leads with the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision holding that Congress can prohibit states from selling data it collects from drivers’ licenses and motor vehicle registrations. This paves the way, says the paper, for tighter privacy laws governing personal financial, medical, and marketing information. The Wall Street Journal puts the decision atop its front-page news box. The New York Times goes with another court ruling, a 5-4 decision that fleeing from the police in a high crime area provides the reasonable suspicion that justifies a stop-and-frisk search. The Washington Post lead, coming in the wake of yesterday’s USAT lead claiming that the government would be asking for Microsoft to be broken in two, says the government is actually asking for it to be broken into three. But the story doesn’t claim to know along what lines. The Post notes that Microsoft’s chief resource is people, making relevant the question, “Which company would get Bill Gates?” The Los Angeles Times leads local but with the sort of California first that often becomes a bellwether: Because diesel fumes are generally blamed for much of the cancer risk posed by Los Angeles’ air pollution, the Southern California air quality agency plans to propose requiring all bus, truck, and car fleets operated by public agencies to eventually be entirely composed of vehicles running on electricity, natural gas, and other clean-burning fuels. The LAT reefers, by the way, an independent scientific panel’s finding that global warming is “undoubtedly real” and accelerating.
The NYT fronts Janet Reno’s remarks yesterday that only federal courts have the authority to decide the disposition of the Elián González case, and not the Florida judge who ruled that the boy must remain in the U.S. until an early March hearing.
The NYT reefers the Food and Drug Administration’s warning to the nation’s flu-swamped physicians against relying too heavily on the two newest anti-flu drugs. The fear is that some patients might die (and that some already have) because they are being given these drugs instead of antibiotics, and/or oxygen, intravenous fluids, and hospitalization.
The WP fronts a sports exclusive: Michael Jordan has been talking to the Washington Wizards about possibly becoming an executive with the team and perhaps even taking on an ownership stake.
USAT top-fronts Hillary Clinton’s appearance last night on the Letterman show. The paper calls the interview “fairly benign,” and notes that at one point Clinton credited Rudy Giuliani with having “done a lot of stuff as mayor.” The NYT, in its inside effort, doesn’t mention the Giuliani comment. USAT reports that Clinton aced a New York quiz Letterman served up, but the Times says that her spokesman suggested that Clinton had been given “a sneak peek at the questions.”
The NYT fronts Britain’s recision of its ban of openly gay men and women in its armed forces. The paper notes this brings Britain into line with the policy of almost all other NATO nations, including France, Canada, and Germany. Pop culture prediction: British military clothing will become hot, hot, hot on the streets of San Francisco, the Village, and West Hollywood.
The WP reports inside that the White House yesterday proposed new tax credits for low-income workers to convince them that even entry-level jobs are preferable to welfare. The plan would be a further extension of the earned-income tax credit, which already provides annual payments to some 19 million working families at or near the poverty line. It’s hard not to feel that Bill Clinton doesn’t get his due on this one. His expansion of this tax credit is actually one of the most successful federal anti-poverty programs ever, yet he hardly ever gets press credit for it. The Post article runs on Page 4.
The WP business section observes that due to a provision in the AOL employee stock plan, employees can be fully vested in their stock options one year after any change of ownership that leaves AOL shareholders with less than 60 percent of the company. In other words, like the Time Warner deal. Which means, says the Post, that a year from now, AOL’s 12,100 employees will get to cash in. Upshot: Housing prices in Northern Virginia will go through the roof, and there will be a lot startups in the area, plus an influx of bankers, money managers, and … lawyers.
The WSJ features an op-ed by Michael Lewis wondering why AOL would want Time Warner. What AOL has done, he writes, is lower its credit rating, acquire thousands of journalists and movie executives not particularly gifted at making money, and transform itself from a sexy, fast-growing company into a dull, slow-moving one. He concludes that 10 years from now an investment banker will make a fortune breaking up AOL Time Warner again and selling off the pieces.
A NYT business section piece claims that the deal leaves America with six independent media companies (down from 50 in 1983). Today’s Papers thinks this cries out for a new parlor game: Two random media businesses are named and contestants vie to connect them corporately in the fewest steps. Call it “Six Degrees of Gerald Levin.”