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DECEMBER 20, 1999 VOL. 154 NO. 24

The Best Scandals of 1999

The Cox Report

1 Secrets and Lies An incendiary report by conservative U.S. Congressman Christopher Cox threatened to spark a new cold war between his country and China, with accusations that the People's Republic systematically stole American nuclear secrets. At least equally to blame were lax U.S. safety measures. Beijing denied it all, and even intelligence analysts say the Chinese would have a hard time transforming any information gleaned into more powerful weapons in the near future.

The Best (and Worst) of 1999
What will stick in the collective memory is the best and worst of our own fin de siècle, and 1999 had a bumper crop of winners and some memorable bummers as well


Macau: Macau's Big Gamble
The Portuguese colony's return to China will be a low-key affair. The real fireworks will begin when the new owners try to clean up the joint
Extended Interview: 'We Will Make the Triads Uncomfortable'
In his temporary government office, Macau Chief Executive-designate Edmund Ho spoke about the future of the territory with TIME

Japan: A Fairy-Tale Ending?
After years of waiting, Japan's royal-watchers are thrilled over hints that the Princess may be pregnant

2 Bali Low Many Indonesians believe former President B.J. Habibie meant to buy votes with the $80 million mysteriously transferred from ailing Bank Bali to an account controlled by a senior ruling-party official. Instead, the scandal cost him his job, as international lending agencies withheld desperately needed loans and lawmakers , unsatisfied with his explanations, forced him to withdraw his bid for the presidency.

3 Money for Nothing High-flying French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn tumbled to Earth after allegations that he accepted nearly $100,000 from a Socialist Party-linked organization for work he didn't perform. When documents meant to prove his innocence were allegedly found to be forged, Strauss-Kahn had no choice but to resign.

4 Hard Fall The reputation of former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl loomed large 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A month after that anniversary, though, he rocked the Reichstag by admitting that during his tenure he had used secret bank accounts that allegedly contained hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance party campaigns. Despite Kohl's denial that political decisions were for sale, suspicion lingers that the accounts were used to channel kickbacks.

5 Memories of a Massacre Fifty years on, American veterans admitted that in the chaotic opening weeks of the Korean War, G.I.s had opened fire on a group of South Korean refugees huddled under a bridge at No Gun Ri. Survivors claim 300 civilians were killed in the three-day bloodbath, as frightened recruits, fearful of North Korean infiltrators, followed orders to mow down the crowd.

6 Scam Artist Martin Frankel may look a little nerdy, but the failed securities trader pulled a caper of dazzling audacity when he bought a series of small, troubled U.S. insurance companies and bilked them for more than $200 million in premiums. The cash funded a lavish and kinky lifestyle in tony Greenwich, Connecticut, a Catholic charity claiming ties to the Vatican, a bevy of female helpers and four months on the run, before authorities finally nabbed him in Germany.

John Stanmeyer/Saba for TIME

7 Toxic Fallout Japanese breathed easier when an uncontrolled fission reaction in Tokaimura started by clumsy workers was brought under control. Then came the hard questions about the government's response to the crisis--and the cozy relationship between nuclear regulators and power plant officials that may have contributed to lax safety precautions.

8 Crooked Cop Brazilian legislators ousted Hildebrando Pascoal from parliament for breaching decorum, leaving him open to prosecution for alleged offenses including running drugs and organizing a private death squad in the remote Amazonian province of Acre while he had been an officer in the military police. One hit man says Pascoal ordered more than 50 killings, and he is implicated directly in the grisly murder of a man whose arms and legs had been chainsawed off.

9 Fickle Friend Papua New Guinea's diplomatic recognition of Taiwan didn't last long once former Prime Minister Bill Skate was accused of making the move to win a $2.3 billion loan from Taipei. Skate lost his job; Taiwan lost its recognition two weeks later when a new administration threw its lot in with Beijing.

10 Keystone Kanadians Ottawa's spooks proved more Austin Powers than James Bond when an analyst had a top-secret document stolen from her minivan as she watched a hockey game. Embarrassed secret service officials could only hope the papers had ended up in a local landfill rather than the hands of Dr. Evil.

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