The Week/the Spin

Leader of the Paks

The Senate rejected the nuclear test ban treaty. The treaty, which needed 67 votes for ratification, was defeated 51-48. Only four Republicans sided with Democrats in favor of it. Although President Clinton vowed to continue to fight for its ratification, Majority Leader Trent Lott said it would not be reconsidered during his term. Other nations had promised to follow the U.S. lead. The Democratic spin: Republicans let politics trump international security. The Republican spin: A treaty that flawed would never have worked. The Democratic reply: It certainly won’t work now. Newspapers variously said the vote hurt 1) Clinton’s ability to set foreign policy ( Los Angeles Times); 2) America’s global leadership (New York Times); and 3) centrist, bipartisan politics ( Washington Post).

Pakistan’s military ousted its elected government. Coup leader Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf suspended the constitution and declared the country to be under military rule, but did not announce plans to install a new government. Musharraf accused former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of weakening the military, crippling the economy, and tolerating corruption. Western analysts worried that military rule would exacerbate: 1) the region’s instability (Los Angeles Times); 2) the fragility of Pakistan’s democracy; and 3) the ascendancy of Islamic militants (USA Today). Pakistanis’ reaction: After Sharif’s regime, anything will be an improvement ( Washington Post).

Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain died.”Wilt the Stilt,” widely considered the best player of all time, is the only one ever to score 100 points in a game. He captured national attention in the 1960s through an intense rivalry with Bill Russell and again in the 1990s with his claim to have bedded 20,000 women. The Los Angeles Times said Chamberlain’s dominance as a center forever “changed the way basketball is played.” The Chicago Tribune declared that Chamberlain’s skill and popularity “saved the NBA. … Had there been no Wilt, there would have been no Dr. J or Bird or Magic or–perish the thought!--Michael.”

The world’s population reached 6 billion. It has doubled since 1960, but growth is slowing as urbanization, education, and family planning increase worldwide. Most of the continued growth will occur in the developing world. The United Nations predicts that population will level off near 10 billion late in the next century. The rosy spin: Despite what doomsayers predicted, overpopulation hasn’t caused global catastrophe. The gloomy spin: Well, not yet.

The AFL-CIO endorsedAl Gore’s presidential bid. The endorsement lets Gore use the union’s resources and 13 million members for political organizing. The optimistic spin: Labor’s support gives Gore a great boost. The jaded spin: Labor’s support for the Democratic front-runner is a non-story. The AFL-CIO spin: Either way, the attention shows we’re a force to be reckoned with.

Four teams remain in baseball’s playoffs. The Red Sox and Yankees are vying for the American League title. The Braves and Mets are competing in the National League championship. Boston pitcher Pedro Martinez threw six no-hit innings in the final game against Cleveland to make the Red Sox only the fourth team ever to overcome a two-game deficit in the playoffs’ first round. The Mets, who barely made the playoffs after a dismal mid-season performance, are competing with Boston for recognition as the “Cinderella team.” The Yankees and Braves are fighting for recognition as the decade’s best team.

A Colorado grand jury issued no charges in the JonBenet Ramsey case. After 13 months of investigating, the jury deemed the evidence insufficient. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said he would assemble a new team of prosecutors to continue the investigation. Some critics charged that the lack of an indictment revealed that the police work was botched. Others said that the continued investigation of a rich, white victim’s death showed that race and class influence the justice system.

A British court ruled that Gen. Augusto Pinochet could be extradited. If his appeals fail, the former Chilean dictator could stand trial in Spain on 35 charges of torture and conspiracy. Pinochet’s spin: The court is violating the rights of Chileans by imposing foreign laws. Prosecutors’ spin: Look who’s talking about violating the rights of Chileans.

Margaret MacGregor won the first man-vs.-woman boxing match. The undefeated, 5-foot-4-inch 36-year-old unanimously won all four rounds against male boxer Loi Chow, who is 5 foot 2 and has a record of 0-3. Some observers objected to a man hitting a woman. MacGregor’s supporters said she had landed a blow for gender equality. Detractors complained that she should have picked on someone her own size.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush criticized congressional Republicans. First he said House Republicans shouldn’t “balance their budget on the backs of the poor.” Then he said his party often neglects the disadvantaged by focusing on economic wealth. Democrats called Bush a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Republican opponents accused Bush of running for president on the backs of congressmen. But Bush said his comments made a “positive case” for Republican compassion, and some pundits said he was astute to recognize that the Republican “revolution is dead” (Al Hunt, Capital Gang). (Slate’s ” Frame Game” analyzes Bush’s “triangulation” strategy.)