Today's Papers

To Halve or Halve Not

The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times all lead with the latest on the Microsoft antitrust case: yesterday’s recommendation by the Justice Department and 17 states that the company be split into two entities, one that would market the Windows operating systems, and another to handle the rest of Microsoft’s products. Both the LAT and the WP compare the request to a corporate “death penalty,” while the NYT uses Justice Department attorney Joel Klein’s phrase “drastic surgery.” The WP also fronts a proposal on missile defenses floated by Russia’s foreign minister, proposing diplomatic or strategic cooperation between the two states to eliminate the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea. The LAT and the WP front, and the NYT reefers, an Elián update: Friday’s resignation of Miami’s police chief.

Acknowledging that the breakup will take a long time to carry out, the DOJ’s recommendation also calls for immediate restrictions on Microsoft’s behavior. These include: greater disclosures of the code that links Windows to other applications, limits on tying programs to the operating system, uniform Windows licensing terms for computer manufacturers, and “a ban on retaliation against business partners that resist Microsoft’s will” (WP). Such restrictions would last for three years in the case of a breakup, 10 years if it remains intact.

The WP says “virtually all” the states who filed suit against Microsoft support the proposal, and lists Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery as the only standout. The NYT and the late closing LAT said that the attorneys general from both Ohio and Illinois filed briefs supporting the plan, but protesting an immediate breakup. Apparently, they want to restrict Microsoft’s behavior but wait three years before initiating a breakup. State officials are also concerned by the plan’s lack of a concrete enforcement mechanism. The Justice Department would have “virtually on demand” access to Microsoft offices, but to act on suspected violations, competitors would have to again petition the DOJ and face another lengthy trial.Very little is said about third-party reaction to the breakup proposal. The NYT mentions that the filing contained five affidavits from “economists and others,” including a Stanford economist, in favor of the breakup. Wall Street merely yawned: An analyst quoted in the NYT said that the possibility of a breakup was already “pretty much priced into the stock.”

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov’s proposal said that the U.S. and Russia should use foreign aid, and perhaps a small-scale missile defense system, to reduce the threat of missile strikes from states such as North Korea, a senior White House official told the WP. The administration will consider the Russian proposal but is concerned that it will offer the U.S. no protection against rogue ICBMs, and the U.S. will still seek modification of the 1972 ABM treaty during a summit this summer.

The resignation of Miami’s police chief follows the mayor’s Thursday sacking of the city manager. Angry that Chief William O’Brien hadn’t given him enough warning of last week’s Justice Department raid, the mayor, a vocal supporter of the boy’s Miami relatives, ordered the city manager to fire the chief. When the manager refused, the mayor fired him. Police Chief O’Brien, ordered by federal officials not to tell anyone of the raid, argues that his silence was demanded by the law. Is he speaking rhetorically, or would he really have broken the law by tipping off the mayor? It would be nice if the papers could scrutinize such seemingly objective statements, instead of simply reporting “yo mama” sound bites like the mayor’s widely quoted statement that O’Brien “couldn’t police his way out of a paper bag.”

The LAT fronts news of a killing spree in Pittsburgh, apparently racially motivated. In four separate incidents, a man fatally shot an Indian man, a black man, a Jewish woman, and two Chinese men, and critically wounded another man. The police have a suspect in custody. The NYT stuffs the story, but mentions that the suspect is an immigration lawyer.The NYT front notes that Mayor Rudolph Guiliani was bullish on Friday about the chances for his senatorial campaign in light of a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Guiliani announced that another battery of tests had indicated that the cancer was not spreading, and that a complete cure was possible.

Dispatch From the 51st State: The WP reports on an alarming rise in Canadian nationalism, spurred by commercial for Molson beer. The spot features a rugged, plaid-shirted “Joe Canada” giving a tongue-in-cheek pro-Canadian screed: “I’m not a lumberjack or a fur trader. I don’t live in an igloo, eat blubber, or own a dogsled. … I have a prime minister, not a president. … I believe in peacekeeping, not policing; diversity, not assimilation. I speak English and French, not American.” The ad has ignited a pop culture phenomenon, with spontaneous recitations erupting at hockey games, bars, and other places where Canadians congregate. At its climax, the hero declares “My name is Joe, and I am Canadian.” Today’s Papers applauds his bravery: The first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.