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This Week | The Top 5 news stories as measured by coverage in The Washington Post, USA Today, and NBC Nightly News from Dec. 4 to Dec. 10

Issue: "Fact & Fiction," Dec. 21, 2002

Scoring system: 5 points for news stories appearing on the front page of The Washington Post, 3 for stories on the next two pages of the "A" section, and 1 thereafter. Same formula for USA Today, except the values are doubled to account for its national circulation. Stories carried on NBC Nightly News receive 10 points if they run before the first ad break, 6 between the first and second break, and 2 thereafter. Anchor-read stories earn 2 points early, 1 point late.

1

distrust and verify

212 Points | Nearly 11 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the international avatars of arms control are again at center stage. TeamBush was not about to "trust, but verify" the Iraqi regime's latest mammoth, 12,000-page report to the United Nations that claimed Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. (See p. 20.) Predictably, some in Hollywood began protesting. A new group organized by actors Mike Farrell and Anjelica Huston called Artists United to Win Without War sent an anti-war letter to the White House. Celebrities who signed the letter included Oscar-winners Kim Basinger, Jessica Lange, and Susan Sarandon-as well as actors Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Laurence Fishburne. Actor Ed Asner told UPI the president had to go to war to please the right wing: "If he defuses it, he'll look like a wuss to the hard-liners and the fundamentalists."

2

snow rises

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97 Points | The 2004 election is still far off, but political reporters are already peeking into crystal balls and asking if Bush the Second will make the economic mistakes of Bush the First. To break out of that storyline, President Bush showed the door to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who endlessly deviated from White House message discipline. The former Alcoa CEO was briskly replaced by CSX railroad chief John Snow, hailed by supply-side activists like Jack Kemp and Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner as one of their own. Lawrence Lindsey was also escorted out as head of the National Economic Council. TeamBush announced he'd be replaced by former Goldman Sachs executive Stephen Friedman. Sen. Jon Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs co-worker, told The Washington Post: "I would think Steve will think long and hard about whether he wants to be in the position of selling supply-side economics.... I can't imagine that he is going to find comfortable the fiscal structure that [Mr. Bush] has put in place."

3

snow falls

65 Points | Areas of America that aren't used to witnessing a white Christmas were surprised by a half-foot of fast-falling snow. In Washington, D.C., the blanket of white canceled schools for two days and caused delays at airports, commuter train stations, and major highways. Traffic was also heavy on the Internet. America Online spokesman Nicholas Graham reported a daytime record with about 2.4 million people logged on at midday Dec. 5. The Weather Service said the storm was one of the earliest and heaviest since a Veterans Day storm dumped 11 inches on the region in 1987. In North Carolina, an ice storm left beautifully sculptured trees but wreaked major havoc, turning off the lights for more than 1.3 million people. Gov. Mike Easley petitioned the White House to have the state declared a disaster area, which would entitle the state to federal aid. The total number of deaths blamed on the storm and its aftermath was 30, in states extending from Arkansas to New York.

4

losing altitude

61 Points | Even though major media outlets never seem to notice when corporations large and small add millions of workers to the labor force, a major bankruptcy starts the red flags of economic distress waving. The latest example was United Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy protection less than a week after the federal Air Transportation Stabilization Board denied its request for backing of a $1.8 billion loan. United's chief counsel, James Sprayregen, disclosed in court that the giant carrier was losing $20 million to $22 million a day on a cash basis in December and was projected to lose about $10 million to $15 million a day in January. Executives quickly moved into talks with unions for tough wage cuts. The airline has some of the highest labor costs in the industry after big pay raises won by pilots in August 2000 and by machinists earlier this year. In the absence of such concessions, United could use special provisions of U.S. bankruptcy law to terminate its collective-bargaining agreements.

5

catholics in crisis

53 Points | Troubles in the Archdiocese of Boston heated up again, as thousands of pages of church personnel files hit the newspapers. The latest batch suggested that the Catholic Church had covered up sexual abuse, violence, and drug use by local priests--including one who fathered two children and may have been present when their mother died of an overdose in the 1970s. Cardinal Bernard Law's surprise trip to Vatican City spurred speculation about his resignation. The cardinal came to present his case for what would be the first-ever bankruptcy filing for an archdiocese. In nearby New Hampshire, the Diocese of Manchester averted criminal charges by agreeing in a settlement that it probably would have been convicted of failing to protect children from sexually abusive priests. "The church in New Hampshire fully acknowledges and accepts responsibility for failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children," Bishop John B. McCormack said at a news conference.

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