The Week/the Spin

Delayed Release

President Bush sharpened his tone toward China. With the U.S. crew safely returned, Bush said that the collision was not America’s fault and that China’s behavior during the standoff “does not advance a constructive relationship.” According to the crew, the Chinese fighter jet accidentally hit the EP-3’s left propeller, splitting in half and shearing off the EP-3’s nose cone. After recovering from an 8,000-foot drop, the EP-3 pilot decided that the plane was too damaged to ditch in the ocean. The American crew tossed overboard or destroyed all sensitive equipment, staying in the plane for 15 minutes after being surrounded by Chinese soldiers. United States’ unofficial spin: We never had to apologize for the collision. Chinese government’s spin: “The firm struggle by the Chinese government and people against U.S. hegemony has forced the U.S. government to change from its initial rude and unreasonable attitude to saying ‘very sorry’ to the Chinese people.” Chinese people’s spin: Our leaders are cowards. Chinese government’s response: Shut up, you. Pundits’ spins: 1) Bush managed the crisis efficiently and sensitively. 2) His lack of bellicosity indicated his confidence in his legitimacy. 3) His public pronouncements were poorly read and almost incoherent. (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.)

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.” closed shop. The Internet service, known for its orange-clad deliverers on motor-scooters, brought convenience items like food, candy, and videos to customers’ doors within an hour. It had recently cultivated a more upscale market to increase margins. Analysts’ obituary: “Kozmo’s business plan was to function as a pathetic friend, ready to deliver [small goodies] to your door in an hour with no delivery charge.” Where’s the profit in that? Kozmo’s spin: Had we not expanded so fast, and had the stock market not tanked, we would have made it. (To read aSlateconsumer test of Kozmo and other Internet deliverers, click here.)

Cincinnati, Ohio, declared a state of emergency and enacted a curfew to quell rioting. A cop has been shot, and 148 people have been arrested for looting, since protests over a police shooting turned violent two nights ago. A police officer shot to death a young black male wanted on multiple misdemeanors. The officer, who was placed on leave, said he thought the man was reaching for a gun. Business owners’ spin: We can’t tell whether this is a police issue, a race issue, or just an excuse to run wild. Community leaders’ spin: This is the result of poor police oversight and intractable poverty and segregation. (To find out what a “state of emergency” is, click here; to read about the constitutionality of curfews, click here.)

The Netherlands legalized voluntary euthanasia. It is the first country to legalize the practice, which had been tolerated for decades. Polls show that 90 percent of the population supports the law, although it faced intense protest from religious groups. The bill requires that voluntary suicides be Dutch citizens, have a long-standing doctor-patient relationship, and face irremediable suffering. A doctor can administer a mercy killing to an unconscious patient if it is specified in a living will. All cases require the opinion of a second doctor. (Oregon has a more restrictive assisted suicide law.) Vatican’s spin: Doctors who participate in euthanasia are “executioners.” Dutch critics’ spin: Foreigners will move here just to kill themselves.     

Researchers produced bone and muscle tissue from stem cells found in human fat. The study found that every half-pound of fat suctioned from a patient yielded as much as 50 million to 100 million stem cells, which were grown into other tissues with the same immune pattern as the patient. Doctors’ spin: There’s plenty of fat to go around and many willing donors. Optimists’ spin: Someday doctors will use your love handles to repair your kidney.

Scientists linked a virus to schizophrenia. A study found a virus in the cerebrospinal fluid or brain tissue of 30 percent of schizophrenics. The virus is created by a retrovirus living in the DNA of every human. A second study found that many schizophrenics lack the gene that during adolescence produces a myelin sheath around nerve endings. Schizophrenia affects 1 percent of the human population. Researchers’ spin: Schizophrenia has no one cause, but linking so many cases to a specific biological abnormality is a big step. 

P resident Bush appointed an openly gay man as “AIDS czar.” Scott Evertz, who will head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, is the first open homosexual appointed to a paid position by a Republican president. He is Catholic and raises money for pro-life and faith-based social service groups. Bush initially wanted to close the AIDS office, and during the election he returned a campaign donation by the gay Log Cabin Republicans. (Evertz, who led the group’s Wisconsin chapter, criticized the national leadership for running anti-Bush ads.) Pundits’ spin: Bush offended both the Christian right (Evertz divorced his wife to take up with a man) and the gay left (which doesn’t want AIDS to be a “gay” issue) with this appointment. Evertz will be the first openly gay presidential appointee with real power. (To read “Chatterbox” on the administration’s AIDS-office waffle, click here.)

Tiger Woods became the first golfer to win four straight major golf tournaments. He won the Masters Sunday. At age 25, he has won six major tournaments. Jack Nicklaus holds the career record, with 18. Spins: 1): This is like DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Tiger’s challengers “don’t deserve anything. Tiger deserves it all. He’s it.” 2) Maybe he’s an alien! (To read “The Earthling” on the eeriness of Woods’ golfing perfection, click here.)

Dan Rather apologized for attending a Democratic Party fund-raiser. He claimed that he did not know that the Texas event was a fund-raiser when he was invited. His daughter, an Austin mayoral aspirant, co-hosted the event, according to the Washington Post. Rather’s spin: This was a mistake. But when you socialize with politicians—I had dinner with the Republican governor of Texas the night before the fund-raiser—you’re bound to slip up. Conservatives’ spin: He sounds like Gore after the Buddhist-temple fund-raiser. We already know Rather is a Democrat. By making it official he performs a public service.