Federal Court rules that Microsoft violated antitrust law
Will judge break Windows?
Guilty! Microsoft joined Standard Oil and AT&T in the ranks of companies finding the losing end of an antitrust suit. PC users might not be affected by the decision for some time, but the technology sector is being shaken hard. U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by misusing its monopoly power to "quash innovation that threatened its monopoly position." Particularly egregious, he claimed, was the stifling of upstart competitor Netscape by "unlawfully tying its Web browser to its operating system." He opened the door to further lawsuits under state anti-competition laws. Mr. Jackson will spend the next few months trying to figure out a suitable punishment. So-called "remedies" range from changing Microsoft's business practices to tobacco suit-style fines to a corporate breakup into several "Baby Bills" that would take chunks of the company's product lines. Microsoft vowed a fight in federal appeals courts that could last until 2002. "Until the appeal is over, nothing is settled. We've learned that from experience," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer. Two days after the decision, Mr. Gates went to Washington, D.C., to meet President Clinton and Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan at a White House conference on technology. His speech topic was a White House favorite, the so-called "digital divide" between rich and poor. Whether he won any sympathy remains to be seen.
Ups & Downs of the Week
The Reagans: The House last week voted to give Ronald and Nancy Reagan the Congressional Gold Medal. The House approved the award for the former first family for restoring national confidence, fighting substance abuse, and ending the Cold War. The pair has been out of the public eye for several years due to the former president's affliction with Alzheimer's disease. The city of Jacksonville, Fla., tried to keep the sex trade out of town with strict zoning laws, but last week the U.S. Supreme Court blocked their enforcement. The justices, without comment, left intact an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that called the zoning ordinance an unlawful "prior restraint" on sexually oriented businesses' freedom of expression. The Supreme Court had given communities broad leeway since 1976 to restrict sex shops. Dennis Rodman: The Worm isn't doing well right now. Mr. Rodman's basketball career ended this season when the Dallas Mavericks released him after only 13 games. Now the former rebounding phenom has pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge. The charge stems from his arrest Dec. 22, when he allegedly drove with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15-nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08. Mr. Rodman faces a pretrial hearing in May in Newport Beach, Calif. House passes partial-birth abortion ban
Will President Clinton once again veto a ban on partial-birth abortions? The House passed the ban by a 287-141 vote, just over the two-thirds margin necessary to override a presidential veto. But the Senate last year fell short of a veto-proof majority, voting 63-34 in favor of the bill. As drafted, the House bill bans abortions in which a doctor delivers "some portion of an intact living fetus until the fetus is partially outside the body of the mother" and "kills the fetus while the intact living fetus is partially outside the body of the mother." The only exceptions would be in cases in which the life of the mother was threatened. "Everybody in this room knows this is wrong. It is not legally or morally defensible," said Rep. Rick Hill (R-Mont.) during the floor debate. Abortion supporters, on the other hand, claimed this was a threat to Roe vs. Wade. "Proponents of this bill are not just chipping away at the right to choose, they are taking a jackhammer to it," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). The GOP went on the pro-life offensive after the bill passed. RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson called on Hillary Clinton and Al Gore to back down from their support of partial-birth abortion. "This is one Hillary-Gore flip flop Republicans will embrace," he said. Even if the president succeeds, the Supreme Court has blocked the administration from participating in arguments when a Nebraska case is heard that could determine the fate of 30 states' partial-birth abortion bans. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, who was to appear, had filed a friend-of-the-court brief claiming the state law was unconstitutional. The partial-birth abortion ruling, expected in June, will be the first major Supreme Court abortion decision since the high court reaffirmed Roe in 1982. MSU students celebrate Title win
Michigan State basketball fans managed not to riot after their team beat Florida for the NCAA championship last week. Instead they set off fireworks, honked horns, and waved from balconies in East Lansing, Mich., after the Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76. Last year was a disaster. When Michigan State lost to Duke in the semifinals, more than 10,000 people ran through East Lansing. Some fans overturned cars, set bonfires, broke windows, and smashed parking meters. Police arrested 132 people. Of the 113 people later convicted, 94 went to jail. This year, police arrested 26 people (including 13 MSU students), mostly on indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, or alcohol-related charges. Drug office enlists media
Uncle Sam's magazines?
