Today's Papers

Merger Attempt Denied

USA Today

leads with the arrival in East Timor of 2,000 peacekeeping troops, which is also the top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times. The Washington Post off-leads this development, but goes instead with continuing post-Floyd power outages up and down the East Coast. The New York Times gives plenty of pagefront property to the storm’s aftermath in North Carolina and New Jersey but leads with what is emerging as perhaps the largest source of Medicare fraud: not doctors and hospitals but illicit schemes by the companies hired by the government to administer claims. The Times says eight such companies have paid more than $275 million to the government (since when? the story isn’t that clear) to settle fraud and other charges relating to Medicare payouts. One complaint: The story relies on the phrase “Medicare contractors” in the early going, holding off until the ninth paragraph before using any actual names of offending companies: “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado and New Mexico Blue Cross and Blue Shield.”

The coverage reports that although the (mostly Australian) peacekeeping troops found calm at the airstrip where they touched down, the Australian general in overall command said his forces would respond “robustly” to any armed resistance. The NYT and WP quote the general praising the cooperation of the Indonesian forces, and the LAT goes so far as to say their reaction was a “cordial welcome.” All this in contrast to the stark scene evident everywhere in East Timor, what the LAT calls “the most vicious and thorough scorched-earth exercise that Southeast Asia has seen since World War II.” (For a primer on Timor, click here.) The plan is, the papers report, for the peacekeeping troops to make possible a large-scale humanitarian aid effort very shortly.

The USAT front-page “cover story” on the Timor terror says that a team there to observe the independence referendum made a tape, from a radio scanner, of communications between Indonesian special forces and the marauding anti-independence militias. One quote alleged to be on tape says of the observers: “Those white people should be put in the river.”

The LAT fronts the buildup of 30,000 Russian troops along the Chechen border and reports that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a national TV audience that the region is a criminal state. Putin said his country’s air attacks against Chechnya would continue. The LAT says the mood in Russia is similar to the height of the war with Chechnya, with one exception: now there doesn’t appear to be any Russian anti-war sentiment.

The Wall Street Journal and NYT report that today Microsoft will announce a new alliance with Ford under which Microsoft’s Carpoint auto shopping Web site will be able to provide increased information online about Fords–such as particulars about new car inventory or used-car service records–to potential buyers. (Laws currently prevent car sales from being consummated online–a franchise dealer must still be involved.) The Times says Microsoft hopes to reach similar arrangements with other car manufacturers. It’s good that Carpoint users who might buy Fords as a result of Carpoint research are put on notice up front that there is some connection between the two, which brings us to that NYT bombshell last Saturday revealing that Microsoft paid for a California institute’s newspaper ads supporting the company’s position in its antitrust tussle with the government: If, as Microsoft insists, there was nothing wrong with helping to disseminate the institute’s ads, then why didn’t the company simply announce the help at the time?

The WSJ and the WP report that a rising corporate Internet star was arrested last Thursday night at the Santa Monica Pier for attempting to use the Web to arrange a sexual encounter with an underage girl, who was actually an undercover FBI agent. The Journal piece says the man worked for Infoseek, while the Post says he works for Disney.

The WP reports the results of a survey among NewsHour With Jim Lehrer viewers about what the next election should be about. Of the 8,400 total ballots cast, 12.1 percent picked campaign finance. Issue 2 was health, at 7.1 percent.

Guess he didn’t writeFargo. Yesterday’s NYTMagazine, another of those millennial issues, contained an annotated photo cum pensee cum fashion spread wherein actor William H. Macy “revisit[s] major milestones from midcentury America.” At one point Macy reveals: “When I was a child in the 50s, we had these school exercises where we’d stick our heads under our desks to protect ourselves from the bomb. How utterly naïve we were.”

The WP reports that Bell Atlantic Video recently conducted a poll of pay per view viewers. Among the results: Accountants were the most likely to watch PPV movies in the nude. Doctors came in second. Where was the FBI on that one?