Time Daily of March 12, 1997

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Don't Take His Management Course: Douglas Waller reports that An thony Lake has the votes he needs to win Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation as CIA Chief sometime next week, but he's certainly off to a bad start as the man who proposes to manage the flow of the most sensitive information. Bad enough that La ke somehow never learned from his NSC subordinates of keen FBI concerns that China was trying to influence congressional elections. Questions about his competence deepened today on reports that even after his own NSC tried to warn the White House that Joh nny Chung was "a hustler" who might embarrass the Clintons, Chung blithely continued to visit Hillary Clinton's office. Apparently, the warning never reached the right folks. Committee chairman Richard Shelby wondered aloud whether Congress or t he White House could trust Lake to report critical information, given his dead-letter performance at NSC: "How can we be sure, if you are confirmed, that you will do as director of central intelligence what you were unable to do when you were na tional security adviser?" As disturbing fundraising revelations continue, the full Senate may be keener on that question by the time it takes up the nomination next month.

Friendly Fire? If there's o ne thing we know about sitings of strange objects in the sky, it's that you can't always believe your eyes. But as a grand jury prepares to examine a controversial videotape showing a radar view of the explosion of TWA Flight 800, the speculation that the airliner may have been brought down by an errant missile is gaining a bit on the credibility scale. While the FBI has bluntly dismissed descriptions by several eyewitnesses who thought they saw a glowing object approach the craft just before the catastrophic explosion, it's a little harder to write off the testimony of Captain Chris Baur, an Air National Guard chopper pilot who witnessed the crash at close range and mounted the initial rescue effort. According to National Guard sources, B aur told his superiors that night that he thought he had seen a missile streaking toward the plane. The FBI insists that there is no proof of such a missile. NTSB experts say an optical illusion associated with a shooting flame from the initial spark may explain what he saw. Conspiracy theorists on the Internet and elsewhere, of course, know in their bones that the government is covering up a whopper of an explanation.

Freedom vs. Fear of the Unknown: A Senate hearing room fell silent today as Senator Tom Harkin reflected with quiet passion on the furor surrounding the notion of human cloning. Dr. Ian Wilmut, who produced the cloned sheep Dolly, had told the panel that human cloning should not be all owed, since so many deformed and unviable clones would be produced in order to succeed. Comparing the eager bipartisan opposition to human cloning research to the 17th Century persecution of Galileo for his observation that the Earth revolves around the Sun, Harkin said it was wrong of President Clinton to ban all such research, and wrong of Senator Chris Bond to propose legislation making the ban permanent. Freedom of inquiry is too precious to quash out of simple fear of the profound uncertainties inherent in duplicating human beings, Harkin riposted: "Human cloning will take place, and it will take place in my lifetime. I don't fear it at all. I welcome it."

Bill Gates, Round the Clock:That Rocky Second Marriage: Yasser Arafat won't take Benjamin Netanyahu's calls, King Hussein has had it with the tough-talking Israeli, and Netanyahu's idea of diplomacy is taking shots at both of his neighbors on a state visit to Moscow. Netanyahu's problem is that he's walking the plank, trying to move forward without alienating eith er his hard right constituency or the swing voters who want progress, but fear conceding too much, reports senior correspondent Johanna McGeary. "Netanyahu pulls out of Hebron, and then he balances that by announcing the construction of settlement s in east Jerusalem. Arafat gets burned every time Netanyahu lurches to the right. Each time something is promised and then pulled away, Arafat loses a little credibility." At times, Netanyahu behaves like the second spouse who resents the legacy of his sainted predecessor. "The fundamental shift that has happened here is that neither side trusts each other. You saw that in the letter a few days ago from King Hussein, where he said that he didn't know if he could do business with Netanyahu." Instead of building housing, perhaps Netanyahu should focus on doing some repairs.

All Quid, No Quo: An embarrassed DNC is trying to return a $107,000 election donation from the Cheyenne-Arapa ho Tribe of Oklahoma, but the tribe doesn't want its money back. It wants the land it thought it was buying. The tribe wants to turn Oklahoma's Fort Reno, built in 1869, into a tourist attraction, and thought that was what it was getting when it cobbled the check out of funds targeted for food, medical care and other basic needs for the hard-pressed, 10,700-member community, which suffers from 80 percent unemployment. The DNC may duck this bullet, thanks to a tribal faction that insi sts its business committee had no authority to cut the check in the first place. For its part, the DNC says that if the tribe won't take back the money, it will be spent on Native American voter registration and voter participation activities. %0 A

Reported by Douglas Waller/Washington, Johanna McGeary/New York, Mark Coatney/New York, Jenifer Mattos/Seattle and John Zebrowski/New York