Today's Papers

Erie Coincidence

USA Today and the Los Angeles Times lead with a major victory for the music recording industry in its fight against the file-sharing online site Napster: a federal judge’s order Wednesday that the site shut down its music trading capability by the end of the week. (The delay is to allow the company to appeal.) Napster also sits atop the front-page business news box at the Wall Street Journal, is the top non-local story at the Washington Post, and is fronted at the New York Times, which leads however with Ford’s decision to increase the average gas mileage of its SUVs by 25 percent–about 5 miles per gallon–in the next five years. The Times points out that the company started the gas-guzzling SUV trend and, indeed, currently makes the world’s largest SUV, which gets all of 10 mpg in the city and 13 on the highway.

The LAT lead sees the judge’s order (a preliminary injunction, issued even before the lawsuit brought by the recording industry has been tried) as a “deadly blow.” But the story adds that other services, such as Open Nap and Gnutella, which also enable computer users to swap online music files, may be harder to reign in, because unlike Napster, they are not companies, but rather networks of users.

The WP and NYT report that Napster attorney David Boies attempted to use a 1984 Supreme Court decision upholding the legality of video recorders despite the copyright claims of the movie studios. But both note that the judge slapped down the strategy because she couldn’t find substantial non-infringing uses of Napster as the Supremes required. The LAT refers to an internal Napster document submitted in court that strongly suggests that infringement was the whole point: In it, a company official refers to the site’s activity as “distributing pirate music.”

The NYT lead says that Ford’s plan to improve its SUV fuel economy will proceed by re-engineering and not via the loopholes it and other auto manufacturers have used before, such as making the SUVs so large that they are excluded from fleet mileage averages, or building vehicles that get special exemptions because they can run on ethanol as well as gasoline, even though they rarely actually do.

The LAT, WP, and NYT front the latest from the Concorde crash investigation: The cause of the crash was most likely the failure of an engine, resulting in a fire that made landing immediately imperative and in an uncontrollably strong thrust that made that impossible. And the implicated engine had undergone a part replacement immediately before the doomed takeoff. The LAT claims that “unlike most luxury Concorde flights that cater to the rich and famous, the German charter appeared to be carrying mostly upper-middle-class vacationers on a pricey holiday package.” Huh? The $10,000 ticket price wasn’t cut, was it? Is this an attempt by the paper to maintain reader sympathy for the victims?

The NYT fronts an interesting piece on George W. Bush’s first unsuccessful try for elective office, a Texas congressional race. Unlike so many of the strained psycho-historical profiles the papers have served up this election season, this one actually informs about how Bush thinks politics. According to the story, the lessons learned from that defeat include: the need to respond forcefully and quickly to accusations, the need to cultivate the religious right, and the need to be more folksy.

USAT reefers a $40 million donation from the Gates Foundation that will go to build 1,500 transitional housing units for homeless people in Seattle, a doubling of the city’s current transitional housing stock. The story says this is quite possibly the largest donation ever to the homeless.

The WP “Politics” column reports that Hillary Clinton says that U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should be cut off if Yasser Arafat follows through on his threat to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state on Sept. 13. This is a stronger position than that of the Clinton administration. The column goes on to archly observe that while HRC was grappling with Middle East borders, she was also having trouble with the borders of her adopted state. Yesterday, she gave an interview to a radio station in Erie, Pa., apparently in the mistaken belief that she was speaking to voters in Erie County, N.Y.