Today's Papers

Cable Hook-Up

Tech/biz dominates today. USA Today and the Washington Post lead with AT&T’s purchase of cable company TCI. (The story is also on the front at the New York Times and is flagged in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page news digest.) The NYT leads with the ruling by a federal appeals court undoing a previous lower court order that had required Microsoft to make Windows 95 available separate from its Internet Explorer browser. The ruling is widely viewed as boding well for the company’s upcoming federal antitrust trial concerning the company’s joint packaging of Windows 98 and IE. (This story also makes the USAT and Los Angeles Times fronts and the WSJ front news box and gets a front-page “reefer” at the WP.) The LAT leads with the Clinton administration’s expected announcement today of a plan for giving minority firms preferences in the awarding of government contracts when independent surveys show that their share of federal business is smaller than their overall market share. The White House hopes, the paper reports, that the new approach will satisfy a Supreme Court ruling that minority set-asides per se are unconstitutional and that race-based awards are permissible only if they are a remedy for a proven record of discrimination. Nobody else puts the new preference plan on the front page.

Of the early editions of the papers available to TP, only USAT’s flatly states that the ATT/TCI business was a done deal. The acquisition, says the paper, will shake both the cable and phone businesses, giving TCI new clout and phone expertise and allowing AT&T to offer local phone service over TCI’s cable lines. The deal could, says USAT’s “Money” section analysis piece, mark the beginning of real competition in both local phone service and cable TV. But the Post shows that it also contains the seeds of greater monopolies: TCI already has a cable monopoly in virtually every one of its service areas, while AT&T already has more than 50 percent of the long-distance market. The merger will no doubt get a close government review. USAT runs an FCC’s commissioner’s favorable comment, while the Post quotes a powerful House member’s spokesman saying the deal “runs up a red flag.”

The NYT’s off-lead concerns testimony given yesterday at a House hearing about how a secret encoded circuit board containing sensitive U.S. technology was missing from the wreckage of a U.S. satellite aboard a Chinese rocket that blew up in 1996. The paper says that “the disclosure of the missing circuit board.was made Tuesday.” Well actually, to be fair, it was made by Matt Drudge, in his May 20th Report. No mention of Drudge by the Times though. The paper reports that the congressional investigation is trying to determine if the board was missing because the Chinese “took” it. (Wonder why the Times doesn’t say “stole” it.)

The WSJ reports that the result of a recent high-level U.S. military war game set in a conflict between India and Pakistan shocked and disappointed many of the Army officers participating: none of the U.S.’ heavy divisions could get to the Indian subcontinent in time to have any effect on the war’s outcome.

The WP front reports that new laws in Florida governing patient treatment by HMOs have been so effective they may well become the models for federal legislation. Among the provisions: patients needn’t go through their HMOs to see their dermatologists; HMOs cannot forbid doctors to tell patients about expensive treatments available; and patients can protest to an outside board a plan’s refusal to pay for a procedure.

The NYT front tells of a U.N. report just out disclosing that in certain parts of Africa one in four adults is infected with HIV–and most of them will die as a result because Africans cannot for the most part afford the combination drug therapies that can keep the virus in check–and that worldwide, AIDS now rivals the greatest epidemics of history. The paper says this is the gloomiest picture of the disease painted since it was first recognized in 1981.

The USAT off-lead reports that the IRS reform bill moving towards passage in both houses of Congress now includes a provision lowering from 18 months to just one year the holding period required to enjoy a drop in the tax on investment profits from a top rate of 28 percent down to a 20 percent. The development is also on the NYT front and inside at the WP.

The WP carries an AP story inside reporting that Pennsylvania police have charged two Amish men with buying cocaine from a motorcycle gang and then distributing it to young members of their sect. This is apparently the first drug case ever involving Amish people. Stay tuned for horse and buggy drive-bys.