If the government likes the piper's music and pays the piper's boss, has it called the tune? The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy offered financial credits to at least six magazines-including newsweekly U.S. News & World Report-that ran stories discouraging drug use. The online magazine Salon reported that the drug policy office bought anti-drug ad space and ran anti-drug ads in U.S. News, The Sporting News, Family Circle, Seventeen, Parade, and USA Weekend. As a condition of the purchases, those magazines agreed to run a free anti-drug ad for each one the government bought. But the magazines submitted anti-drug articles to the office to fulfill the requirement. The question now for the journalists involved is, what did they know and when did they know it? Did an agreement with the government prompt their anti-drug articles? Several of the magazines' editors told Salon that they had no knowledge of any such agreement, while others said they had only partial awareness. U.S. News editor Stephen G. Smith told the Associated Press that the magazine's editorial staff was "utterly ignorant of any kind of arrangement or even the hint of any kind of arrangement" and that the government never influenced the content of articles. A White House spokesman also said the government made no attempt to dictate content. The drug policy office gave similar credits to television networks for anti-drug messages on such shows as ER and The Practice. Tech index crashes, then recovers
Check your seat belts! The day after the Microsoft antitrust ruling, the NASDAQ exchange tanked and then recovered in the scariest day since the 1987 stock market disaster. The composite index, which is disproportionately weighted with technology companies, fell more than 500 points on April 4, and then bounced back before the day's end of trading. "Well friends, this is what a crash looks like," MetaMarkets mutual fund manager Don Luskin told investors on his website just minutes before the recovery. The crazy day was a correction from the ever-escalating highs of a few months ago. Many factors set it up; the negative ruling touched it off. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan hiked interest rates just days before in an effort to cool the economy and lessen what he fears is an inflationary "wealth effect" created by the stock boom. During the last week of March, Wall Street wizards started sending off some bearish signals about technology stocks. High-profile technology bull Abby Joseph Cohen, chief investment strategist at Goldman Sachs, announced she was cutting back on some stocks. "Many of the technology shares were given the respect they deserve over the last 18 months, and are no longer undervalued," she said. Then guru Mark Mobius, head of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group, predicted that an Internet stock crash could come soon. "Some stocks will be 90 percent or 50 percent down," he said. Such comments were big parts of the buzz floating around before Big Tuesday.
The No-Comment Zone
- About 8,500 union-affiliated janitors in Los Angeles want a $1-an-hour raise each year for the next three years, and last week they went on strike to get it. Three-fourths of the county's commercial space could be without cleaning services if the pay dispute goes unsettled. At one point police closed an off-ramp of the downtown Harbor Freeway for nearly 30 minutes as dozens of strikers sat down in the middle of a nearby intersection.
- For nearly 150 years, a New Mexico law prohibited unwed people from living together as "man and wife." But today that law is a dead letter. Richard Pitcher's ex-wife accused Mr. Pitcher and Kimberly Henry of violating the law since they live together and plan to wed within a year. But they will not be charged. "It's not in anybody's best interest to have the courts clogged with this kind of case," District Attorney Mike Runnels said last week.
- About 1,700 New York University graduate students will be stuffing union cards in their wallets soon. Last week the National Labor Relations Board granted them the right to a collective bargaining agreement as teaching assistants. This was the first such decision involving a private university, but NYU may appeal. The students say that since they grade and teach, they should be considered workers, but the school says it has no such status for students. More than 20 graduate employee unions exist at public universities around the nation, according to the United Auto Workers, which represented the TAs.
- A 9-year-old boy was killed by an airbag last week when he crashed a car after his grandmother let him take the wheel. Shirley Pagliarani let grandson Joseph drive her 1995 Mercury sedan down the approximately 140-foot stretch of her driveway. The car hit an embankment and the child suffered neck and head trauma from the airbag. He died an hour later. The grandmother was not charged, since it is not illegal for an adult to allow a child to drive on private property.
Conservative college chooses Californian as new president
Hillsdale replaces Roche
Hillsdale College's trustees last week named Larry Arnn as the Michigan school's new president. Mr. Arnn, president of the Claremont Institute in Claremont, Calif., since 1985, was one of the leaders in the successful movement to pass California's Proposition 209, a ballot initiative in 1996 that banned affirmative action in public hiring, contracting, and education. He also advises House Republicans as a member of the Congressional Policy Advisory Board. He has a firm commitment to decentralized government and a wry wit that helps him and others maintain composure when political movement goes in the opposite direction. Hillsdale, long one of the conservative movement's important institutions, was rocked last November when its president, George Roche III, retired amid allegations that he had a 19-year affair with his daughter-in-law, Lissa Roche. Mrs. Roche, also a Hillsdale official, had committed suicide in October. The school expects Mr. Arnn, unanimously approved by Hillsdale's 35 trustees, to take over duties at the college in June. "He brings loads to Hillsdale College," said William Brodbeck, who led the presidential search committee. "He has terrific skills, all of the skills that will help Hillsdale move forward smartly." evangelist receives reagan award
Billy Graham received last week the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, presented by former First Lady Nancy Reagan at an event benefiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. "Billy Graham's contribution to the well-being of mankind is literally immeasurable," Mr. Reagan once said. "Millions of lives across the globe have been enriched because of his good work." Past recipients of the award include Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Colin Powell, Yitzhak Rabin, and King Hussein. FBI denies director is leaving
Freeh at last?
