The New York Timesand the Los Angeles Timeslead with, and the Washington Postand Wall Street Journalfront, Microsoft's unsolicited $44.6 billion offer to buy Yahoo!, an effort to step up competition with Google for Internet supremacy. Microsoft decided to "go hostile" with its bid after Yahoo! ignored softer overtures in recent weeks. The WP leads with, and everybody else fronts, news that employers in the United States shed 17,000 jobs this month, the first loss since 2003. The papers say the downturn is another hint of a recession spurred by the housing and credit meltdowns.
The papers agree that Microsoft's offer to buy Yahoo! is an opportunity for two "also-rans" to join and counter the growing dominance of Google, setting up a "titanic corporate struggle between Microsoft and Google for the patronage of millions of Internet users around the world," as the WP puts it. Microsoft's offer is a 62 percent premium over Yahoo!'s current share price. The papers are in agreement that the bid represents an admission that the company's previous efforts to compete with Google online have failed. The NYT calls the aggressive bid a big shift in strategy away from the "kinder form of capitalism" Microsoft chairman Bill Gates advocated in a recent speech. The WSJ has the most background on Microsoft's earlier behind-the-scenes efforts to buy Yahoo!. If Yahoo!'s shareholders accept the offer, the deal could face scrutiny from antitrust regulators.
The WP says economists had been hoping steady growth in jobs and wages would keep U.S. households "afloat" while home values and the stock market sank. The decline in jobs puts more pressure on Congress to pass a stimulus package. The Post reports that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama blame the downturn on Bush, with Clinton calling it a "second Bush recession," and the NYT emphasizes high in its story what bad news the job loss is for Republicans politically. President Bush had just trumpeted 52 consecutive months of job growth in his State of the Union address a few days ago. Yesterday, Bush called the latest news "troubling." The Times reports that many on Wall Street expect the Federal Reserve to cut its interest rate in reaction to the job loss.
All the papers front bad news from Iraq: Two female suicide bombers blew up two Baghdad pet markets yesterday, killing dozens of people in what the WP reports may be the first coordinated attack by multiple female suicide bombers. The NYT calls it the deadliest day in Baghdad in at least six months. The American ambassador to Iraq said that since security measures have disrupted car bomb attacks, terrorists are turning more and more to suicide vests. Several officials claimed the bombers were mentally impaired; one said that the severed head of one of the bombers showed she suffered from Down syndrome. The papers are skeptical of the claim.
President Bush's goal to put Americans on the moon and on Mars hasn't quite captured the public's imagination, says a front-page WP story. Some space wonks now question whether such plans are viable at all given the lack of public enthusiasm, but NASA honchos insist moon settlements and Mars trips are feasible and worthwhile.
In campaign news, the NYT fronts a story on Hillary Clinton's "Gradual Education on Issues of Race," going way back to her childhood "in the palest of Chicago suburbs." The WP fronts analysis that holds Barack Obama is in a race against the clock because the short primary calendar favors the better-known Clinton. Obama's strategy, which the Post calls successful so far, has been to scramble across Super Tuesday states introducing himself to voters "speed-dating style." The LAT focuses on Obama's efforts to court Latino voters.
The LAT off-leads the story of a Russian man who tracked down and stabbed to death a Swiss air-traffic controller he held responsible for the deaths of his wife and children in a plane crash. Some in Russia are mortified by the hero's treatment he received when he came home after his three-year stint in a Swiss prison.
Jack Bauer was a cool superhero for a few years after Sept. 11, 2001, but when public opinion soured on the Iraq war, his torture-happy ways hurt ratings for 24, according to Page One of the WSJ. The story recounts producers' struggle to re-invent the show.
What's happening with Michael Vick's dogs? The NYT fronts a look at the care 22 of them are receiving at an animal sanctuary in Utah. Inside, the Times wants to remind readers about Puppy Bowl IV, Animal Planet's answer to the NFL Super Bowl.
Grapes of Wrath … The LAT fronts an amusing story about the growing problem of people showing up at wine tastings not simply to sip, but to get totally "juiced." The director of a California wine association tells the Times that when he saw bachelorette parties and people in costumes showing up at tastings, he knew it was a "telltale sign their mission was a little different" from that of regular wine-tasters.