Today's Papers

Batouti Bashing

The New York Times   leads with an agreement between the White House and Congress on a .38-percent across-the-board spending cut, a story fronted by the Washington Post   and reefered by the Los Angeles Times   and USA Today. The Wall Street Journal   tops its “Worldwide” box with the arrests of hundreds of alleged debtors in Pakistan by the new military junta, a story fronted by no other paper. The Post and USAT lead with the EgyptAir 990 investigation, a story fronted by the NYT and LAT. The LAT leads with a decision by the United States, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to build a pipeline from the landlocked Caspian Basin states to a port in Turkey. Russia had been lobbying to have the pipeline cross Chechnya, and the West’s demurral may cause friction at a meeting today between President Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. The LAT story says the pipeline will “tap rich oil fields in Central Asia,” but a Journal article on the deal says that no oil has yet been found; the pipeline is more about political alliances than oil.

The Journal reports that the National Transportation Safety Board will give Egyptian officials several days to convince it that the FBI should not take over the EgyptAir 990 investigation. Although not much new evidence surrounding the crash has come to light since yesterday, USAT, the NYT, the LAT, and the Post run dispatches from Cairo quoting relatives of the plane’s suspected saboteur, co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti (NYT spelling). (All five papers continue to spell the name differently; see yesterday’s “TP.”) The Islamic al-Batouti was faithful enough not to condone suicide, the relatives argue, but not zealous enough to believe in extreme political causes. And while he had never been promoted to captain, as he had wanted, he was still quite wealthy–so much so that he held no life insurance.

The NYT chronicles Al Gore’s journalism career. After brief stints as a copy boy for the NYT in college and as an Army reporter in Vietnam, Gore took a job at the the Tennessean–which was then a popular stop-off for the idealistic sons of political figures (the sons of Robert Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and John Sirica had worked there). But Gore surprised the paper’s staff of working-class scribblers by staying there for five years. His biggest story involved teaming up with the local D.A. to lure a councilman into taking a $300 bribe. The councilman was defeated at the polls as a result, but he was acquitted in court. The acquittal disillusioned the future vice president with the power of the pen, and he decided to change careers. He entered law school and shortly thereafter ran for Congress when a seat opened up. Today the councilman–who has since been re-elected–has a Gore 2000 sign in his window. “His qualifications [for the presidency] outweigh anything that happened between us,” he says.

The LAT highlights some unlikely beneficiaries of the Internet: the homeless. In Los Angeles, about a half-dozen homeless shelters have computer labs, which help residents learn everything from remedial math to job-searching techniques. Free e-mail access has allowed the homeless to receive messages and interact with potential employers in ways they could not before. But since computer time in shelters in highly structured, most of the truly dedicated homeless techies–the entrepreneurs–use the public library, where time is virtually unlimited (and where, in large cities, up to 75 percent of users are homeless). The homeless, it turns out, make money on the Web in much the same way they do on the street–by finding value in things discarded by others. One homeless man set up a site  to sell bicycle parts that he bought cheap from a shop that went out of business. Another made a few thousand dollars by selling obscure videos; he simply found the videos elsewhere on the Web and sold them at a markup. One man began by charging others $5 to teach them how to acquire free e-mail accounts. Now he runs a Drudge-like tech industry gossip site, which has a mailing list of 2,700. On the Web, “it doesn’t show if you haven’t showered for three days,” says a former homeless woman who now runs a Seattle writing workshop.

USAT reports that Britain’s busiest freeway, the M6, was terrorized by a carload of five Austin Powers look-alikes wielding toy guns. The velvet-clad pranksters were caught by a roadblock and given a warning by police.