The Week/the Spin

Pickett’s Charge

{{lawyer#100577}}Denise Rich gave money to President Clinton before he pardoned her ex-husband. Congressional testimony by her lawyer revealed that Ms. Rich gave “an enormous sum of money” to Clinton’s library before he pardoned fugitive Marc Rich of 50 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, income tax evasion, and illegal oil trading with Iran. (Time magazine {{reported#2:,8599,98756,00.html}} the amount as $400,000.) Denise Rich’s spin: I take the Fifth. {{Congressional Republicans’ spin#2:}}: We’re going to demand to see the library’s donation list. {{Congressional Democrats’ spin#2:}}: “There is a crucial distinction between bad judgment and a presidential scandal.”

{{heart#100522}}A study found that nearly half of heart-bypass patients suffer long-term brain damage. Cognitive tests {{showed mental impairment#2:}} in 53 percent of patients immediately after surgery, 36 percent at six weeks, 24 percent at six months, and 42 percent at five years. The mental decline was greater than that experienced by otherwise-healthy people due to aging. About 500,000 people a year {{have bypass surgery#2:}}. Spins: The impairment is caused by the heart-lung machine, used in 80 percent of bypass surgeries, which introduces air bubbles and debris that clog small blood vessels in the brain. 2) No, it’s the snipping of arteries near the heart, which releases fatty cells into the bloodstream that clog small blood vessels in the brain. 3) No, anesthesia and physical shock cause mental decline in many unhealthy, older surgical patients; impairment has nothing to do with cardiac surgery per se. 4) No, cardiovascular disease, and not the surgery for it, kills brain cells. 5) This just goes to show the real danger posed by gratuitous bypass procedures. New cholesterol drugs can obviate the need for surgery, but heart doctors let high surgical fees influence their advice to patients. 

The Secret Service shot and injured a man outside the White House. Robert Pickett, a 47-year-old accountant from Indiana, was waving a handgun and acting confused. (President Bush was not hurt.) He has {{filed several lawsuits#2:}} against the IRS to be reinstated in a job there that ended a decade ago. (Most have been dismissed.) Days ago he {{sent the president and the IRS commissioner#2:}} a suicide note. {{Pickett’s spin#2:}}: The judge “rejected my lawsuit filed as a whistleblower against the I.R.S. My death is on your hands.” {{Indiana neighbors’ spin#2:}}: “I was really surprised. As far as I knew, he was an outstanding neighbor.” (To learn what’s wrong with the neighbors, click {{here#2606:Show=8/16/1999&idMessage=3418}}.)

{{cruise and kidman#100426}}Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman will get a divorce. Hollywood’s most famous couple {{married#2:}} in 1990. They endured persistent rumors that Cruise is gay. {{Kidman in 1995#2:}}: ”[Cruise] doesn’t have a gay life. I did not marry into a marriage of convenience. I would never, ever, do that. You marry for love.” {{Gossips’ spin#2:}}: They weren’t apart as much as they let on in the divorce announcement; the real problem was that Catholic Kidman couldn’t bear Cruise’s devotion to Scientology. {{Australians’ spin#2:}}: “When the most famous couple in the world decided to live here … it seemed like the ultimate approbation that Sydney was the place to be in the 21st century.” Now we’re just the forgotten land down under.

{{bush#100307}}President Bush sent his tax-cut proposal to Congress. He said he wants much of his proposed $1.6 billion, 10-year package {{to take effect as of#2:}} the beginning of 2001. Last week, Bush reneged on his promise to increase military spending. He will wait for {{Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s#2:}} comprehensive review before giving the Pentagon more money. He promised a $4.5 billion a year increase during the campaign and pledged to deploy a $60 billion missile defense shield. (The shield’s annual budget is now $2.8 billion.) The military budget is about $300 billion; in 1985, it was an inflation-adjusted $436 billion. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ spin: We need $30 billion to $40 billion more a year for new weapons and equipment alone. {{Rumsfeld’s spin#2:}}:  Missile defense is a-comin’, like it or not. {{Liberals’ spin#2:}}: Bush finally sacrificed something for his tax cuts, which are too large anyway. Conservatives’ spin: The tax cuts are too small. {{Bush’s Goldilocks spin#2:}}: No, the cuts are just right. (To read about how failure pays off in the defense industry, click {{here#2614}}; to find out whether President Clinton weakened America’s defenses, click {{here#82762}}.)

