The Washington Post and New York Times lead with the British government's finding, based on an independent medical examination, that Gen. Augusto Pinochet, under house arrest in England, is too sick to be tried on the human rights charges awaiting him in Spain. This means, say the papers, that Pinochet could instead return to Chile soon. The USA Today final edition leads with a saber-rattling leak from the DOJ/Microsoft wrangle: that government prosecutors will shortly offer up during negotiations with Microsoft a proposal for a breakup yielding two companies, one for the Windows operating system, another for software programs. The story says that it's unclear where Microsoft Internet activities would go. A Microsoft spokesman is quoted saying a breakup "would do great harm to the industry." The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times (which fronts Pinochet) is the Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday saying the nation's state workers, including teachers, do not enjoy the federal government's protection against age discrimination, yet another example, says the paper, of the court's recent championing of states' rights. The NYT fronts the decision. The Wall Street Journal runs Pinochet and the court one-two at the top of its front-page news box.
The papers say that a decision to allow Pinochet--who was found to have suffered a series of small strokes--to return to Chile is in the hands of the home secretary and may come next week. The WP and LAT report that Pinochet still may face charges back in Chile. The Post adds that although Pinochet was granted legal immunity in Chile in return for his step-down from power, it's not clear that the current government is willing to honor it. On the other hand, the NYT reminds that while he's been in England, Pinochet has received the support of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who, it says, was "delighted" with the doctors' report.
The WP reports that Spain and even many human rights advocates will accept Pinochet's escape of the Spanish charges because, as all the papers note, the case has, via the British courts, created a historic precedent: A former head of state can be brought to trial in another country for crimes against humanity committed in his home country while in office.
The WP off-leads yesterday's 11 percent drop-off in AOL's stock price, significant, notes the paper, because AOL plans to purchase Time Warner with its stock.
USAT fronts the latest wrinkle in the Elián González saga. It seems that the Miami family court judge who just delayed the INS plan to return the boy to his father in Cuba employed--during her 1998 election campaign--the spokesman for the boy's Miami relatives as well as the spokesman's wife. The numbers vary a bit from paper to paper, but ballpark, the two received a total of $60,000. The stories say the Miami court does not require judges in this sort of situation to recuse themselves.
The NYT fronts an Alex Kuczynski effort reporting a surprising image manipulation at CBS News. It seems that the network's evening news broadcast for Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 included images of Times Square with a billboard advertising CBS News. But the billboard and the CBS ad are not actually in Times Square. They were digitally inserted by CBS into the shot. The story says the anchor on the show, Dan Rather, learned about the practice during the broadcast but did not protest. Rather did not return a phone call from the Times. By the way, journalists who don't return phone calls from the press are precisely the sorts who don't hesitate to manipulate content--it's all part of the belief that the rules they constantly apply to others don't apply to themselves.
The WP's "Reliable Source" says Hillary Clinton will appear on Letterman tonight. Maybe the network can digitally give her a prayer in New York.
On the WP op-ed page, Cindy Williams, an MIT researcher, does a good nuts-and-boltsy job of bringing some reality to the topic of military pay raises. The author notes that the alleged gap of 13 percent between civilian and military pay fails to take into account allowances for food and housing. Also, she notes that some of the allowances are not taxed. Such details help to explain why soldiers typically earn more money than 75 percent of civilians with similar backgrounds. And there are some concrete earnings examples: a Marine master sergeant with 20 years in makes more than $50,000, better than a senior firefighter or police officer, and both of those civilian jobs are as dangerous or more so than the typical military job. And a colonel with 26 years' service makes more than $108,000. And none of this includes, the op-ed notes, re-enlistment and other special bonuses. The one point the author leaves out that would make her argument even stronger: the very young retirement ages available to military personnel. That colonel, for instance, can retire on a nice pension at age 47.
In a letter to the NYT, a working mother explains how her household handles her child's homework: "First ask the babysitter for help; if that fails, try Mom's fax if she's not traveling to close a deal; if that fails, try Dad's fax if he's not in court, and if all of the above fail, call Grandma Ro. (No fax available.)"