The Week/the Spin

America’s Most Wanted

Kosovo update: 1) The United States is offering $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic. The offer also applies to other alleged Yugoslav war criminals. The hopeful spin: It will put teeth in the U.N. criminal tribunal’s indictment. 2) Serb army reservists blocked roads and pledged not to move until they are paid. They have not collected their $5-a-day wages since April. 3) Violence continues. Ethnic Albanians torched Serb homes, and gunmen fired on U.S. and French troops. 4) The post-conflict post-mortem continues. The New York Times quotes Richard Holbrooke’s defense of his negotiations with Milosevic (“My job was not to make moral judgments”). (Read William Saletan’s “ Frame Game” in Slate on why the war’s outcome should leave pundits blushing.)

Physicians will unionize against managed care. The American Medical Association voted to form a union to negotiate for better wages and working conditions but promised never to strike. Spins: 1) Collective bargaining will win doctors more control over the type and quantity of medication they prescribe, resulting in better care for patients. 2) Collective bargaining will win doctors higher pay, resulting in higher costs for patients.

The Supreme Court barred lawsuits against states for violating federal laws. Individual plaintiffs will no longer be able to sue states that violate federal laws; only the federal government may do so. Observers called this a coup for the court’s Reagan- and Bush-appointed states’ rights faction. Liberals protested that the ruling emasculates Congress’ power to bind states to federal law. Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky opines in the Los Angeles Times that the decision is “the height of conservative judicial activism” because it “invented new rights for state governments at the expense of individuals.”

The Supreme Court restricted its definition of physical disability. The court ruled that people whose impairments can be corrected (with medicine, eyeglasses, or the like) aren’t eligible for protection from job discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Employers were relieved. Advocates for the disabled fumed at “the absurd result of a person being disabled enough to be fired from a job, but not disabled enough to challenge the firing.” The Washington Post predicts that the decision will spark a legal fight over the definition of correctability and urges Congress to revise the ADA’s ambiguities.

The Microsoft trial ended after eight months of testimony. A ruling is expected in late autumn. Early verdicts from the press: 1) The ruling will tame Microsoft and hearten its competitors. 2) The trial itself has already tamed Microsoft and heartened its competitors. Read Dahlia Lithwick’s “Dispatches” in Slate for the play-by-play.

Kenneth Starr named Hillary Clinton as a potential witness in Webster Hubbell’s trial. Hubbell is charged with covering up his and Mrs. Clinton’s legal work on a crooked Arkansas land deal. The trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 9, is expected to coincide with her announcement of her Senate candidacy.

Sen. Orrin Hatch says he will run for president. The Utah Republican emphasized his middle-of-the-road politics, working-class roots, and low expectations of success. He told the Washington Post that he’s running because “if something happens to George W. Bush, I don’t know if we would have an alternative who could beat Al Gore.”

Florida’s new school voucher plan is being challenged in court. Opponents of the first-in-the-nation plan–which subsidizes private or parochial school tuition for kids in “failing” public schools who choose to transfer–contend that it violates church-state boundaries. A win could jeopardize nascent voucher programs in other states, as well as the millions of dollars Florida already spends on private, church-linked charities.

Jeb Bush’s wife lied to customs agents. Columba Bush, wife of the Florida governor, declared only $500 worth of goods upon her return from a Paris vacation, but agents found $19,000 in receipts in her passport and fined her $4,100 on the spot. The governor claimed his wife low-balled only because she was embarrassed to confess to him how much she’d blown on clothes and jewelry. Politicos and analysts told the New York Times that the gaffe won’t hurt Jeb or his brother, George W.

The Senate defeated a plan to restrict U.S. steel imports. The steel industry had lobbied ardently for the bill, claiming that imports are sapping business and eating jobs. The Clinton administration, most of the Senate, and a slew of economists opposed the bill, agreeing that it would invite protectionist retaliation from other countries. The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman concurs that steel jobs are being lost because of increased productivity: “a lot of workers simply aren’t needed anymore, and no amount of xenophobia will alter that.”

A federal panel is deciding if and how to tax Internet commerce. The newly convened group is supposed to deliver its findings by October 2001, when the current ban on e-commerce taxes expires. The free-market spin: An online sales tax will drive shoppers to overseas competitors and hinder e-commerce’s explosive growth. The government spin: Explosive e-commerce growth fueled by no-tax shopping will decimate state revenues. The traditional retailers’ spin: Explosive e-commerce growth fueled by no-tax shopping will decimate us.

Brain surgery was successfully performed on a fetus. Last March, surgeons operated in vivo on a 6-month-old fetus suffering from excessive water in his brain. They jubilantly announced that the baby, born in May, shows no sign of the congenital condition. The disclaimer: They won’t know for another year whether the baby is brain damaged.

A serial killer is on the loose. The FBI declared Rafael Resendez-Ramirez, suspected of murdering eight people in Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas, “Public Enemy No. 1.” All of the victims were offed near railway tracks, leading authorities to believe that Ramirez is traveling on freight trains.

Coke is making Europeans ill. Coca-Cola products were removed from store shelves in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands after dozens of drinkers complained of nausea and intestinal trouble. (See “International Papers” for a European reaction.) The company traced the problem to a preservative used on shipping pallets and a bad batch of carbon dioxide, neither of which presents a serious health threat. Financial experts say the serious threat is to Coke’s overseas sales, which make up 73 percent of its profits.

Prince Edward of Britain married Sophie Rhys-Jones. Jones is a commoner and a public relations executive. The couple staged a more casual wedding than Edward’s brothers did, dispensing with superformal dress, showy titles, and a postnuptial smooch. The post-game analysis: 1) They’re very shy. 2) They’re very media savvy; by avoiding the pomp of Edward’s brothers’ weddings, they signaled to the press that their union will be scandal-free. 3) Informal, my bum. They are moving to a $16 million home equipped with $16,000 water pitchers and $5,000 tea strainers. (Check Monday’s ” International Papers” for saucy commentary from the British press.)

Explorers found the oldest deep-sea shipwreck yet. They located two wine-holding Phoenician vessels that sank near Israel’s coast about 2,700 years ago. They immediately posted their findings on the National Geographic Society’s Web site.

Joyce Maynard auctioned off love letters written to her by J.D. Salinger. The letters were purchased for $156,000 by a software magnate, who promptly announced that he might return the notes to Salinger. (Click here for Alex Beam’s take on how Maynard has already auctioned herself.) Meanwhile, Salinger’s daughter will follow a previous tell-all by Maynard with one of her own. The New York Observer shudders at both women’s eagerness to capitalize on their relationships with the reclusive writer.

Stephen King was badly hurt in a car accident. The author was hit by a minivan while walking on the side of the road in rural Maine and suffered a shattered leg and a collapsed lung.

The Dallas Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres to win their first NHL championship. The Sabres protested the overtime victory, arguing that Brett Hull’s skate entered the crease as he was scoring the winning goal. Referees ruled that Hull had possession of the puck both inside and outside the crease. Hockey commentators called it the latest example of Buffalo’s championship hex.