{{Ariel Sharon#100308}}Ariel Sharon won Israel’s prime ministership in a walk. The Likud leader defeated incumbent Ehud Barak 63 percent to 37 percent. Barak resigned his seat in parliament and his leadership of the Labor Party. More than 400 people—about 350 of them Palestinians—have been killed since riots began in September. {{Hamas’ spin#2:}}: “Sharon will reveal the real Zionist image with its lust for wars and killing and will lose internationally.” {{Sharon’s spin#2:}}: “I call upon our Palestinians neighbors to cast off the path of violence and to return to the path of dialogue.” (To read a Slate “Assessment” of Sharon, click {{here#90930}};  to read about the election in “International Papers,” click {{here#100136}}; to read a discussion of it in this week’s “Breakfast Table,” click {{here#74857:Show=2/5/2001&idMessage=7012&idBio=231}}; to read Anne Applebaum on why Sharon might not spoil the peace process after all, click {{here#100351}}.)

January’s job cuts are the highest in years. Last month’s announced {{layoffs#2:}} are the highest since the government began keeping records in 1993. On Monday eToys {{fired#2:}} its remaining 293 workers. Its stock, once $90 a share, trades for 28 cents. Analysts’ spins: 1) eToys is an anomaly; its {{product is seasonal#2:}}, and last season happened to be a bust. 2) The dot-com bust is dragging down the whole economy. And the Web companies that do make it will be offshoots of bricks-and-mortar brand names, like

{{osama bin laden#100363}}Osama Bin Laden hides his attack plans in mainstream Web traffic. Intelligence experts suspect that Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders disseminate blueprints and instructions for bombings using freely available Internet “steganographic” programs, which make it possible to hide incriminating information within messages posted on sports chat rooms, at pornographic Web sites, and in family pictures, USA Today{{reported#2:}}. A federal indictment alleges that the plotters of the 1998 African Embassy bombings used similar techniques. (Four suspects {{went to trial#2:}} in Manhattan this week.) Unlike satellite telephones, which authorities can tap, steganographic messages are difficult to locate and nearly impossible to read. {{Cynics’ spin#2:}}: Prosecuting the bombers is like swatting mosquitoes. Unless you can decipher their marching orders, the problem will continue. {{Civil liberties activists’ spin#2:,1283,41658,00.html}}: Giving the government a “master key” to steganography programs would be more dangerous than the terrorists themselves. {{Afghanistan’s spin#2:}}: You can try all the suspects you want. We’re still not handing over Bin Laden.

{{xfl#100309}}The new XFL attracted twice its promised ratings. The alternative football league, owned by the World Wrestling Federation and broadcast by NBC, {{beat#2:}} the other networks in its Saturday evening debut. XFL announcer (and Minnesota Gov.) Jesse Ventura’s spin: “This is football. Professional football. It’s a business, and it’s entertainment.” Media critics’ spins: 1) The XFL is about scantily clad cheerleaders and violent hits, not football. 2) “The XFL is {{not nearly as perverse#2:}} or shocking as it needs to be.” XFL owner Vince McMahon’s spin: “I thought there was the right complement of sensuality … conflict … [and] smash-mouth, hard-hitting football.” (For the seven reasons the XFL will succeed, see {{this#100223}} “Sports Nut”; to read “Moneybox” on why the XFL is doomed, click {{here#2883:Show=2/7/2000&idMessage=4558}}; to read a modest proposal for bringing XFL rules to baseball, click {{here#87403}}.)

{{power lines#100124}}California will issue $10 billion in bonds to buy electricity. The emergency bill {{will create#2:}} $300 of debt for every Californian. The state will purchase about a third of California’s electricity demand, using its market share to negotiate lower rates. California retailers must also reduce outdoor lighting by half or pay $1,000 fines. Consumer groups’ spin: “This is the biggest bailout since the S&L crisis.” Taxpayers should not  have to pay for utilities’ greed. {{Washington state’s spin#2:}}: The feds must impose price controls on the wholesale energy market or California’s problem will become the Northwest’s. Counterspins: 1) California’s incompetence is {{not contagious#2:}}. The Northwest has learned from its neighbor and won’t make the same mistakes. 2) More price controls? {{The solution#2:}} to Cali’s harebrained, half-hearted deregulation plan (i.e., deregulating the wholesale market but not the retail market, leaving the utilities to eat the cost differential) is whole-hearted deregulation, not more regulation. (To read the Explainer’s “California Energy Crisis FAQ,” click {{here#1790:Show=1/19/2001&idMessage=6914}}).