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web posted May 8, 2000

Public backs Microsoft in antitrust case

Despite being dealt a blow in the courtroom, Microsoft appears to have fared well in the court of public opinion.

Less than a week after the Department of Justice and 17 states recommended to a federal judge that Microsoft be forcibly broken up for antitrust violations, recent polls indicate that as many as three out of five computer users favor leaving the company as a single entity.

Richard Yalch, a University of Washington marketing professor, said Microsoft's use of the media to describe itself as an "innovative company" pressed by an out-of-touch bureaucracy has been having an effect on pubic opinion. Microsoft has been running commercials with Chairman Bill Gates and President and CEO Steve Ballmer declaring that the "best is yet to come."

"I think, partly, Microsoft has been so promoting its view that it becomes self-perpetuating," Yalch said.

The latest indicator to reach that conclusion is a Harris Poll of 3,830 PC users conducted the weekend of April 29.

Less than 40 percent of respondents in the Harris Poll said that the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft "treated competitors fairly," but 37 percent did not believe that the company is "monopolist." Only one in three said the government was being fair to Microsoft in the antitrust action.

In another poll, done after Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson released his ruling but before the government recommended the company's breakup, only 17 percent of respondents they thought splitting the company into two or more parts would be "good for America."

Forty-two percent said they thought that result would be bad for the country, while 41 percent were unsure. More than two-thirds of people questioned in the telephone poll by Rassmussen Research for the Portrait of America website said they had heard about Jackson's decision.

Thirty-six percent in that poll said the best outcome would be for Microsoft to prevail in court, while 31 percent said it would be best for the government to drop the case. Nearly as many disagreed, saying that withdrawing from the case would be bad for America.

"I think that's been generalized into a kind of overall 'Keep the government out of things,'" Yalch said.

"I don't think it's support of Microsoft, per se," he added. "I think they have been able to take a sort of general distrust of government in the industry and get people to apply it to their particular situation."

Judge agrees anthrax vaccine unsafe; halts court martial against airman

A former air force sergeant who refused to take a vaccine against anthrax will not face a court martial, a military judge ruled on May 5. The judge, Col. Guy Brais, ruled the vaccine was "unsafe and hazardous" based on the evidence he heard that related specifically to a batch made by Michigan Biologic Product Institute and provided to the Canadian Armed Forces.

"The government . . . could never be justified to impose inoculation of soldiers with unsafe and dangerous vaccines," Brais said.

Testimony indicated some of the vaccine was nine years old, the vials did not contain the doses indicated, and some vials were contaminated and unsterile and contained foreign material.

Brais said the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadian soldiers from being forced to take a vaccine that is unsafe.

Mike Kipling, who has since left the military, was charged with disobeying an order for refusing the vaccine.

"I'm glad it's over," Kipling said outside court.

"I hope to get back to a normal routine in life."

Members of Kipling's family jumped up and down when the decision was read.

His lawyer, Jay Prober, said it's a major victory for all military personnel. He had challenged the court martial, saying it violated his client's guarantee of equal treatment before the law under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Prober argued Kipling's rights were trampled when he was ordered to take the anthrax vaccine while stationed in Kuwait in 1998 during the second Gulf War.

The military has said it weighed the potential health risks associated with the vaccine against the potential threat posed by airborne anthrax spores that might be used as a biological weapon.

Health Canada gave special approval for the military to use the vaccine.

Kipling said he refused the vaccine in 1998 because of health risks associated with the unlicensed product. He retired from the military last year.

The vaccine has been linked by some veterans to Gulf War Syndrome, although they have little scientific evidence to back their claims.

The military has yet to decide whether to appeal the decision.

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