Today's Papers

Money Talks

“America’s two largest stock markets, the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq market, are moving quickly to convert from non-profit institutions to for-profit corporations,” begins the New York Times lead. The Los Angeles Times goes with the news that, after 1996’s Taiwan Strait crisis, the Clinton administration quietly began forging an extensive military relationship with Taiwan. The Washington Post leads with a piece on the tax bill the House recently passed and a similar one the Senate’s considering.

The House bill contains almost $100 billion in direct tax breaks for business. Among those designated for tax breaks: Multinationals, small business owners, and investor Warren Buffett. The Republican-sponsored plans would cut nearly $800 billion in taxes over the next 10 years. The Post waits till the seventh paragraph to mention the bills need to be “sharply scaled down” before Clinton signs it–wimpy wordy considering Clinton said earlier, “I will not allow a risky plan to become law.” Environmental and consumer groups are irked by the bills’ concessions to oil, gas, and nuclear utilities, though some, er, tree-huggers are happy about a provision allowing timber companies to write off the replanting costs.

The uneasy relationship between the U.S. and China could be further disrupted by the Taiwan news; and the Pentagon now has “a considerably more intimate relationship with Taiwan than with China” says the LAT piece. The Clinton administration authorized the Pentagon to engage in dialogue with Taiwan’s armed forces to an extent unprecedented since 1979. (The Carter administrtation severed ties with Taiwan in 1978; the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act required the U.S. to provide the country with weapons to defend itself.) Clinton administration officials explained that the relationship was developed to reduce Taiwan’s sense of isolation, to gain a better sense of Taiwan’s armed forces, and to “respond to” a pro-Taiwan Republican-dominated Congress.

The New York Stock Exchange confirmed yesterday that it plans to go public by mid-November, says the NYT piece. The same day Nasdaq announced it will review on Thursday a plan that could result in its going public by early next year. “[H]ealthier, better financed, more adaptable American markets” could result says the piece without explaining how, but the rush to go public “leaves unanswered for now some key questions about how to regulate these markets and contain their near-monopoly power.” For-profit stock exchanges have grown in number since 1993 in Europe and the Far East but none exist in the U.S. yet.

The WP fronts low a story on a form of Internet communication called instant messaging. It allows users to send notes that pop up in a box on the screen of a recipient with the necessary software as they are being typed. Until Thursday, when Microsoft Corp. announced its MSN Messenger, America Online’s Instant Messenger was the only instant messaging product most knew about. However, others existed, like one put out by Prodigy, developed with the idea that AOL supported communication between different systems. Microsoft says its Messenger, unlike AOL’s, would allow users to communicate with users of either product. Twice on Friday, AOL blocked Microsoft users from sending messages to AOL users. Though the computer industry had urged AOL to publish technical details of its Instant Messenger to allow other firms to develop software compatible with it, the WP piece claims AOL refused because it “wants to control the messaging market.”

NYT’s off-lead coverage of the same story outdoes its WP analog. First, it more clearly explains the technology and does so earlier in the piece. Second, it reports three more important facts. Yahoo also introduced messaging software on Thursday that, like Microsoft’s, could send message to AOL users. AOL claimed Microsoft and Yahoo have violated AOL copyrights and trademark. The piece also explicitly points out the irony in Microsoft’s argument that AOL “is using its exclusive technology to prevent fair competition based on open standards,” which is “exactly the complaint from Netscape that prompted … [the] antitrust suit against Microsoft.” A discrepancy between the two pieces: NYT says that last month AOL blocked a similar product put out by Prodigy; WP says Prodigy was notified Friday by AOL that Prodigy users would no longer have access to AOL’s service.

WP is alone in fronting word that a U.S. Army plane on a mission “to take pictures of coca cultivation and scout for cocaine-producing laboratories” was reported missing yesterday. “It was the first reported disappearance of U.S. military in Colombia,” though the Pentagon and Colombian authorities have been cooperating for years–the WP should say how many–to battle narcotics.

The LAT is alone fronting news that 14 Serbian farmers were shot to death Friday night in the deadliest incident since NATO got to Kosovo last month. No suspects have been apprehended.

The NYT off-leads, and the other two front, news of JFK Jr.’s memorial Mass at Manhattan’s Church of St. Thomas More. The three Clintons, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Muhammad Ali, and hip-hop star Wyclef Jean were among the attendees. In his eulogy, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy recounted what his nephew said after being asked what he would do if elected president: ” ‘I guess the first thing is call up Uncle Teddy and gloat.’ I loved that. It was so like his father.”