Today's Papers

Cruising Lines

The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post lead with Florida’s filing of murder charges against an airline maintenance company, SabreTech, in connection with the 1996 deaths of 110 passengers on a ValuJet flight that crashed in the Everglades. The federal government, the stories report, also filed an indictment against the company and three of its employees charging them with negligent handling of the oxygen generators that are thought to have caused the crash and with various conspiracy charges regarding false statements they made afterwards to FAA investigators. The New York Times, which fronts the crash indictments, leads instead with the running battles between pro-democracy demonstrators and police (assisted by vigilantes) raging through Tehran, Iran. The riots make everybody’s front except USA Today’s, which puts it inside and goes with an exclusive: the discovery by U.N. war crimes investigators of Yugoslav army documents containing what they say is the strongest evidence yet linking Slobodan Milosevic’s government to the routing of Kosovar Albanians. The paper examined a three-ring notebook and reports that it contains a direct order to an officer to “cleanse” a village. The order was typed on army stationery and bears stamps of the top levels of the Yugoslav government.

The charges in the SabreTech case are noteworthy, everybody reports, because they are the first criminal counts filed in U.S. aviation history in a case of an accident. (Which could, says a safety expert quoted by the NYT, make it very hard to get the cooperation of involved aviation personnel in future accident investigations.) And, add the papers, murder charges against a corporation, while not unprecedented, are rare. Only the NYT makes a stab at explaining that under the law a corporation is considered like a person and hence can be charged with many of the same crimes, with the consequence of conviction being not death or imprisonment but the correlates of fines and judicially imposed restrictions on future business. Everybody notes that both murder and manslaughter charges were filed, but nobody explains the difference, nor how it is possible to be charged with more than one way of bringing about the very same deaths.

The WP off-leads the defeat in the Senate by Republicans of patients’ rights provisions giving women greater freedom to choose their own doctors (under the status quo, many HMOs do not allow ob-gyns to be a woman’s primary caregiver) and granting physicians, instead of insurance companies, more say over treatment. The Post says the outcome is a bad omen for the Democrats’ chances of passing any restrictions on health care plans. Perhaps released a day late then, is today’s JAMA study fronted by the LAT and stuffed by the NYT and WP, which reports that for-profit HMOs deliver lower quality care than not-for-profit ones.

Everybody fronts the surrender yesterday to Texas Rangers near the Mexican border at El Paso of the itinerant suspected serial killer who had been the object of a manhunt in the midwest and southwest for months. The man was apparently talked into the peaceful give-up by family members, who are, it seems, eligible for the $125,000 reward. The LAT’s Claudia Kolker sums up the odd denouement of the case best, noting that the man “left a country with no death penalty, and entered the state with the most yearly executions in the United States.”

The revelation that George W. Bush once owned a house covered by a restrictive covenant nominally preventing its occupancy by nonwhites doesn’t get much play. But the WP’s David Broder does file inside on the matter, covering Bush’s release of a statement saying that at the time he didn’t know about the language in his house deed, and anyway it was null and void under Texas law. The sixth paragraph of the story mentions that the source of the item is Matt Drudge. It seems worth noting that this is the first political story Drudge has broken since coming to national prominence that has targeted a Republican.

The NYT reefers the news that Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise company, carrying about one-third of all U.S. cruise passengers, has revealed, in connection with a lawsuit, that its crew members were accused of sexually assaulting passengers and crew mates aboard its vessels 62 times in a recent five-year period.

The Wall Street Journal front reports yet another racial Rashomon: amidst the excitement over the U.S. Women’s World Cup victory, many American blacks are upset that team goalie, Briana Scurry, an African-American who held China scoreless in the finals, hasn’t gotten more attention. Indeed, says the paper, black talk radio stations nationwide have been flooded with angry callers. The paper says it was particularly galling that during the ABC broadcast of the awards ceremonies, the camera cut away to team star Mia Hamm, a white player, while Ms. Scurry was getting her medal. The story quotes just about every point of view on the issue, but should have also mentioned that most of the starters on the fan-elected teams that played in last night’s baseball All-Star game were nonwhite.