Today's Papers

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Everybody leads with yesterday’s 7-0 federal appeals court ruling that tossed out the antitrust trial judge’s order to split Microsoft into two companies but also found that there was merit in his finding that the company had engaged in illegal anti-competitive practices in the marketing of its personal computer operating system. Repudiating the trial judge’s granting of press interviews in which he criticized Microsoft while the case was still pending (although it found no evidence that his ruling was produced by bias), the appeals court also ordered that he be removed from it. USA Today calls the result a “mixed ruling,” and the Los Angeles Times notes that both company and government officials claimed a significant victory. The Wall Street Journal says high up that the ruling falls far short of being a complete victory for Microsoft but “all but ends the risk of a court-ordered breakup.” Only the New York Times includes in its big print the appeals court’s finding that Microsoft had engaged in abusive practices. Most fronts also report two Supreme Court rulings: 1) State laws restricting placement of cigarette billboard ads violate the tobacco companies’ right of free speech; 2) Immigrants who have committed crimes in the U.S. cannot be detained indefinitely, even if there is no country willing to accept their deportation.

Although the Microsoft case could still go to the Supreme Court, or proceed to a new trial on the antitrust matters not decided by the appeals court (especially on determining the proper standard to use in judging whether or not tying a browser to an operating system is illegal, and on remedies), the coverage consensus is that the ruling makes a settlement more likely, and that such an outcome will include some restraints on Microsoft’s behavior in the marketplace. The LAT and WSJ emphasize one factor leading toward this: Any settlement will have to be supported by all the state attorneys general who joined the case. The Washington Post, the LAT, and the WSJ mention another: The appeals court’s specific findings leave open the possibility that other companies would now file follow-on antitrust lawsuits, which if successful, the Post explains, would produce costs to Microsoft of three times actual damages.

The editorial pages tend toward an anti-Microsoft take. The NYT editorial is headlined “Microsoft’s Core Illegalities” while the LAT’s is “Good Microsoft. Now Heel.”

The NYT, the WP, and the LAT front the surprise and swift delivery of Slobodan Milosevic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The move was engineered by leading officials of Yugoslavia’s Serb republic after Yugoslavia’s president and constitutional court weighed in against it. The coverage makes it clear that a big incentive was the United States’ warning that it would block foreign aid to Yugoslavia if Milosevic was not extradited.

The WP reports inside that Attorney General John Ashcroft announced plans yesterday to reduce the length of time the government would retain the records of instant background checks on gun buyers–from the current 180 days (already scheduled to become 90 next week) to … one business day. The story reports that Democrats responded by accusing the Bush administration of “pandering to gun dealers and the National Rifle Association.”

The NYT and WP report inside that some two dozen Muslim leaders walked out of a White House meeting in protest yesterday after the Secret Service removed a member of their group, a congressional intern. The Secret Service admitted later that the removal was a mistake. Both stories point out that the intern’s father, a professor in Florida, is sympathetic to Palestinian causes. This reminds Today’s Papers: Why didn’t that survey the WP flagged the other day about various racial and ethnic groups’ perceptions of prejudice against them include Muslims?

The NYT reports that after years of being criticized by animal rights advocates, Burger King pledged yesterday “to serve meat only from animals that have been housed, treated and slaughtered with great care.” The news appears under the headline (online at least): “BURGER KING PLEDGES HUMANE USE OF ANIMALS.”

“Hey, can we get a drop cloth for that hideous Iwo Jima thing over there?” The WP’s “Reliable Source” reports on the latest perfections of Washington’s perfect hostess (and WP warhorse) Sally Quinn. Seems that in the course of planning a soiree where the chairman of Sony will meet and greet various Washington importances, Quinn suggested using the former presidential yacht Sequoia. But there was one plaque on board that she wanted removed–the one mentioning that it was reportedly on that yacht that Harry Truman decided to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima. A new plaque that didn’t mention this was on order at a framing shop when the dinner’s organizers heard about the Post’s inquiries, so the replacement plan was abandoned and instead, the plaque will be hidden.