The Week/the Spin

Campaign Casualty  

Al Gore replaced his campaign chairman. Gore says Tony Coelho resigned for health reasons. Gore appointed Commerce Secretary William Daley to the post, bypassing campaign manager Donna Brazile. Pro-Coelho spin: Give the guy a break. He has an inflamed colon. Anti-Coelho spin: That’s a convenient excuse. The real reasons are that Gore’s campaign is floundering and that Coelho is under suspicion for misusing government money while in Congress. Pro-Brazile spin: A white boy replaced by a white boy, how typical. Pro-George W. Bush spin: Unlike Gore, our man doesn’t switch advisers every month. Media’s spin: The problem isn’t the campaign’s chairman, it’s the candidate. Conservative wags’ spin: Gore’s replacing the corrupt Coelho with … a Daley? At least he’ll win Illinois.

Vladimir Putin proposed a Pan-European missile shield and criticized media crackdowns at home. Softening his authoritarian image, the Russian president criticized the arrest of Moscow media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky as “excessive.” He also proposed a missile-defense system to protect Russia and Europe “from the Atlantic to the Urals.” Pro-Putin spin: He cares about free expression and is flexible on America’s Star Wars ambitions. Anti-Putin spin: Either he’s dissembling on Gusinsky or he’s not calling the shots, both of which are disturbing. And Pan-European missile defense is pie-in-the-sky. (To read Slate’s Anne Applebaum on the two faces of Putin, click here.)

RadioShack will sponsor a moon rover. The electronics chain will pay $1 million annually to have its logo emblazoned on the privately funded robot, which will look for fuel sources beneath the lunar surface in 2003. RadioShack’s Web site will stream live video feeds from the mission. RadioShack’s spin: There’s a glut of advertising on Earth. It’s easer to get noticed in space. Analysts’ spin: What next, a Tang logo on the space shuttle?

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., moved to hear the Microsoft case quickly. The court said the case would go directly to its entire panel of judges, bypassing an initial three-judge panel. The court’s move makes it less likely that the case will move directly to the Supreme Court, as requested by District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson and the U.S. Department of Justice. Play-by-play spin: The appeals court has been friendly to Microsoft in the past, so Microsoft may have won home-field advantage. Color commentary: Maybe so, but the appeals court’s haste may foil Microsoft’s strategy of delaying the game.

New York state will require cigarettes to be fire-safe. The law, the first of its kind in the nation, will require that cigarettes burn out when not being smoked. Cigarette companies’ spin: We’re all for fire safety, but altering the flammability of tobacco might increase its health risks. Anti-tobacco lobby’s spin: Nonsense. You’re just afraid that people will buy fewer smokes if they can relight their old ones. Analysts’ spin: While Congress dawdles on the issue, the states are acting on their own.

North and South Korean leaders signed an accord to reunite families. The notoriously reclusive North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, joked on live TV and signed an agreement with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to reunite families divided by the Korean War. The meeting is the first ever between the two Koreas, which have remained officially at war since the 1953 armistice. Skeptics’ spin: This is about show, not substance. Koreans’ spin: After 50 years of not seeing our relatives, we’ll take show. (To read Slate’s Anne Applebaum on the impediments to a united Korea, click here.)

Sixty-six classical orchestras will sell music over the Web. They will sell prerecorded music and “stream” live concerts directly to consumers. Classical music champions’ spin: The orchestras are cutting out the middleman and will reach a broader audience. Skeptics’ spin: The orchestras can’t sell traditional CDs, so they’ll try anything to stay in business.

Stephen King may publish his own fiction on the Web. The horror novelist has asked readers whether he should publish a discarded novel, The Plant, in installments on his Web site. He would ask for a voluntary $1 contribution per installment and would stop publication if not enough people pay. This spring his novella Riding the Bullet sold 500,000 copies when Simon & Schuster sold it exclusively on e-book and via Web download. King’s spin: This is just an experiment. Publishers’ spin: This is the end of publishing as we know it.

Another “wilding” attack occurred in New York’s Central Park. A mob of 15 to 25 men committed four assaults and robberies after Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day parade. An amateur videotape captured the incidents. Police’s spin: Even with the assaults, Central Park is safer than last year, when it was as safe as ever. New Yorkers’ spin: 1980s lawlessness is on its way back.

Syrian leader Hafez Assad died. His 34-year-old son, Bashar, took power. Syrians mourned the 69-year-old dictator, who was repressive at home and a maverick abroad. (He invaded Israel in 1973 but joined the allies in the Gulf War.) President Clinton sent Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the funeral. Idealists’ spin: Bashar is less stubborn than his father and more likely to negotiate peace with Israel. Realists’ spin: Maybe, but he was going to be an ophthalmologist until his older brother died in 1994. He may not be Machiavellian enough to stay in power. (To read about pundits’ reactions to the succession, click here; to read Slate’s Anne Applebaum on why the world is better off without Hafez Assad, click here.)

The New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup. The Devils beat the National Hockey League’s defending champions, the Dallas Stars, with a double-overtime goal in Game 6. Hockey insiders’ spin: The final two games were NHL classics. Hockey outsiders’ spin: Since when did New Jersey and Texas become hockey powers? And why aren’t the NBA finals this exciting?