Today's Papers

Milken: The Sympathy

The New York Times leads with a federal appeals court panel’s ruling that the music-file-sharing-for-free company Napster has been encouraging and facilitating the wholesale infringement of music companies’ copyrights. Napster, which claims 58 million users, can remain in operation while it appeals. But if it ultimately loses, the Times says, the very existence of Napster–which has a deal with one of the five major record labels under which it would become a for-pay service–will be threatened because detecting and blocking copyright-infringing traffic might prove technically unworkable. Everybody else fronts the ruling, which is also the top story in the Wall Street Journal’s front-page business news box. USA Today and the Washington Post lead with Bill Clinton’s decision to abandon his quest for midtown Manhattan office space near Carnegie Hall and his likely rental instead in Harlem, near the Apollo Theater, in a low-tax economic empowerment zone he signed into law. Both papers make it clear a key player in the move was Harlem congressman Charles Rangel. USAT tags its story with word that Clinton will begin negotiations this week for the rights to his memoirs. The top story at the Los Angeles Times with a national thrust is the latest in the paper’s very own piece of the Clinton pardon scandal: his commutation to time served–six years of a 15-year sentence–of a convicted multi-state cocaine distributor whose father was a major contributor to Democratic committees and campaigns. Today’s main detail: The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case received two phone calls (deemed by the paper to be “highly unusual”) from his counterpart in Los Angeles, after the latter had been contacted by the father. But the story doesn’t establish whether or not the case prosecutor therefore changed his original negative view of a commutation.

The coverage of Clinton’s office hunt notes the furor over the $800,000 annual rental cost of the originally proposed Manhattan digs, but the WP explicitly says that the Harlem shift is “designed to extract” Clinton from it. Both the Post and the NYT fronter on the move have a Clinton spokeswoman’s explanation that “he wants to be a good neighbor in a neighborhood and community that wants him,” but it’s the Post who glosses that comment as “resentment by the former president toward major news organizations, many of which helped promote the controversy into a large story, and are headquartered in midtown.” The NYT has the most hard money numbers, saying that the annual rent for the Harlem space would be $210,000. The Post says Clinton hasn’t decided yet whether or not to put any of his private foundation’s money toward the rental. The Times story gives Clinton’s longstanding bond with blacks as part of the explanation for the likely move. Both the Times and Post focus on the Clinton-friendly ambience of the new location, focusing on the gustatory, but the Post may have hit upon the deal-closer: its proximity to a Krispy Kreme.

The NYT is alone in fronting President George W. Bush’s proposal, made during his first presidential visit to a military base, of shifting $5.7 billion in the Pentagon budget toward personnel costs such as pay, health care, and housing.

The USAT, WP, and NYT fronts report that for the first time ever, a man-made object–a NASA probe–landed on an asteroid, some 196 million miles away. The orbiter, which wasn’t designed to land on the asteroid, even sent back high-resolution images on its way down. USAT and the NYT say that the mission may help scientists learn what to do to deflect asteroids heading toward a collision with Earth, but neither gives a clue about how.

The NYT goes inside with a story it headlines (online, at least) “TOP MARINE CLEARS OSPREY’S DESIGN IN CRASH.” High up, the paper says that yesterday the Marine Corps “conclusively determined” the Dec. 11 crash of a V-22 Osprey that killed four Marines–the latest in a series of fatal accidents that have plagued the experimental craft–was not caused by the craft’s hybrid tilt-rotor feature. But the strongest quote the story has on this is from the top Marine general, who says, “it doesn’t appear to be anything that has to do with tilt-rotor physics,” which falls short of conclusiveness and clearing. Moreover, the story says that investigators have found the crash was caused not by pilot error, but by a hydraulic failure, which was aggravated by a computer failure in a back-up system, apparently caused by defectively written software. The story says that the Marines have not explained either of these malfunctions and doesn’t say whether or not they might well plague other Ospreys. Therefore, a better headline, though less accommodating to the Marines, would be “TOP MARINE DOUBTS TILT-ROTOR CAUSED OSPREY CRASH/Hydraulic, computer failures cited instead but left unexplained.”

The WSJ runs a commentary about Michael Milken by the paper’s Dorothy Rabinowitz under the headline “UNPARDONED.” In it we are told that seven members of Milken’s family have died of cancer; that (according to a quoted Milken “associate”) the SEC mounted much more of an attack against Milken’s pardon attempt than the FBI put up against a man convicted of murdering two of its agents; that Milken was sent to a “desolate” federal prison camp; that there “he washed a lot more floors and windows than most other prisoners of his education”; that he has been teaching inner-city children “since his youth”; that he lives in a “comparatively modest house” in the San Fernando Valley, which is “decidedly not a neighborhood in which the very rich live”; and that he works 15 hours a day happily. All this and more we learn. Now as to what Milken ever did to get in trouble in the first place? Well, promisingly, the story starts off with Milken at Yale delivering a lecture when a young woman in the audience asks him precisely that. But Milken replies–and Rabinowitz settles for–“That was a story for another day.”

Woodward calls him “Deep Boat.” It’s good to see that the WP, which made the “background” source famous, still fervently employs the device. Witness the following snippet from the paper’s fronter on the submarine/fishing boat collision tragedy: “But the Ehime Maru is believed to have settled on the ocean floor about 1,800 feet below the surface, a very great depth, raising substantially the costs and risks. ‘That’s plenty deep,’ said a Honolulu marine salvor who has worked for the military and asked that his name not be used.”