Today's Papers

Ach du, Lieberman!

Everybody leads with the Swissair crash. The New York Times and Washington Post headlines emphasize the investigators’ search for clues to its cause. The Los Angeles Times headline is more graphic: “60 Bodies Recovered from Site of Jet Crash.” The USA Today header is more chilling still: “Victims Expected Crash,” a reference to the discovery–reported by all the papers–that many of the bodies were found wearing life vests.

The papers report that there are no indications thus far of foul play. Everybody reports that moments before perishing, the flight crew radioed that it had smoke in the cockpit, and the LAT explains that this came either from the engines, the cargo hold or a short circuit. The WP and NYT report that in 1997, the destroyed plane was given an overhaul, the Post adding that the aircraft featured cargo holds offering the greatest possible degree of fire detection and suppression. The Post also reports that the plane disappeared from radar screens at 8,000 feet, suggesting that it may have begun to break up, but the NYT reports that searchers’ sonar readings indicate that a large piece of the aircraft, perhaps the fuselage–which would contain many of the victims and also the flight recorders–is sitting intact in about 120 feet of water. This would mean, explains the Times, that Swissair Flight 111 did not explode. The LAT concurs.

Everybody notes that the plane was only a few minutes away from its emergency destination at Halifax, Nova Scotia when it crashed. The NYT adds the detail that the plane had actually gotten over land near Halifax and then returned over water to dump more fuel. All the papers note that among the doomed passengers were Jonathan Mann, the first director of the World Health Organization’s AIDS program, several other U.N. officials, and a lawyer who worked on behalf of African refugees. (USAT reports in its front section cover story that the U.N. Secretary General took the flight all the time.) The NYT and LAT hit this information somewhat harder, with the NYT lead putting it in the third paragraph–although not mentioning there that also dying was Mann’s wife, also a public health expert.

The fronts at the LAT, WP, and NYT all report on yesterday’s characterization by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of President Clinton’s conduct in the Monica Lewinsky scandal as “immoral and disgraceful.” Although Lieberman didn’t call for any specific punishment for Clinton, the papers view his remarks as high-impact because he made them on the Senate floor and because he is, in the LAT’s words, a “policy soul-mate” of Clinton’s. The three papers fronting the story report that Lieberman’s remarks were immediately endorsed by two other Democratic senators, Daniel Moynihan and Bob Kerrey. The Wall Street Journal “Washington Wire” reveals that not every Democrat is taking things so seriously, quoting Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart’s comment upon missing the presidential plane to Ireland: “I take responsibility for my own actions. I deeply regret it. I’m dealing with the people I hurt the most.”

The WP continues to pursue a story it broke yesterday: the arrest by Chinese security agents of Natalie Liu, a Beijing-based CBS television producer, who is a Chinese citizen. After she was taken away in handcuffs, says the Post today, authorities searched her apartment and confiscated notebooks, plus video and audio tapes. The paper says the U.S. embassy in Beijing has expressed concern to the Chinese government, which has thus far refused to comment.

In a front-page feature, the WSJ takes note of one apparent casualty of the mushrooming world financial crisis: the prominent view of the past ten years that money should move freely around the globe. It seems that many countries deep in economic turmoil will now be instituting limits on the freedom of foreigners to lend and residents to borrow foreign currency. After all, the Journal notes, the countries that most steadfastly resisted the free-flow approach–China and India–stand out as least affected by the current crisis. The problem is illustrated by the likes of Russia, Malaysia and some Latin American governments: if foreign capital can come in easily, it can leave easily too, driving up interest rates and pushing down local currency exchange rates when it does so. The Journal also observes in its “Washington Wire” that the recent stock market jitters have probably suppressed enthusiasm for privatizing Social Security.

A letter to the WP surveys some Bill Clinton quotations that he would just as soon not find their way into Bartlett’s, all taken from his deposition in the Paula Jones case. The list includes 71 instances of “I don’t remember,” 62 of “I don’t know,” and 10 of “I have no idea.” All in all, the writer figures, in his deposition, Clinton admitted to 267 memory lapses.