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The Big News Of The Day

It's another one of those days in the news business. One in which every trying-to-be-responsible reporter and editor struggles, torn between what is most important and what is most interesting, the most talked-about thing of the day.

Today, the most interesting, the most talked about story - yet again - is President Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and that whole mess.

The most important story is the U.S. economy.

One is shot-through with rumor, innuendo, leaks and counter-leaks, spins and swirls that make fact few, guesses plenty. The other is dense with facts and hard news analysis based on facts.

Faced with these two choices, for this broadcast anyway, your reporter is going to punt. Going to give you a two-fer.

First, about the economy. The fundamentals of the U.S. economy continue to be strong. Rather amazingly strong, given what is going on in the rest of the world plus the only recently ended General Motors strike.

Facts officially announced today show the second quarter wasn't nearly as bad as many analysts had expected because business and consumer spending remained healthy. People have jobs and rising wages, so they are spending. That has kept the economy clicking along. Interest rates remain low. Inflation is almost non-existent.

The U.S. economy's production of goods and services did slow and the growth of our economy slowed some in the April-to-June quarter just ended. Lost trade to Asia, and the long strike at GM, the nation's largest corporation, are among the reasons.

The U.S. economy did continue to grow. But the news is it increased at a modes 1.4 percent annual rate. That's down from the terrific 5.5 rate for the first few months of the year.

Now, about the down and dirty story of the day: The FBI is examining a dress given up by Monica Lewinsky in recent days, since she agreed to help prosecutor Ken Starr in exchange for her complete immunity from prosecution.

The FBI is to determine if the dress, as Lewinsky reportedly claims, has certain body fluids on it. IF the FBI says it does, then the question will become: are they President Clinton's?

While the FBI does its tests, the president speaks, made a statement in the Rose Garden, one tacked on to remarks about the economy. The president said he is "anxious" to testify for Ken Starr's grand jury, said no one is more anxious than he is to get the whole business behind him. He made his statement, took no questions, walked back in-- and got ready to fly to Long Island, New York, and a weekend in the Hamptons.

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