Today's Papers

Judgment Day

All the papers lead with yesterday’s ruling that upheld Microsoft’s antitrust settlement agreement with the Justice Department and largely dismissed the contentions and efforts by a coalition of nine states to have stricter sanctions imposed on the company. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post are unanimous in declaring the judge’s ruling a “victory” for Microsoft.

Everyone notes that Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected the states’ core argument that new, tougher restrictions were needed to ensure that anti-competitive practices wouldn’t continue in nascent technology markets in which Microsoft (owner of this site) is trying to establish a foothold. Instead, by focusing on prior misdeeds, the judge took what legal observers are calling a “narrow” view of the case and the role of remedy in a monopolization suit. The WP writes that Kollar-Kotelly “all but ridiculed the states for all the legal theories they put forth.” The judge writes in her opinion that the states showed “little respect” by seeking to “gather all existing complaints regarding Microsoft’s business practices … at this late stage in the case.” Nevertheless, the judge did expand upon the original settlement, actions the papers largely dismiss as minor. In Kollar-Kotelly’s 97-page memorandum opinion, the court ordered, among other things, that Microsoft install a compliance committee made up of board members; that computer makers could configure software packages so that non-Microsoft applications could launch automatically; that states could inspect Microsoft documents and interview employees to ensure compliance; and that the court would keep jurisdiction over the case to ensure Microsoft doesn’t violate the decree.

The papers say the states will discuss appeal, although they also point out that most legal scholars are suggesting an appeal will fall short. Microsoft, however, will still have to deal with European Union antitrust inquiry and lawsuits filed by individual companies like AOL Time Warner and Sun Microsystems. Investors reacted positively to the news, the NYT notes, sending Microsoft shares up $3.33 in after-hours trading. All the papers miss an intriguing sidebar to the news: Apparently, the district court created a bit of insider trading intrigue, posting the ruling on its Web site as early as 90 minutes before the day’s market closed. Web-savvy investors took advantage.

The NYT and LAT front word that the Vatican and U.S. Roman Catholic leaders have agreed to revise policies set up by Dallas bishops in June to handle sexual-abuse cases. Responding to the Vatican’s criticisms that the previous plan contradicted canon law and failed to give accused priests due process, a panel of American church leaders agreed on the creation of church tribunals and a 10-year statute of limitations. Although the policies allow bishops discretion around the tribunal and statute of limitations, victims’ advocates tell the two papers that they are worried the new rules will discourage victims from coming forward and will leave the process of priest-removal to a system rife with delays and complications. The NYT credits the WP and Chicago Tribune with breaking the story yesterday.

The WP says that Maryland police are tying the two sniper suspects to another case, the wounding of a sales clerk at a Silver Spring liquor store on Sept. 14. The paper notes the significance of the date as “marking the earliest date that authorities say the pair was in the region.” That day would also be significant because it would make Maryland the scene of John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo’s first crime together, coming before the killing of a woman in a Montgomery, Ala., liquor store on Sept. 21 and the killing of a Baton Rouge, La., beauty shop manager on Sept. 23. The WP notes that seven different jurisdictions are fighting about who gets to try the case. As for the evidence for the Sept. 14 crime, the paper notes that ballistics tests remain inconclusive. A police spokesperson said that authorities made the connection when “an employee of a neighboring Safeway store saw a dark-colored, older model Chevrolet Caprice leave the shopping center parking lot the day of the shooting.” In the story’s 27th paragraph, the paper also reveals that FBI director Robert S. Mueller III said the bureau is reviewing the performance of its agents, analysts, and trainees in the sniper investigation.

Mueller also revealed yesterday, detailed inside the WP, that the FBI has secretly tried to “reverse engineer” the type of anthrax used in last year’s mail attacks, in ongoing quest to identify a culprit in that case.

The WP fronts an article suggesting, via unnamed Republican sources, that SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt is losing White House support. White House officials are said to be upset that Pitt didn’t return Bush’s loyalty by informing the White House of potential problems with chairman of the oversight board appointee William H. Webster’s background. Sources tell the paper that the White House is considering asking Pitt to step down after Tuesday’s election.

Meanwhile, the WP fronts in its business section and the NYT reefers the accounting world’s latest scandal: Federal regulators have filed suit against Ernst & Young, seeking more than $2 billion in damages, accusing the fourth-largest accounting firm of fraud for its role in withholding knowledge of accounting improprieties at Superior Bank FSB, the largest savings and loan bank to collapse in a decade.

The NYT fronts a highly literate eulogy to the 29 victims of an earthquake that hit a small southern Italian town on Thursday. The calamity brought down an elementary school, killing 26 children. The article, by Frank Bruni, begins: “A man lay beside one of the tiny white coffins, his head turned toward it, his eyes never leaving it. Next to several of the other coffins, women in black rocked back and forth, shouting out their grief to everyone and no one.”

And now the obvious: The WP goes to a bunch of graphologists, those who analyze character through the study of a person’s handwriting, to get into the head of the person—the sniper—who wrote, “Your children are not safe anywhere at any time.” Ted Widmer, the director of the International School of Handwriting Sciences tells the paper, the letter writer “is very unstable. This person feels alienated from society and has difficulties interacting. … Extremely cold, but underneath it all highly emotional … capable of violent outbursts.”