The Week/the Spin

Global Alarming

A new “love bug” virus swept the world. The e-mails, which originated late Thursday, have the words “FW:” in the subject line and include an attachment with the letters “.vbs.” Like e-mails carrying the “ILOVEYOU” virus, the new e-mails send copies of themselves to everyone in a user’s Microsoft Outlook address book. Unlike “ILOVEYOU” e-mails, the new e-mails change their subject lines as they replicate. Optimists’ spin: This virus will finally induce governments to crack down on e-crime. Pessimists’ spin: Governments are light-years behind the e-criminals.

Last winter was the United States’ warmest in more than 100 years. January through April was the warmest period in the 106 years of U.S. weather records. In the 1990s, winters averaged 2 degrees above normal. In the 1930s, the century’s second-hottest decade, temperatures were only 1 degree above normal. Enviro-activists’ spin: This is more evidence of global warming. Enviro-skeptics’ spin: You can’t conclude anything from 106 years of data. This is probably just a byproduct of El Niño.

Two former Klan members were charged with the 1963 bombing of a black church. The infamous bombing in Birmingham, Ala., killed four black girls. Of four suspects, one was given a life sentence in 1985, and another died of natural causes. Historians accuse former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover of dropping the ‘63 investigation. Prosecutors’ spin: They’re getting charged now because prosecutors are more willing to charge whites for killing blacks, and juries are more willing to convict them. Defense lawyers’ spin: They’re getting charged now because it’s politically correct to “solve” civil rights cases with insufficient evidence.

Beverly Hills 90210 ended its 10-year run. The teen-age soap opera, one of Fox’s first hits, followed the cast from early high school to adulthood and marriage. It spawned a genre of melodramas dealing with teen-age problems, including copycat programs on MTV and the WB network. GenX spin: I can’t believe Donna and David are marrying! Baby boomers’ spin: We had M*A*S*H, they have 90210.

The Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates by half a percent. It’s the largest hike in five years and brings interest rates to their highest point since January 1991. Inflation indicators are mild, but the economy grew 5.4 percent last quarter, and unemployment is at a 30-year low. The Fed’s spin: Even if we can’t see inflation now, the textbooks predict it will arrive soon. Politicians’ and stockholders’ spin: The hike is hypervigilant and an unnecessary tax on average Americans.

Sierra Leone’s ruthless guerrilla leader was caught. Foday Sankoh had killed thousands of civilians and had captured hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers. Last week his bodyguards fired on civilian protesters outside his house, killing 19. His forces reignited a civil war earlier this month by breaking a 10-month cease-fire. Sankoh had been sentenced to death last year, but a U.N.-brokered peace granted him amnesty. Sierra Leoneans’ spin: He cut off my hands. Off with his head! United Nations’ spin: We did not authorize his capture, which will make it harder to negotiate with the rebels for our hostages. Sierra Leoneans’ response: Your peace accord caused this mess in the first place. (To view a photo gallery of dismemberment victims, click here; to read a timeline of the conflict, click here.)

Rupert Murdoch entered the Internet-university business. Murdoch’s News International joined Universitas 21, an international consortium of universities offering accredited distance-education programs. News International will provide technology and marketing, while Universitas 21 will set academic standards. Ivory Tower traditionalists’ spin: This isn’t education, it’s highbrow advertising and passive learning. E-academics’ response: 1) Universitas will reach students who can’t relocate; 2) all universities take money from moguls; and 3) profits from Universitas will supplement its members’ bricks-and-mortar schools.

George W. Bush proposed a national trigger-lock program. He also offered free trigger locks to Texans. The move comes two days before the “Million Mom March” in Washington, D.C., which advocates gun restrictions opposed by Bush. Liberals’ spin: This plan is a decoy. Everybody knows Bush is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. Conservatives’ spin: This plan is a political pander. There’s no evidence that gun-safety devices save lives. Bush’s spin: This plan is a smart compromise on a divisive issue.

Acompany plans to offer lunar burials. For $12,500, Celestis will send a few ounces of your cremated remains to the moon. The first 200 “tombstones”—lipstick-size, inscribed vials of ash—will launch as early as next year. The company already offers Earth-orbit burial for $5,300. Celestis’ spin: “The baby boomers want to do things a little differently” for their funerals. (To make a reservation, click here.)

A fire set by the National Park Service destroyed much of Los Alamos, N.M. High winds swept the government-managed blaze out of control, destroying 400 homes and forcing nearly 20,000 people to flee. Nuclear materials at Los Alamos National Laboratory were unaffected. Mystics’ spin: This was God’s revenge on Oppenheimer. Government’s spin: Nonsense. This was a mistake. Residents’ spin: Nonsense. This was avoidable.