The Week/the Spin

Breeding Bullies

The Navy will not court-martial the skipper of the USS Greeneville. The admiral of the Navy’s Pacific fleet agreed with the unanimous recommendation of investigators, who said that Cmdr. Scott Waddle displayed bad judgment but not criminal negligence when his submarine sank a Japanese fishing boat in February during a surfacing drill. Waddle will receive an administrative censure, which will end his career but allow him to keep his rank and pension. Japanese spin: Waddle surfaced solely for the enjoyment of the submarine’s civilian observers, and he let them work the controls. The U.S. should “expect quite strong resentment from the families” of the nine who drowned.

A study linked child care for infants and toddlers with disobedience in kindergarten. After studying more than 1,300 children for 10 years, researchers concluded that the more time a child spends in day care between birth and age 4 and a half, the more “aggressive” and “defiant” he will be between ages 4 and a half and 6. The study also found that children in high-quality day care performed better on tests of language and memory (but were not less aggressive). Scientists’ spin: Don’t jump to conclusions. Child care may simply attract the aggressive kids. And spending more time with parents decreases family income, which can hurt child welfare. 

S tocks soared after a surprise interest rate cut. The Dow rose nearly 4 percent and the Nasdaq surged more than 8 percent after the Federal Reserve lowered rates by a half point between scheduled meetings. (The following day the Nasdaq gained another 5 percent.) The new interest rate, 4.5 percent, is the lowest in more than 6 years. Analysts’ spin: Greenspan has the markets wrapped around his finger. He lowers expectations at Fed meetings and then surprises investors on a day when Wall Street was already trading higher. Bulls’ spin: This is the beginning of the tech stock rebound.

Mississippi voted to keep the Confederate emblem on its state flag. Sixty-five percent of voters elected to keep the 1894 stars-and-bars motif. In the last year, South Carolina and Georgia legislators voted to eliminate or drastically shrink the Confederate icon on their state flags. Spins: 1) The new-flag forces lost because they avoided race and instead talked about potential economic boycotts. 2) The new-flag forces only won elsewhere because they avoided statewide referenda; Mississippi is more democratic. 3) Say goodbye to the NCAA playoffs, and prepare for an NAACP boycott.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip. After a Palestinian mortar attack on an Israeli town, Israel sealed Gaza Strip borders and took about a half mile of land as a “security belt.” An Israeli general threatened to occupy the territory for months, but the army withdrew shortly thereafter. The United States called the Israeli response ” disproportionate.” Palestinian mortar shelling continued. Israel’s spin: The use of mortars against civilians violates the Oslo agreement. That’s what is “disproportionate” (Defense Minister Shimon Peres). Palestinians’ spin: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would like to illegally occupy our land just as he occupied Lebanon in the 1980s. If Israel helicopters can fire missiles at our buildings, why can’t we use mortars? America’s sotto-voce spin: When this mortar scuffle dies down, can we withdraw our troops from the Sinai?

President Bush may delay the sale of sophisticated weapons to Taiwan. National security aides will recommend selling Taiwan less sophisticated weapons than it asked for, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, negotiations between the United States and China over the return of the EP-3 spy plane plane ended without an agreement. With the U.S. crew safely returned, President Bush has said that the collision was not America’s fault and that China’s behavior during the standoff “does not advance a constructive relationship.” Strategists’ spin: If we defer but don’t cancel the high-tech sales to Taiwan, we’ll keep a card in our negotiations with China. (For spy plane FAQs from Slate’s “Explainer,” click here and here; to read the Explainer on water landings, click here; to learn what a Jesuitical compromise is, click here.)

Scientists created a robot using the disembodied brain of an eel. Northwestern University researchers created the cyborg by transplanting an immature lamprey’s brain into a mechanical device, the Washington Post reported. Sensors on the robot transmit the presence of light to the lamprey’s brain, which then signals electric wheels to turn toward the light. Scientists’ spin: Once we perfect nerve cell-electrode interaction, we’ll be able to create bio-assisted technologies (such as insect-to-microprocessor bomb sniffers) and technology-assisted organisms (such as artificial limbs controlled by the brain). Brave New World spin: We’ll also be able to create a race of RoboCop slaves. Futurists’ spin: The genome gets all the fuss, but bioelectronics will be the next great medical breakthrough.

Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay tells the story of comic-book artists fleeing Nazi Germany. The drama prize went to David Auburn for Proof; the general nonfiction prize went to Herbert P. Bix for Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan; and the biography prize went to David Levering Lewis for the second volume of W.E.B. Du Bois. (He is the first author to win more than one prize for a multivolume biography.) The Oregonian, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal each won two awards. The Miami Herald won for its Elián González coverage, and AP photographer Alan Diaz won for his famous “Elián at gunpoint” photo. (To read Chabon in “The Breakfast Table,” click here; to learn how to win all the book awards, click here.)

Joey Ramone died at 49. He brought punk rock to national prominence as lead singer of The Ramones (“I Wanna Be Sedated”). His birth name was Jeffrey Hyman. Post-mortems: 1) The Ramones “were the great Johnny Appleseed pioneers of punk rock.” 2) Maybe, but they never sold many albums, and punk never caught on in the United States. 3) True, but they paved the way for America’s own rock of alienation—grunge.

Yahoo stopped selling porn. The Web portal had been offering links to porn-video distributors for two years but reversed itself after the Los Angeles Times reported that the company had set up commerce pages dedicated to adult material. (It required a credit-card number as proof of age.) Neither of Yahoo’s main competitors in the Internet portal market, America Online and the Microsoft Network, offer porn, nor do the two major bricks-and-mortar video outlets, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. Microsoft’s spin: “[T]here’s a difference between healthy sensuality … and products that simply exploit sexuality.” Blockbuster’s spin: We don’t have a moral objection, we just don’t want to hurt our brand. Analysts’ spin: Porn is lucrative, but Yahoo makes most of its money through ads, not sales commissions. Why scare the advertisers away? Counterspin: Yahoo is losing viewers to AOL and MSN. It hasn’t made a profit in six months. Porn is the largest producer of paid online content. What would you do? Yahoo’s spin on Wednesday: “We’re hard and fast on being the largest enabler of commerce on the Web. We have chosen to offer adult-oriented content as part of that.” Yahoo’s spin on Thursday: “Many of our users voiced concerns. … We heard them and swiftly responded.”