McCain Endgame 

The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
March 31 2001 12:00 AM

McCain Endgame 

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John McCain's campaign-reform bill survived its greatest challenge. The Senate defeated an amendment that would have invalidated the bill if any of its provisions were found unconstitutional. Supporters of the bill also defeated an amendment that would have eliminated the bill's ban on "soft-money" contributions to political parties (the amendment would have limited the contributions—now unregulated—to $60,000 a year per corporation or individual). A successful amendment raised the limit on "hard-money" contributions to a candidate from $1,000 to $2,000. Earlier, opponents and some supporters of the bill added a provision to ban independent ads by activist groups 60 days before an election. (The opponents believe the provision is unconstitutional.) A final vote is expected Monday. McCain's spin: I'm open to increasing the hard-money limit, but I won't compromise on soft money. Democrats' spin: We're all for reform, but banning soft money hurts us more than it does Republicans. Republicans' spin: We're all for reform, but the $1,000 hard-money limit hurts us more than it does Democrats. (To read William Saletan's guide to campaign-finance arguments, click here; for Michael Kinsley's "Confessions of a McCain-Feingold Criminal," click here.)

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A San Francisco husband and wife were indicted for letting their dogs maul their neighbor to death. Robert Noel was charged with involuntary manslaughter—and Marjorie Knoller was charged with second-degree murder—after their dogs allegedly attacked neighbor Diane Whipple in their apartment hallway. Authorities said that the couple operated a dog-breeding business for prisoners (Noel, a left-wing lawyer who represents convicts, recently adopted a convicted felon as his son) and may have had sex with their dogs. Noel and Knoller's spin: It's not our fault Whipple wore the wrong perfume and didn't escape when she had the chance. The sex is none of your business. San Francisco press' spin: They knew the dogs were dangerous, since the dogs had bitten other neighbors. Noel is a former Justice Department official who turned into a paranoid prison attorney after he lost his biological son to drugs. Felons manipulated him into doing their bidding.

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Anti-abortion violence was punished, while violent anti-abortion rhetoric was allowed. A federal appeals court gave First-Amendment protection to a pro-life "wanted" poster of abortionists. The case involved "The Nuremberg Files," a Web site featuring the names, photos, and addresses of abortionists. Meanwhile, authorities captured James Kopp, the accused murderer of an American abortionist, in Paris. Kopp had been on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. He may have received money from friends while on the lam. Court's spin in the Web site case: "Political speech may not be punished just because it makes it more likely that someone will be harmed at some unknown time in the future by an unrelated third party." Web site owners' spin: "Not only do abortion advocates want to have their rights but they want to shut up everybody that calls it murder." (The site was shut down after the lower court ruling, but a free speech advocate in the Netherlands has created a duplicate here.) 

Researchers told Congress they intend to clone humans. A consortium of scientists and a religious cult told a House committee that they are trying to clone a person. The Food and Drug Administration has requested oversight of their research; the religious group, which claims to have a lab somewhere in the United States, has not decided whether to comply, and the scientific group plans to clone offshore. Meanwhile, lawmakers introduced a bill to ban human cloning, which President Bush supports. Anti-cloning spin: Most clones are horribly defective. Pro-cloning spins: 1) Cloned humans will merely be a variation of identical twins. 2) Copying humans who were produced naturally is less disruptive than genetically engineering the original blueprint. 3) Cloning humans can't be stopped; for all we know, it's already happened. (To read a Slate article on why opposition to cloning is racist, click here; to read one about the disappearing distinction between organisms and non-organisms, click here; to read three about the Dolly experiment, click here, here, and.)

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Democrats tried to defuse President Bush's tax plan with a smaller, quicker cut. Congressional Democrats proposed an immediate $60 billion tax rebate (about $300 per taxpayer) to stimulate the economy. Bush demanded that its passage be linked to his 10-year, $1.6 trillion cut. Bush's spin: Americans need permanent relief, not a quick fix. Congressional Republicans' spin: If the economy tanks any more, we may have to do a quick fix and deal with your package later.

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Israeli helicopters retaliated after a Palestinian suicide bombing. The Hamas bomber killed two Israeli teen-agers. Israel then bombed Yasser Arafat's security headquarters, killing two and injuring at least nine. (As usual, Israel gave advance warning to the Palestinian Authority.) The West's jaded spin: An eye for an eye, a martyr for martyr.

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A company will use the "I Have a Dream" speech to sell "communications networks." Alcatel, which paid the Martin Luther King Jr. estate for permission to use television footage of his 1963 address, will run TV ads informing viewers that "before you can inspire [as King did], before you can touch, you must first connect." Critics' spin: The 1960s is now about profit, not protest. Nothing is sacred. Defenders' spin: Is this worse than Nike using the Beatles to sell sneakers? Alcatel's ad brings the Internet to blacks and technology to a new generation. Alcatel's spin: "The 2001 [ad] campaign is an outstanding brand building lever generating a 'buzz.' " (To view the ad, click here.)

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The campaign-finance reform debate escalated. Supporters of the McCain-Feingold bill defeated amendments that would have 1) eliminated the bill's ban on "soft-money" contributions to political parties (the amendment would have limited the contributions—now unregulated—to $60,000 a year per corporation or individual); and 2) raised the limit on "hard-money" contributions to a candidate from $1,000 to $3,000. Earlier, opponents and some supporters of the bill added a provision to ban independent advertisements by activist groups 60 days before an election. (The opponents believe the provision is unconstitutional.) McCain's spin: I'm open to increasing the hard-money limit, but I won't compromise on soft money. Democrats' spin: We're all for reform, but banning soft money hurts us more than it does Republicans. Republicans' spin: We're all for reform, but the $1,000 hard-money limit hurts us more than it does Democrats. (To read William Saletan's guide to campaign-finance arguments, click here.)  

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Four of the NCAA's five preseason favorites reached the Final Four. Arizona, Duke, Michigan State, and Maryland were ranked one through three and five, respectively, in the AP's preseason poll. (No. 4, Stanford, lost to Maryland.) Glass-half-empty spin: If sportswriters can predict who will win, why watch the games? Glass-half-full spin: This year, which featured just a handful of dominant teams, was a fluke. And they're evenly matched, so this weekend's round will be spectacular. (To read a "Sports Nut" on calculating your odds of guessing the tournament winner, click here.)

Scientists linked a gene to early puberty onset and breast cancer. A study of nearly 200 girls ages 9 and 10 found that a testosterone-reducing gene may force early puberty, which has been linked to a higher risk for breast cancer. (A 1997 survey had found that 15 percent of white girls and half of black girls begin to mature sexually by age 8.) Researchers' spin: Delaying puberty is not yet possible, or even advisable, but a simple genetic test could make girls aware of their risk. 

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