Is Louis Freeh trying to break free from the FBI? The Washington Post reported last week that intermediaries for the FBI director have been sending out feelers to legal and financial firms on his behalf, suggesting that Mr. Freeh expects to leave office later this year. However, a senior FBI official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, denied the report, saying Mr. Freeh has committed to staying at least through the end of the year. Mr. Freeh "has not approached any companies seeking employment nor has he authorized any others to do so on his behalf," the official maintained. The Post story noted that President Clinton and Mr. Freeh "have become bitter rivals and have made disparaging remarks about each other." Most recently, Mr. Freeh publicly disagreed with Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Mr. Clinton's fundraising practices. The 51-year-old's term as director runs through 2003.
- Sunday school has replaced Happy Hour at the Altoona, Pa., tavern where Paul Johnson once supported his drug habit. Mr. Johnson transformed the tavern into the Eighteenth Street Community Church, where a former "Miller Lite" sign out front now flashes "Jesus Loves You." The fledgling congregation-many of whom frequented the bar-founded the Philippians Help Ministry for drug addicts.
- At age 15, Phil Cookes was arrested for theft in a Los Angeles church parking lot. Now 51, he is senior pastor of the church, South Bay Celebration Assembly of God. Mr. Cookes credits his salvation and escape from a 20-year drug addiction to the church and Teen Challenge, a Christian substance-abuse program. "What the psychologists, psychiatrists and criminologists couldn't do, Christ did," he told WORLD.
New Star Trek show is in the works
5th Trek beams up
They're going to boldly go again. A fifth Star Trek series is in the works. Little is known except that the fourth show, Star Trek Voyager, is set to go off after the 2000-01 season. After that, the saga will go on with new people. "The latest Star Trek series is in development, although the details of this new show are not yet known," is the word from Startrek.com, the official website. Whatever the cast, Star Trek's missions always combine the ethics of Christopher Columbus and the Peace Corps. A culturally diverse crew travels through space and constantly bumps into life-threatening situations. The original show varied its encounters, while the later shows made theirs more familiar. Either way, the crew of the Enterprise/Defiant/Whatever always bumps into all the great conflicts of the universe. At its best, the series is good escapism. At worst, it is preachy and overstated. But even bad shows aren't enough to drive away the greatest cult audience in history. The Trekkie subculture, spoofed in last year's movie Galaxy Quest, isn't about to let go after over three decades. According to Paramount Pictures, a new Star Trek novel is released every month and at least four cities host fan conventions every month. What keeps the phenomenon alive is the marketing concept called narrowcasting. Star Trek has a big following, but the masses aren't enough for ABC, NBC, or CBS. So the new shows survive by being sold to independent stations or aired on the second-string network UPN. Thus they keep their core audiences watching and build up episodes for later reruns. This plan has guaranteed longevity for the new Treks. Each runs about seven years and makes room for a new cast. The next crew might not be recognizable, but it'll still be Star Trek. -Chris Stamper Titanic star gets "news" interview with Clinton
And now Leonardo DiCaprio with the news! The 25-year-old actor got a sit-down interview with President Clinton as part of an environmentalist ABC News special for Earth Day. Now the network is blushing over the whole matter. In one of those soft news projects aimed at scoring image points while cheaply filling time, Mr. DiCaprio was supposed to walk around with the president as he showed off some recent environmentally friendly changes to the White House. Instead, Mr. Clinton took advantage of the situation and touted his policy on "global warming" and other chic matters. When the real reporters heard about all this, the ABC News offices had few happy campers. Head honcho David Westin passed around an e-mail saying that "all roles of journalist must be played by journalists" and that "no one is that stupid" as to use the movie star to cover news. Whether Mr. Clinton's surprise will ever air is unknown. -C.S. anti-PC vehicles, PC lunches on the run
Gas prices are up, but SUVs aren't going away. Sport utility vehicles are the closest things to gas guzzlers on the roads today, but sales are still sky-high. SUVs are family-oriented (all those seats!), yet show big streaks of ruggedness. In pushing these profit-generating wonders, the auto industry created politically incorrect vehicles-and they fly off lots as fast as manufacturers can build them. Auto industry sales are at record-breaking highs, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Food prices aren't up very much, but lunch hours are going away. With the American workday flexing and sometimes intensifying, few people have time to stop and chow down. A survey sponsored by the fast-food chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken reports that only 3 percent of us take the traditional hour off in the middle of the day. Instead, people cut down on that time so they have more for themselves, their work, and their families. -Chris Stamper