The Week/the Spin

“Good Evening, Liberated Serbia”

Russia sealed the ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Russia’s foreign minister said he “congratulated [challenger Vojislav] Kostunica on his victory in the presidential elections.” The Yugoslav army said that it would not “interfere in the democratic process in Serbia.” This follows the pivotal day on which 1) rioters stormed the parliament building, setting fires and ripping down portraits of government officials; 2) the state news agency switched sides, declaring Kostunica the “president-elect”; and 3) police stopped resisting and joined the uprising. Realists’ spin: Don’t expect the new government to be overly friendly to the West. Kostunica’s spin: “Good evening, liberated Serbia.”

Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman debated. In an informal, sit-down conversation with CNN moderator Bernard Shaw, the vice-presidential candidates disagreed cordially over Medicare, taxes, military strength, education, and energy policy. Cheney criticized Lieberman for altering his positions since becoming Al Gore’s running mate. Cheney’s spin: “We’ve had eight years of talk and no action.” Lieberman’s spin: “Did Al Gore make promises in 1992? Absolutely. Did he deliver? Big time.” Voters’ spin: Can we elect one of these gentlemen president instead of Bush or Gore?

M iddle East cease-fire talks failed as battles between Israeli troops and Palestinian rioters continued. On Wednesday, Paris peace talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat failed. The fighting, which has claimed more than 50 lives, began two weeks ago after Israeli Likud leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, or al-Haram as-Sharif, a Jewish holy site controlled by Palestinians. Israelis’ spin: The Palestinians are the aggressors. Palestinians’ spin: The Israelis are the aggressors. Insiders’ spin: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak can’t denounce Sharon or call off the tanks because his government needs conservative support. Analysts’ spin: R.I.P. comprehensive Middle East peace. (To read world reaction to the fighting in “International Papers,” click here.)

Sotheby’s pleaded guilty to antitrust violations. The auction house agreed to pay a $45 million fine for fixing commission prices with rival Christie’s for perhaps as long as eight years. Last month, after a civil suit, each house agreed to reimburse its customers $256 million. (Christie’s won criminal amnesty by turning over documents to the Justice Department.) Sotheby’s former chief executive and president Diana Brooks will also plead guilty. She faces a three-year prison sentence and is expected to testify against former chairman A. Alfred Taubman, who has admitted no wrongdoing. (He paid $156 million of Sotheby’s civil settlement.) Media observers’ spin: You don’t need to be a ruthless mogul to be a monopolist. Even the genteel can become corrupt. 

Al Gore and George W. Bush debated. The first of three encounters centered on policy, featured no gaffes, and divided pundits. Bush attacked Gore’s fund-raising ethics in the final minutes. Pro-Gore spin: He showed a command of policy and kept the focus on Bush’s unrealistic tax cut. Pro-Bush spin: He looked relaxed and was articulate enough—which makes him the winner, given the low expectations. Non-partisan spin: Several months ago everyone thought the candidates would fight for the political center, but this debate revealed clear ideological differences. It probably didn’t change any minds, though. (To read Slate’s Jacob Weisberg on the debate, click here; for William Saletan, click here.)

The Hamptons’ county council voted to ban cell phones while driving. The Suffolk County, N.Y., Legislature voted 12-6 to impose a $150 fine on drivers using hand-held mobile phones. If the county executive signs the bill, Suffolk would become the first county in the nation to impose such a prohibition (so far adopted by towns in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). Last week, Verizon became the first major mobile-phone company to endorse government regulation of hand-held phones on the road. Hamptons’ residents’ spin: “There are too many people with too much money talking unnecessarily” and endangering other drivers. (To read Slate’s Chatterbox on the safety record of cell-phone drivers, click here.)

A couple screened test-tube embryos for genes needed to save their 6-year-old daughter. The embryo with the appropriate genetic pattern was then implanted in the mother’s womb, and on Sept. 26 umbilical-cord cells from the 1-month-old boy were transplanted to his sister, who suffers from an inherited, fatal bone-marrow disease, the Washington Post reported. The Post doesn’t say whether the embryos that weren’t chosen were discarded. In 1989, a man reversed a vasectomy to conceive a child with a 1-in-4 chance of having cells to save a sibling, but last month’s case is the first time a couple has screened embryos to eliminate the risk of non-matching cells. Brave New World spin: This is the opening gun in the race for designer babies. Couple’s spin: We wanted a second child anyway, but we ran a 25 percent chance of conceiving one with the same fatal disease. The genetic test allowed us to have a healthy second child—and the genetic match with his sibling is just icing on the cake. Couple’s doctors’ spin: Parents have children for all kinds of noble and ignoble reasons. This boy is more loved than most.

The Sydney Summer Olympics ended. The United States won the medal race with 90, followed by Russia’s 77 and China’s 59. American highlights: The men’s baseball team’s defeat of Cuba for the gold, Marion Jones’ five track-and-field medals, wrestler Rulon Gardner’s gold-medal victory over undefeated Russian Alexander Karelin, and Michael Johnson’s unprecedented repeat victory in the 400 meter. Cynical spin: With all the drug busts, we should call it the Dope Olympics. Upbeat spin: There have always been drugs, the testing just improved. We should call it the Women’s Olympics. Internationalists’ spin: If the medal totals were weighted for population and economic strength, the winners would be Cuba, the Bahamas, and Bulgaria. The United States would come in 42nd. (To read a “Sports Nut” on how to fix the U.S. men’s soccer team, click here; to read a Sports Nut on why doped athletes are better athletes, click here; to read a Sports Nut complaining about the “Sob Sister” coverage of the Olympics, click here.)

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau died at age 80. The urbane French-Canadian Liberal—who served, with a nine-month hiatus, from 1969 to 1984—was a federalist at home and a dove abroad. His legacy: 1) He prevented Quebec’s secession by championing the rights of French speakers and by refusing to buckle to separatist terrorists. 2) He negotiated constitutional independence from Britain. 3) He provoked scandal by dating Barbra Streisand and by marrying a 22-year-old at age 51. Historians’ spins: 1) He was Canada’s Abe Lincoln—a reflective leader remembered for saving the Commonwealth, establishing minority rights, and squelching armed revolt. 2) He was Canada’s JFK—a Harvard-educated minority remembered for his sophistication, pioneering use of television, and controversial private life. Canadians’ spin: He nearly fooled the world into thinking that Canada was hip and exciting.

The Food and Drug Administration approved abortion pill RU-486. But patients who use it must make three trips to a doctor trained in prenatal care. (The doctor need not be a surgical abortionist—a requirement urged by pro-lifers.) The drug will reach the market in a month. President Clinton lifted the ban on the drug’s importation within days of taking office. The French inventor of the pill, Roussel Uclaf, donated U.S. manufacturing rights to the Population Council in 1994. The pill’s manufacturer will remain a secret. Analysts’ spin: Private, widespread use of RU-486 may end the abortion wars. Pundits’ spin: This may become an election issue. Pro-life spin: Now you can pop a pill to induce a miscarriage. This is immoral, and all the more reason to vote for Dubya. (To read a Slate “Medical Examiner” on types of late-stage abortion, click here; to read a “Frame Game” on the legacy of Roe vs. Wade, click here; to read an “Explainer” on whether girls need a parent’s permission to take the drug, click here.)