."

     ABC News reporter/Washington Post reader Lisa Stark explained, as the Post did, how half of the guns sold in the U.S. come from companies owned overseas. After a soundbite from Diaz she noted how Smith & Wesson is owned by a British firm but their guns cannot be sold there and British "laws are so strict, the British Olympic shooting team, which uses guns like these, had to practice in France."
     Other foreign gun-makers she cited matched a chart in the Post: Glock of Austria, Browning of Belgium, Beretta of Italy and Taurus of Brazil. Wendy Cukier suggested that like other "dangerous commodities," such as cigarettes and leaded gasoline, producers must shift sales to where there is less regulation.
     Stark did allow a gun store owner to point out: "Just like the camera you're using here, it's made in another country. We're in a world market today and there's free enterprise."
     Stark then ruefully concluded: "And so far in this political season Congress sees no reason to change that, leaving gun makers and sellers a lucrative and legal U.S. market."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Not a word on the Monday morning shows about Sunday's New York Times story on how "Senior White House officials were informed that China might have stolen American nuclear secrets nearly a year earlier than the Clinton administration originally disclosed." (NBC's Today did however, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens pointed out, make room for the really important news of the day. Its lead interview segment discussed speculation about Bill Clinton running for the Senate from Arkansas in 2002.)

     In Monday's Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz brought fresh warnings about how "China is making final preparations to test fire a new mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that the CIA believes will incorporate stolen U.S. missile and warhead secrets." But that didn't generate any network interest without a syllable about it Monday morning or night on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, nor on FNC which already covered the basic story weeks ago.

     Gertz's disclosures advanced information first revealed on June 3 by FNC's Carl Cameron, who reported: "China now plans to move up its development time table and later this year will test not one but two new intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. The second is particularly surprising because it comes years before any U.S. analyst had predicted China would be able to do it and because of how similar it will be to the top weapon in the U.S. arsenal." (See the June 4 CyberAlert for details.)

     In his front page June 28 story Gertz reported:

Preparations for the launch of the road-mobile DF-31 -- which could take place as early as next week -- were spotted by U.S. spy satellites at Wuzhai in central China and reported in classified U.S. intelligence reports earlier this month, said U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the reports.

"They are getting ready for a launch," one official said.

The official said one U.S. intelligence agency assessed the DF-31 test missile to be capable of carrying a 2 -megaton warhead. A megaton is the equivalent of a million tons of TNT.

Other intelligence estimates have said the DF-31 warhead size will be smaller, closer to the 100- to 200-kiloton range that is similar to compact U.S. nuclear warheads.

China's two dozen CSS-4 long-range ICBMs each carry a five-megaton warhead and the CIA reported last year that at least 13 of those missiles were targeted on U.S. cities.

Officials said they were viewing the signs of an impending missile test with caution because an earlier test firing set for December was scrapped, possibly to wait for warmer weather.

The 5,000-mile-range missile will be able to hit targets in parts of the western United States.

According to a report released last month by a special House panel investigating Chinese espionage, the DF-31 is likely to be the first missile in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) arsenal to incorporate stolen U.S. warhead design technology, including either the advanced W-88 warhead, or the older W-70 warhead used on short-range Lance missiles.

"The DF-31 ICBM and the PRC's other new generation mobile ICBMs will require smaller, more compact warheads," said the report by a committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican. "The stolen U.S. information on the W-70 or W-88 Trident D-5 will be useful for this purpose." The D-5 is the most advanced U.S. submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The report said the DF-31 could be ready for operational deployment by 2002 if tests are successful. It said the DF-31, one of three new mobile ICBMs the Chinese are developing, could be tested this year....

     END Excerpt

     Contrast Gertz's revelation with how CBS News assured us there's nothing to worry about. Back on the May 27 CBS Evening News reporter Eric Engberg dismissed the Cox Report as full of exaggerated fears:
     "As the release of the Cox Report again demonstrated Washington's love of a good spy story, the consensus gelled: Chinese agents have stolen something. But after that many of the report's scary findings are open to question.
     "Were actual weapons plans among the purloined secrets? The report takes the worst case view: Probably. But a blue ribbon panel of outside experts advising the CIA looked at the same question and decided there is just no way to know. The same group concluded the Chinese spying 'has not resulted in any apparent modernization of their deployed strategic force or any new nuclear weapons deployment.'...
     "The Cox Report says China uncovered the secrets of seven U.S. nuclear warheads, but the intelligence evidence is unclear. It may be as low as four, two of which are obsolete. Amidst all the voices raised in alarm there is a bottom line: Unlike many of the things in the Cox Report there's no argument here. Number of strategic nuclear weapons? U.S.: six thousand, China: less than two dozen."

     Maybe when a missile lands in Los Angeles the networks will decide this might be an important issue to explore instead of dismissing or ignoring. -- Brent Baker


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