The Week/the Spin

Trade Stocks by Moonlight

Kosovo update: The International War Crimes Tribunal indicted Slobodan Milosevic and four of his deputies for deporting and murdering Kosovars. President Clinton’s grudging public spin: This sends a message that war criminals will be held accountable. The counterspins: 1) The tribunal is a toothless body that indicts but rarely convicts. 2) It will be tougher to negotiate with an indicted Milosevic. 3) The indicted Milosevic will become more militant and violent. The tribunal’s answer: NATO shouldn’t negotiate with war criminals anyway. The British spin: The indictments strengthen the case for ground troops.

The stock markets are adding evening trading hours. NASDAQ will expand its trading hours next fall, and the New York Stock Exchange is likely to follow. The upbeat spin: The current hours are relics of Wall Street’s white-shoe era; the global economy obeys no clock, and neither should the trading floor. The downbeat spin: Longer trading hours will require everyone from the traders to the regulators to the press to retool their operations. The ticker-watcher spin: Late-hour trading, which will be lighter than business-hour trading, will cause stock prices to seesaw. The night owl spin: 24-hour trading is coming.

Dolly the cloned sheep is aging prematurely. Scientists discovered that the cells of the 3-year-old sheep are as worn as those of the 6-year-old from which they were cloned. First mystery: Does this mean that clones assume the age of their genetic sources? Second mystery: If her cells are 6 years old but her body is 3 years old, how old does that make Dolly? Third mystery: Since sheep don’t get gray hair, how will researchers find physical signs of aging?

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper was unveiled after 20 years of restoration. Experts scrubbed it of grime but also removed layers of retouching, leaving blank spots on the canvas. The Italian spin: It’s “the most important restoration of the century.” Everyone else’s spin: The earlier touchups were faithful to the original; now that they’re gone, even less of Leonardo’s work remains.

A congressional report accused China of nuclear espionage. The gist: China filched the designs for all seven nuclear warheads currently in the U.S. arsenal; has used the designs to update its weapons; and has been stealing secrets from American labs for more than 20 years. China’s spin: The findings were fabricated to divert attention from the embassy bombing. The president’s spin: The most damaging information was taken before I took office. The CIA and Energy Department spins: The evidence is thin, and there’s no way to trace what really happened. The committee chairman’s spin: Only the unclassified portions of the report were released, and the classified findings are even more damning.

John Huang will plead guilty to conspiring to solicit illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors will say that there’s no evidence that Huang committed espionage against the United States, the New York Times reports. This does not jibe with the earlier Senate investigation, which leveled suspicions at Huang. The prosecutors’ line: The case against Huang was shakier than they had thought. The Republicans line: It’s an outrageous cover-up. In other Clinton scandal news, Kenneth Starr dropped charges against Susan McDougal and Julie Hiatt Steele. Spin 1) Starr is finally through. Spin 2) Wait, he’s still prosecuting Webster Hubbell. Spin 3) Wait, he’s still preparing to indict the president.

NYPD officer Justin Volpe pleaded guilty to sodomizing Abner Louima with a stick. After fellow cops testified against him, Volpe admitted his actions to the court in horrific detail. Volpe’s spin: He apologized to his family for hurting them, but not to Louima. Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s spin: By telling the truth, Volpe’s colleagues scored a major victory against police brutality. Activist Al Sharpton’s spin: By supporting Louima, Sharpton scored a major victory against police brutality.

Israel’s new prime minister and Yasser Arafat struck a tentative deal on a Palestinian state. USA Today reports that Arafat will cede his territorial claim on East Jerusalem. In return, the Israelis will allow Arafat’s government to govern East Jerusalem’s 150,000 Palestinians and to control several holy sites. Prime Minister Ehud Barak will also allow the declaration of a Palestinian state and will permit the Palestinian capital to be established in East Jerusalem. The triumphant spin: Barak has already resolved the Jerusalem issue, the thorniest area of Israeli-Palestinian relations. A niggling detail: Barak has yet to form a ruling coalition or present the plan to the parliament.

Students may sue their schools for not protecting them against sexual harassment. A Georgia school may be forced to pay damages to a fifth-grade girl, the Supreme Court decided, if she can prove that school officials were “deliberately indifferent” to her torment. The conservative spin: Schools will now be held liable for garden-variety taunting. The liberal spin: No, they won’t, because it’s almost impossible to prove “severe and pervasive” harassment.

The Phantom Menace has raked in $102.8 million. The film sold $28.5 million worth of tickets Wednesday–a new high for single-day and opening-day grosses–but its $61.8 million weekend gross lags $10 million behind that of The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The spin: The reviews were disappointing and so are the returns. The counterspins: A record five-day gross of $102.8 million can’t be disappointing, and the press is wailing about “disappointing” grosses to atone for overhyping the film. The studio’s explanation: We could have shattered weekend records by releasing the film on a Friday but chose to accommodate fans by opening on Wednesday. The studio’s backup explanation: Ticket sales were depressed by predictions of long queues and sold-out shows.