Today's Papers

The Marines Should Have Landed

USA Today

leads with an unprecedented court decision reinstalling in the Miami mayor’s office the former incumbent defeated at the polls last November. The Washington Post leads with the finding by military accident investigators that the crew of a Marine jet was at fault in the deaths of twenty civilians in the Alps last month. The New York Times leads with word that the American Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers are discussing a stock exchange merger. The Los Angeles Times goes with California Gov. Pete Wilson’s executive abolition of affirmative action in the awarding of state contracts. Wilson’s announcement came just days after the courts said such a move would be legal.

The WP reports that accident investigators found that the Marine jet was flying too low–only 300 to 400 feet when it was supposed to be at 2,000– and too fast–more than 100 miles per hour over the prescribed limit for the route–when it struck that Italian cable car wire. (By the way, the Post is wrong to say the plane was going “100 knots per hour” too fast–a “knot” is a (nautical) mile per hour.) As a result, says the paper, they recommend that the crew face “some sort of punishment.” The NYT, LAT, and USAT are, in their front-page pieces on the finding, all clearer about what kind: court-martial and prison. In addition, say the papers, superiors in the aviators’ chain of command are also likely to be subject to further administrative action. Everybody notes that authorities hope the tough stance will ease Italian demands to try the aviators in the Italian courts.

None of the papers are very clear on why not only the pilot but also the other officers in the plane’s crew could plausibly be held accountable. None mentions that the EA6B only has one set of flight controls and that therefore the three electronic warfare officers on board cannot control the plane’s speed, altitude or course. The Post barely brushes this topic, speculating that the investigators may have concluded the tragedy resulted from a decision by the entire crew. But for all the papers say, the finding makes as much sense as holding a stewardess responsible for a commercial pilot’s flight violations.

The NYT lead quickly becomes a primer on the history of the relevant stock markets and the differences in mechanics and culture among them. But inexcusably, the piece delays until the ninth paragraph any hint of why the possible merger could be of interest to the general public: it could mean savings for investors. The merger story is also a leader at the Wall Street Journal, but doesn’t make anybody else’s front.

A USAT inside piece on Linda Tripp reveals that she never labeled the tapes she made of her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky, but did keep her TV on during the calls, knowing that the World Series broadcasts and sitcom episodes audible in the background would enable the particular calls to be dated.

The WSJ reports that last year, the purchase of the average-priced new vehicle took almost exactly half a year’s worth of median family income. That sounds high, so the real surprise is that, according to the Journal, this is the lowest level since 1980.

The WP reports the results of a joint Associated Press-Center for Responsive Politics survey on lobbying, which show that interest groups are spending $100 million a month to pressure the federal government on pet issues. The number one noodge is the American Medical Association, which, in the first half of 1997, the most recent available reporting period, spent $8.6 million.

The NYT has a big illustrated front-page piece on the recent discovery that an asteroid, called “1997 XF 11,” is likely to pass within 30,000 miles of Earth (that’s eight times closer than the moon) on October 26, 2028. What’s more, there’s a possibility it will hit Earth then. (The asteroid story also makes the USAT front and is inside the WP.) The astronomer making the announcement is quoted saying there is “no immediate cause for alarm.” (That’s right–the cause for alarm is thirty years from now.) We have, he says, plenty of time “to improve our knowledge of this thing and take steps, if necessary.” Steps, like, says the Times, blowing up a nuclear bomb near the asteroid. The Times also mentions that two movies coming out later this year deal with the scenario of threatened interstellar collisions. The producers of those movies must just be sooo upset about this news.

TP thinks the big question isn’t whether 1997 XF 11 will hit us in 2028–it’s how will it affect Ken Starr’s investigation.