Today's Papers

U.S. vs. Us

USA Today

leads with our ambassador to the U.N. giving a speech there Monday saying that if it doesn’t reduce America’s dues, there will be serious damage done to the U.S. relationship with the world body. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times each lead with the announcement by Janet Reno and her top anti-trust aide that the Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against Microsoft alleging that the company’s current marketing practices are in violation of a 1995 consent decree it signed with the government. The Wall Street Journal flags the suit in its business and finance news box, and USAT dedicates its front page “cover story” to it.

When a story dominates a day like this one does, it’s the differences that stand out. Everybody makes it clear that the central bone of contention is Microsoft’s practice of requiring PC makers to include its Internet Explorer browsing software on each computer sold with MS’s Windows operating system. But some accounts of what could be legally suspect about that are more successful than others. The most concise is in USAT, which says that a section of the 1995 consent decree “bans Microsoft from signing licensing agreements that force PC makers to also license other Microsoft products. In parentheses, the section adds: ‘provided, however, that this provision in and of itself shall not be construed to prohibit Microsoft from developing integrated products.’” The Justice Department argues that Internet Explorer constitutes a separate product. Microsoft’s position, says USAT, is that the browser is simply an “extension” of Windows.

And the WP has the detail that the DOJ says at least three unnamed computer manufacturers were turned down when they asked Microsoft for permission either to remove the Internet Explorer browser entirely or just the desktop icon for it. Justice says, according to the Post, that in 1996, Microsoft threatened to withhold Windows 95 from one of the country’s largest computer makers if it didn’t include Internet Explorer.

The DOJ is asking for the imposition of a daily $1 million fine until Microsoft complies, and also asked the court to force the company to revise the non-disclosure provisions of the contracts it has product licensees sign, on the grounds that such provisions have a chilling effect on those wishing to complain.

Question: Is it sloppy writing or just paranoia that leads the WSJ to state that “for years,” Microsoft has required personal computer makers that license Windows 95 to also install Internet Explorer?

A front-page LAT piece details a little noticed post-Cold War military development: a submarine arms race among Third World countries. Some of the least stable, most hostile countries on the planet–such as China, Iran, and North Korea–are, reports the paper, “buying, building and arming submarines seemingly as fast as their treasuries will allow.” Most of the subs come from former Soviet shipyards.

The headline writers at the WP distinguish themselves with their effort over a story about a woman suing a man she says promised marriage to her only as a way to cultivate her brother as an organ donor for him: “Woman Alleges Fiance Stole Her Heart, Brother’s Kidney.”