The Week/the Spin

Comeback Kid?

T he Florida Supreme Court ordered the recount of thousands of ballots. The 4-3 opinion, which overturned Monday’s lower court ruling, ordered the recount of thousands of disputed ballots in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and perhaps other counties. Bush will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hours earlier, two circuit court judges threw out Democratic lawsuits requesting the invalidation of pro-Bush absentee ballots in Seminole and Martin counties. (Local GOP officials had fixed incomplete ballot-request forms before the election.) Earlier, a federal circuit court rejected Bush’s claim that manual recounts are unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature prepared to appoint a slate of presidential electors for Bush, no matter what the court outcome. States must choose presidential electors by Dec. 12; the electors vote for president Dec. 18. (To read Slate’s election coverage, click here. To read Slate’s Jacob Weisberg on who actually won Florida, click here; to read Dahlia Lithwick’s dispatch from the Supreme Court arguments, click here; to read her analysis of the decision, click here.) 

Yemen fingered two USS Cole suspects with links to Osama Bin Laden. But authorities have yet to find a “smoking gun” directly linking Bin Laden to the Oct. 12 bombing, which killed 17 sailors. The United States and Russia jointly asked the U.N. Security Council to tighten economic and travel sanctions on Afghanistan, which is harboring Bin Laden. Intelligence officials’ spin: It’s easy to prove links to Bin Laden—his organization has trained nearly every Afghan-born terrorist—but nearly impossible to prove direct orders for a bombing.

Hockey legend Mario Lemieux will attempt a comeback. The former Pittsburgh Penguins star, now the team’s owner, may step onto the ice early next year to help his team in the playoff stretch. He will remain owner but recuse himself from National Hockey League ownership votes. Lemieux, a Hall of Famer, retired after the 1996-97 season at age 31. He sat out the 1994-95 season after undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease and surgery for back problems. He gained control of the team last year after it filed for bankruptcy without having paid off his salary. Sportswriters’ spin: Lemieux had problems with his coach and his star player, so he decided to take things into his own hands.

R ussia may release a former U.S. naval officer sentenced to 20 years for espionage. A government committee will recommend that President Vladimir Putin release American businessman Edmund Pope, who was arrested in April for acquiring information about a Russian torpedo. Meanwhile, Putin proposed Russia’s readoption of the Soviet national anthem, with new lyrics. Former President Boris Yeltsin opposed the move. American diplomats’ spin: Earth to Russia—the Cold War is over. Pope is dying of cancer and should return to the United States. Putin’s spin: A majority support bringing back the anthem. “If we agree that the symbols of … the Soviet epoch must not be used at all, we will have to admit then that our mothers’ and fathers’ lives were useless and meaningless.” Putin opponents’ spin: “The truth is not determined by the majority. The majority, as we well know from our history, has supported lies, injustice and great bloodshed.”

The stock market soared, then slowed. The Nasdaq and the Dow each lost several percentage points Wednesday and Thursday on the heels of profit worries surrounding Microsoft and Motorola. On Tuesday, the Nasdaq had its best day ever after Alan Greenspan acknowledged the economic slowdown. The index leapt 10.5 percent—and the Dow Jones gained 3 percent—after Greenspan hinted that the Federal Reserve would view the slowing economy as suspiciously as it views inflation. (The Fed has raised rates 1.75 points since June 1999, to 6.5 percent.) Since last week, economic stats have discouraged investors: 1) New-home sales fell 2.6 percent and factory orders dropped 3.3 percent in October; 2) two leading economic indexes showed declines; and 3) annual growth of the U.S. gross domestic product fell from 5.6 percent in the second quarter to 2.4 percent in the third—the slowest growth since 1996. (It has been above 4 percent for three years.) At the same time, inflation dropped from 2.4 percent to 1.9 percent. Greenspan’s spin: “The pace of expansion of economic activity has moderated appreciably, in part” because of our rate hikes. (To read a Slate“Assessment” of the Nasdaq, the stock-market index for the smug digital world, click here.)

Gonorrhea is increasing for the first time in 25 years. A government report found that cases of gonorrhea, which declined by 75 percent between 1975 and 1996, have risen 9 percent since 1997. Gay men and blacks have the highest risk. Syphilis rates, which have fallen 90 percent in the last decade, are at their lowest since the United States started keeping records. Every year 15 million Americans become infected with a sexually transmitted disease—half with incurable viral diseases such as herpes and the human papilloma virus. (HPV causes one half of all cervical cancers.) One-fourth of those contracting STDs are teen-agers; two-thirds are under 25. Spins: 1) Better AIDS treatment means fewer gay men practice safe sex. Ironically, having gonorrhea or syphilis increases the probability of transmitting HIV. 2) Most teen-agers are having sex, and many are getting STDs. 3) The CDC could eliminate syphilis if Congress would give it the money, but poor blacks who have syphilis don’t have lobbyists on the Hill.

Pepsico bought Quaker Oats. Pepsico’s acquisition of Quaker Oats’ Gatorade brand makes Pepsi the industry leader in noncarbonated soft drinks. Its total market share—carbonated and noncarbonated—is now more than three-quarters that of the Coca Cola Co. Analysts’ spin: The noncarbonated market is growing, and Pepsico is smart to jump on the bandwagon.

Chile charged Augusto Pinochet with kidnapping and placed him under house arrest. A judge indicted Pinochet for the disappearance of 19 prisoners shortly after the former dictator took power in 1973. Health problems may forestall a trial. Pinochet, who stepped down in 1990, was under house arrest in London from October 1998 to March 2000. The civilian government that succeeded him said 3,197 people disappeared or were killed under his rule. Pinochet’s spin: “As a former president of the republic, I accept all the facts that they say the army and the armed forces did.” Human-rights campaigns’ spin: Justice demands a trial. (The Explainer tells you how to pronounce “Pinochet” here; to read world reaction to his arrest in “International Papers,” click here; for Anne Applebaum’s take, click here.)

Hillary Clinton may write about her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.“Many others have imputed thoughts and feelings to me,” she said in a radio interview. “I’d like to have the chance to sort my own out and to share those and to talk about what it’s been like. … I’m going to reflect on that. I probably am going to write about it.” Clinton said she would answer feminists who criticized her for sticking by her husband. Publishing gossips’ spin: Unlike Monica, Hillary has secrets left to tell—and they’re worth a big advance. (To read Slate’s “Book Club” on Hillary’s Invitation To the White House, click here.)