The Week/the Spin


China was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee gave the games to Beijing over bids by Paris, Toronto, Osaka, and Istanbul, despite protests by human-rights groups. In 1993, Beijing lost the 2000 Summer Games to Sydney by two votes; this year, it won more than twice as many votes as runner-up Toronto. Pro-Beijing Western spin: The 2008 games will bring democratization to China just as the 1988 games did to Seoul. Anti-Beijing Western spin: Tell that to the political dissidents rotting in Chinese jails who just saw their oppressors rewarded. Media’s spin: The true test of China’s openness will be how much access it grants us in 2008.

The Bush administration will install a rudimentary missile shield by 2005. Next month the Defense Department will break ground on a site in Alaska. Within four years it expects to have ship-launched missiles and laser weapons on planes. On Saturday it will conduct its first anti-missile test in a year. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s spin: The Alaska groundbreaking will not violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz’s spin: Maybe, maybe not. But we’ll try to pacify the Russians as we go along. (To read “The Earthling” on “Bush’s Anti-Logic Shield,” click here; to read “Explainer” on the difference between withdrawing from and abrogating a treaty, click here.)

A company will clone human embryos for stem-cell experiments.  Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology will attempt to create cloned human embryos and harvest them for stem cells. It is the first American company to acknowledge an attempt to apply cloning technology to humans. Earlier, Virginia-based Reproductive Medicine announced that it was harvesting stem cells from traditional sperm-egg embryos, a practice that breaks an ethical taboo. (Previously, researchers used only embryos that had been created to help sterile couples conceive children.) The revelations come as the Bush administration considers whether to subsidize stem-cell research. Ethicists’ spins: 1) The labs in question receive no federal funds and broke no laws. No proposal for federal funds would allow them to be spent on new embryos, so the point is moot. 2) Yes, but there’s no ethical justification for creating new embryos—cloned or traditional—when discarded ones are available. Labs’ retort: Discarded embryos are from older donors and aren’t as valuable. Pundits’ spins: 1) These announcements will force Bush to side with the anti-stem cell lobby. 2) No, it will give Bush wiggle room to support research limited to discarded embryos. (To read Michael Kinsley on “Reason, Faith, and Stem Cells,” click here. To read Slate’s “Frame Game” on why you can’t be pro-life and pro-stem cells, click here.)

Congressman Gary Condit let police examine his apartment and telephone records. He also offered the police a DNA sample and said he would consider a lie-detector test. Police found several tiny specks of blood in the apartment but nothing obviously incriminating. After weeks of denials, the 53-year-old married Democrat reportedly admitted to an affair with Chandra Levy, a 24-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern who has been missing since April 30. Condit apologized to police for denying the relationship, saying he was only trying to protect his family. A flight attendant who says she had an affair with Condit told authorities that he had demanded her silence in the Levy investigation. A Pentecostal minister told authorities that his then-18-year-old daughter had an affair with Condit seven years ago. Police will search abandoned buildings near Condit’s and Levy’s apartments. Police’s spin: Levy was probably murdered, because suicides’ bodies are found quickly. But without a body, we have no crime, and without a crime, we have no suspects. Condit’s staff’s spin: Condit lied to us and to his wife. (To read Explainer’s chronology of the Levy saga, click here. To read a cop’s take on the case, click here.)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered a deadbeat dad to stop having kids or go to jail. The 4-3 decision, which split along gender lines, upheld a lower court order that David Oakley must refrain from having children for a five-year probationary period or face an eight-year prison sentence. Oakley refuses to pay $25,000 in child support for nine children. Wisconsin is the first state whose high court has upheld such a provision. Male majority’s spin: The alternative is to send Oakley to prison, where he would not only be prohibited from fathering children but would earn no money. This condition of probation can be applied to fathers who are unwilling to pay child support, but not to those who are unable. Female minority’s spin: This is a “state-sponsored, court-enforced financial test for future parenthood.” Procreation is a constitutional right. This order gives his girlfriends an incentive to abort pregnancies to save him from jail.

The White House will not exempt federally funded religious charities from local laws that prohibit discrimination against gays. A Salvation Army internal memo, obtained by the Washington Post, says that the Bush administration has made a “firm commitment” to issuing such a regulation in exchange for support of Bush’s legislation to direct federal funds to religious groups. White House spin Tuesday morning: We’ve discussed this with them, but we haven’t made a commitment. Democrats’ spin: Bush will never pass his bill if he tries to pull this. White House spin Tuesday evening: OK, we won’t pursue it. Salvation Army’s spin: We don’t discriminate against gays for most of our positions, but our ministers must not be gay.

Webvan filed for bankruptcy. The online grocer is the biggest Internet flop to date; it burned $1.2 billion in venture capital and had 2,000 employees. The company was valued at $7.5 billion the day it went public in November 1999. Analysts’ spins: 1) Webvan was managed incompetently. 2) No, it just failed to change entrenched buying habits and failed to deliver the inventory efficiencies it promised.

Goran Ivanisevic and Venus Williams won Wimbledon. Ivanisevic, a three-time runner-up, defeated Patrick Rafter after five sets and four match points. He became the first wild-card entrant to win the tournament and the first unseeded player to win since Boris Becker in 1985. Williams’ victory over Justine Henin was her second Wimbledon title in a row and her third major title this year. (Her sister Serena lost in the quarterfinals.) Sportswriters’ spin: 1) Ivanisevic was a washed-up phenom saddled with a raging temper and a bad shoulder. He had won no Grand Slam matches this year until Wimbledon. Who would’a thunk? 2) The fans may not cheer for Williams, and Martina Hingis may be No. 1 in the rankings, but Williams is the best women’s tennis player in the world. 

The Bush administration may give health insurance to unborn children. The Department of Health and Human Services is preparing guidelines that would allow states to use the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover fetuses. An uninsured mother of an eligible fetus could then receive prenatal care, and the fetus’s coverage would continue after birth. Last year Al Gore proposed extending CHIP to uninsured mothers; a bill in Congress proposes the same thing. Health and Human Service’s spin: This is simply an efficient way to expand prenatal coverage. Pro-choice activists’ spin: If the Bush administration wants CHIP to cover mothers, it should say so. Establishing a pro-life legal precedent is not an acceptable substitute.