Today's Papers

Raising the Fed

The Egyptian government’s objection to the impending FBI takeover of the EgyptAir 990 investigation–plus the mounting evidence that a co-pilot deliberately crashed the plane–leads at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times   (the Wall Street Journal   also fronts a long article). For the first time in many days, USA Today   relegates EgyptAir to the off-lead, leading instead with the Fed’s quarter-point hike in short-term interest rates, a story off-leaded by the NYT, the LAT, and the Post. Wall Street reacted favorably to the decision by the Fed, which cited tightening labor markets. Analysts do not expect another increase until March.

All the papers report that the National Transportation Safety Board will not cede authority of the investigation to the FBI until it consults further with Egyptian officials, who think the investigation is culturally biased. (The NYT, however, leaves the NTSB’s announcement until its seventh paragraph.) The NYT and LAT report the source of the bias charge: The religious phrase used by a co-pilot shortly before the plane dived is a common one, used both in emergencies and before meals, and thus not necessarily an indication of suicide. Only the Journal manages to quote actual Egyptian officials criticizing the investigation (the Post quotes an “Arab” official, but does not make clear what this means). 

Meanwhile, “officials close to the investigation” continue to leak details of the plane’s last moments. After the captain briefly leaves the cockpit, the voice recorder reveals, the remaining co-pilot says, “Tawakilt ala Allah,” which means, roughly, “I put my faith in God.” He shuts off the autopilot. The plane goes into a dive, at which point the captain returns and says, roughly, “What’s going on?” As the plane continues to dive, two flaps on the tail point in opposite directions–one to dive, one to climb. The Journal notes that the flap in the “climb” position was controlled from the pilot’s seat, the other, from the co-pilot’s. The Journal also says that near the end of the dive the pilot orders, “Cut the engines!”–apparently to decrease the plane’s dangerous speed (only the Journal has this detail). ( USAT says that the plane was weightless for 20 seconds and reached 94 percent of the speed of sound.) The NYT, by contrast, implies that the co-pilot cut the engines in order to doom the plane.

The Post and the LAT reveal that the co-pilot had a sick daughter (the LAT attributes this news to an Egyptian newspaper); the Post says that she has been receiving outpatient treatment at UCLA Medical Center for about a year, although she has been improving lately. According to the LAT, Egypt’s Al-Ahram   newspaper reported that: a) before the flight the co-pilot asked a colleague to carry gifts and money back to his family in Cairo, even though he was scheduled to arrive there shortly, and b) the co-pilot had recently told his brother-in-law, “We see our deaths every day over the ocean.” The Journal and the LAT report that the co-pilot requested to fly the plane shortly before he took the controls; the Journal says that he had been scheduled to take over much later in the flight.

The LAT fronts, and the NYT reefers, an apparent breakthrough in the Northern Ireland peace talks. David Trimble, the Protestant leader, said he would consider forming a government with Sinn Fein before the Irish Republican Army gives up its weapons–provided that Sinn Fein (which represents the IRA) appoints a representative to an international disarmament commission. This concession came after 10 weeks of talks mediated by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who had brokered the April 1998 Good Friday accords. The power-sharing government evisioned by the 1988 agreement could become a reality if Sinn Fein responds in kind to Trimble’s offer. The Post–which runs its story inside– notes that Trimble could lose his leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party if he loses a vote at a Nov. 27 meeting.

The NYT fronts, and the Post reefers, the second-degree murder conviction of a Michigan boy who was 11 years old at the time of the killing. The boy, who is now 13, shot a man walking out of a convenience store with a 30-year-old rifle from over 200 feet away in the dark. Defense attorneys argued that the boy was shooting at trees and the bullet ricocheted. The NYT says that he is probably the youngest murderer convicted as an adult this century.

In the Post’s “Reliable Source” column, some journalist named Michael Kinsley, who claims to work for Microsoft, reveals what Al Gore did behind closed doors Monday when he visited the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wa.: “He tore off his clothes and went running through the office shrieking, ‘I can’t stand these earth tones.’ Then he said he would appoint Bill Neukom, Microsoft’s general counsel, to the Supreme Court. Then he lit up a joint and started listing all the heads of state of Third World countries. The usual, in other words.”

Spellings of the name of the co-pilot suspected of crashing EgyptAir 990:

Gamil al-Batouti (NYT)
Gamil Batouty (LAT)
Gameel Batouti (Post)
Gameel el-Batouty (USAT)
Gameel El Batouty (Journal)