Today's Papers

Trillion Dollar Man

The Washington Post lead reports that a federal district court struck down Virginia’s ban on partial-birth abortion because the law imposed an “undue burden” on the right to choose. The Los Angeles Times lead reveals that many California businesses plan to drop or freeze enrollment in HMOs that hike prices without improving care. The New York Times goes with the House’s decision to cut off funds for the production of F-22 fighters.

The Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a military spending bill that would deny the Air Force money for the first six F-22s (the planes cost $200 million apiece). Congress almost never kills major weapons systems. The Post points out that $1.2 billion for research into the fighter is still budgeted, but Air Force officials claim a pause in development will make it too expensive to resume. Defense Secretary Cohen wrote a letter of protest, calling the F-22s “the cornerstone of our nation’s global air power in the 21st century.” The Times says the fighter program is under attack because the Pentagon was misleading about the aircraft’s cost and capability.

The Post fronts an analysis of the leading presidential contenders’ campaign spending habits, subtitled “Bush Hoards Cash; Gore Spends Heavily.” The governor served peanuts to contributors, while the vice president headlined ballroom benefits. Overall, Gore spent $400,000 more to dun donors. Bush depleted about 19 percent of the $37 million he raised, while Gore exhausted 47 percent of his $17.5 million. According to Today’s Papers’ calculations, this makes about $7 million for George and $8 million for Al. The difference is not peanuts, but it does suggest a less sensationalistic disparity than the article’s headline and anecdotes portrays. The piece does not explain how the governor’s decision to stay in Texas until after the end of the state’s legislative session might have impacted his spending record.

The paper’s fourth page undermine the front’s conclusions: the Post reports that Bush “spent heavily” to trounce his opponents in next month’s Iowa straw poll. George W. accepted checks of $5,000 and $10,000, amounting to at least 50,000, even though presidential campaigns are not allowed to take donations over $1,000. Bush claims money spent on the straw poll supports the state party and therefore does not qualify as a campaign expenditure. But federal election law defines campaign expenditures as any money spent “for the purposes of influencing any election for federal office.”

The NYT fronts the only report on the passage of a House bill that offers Sub-Saharan African nations trade benefits and the opportunity to export goods to America duty-free. Southeastern senators who fear for the textile workers are expected to oppose the bill. Half the House Democrats voted no because of the bill’s purportedly inadequate protections against worker and environmental abuse.

A federal district court jury found Microsoft not guilty in an antitrust dispute with a small software maker, according to the NYT front. The company alleged that Microsoft demanded exorbitant fees for access to the new Windows code, which is necessary to the plaintiff’s business. The Post points out that the court loss could dissuade other software manufacturer from suing Microsoft.

Bouyed by news of the verdict and rumors that the software giant will spin off its Internet properties, the papers report that Microsoft became the first company to top $500 billion in market value. Bill Gates saw his paper wealth rise by $4,703,551,336. According to the Post, assuming a 10-hour day, Bill earned $1 million a second. He is now worth almost $100 billion. The NYT notes that if Microsoft stock keeps soaring at the same rate, in five years Gates will be worth a trillion dollars.

The Post fronts good news for budding Bill Gateses. Kids can now attend entrepreneur camp in the Pacific Northwest. “In2Biz” teaches teen-agers the basics, such as “What a Good Business Plan Can Do for You.” As the paper notes, “there is no time for teen angst when high-tech bounties await.” But In2Biz might not last to see its campers prosper. Like a Web startup, it has high hopes, but is “highly unprofitable.”