Today's Papers

The PRI’s Primary Primary

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times lead with partial results from the first-ever primary of Mexico’s ruling party, the PRI. Francisco Labastida, a seasoned politician favored by party bigwigs, clobbered his nearest competitor, Roberto Madrazo, the maverick governor of the Tobasco region. The Washington Post reports that Pentagon strategists, lawyers, and ethicists have been toying with the question of how a military invasion of a hostile nation’s information systems might play out against the international “rules of war.” USA Today talks with analysts who spent the weekend scratching their heads over how the findings of fact in the Microsoft trial may affect stock markets. (The LAT runs a similar story inside.)

The LAT pushed deadlines back to wait for results from Mexico: With 58 percent of votes in, Labastida was winning in 272 of 300 districts, compared with Madrazo’s 21. The winner needs only a plurality of districts. The election is an important test for the PRI, which has been in power longer than any other party in the world; previously, the outgoing president would simply knight his successor, thereby guaranteeing him victory. Madrazo and the two other candidates argued throughout the campaign that the party apparatus had buoyed Labastida. But President Ernesto Zedillo said he is neutral and expressed this sentiment by checking all four names on his ballot. The PRI should fare well in next year’s general election if it can remain less fractured than its opposition.

Halfway through the war with Yugoslavia, DOD legal eagles distributed to the top brass guidelines for conducting information warfare. They suggested that military commanders avoid civilian cyber targets (banks, universities) as carefully as they would if they were bombing brick-and-mortar sites, the Post reports. Arbitrary cyber assaults with serious civilian repercussions – opening a dam’s floodgates, releasing radioactivity – would be just as illegal under international law as if they were performed manually. The article ends with a sample tactic dismissed during the war with Yugoslavia: “to bombard the Yugoslav leadership with faxes and other forms of harassment.” (Banner headline: “Milosevic To Withdraw From Kosovo: Says ‘Aw, C’mon, Cut It Out’ “)

A Clinton administration policy, still in development, would allow new parents on family leave to receive unemployment money, the NYT reports. The Labor Department two years ago prohibited states from using money for this purpose, but new regulations may be on their way. At issue: for 60-plus years, only people who are involuntarily unemployed, eligible for work, and seeking it have qualified for unemployment insurance. Employees who take time off to care for newborn infants do so voluntarily, according to employers who disagree with the president. Objectors to the plan, which Clinton first articulated in May, also say that the government shouldn’t bleed the unemployment trust, which people may need in years leaner than these. As if anticipating the Times story, a below-the-fold USAT piece summarizes a psychological study that shows children left at day care tend to have a weaker bond with their mothers, which may have developmental consequences.

A generation of change in the South has allowed prosecutors to pursue a string of civil rights-era violent crimes, including the racially-motivated 1963 bombing of a church in downtown Birmingham that killed four girls, the NYT reports. A combination of factors has pushed the cases forward: Blacks hold more political power and have lobbied for suspects to be tried; witnesses with heavy consciences can come forward without fear of speaking the truth; and a feeling that the South must come to terms with past racism and violence.

Writing in the Monday “Information Industries” business section, media reporter Felicity Barringer asks questions posed by the recent rebellion among LAT staffers over the newspaper’s agreement to share profits from a Sunday magazine with the issue’s subject. The LAT incident may make publishers more cautious about experimenting with revenue sources, she writes, but they will continue to do so as ad dollars flock Web-ward.

Latest Y2K precaution-slash-Christmas bonus (NYT fronts, curiously): The State Department will allow “the most anxious government employees” (as well as the moderately worried, and those seeking a free trip home) in four former-Soviet embassies to return to the States for 15 or 30 days over New Year’s. The price tag for the exodus may run as high as $8 million. Those who stay don’t expect a meltdown; without electricity and heating, however, there may be a freeze-up. Diplomats and embassy employees in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova qualify. No word on how the host countries feel about this vote of confidence in their technical know-how.

In light of the 10th anniversary tomorrow of the Berlin Wall’s demise, the Wall Street Journal takes a look at that rock, that pillar, that spectacular golden prism for international political-economic constancy and hope: McDonald’s. The writer, Roger Thurow, reflects on one East German couple’s “decade of blind luck, of East-West rivalry, of booms and busts, of capitalism devouring communism, of communists devouring cheeseburgers.” Manfred and Brigitte Voigt, unassuming store owners who had never paid any attention to the chain, were approached by McDonald’s in 1990 and asked to open a pioneering restaurant in East Germany. Where will they spend this anniversary of the event that altered their lives forever? Florida.