A major business development, AOL’s nearly consummated purchase of Netscape, leads at USA Today, the Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. The move also gets a front-page leader at the Wall Street Journal. (According to the AP, the Journal online edition and the new Newsweek broke the story.) The New York Times puts the story above the fold, but leads with Iraq’s latest weapons inspection snit and off-leads with word that driven by budget constraints as much as by the reduced threat of nuclear attack, the Pentagon is quietly recommending unilateral reductions in U.S. nuclear warheads. Both the NYT and LAT go top-front with the same picture of Bill Clinton: At the Korean DMZ complete with howitzer backdrop, decked out in scrambled-eggs ball-cap and Army field jacket, he’s doing a grip-and-grin with a bunch of soldiers. Judging by his 105mm smile, he’s finally enjoying the military lifestyle.
The papers report that the AOL/Netscape deal is actually triangular, with AOL buying Netscape for about $4 billion in stock and then licensing Netscape’s e-commerce software to Sun Microsystems, which hopes to use it as a vehicle for disseminating its Java language as an alternative to Microsoft’s Windows.
Everybody reports that the deal could have big ramifications for Microsoft, with USAT making the point that the deal formally bonds three companies whose charges that Microsoft uses monopoly power to block competitors’ products have played central roles in the current anti-trust trial. Indeed, the NYT says that the companies were emboldened to deal because of their perception that the case would weaken MS. But USAT quotes a Microsoft spokesman’s claim that the deal would “blow an enormous hole in the government’s case,” because it shows that MS’ competitors have retained the ability to change the landscape overnight–in ways that the government claims is illegal when Microsoft tries it. The LAT and WSJ make this point too but the Journal adds that on the other hand, the government could argue that Netscape was driven into AOL’s arms by Microsoft.
USAT’s front reports that one of the highest-ranking female law enforcement officials in the government, a higher-up at Treasury, is being investigated to see if she used her position to steer government business to a subordinate who is a close friend.
The WP front covers a lawsuit in which a man is suing a woman for becoming pregnant against his will–she had, he says, promised to take birth control pills. The woman claims that she became pregnant accidentally. That factual issue may be settled at trial, but it seems that there is a larger legal issue well worth addressing. Since court findings of paternity cost the imputed fathers eighteen years’ worth of support, it seems only fair that women be held accountable for any promises they make about attempting to remain childless. In the absence of that, a woman’s promise to take charge of birth control and then not doing so remains the only form of monetary fraud Today’s Papers can think of that is not only not punished, but is in fact regularly rewarded.
The LAT’s “Column One” does a long take-out on the increasing attempts by companies to market their products inside schools, especially public schools. Everybody from software manufacturers (Microsoft being one of them) to cheese companies has been finding new ways to do this, and parents are, says the paper, finding more product solicitations coming home in their kids’ backpacks. The good deals and cut rates are often dangled as a way to help schools get stuff they need, which is particularly attractive to school administrators strapped for funds in an environment in which voters keep turning down so many school bond issues. The LAT admits it school-markets too, by handing out free papers on campuses, ostensibly to promote reading, but also to increase the paper’s circulation.
The WP runs an AP item about the opening of the 6,400-square-foot house about to become the home of Kenny and Bobby McCaughey and their septuplets and their other child. The story describes such features as a 648 square foot playroom, a bathroom with a “Roman tub,” and an intercom system connecting the various parts of the house. The story says scores of businesses and residents contributed materials, services, money and land for the new home. Yet no money figures are ever mentioned–an interesting omission when the typical story about welfare recipients enumerates the monthly “giveaway” check down to the penny. The story’s lucre lacunae comport well with the locals’ theories about how all this came about–it quotes a neighbor saying, “Looks like God is going to provide all these things.”