Today's Papers

Just the Facts

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who is presiding over the Microsoft antitrust trial, issued yesterday a 207-page document that states the software giant “enjoys monopoly power in the relevant market.” The story, with accompanying analyses, leads at all three papers. The Washington Post’s top non-local, non-Microsoft story outlines Sen. John McCain’s emergent challenge to Gov. George W. Bush. The Los Angeles Times chronicles the Labor Department’s release of October job statistics, which show that unemployment has dipped to its lowest point in three decades.  The New York Times serves up one of several education stories: Seventy-seven percent of New York City eighth graders failed a standardized math exam and 65 percent failed an English test.

Jackson delivers a powerful reproach to Microsoft, claiming that the company stifled innovation, squeezed out competition, and impaired consumer choice. His conclusions, a precursor to the verdict expected early next year, support the breadth of Justice Department allegations against Microsoft (which publishes Slate) and dismisses the company’s defense as “specious.” Attorney General Janet Reno appeared with prosecutors at a press conference and touted the findings as a victory for the American consumer. In a videotaped statement, Bill Gates (William H. on 43rd Street, New York) “respectfully disagreed” with Jackson and defended the company’s integrity.

The WP ends with a kicker: Jackson e-mailed his findings to attorneys and the press in a Word Perfect document–Corel Corp.’s alternative to Microsoft Word. Two-thirds of the way through, the Post cites experts who say that the findings are hardly surprising (an opinion also expressed by Slate’s Moneybox). Lawyers told the NYT that they cannot remember another antitrust trial in which findings of fact were released before the actual verdict. This was interpreted by one analyst as a gesture intended to elicit a settlement. If none is reached, appeals may drag on for years, experts say.

After holding at 4.2 or 4.3 percent since March, the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in October, the LAT reports on its front. (Each percentage point equates to roughly one million people.) The drop brought with it only insignificant wage inflation, 0.1 percent. The bright news put markets in good shape before the weekend close, and analysts predict that the Fed will be less inclined to raise interest rates when it meets November 16.

McCain’s increasing visibility is attributed to the disappearance of half the Republican campaign field, a floundering Forbes, a best-selling memoir, and the ability to draw in the politically disenchanted. The story emphasizes the speed with which the 2000 campaign has ripened, but questions whether McCain can hold on with significantly less money than his rival. The Post mentions the outcome of the August 14 Iowa straw poll, but doesn’t say that McCain thumbed his nose at it and trotted off to New Hampshire instead.

The GAO revealed yesterday that nine federal agencies, including Medicare and the food stamp program, paid out $19.1 billion they shouldn’t have during the 1998 fiscal year. Such payments sometimes come about through bad information, accounting errors, or fraud, the Post reports. Sen. Fred Thompson suggested that the wasted dollars could add up when retiring baby boomers put increased pressure on Medicare and Social Security coffers.

Beyond their shock value, New York City’s test scores made news because the state is undergoing a high-profile tightening of educational standards. In coming years, statewide tests (with class work and attendance) will determine which students advance to the next grade. All the papers report that a sharply divided Supreme Court allowed Cleveland to go forward with its school-voucher program until a definitive ruling is reached about whether the program violates the separation of church and state. The program lets children attend parochial schools using public money. The court decided to suspend an injunction preventing new students from joining the program. Finally, the LAT fronts and the NYT runs inside official word of a change in leadership in Los Angeles schools.

The NYT and Post split the difference on a story about the U.S. drive for a missile-defense system. The latter highlights European leaders’ “serious alarm” at the shield, which could damage military and diplomatic ties across the Atlantic, and (somehow less likely) provoke an arms race with Russia and China. This does not faze the Times, which writes that the United States could unilaterally pull out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, despite what anyone thinks. Russia yesterday spearheaded a U.N. protest vote, supported by U.S. allies, that upheld the treaty’s integrity.

Just how tricky are things in southern Russia? An inside WP lead details Al Gore’s reaction to Bush’s “inability [Thursday] to name the leaders of three foreign countries,” Pakistan, India, and Chechnya. The latter, however, isn’t a country, but–as its ever-present Homeric epithet indicates–a “breakaway republic” of Russia. Perhaps the WP, which calls it a “breakaway region” later on in the piece, was latently distracted by a blink in NYT datelines. On three consecutive days in early October, Times stories began “GROZNY, Russia,” “GROZNY, Chechnya,” and again “GROZNY, Russia.”