Today's Papers

The Wrong Stuff

The Washington Post   leads with a federal budget compromise that will allocate nearly $1.4 billion to teacher hiring–a central plank of President Clinton’s education policy. (The New York Times   and Los Angeles Times   front this story.) The NYT budget story warns that there is still no agreement over environmental spending, abortion, and U.N. finances, but the Post, LAT, and Wall Street Journal are optimistic that a budget deal is around the corner (the Journal says the GOP will try to wrap all remaining appropriations into a $390 billion package to be voted on as early as next week). USA Today   leads with the release of EgyptAir 990’s data-recorder information, which shows that the plane began its descent under apparent pilot control. This story is fronted by the NYT and LAT. The LAT goes with a quasi-local lead: NASA’s determination that the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter earlier this year stemmed from gross mismanagement at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Lockheed. “These people [at JPL] could not manage their way out of a Glad bag,” pronounces a nonprofit watchdog group. USAT reefers this story and the Post runs it inside. The NYT leads with the Clinton administration’s private concern over Israeli arms sales to China.

Leaked by Pentagon officials, the NYT arms-selling story notes that Israel recently sold a $250 million airborne radar system to China and plans to sell it several more. Secretive Israeli arms deals with China have long put the Defense Department in a bind, the Times explains: Since many Israeli weapons are jointly made with the United States, American technology has likely made its way to China, which uses it partly to threaten Taiwan, which is stocked with arms from … the United States.

In its (reefered) EgyptAir story, the Post notes that the data recorder reveals no abrupt movements and that the plane maintained its compass setting during the dive, which occurred eight seconds after the autopilot shut off. Although the Post says an explosion is unlikely, the NYT insists that it is still a possibility. The NYT speculates on a loss of cabin pressure (which the black box would not record), but USAT notes that pilots are taught to descend more slowly in such a situation. The LAT decides to focus on a possible hijacking or passenger rampage, and for no apparent reason it fills several column inches with a detailed summary of a 1987 California crash caused by a gunman. (Question: Did the LAT reporter dwell on this particular crash because he happened to cover it himself?) It is unknown whether the autopilot disengaged automatically or manually; most papers merely note this fact in passing, but the Post oddly attributes this uncertainty to “sources close to the investigation.”

The NYT fronts–and the other papers stuff–the “indictment” of deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of hijacking and kidnapping for his alleged refusal to let Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf’s plane land last month–an event that triggered a military coup orchestrated by Musharraf. The general says his plane had only seven minutes of fuel left when the military commandeered the control tower and cleared the commercial airliner to land. Sharif could face the death penalty if convicted.

The LAT off-leads, and USAT fronts, the decisions of Bank of America and Wells Fargo bank to ban non-customers from using its ATMs in Santa Monica, California, starting today. The banks are reacting to a ban on ATM fees passed by San Francisco and Santa Monica voters last week.

USAT, the NYT, and the Post front the announcement that ramipril, an 8-year-old high-blood pressure medication, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by 22 percent and significantly reduces the risk of diabetes. The study of 10,000 people over 5 years was halted early because results were so encouraging.

A Post story on Hillary Clinton’s visit to Israel is a textbook example of how the media turn an alleged appearance of impropriety by a politician into a “political problem” and therefore a story:

On paper at least, Clinton’s visit to Israel, her fourth as first lady, is an official trip that has nothing to do with her probable Senate candidacy in New York next year. Her schedule … [is] more or less standard fare for an active first lady’s visit to the Holy Land. Neither the address she delivered … today … nor the speech … she is to give Thursday  … is overtly political. Yet with the election for the Senate seat she is expected to seek less than a year away, much of what Clinton does is presumed to be political. And whatever her intention, there was no escaping the buzz of partisan politics audible even before her arrival.

For a “Frame Game” on this style of reporting, click here.

Just Another Day at the Office: Among the findings of the NASA investigation into the loss of the $125 million Mars Orbiter earlier this year is the following: “There was a widespread perception among the Mars Climate Orbiter team that ‘orbiting Mars is routine,’ which caused the team to not pay enough attention to the risks of interplanetary spaceflight” (LAT).