Today's Papers

Baseball: Off Its Rocker

The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and USA Today lead with the survivorless crash of an Alaska Airlines plane into the Pacific just off the coast of Southern California. The Wall Street Journal puts the story at the top of its front-page news box. The New York Times fronts the crash but goes instead with the European Union’s warning that it will diplomatically isolate Austria if the nation’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party enters its ruling coalition, a story also fronted by the WP.

The USAT, NYT, and LAT accounts go fairly high and authoritatively with the idea that the crash of the plane, which came down quickly from about 17,000 feet in excellent weather, was caused by a mechanical problem with the plane’s horizontal stabilizers, called “runaway trim,” that could make the nose of a plane pitch wildly up or down. The plane was being vectored to an emergency landing at Los Angeles’ airport when it dropped out of the sky. The early edition of the WP doesn’t address the crash’s cause.

The NYT, crediting a Web site, notes that Alaska Airlines had only had two previous fatal crashes, both in the ‘70s, both in Alaska. The paper reports that yesterday’s crashed plane was less than eight years old. The WP adds that most crashes take place in the vicinity of airports, and from low altitudes, but that several recent crashes, like this one, buck that trend. The papers’ accounts of how many people were on board the aircraft vary from 70 to 90.

The NYT says that Austrians were shocked by the EU’s pronouncement and that a diplomatic crisis is inevitable. The paper reminds that Kurt Waldheim was likewise shunned when he was elected Austria’s president after being revealed to have falsely denied his involvement in a World War II German army unit that committed some atrocities. The Times provides some offending quotations from the Freedom Party leader, Jörg Haider–they show a concern that proper respect be paid to the SS, and include a reference to concentration camps as “punishment camps.” The paper adds that last fall after his party’s election success, Haider apologized for all such past comments.

The LAT fronts promising preliminary results for a new class of anti-HIV drugs called entry inhibitors, which may work against strains of the virus that are resistant to the predominant AIDS medications. Another reason to cheer this development comes inside the WP, which reports that the AIDS drugs known as protease inhibitors are now thought to be associated with bone loss.

The NYT off-leads an exclusive saying that according to a CIA internal investigation, top officials of that agency impeded an internal investigation into whether or not a former CIA director, John M. Deutch, mishandled large volumes of secret material. Although much evidence was turned up that Deutch had put numerous classified files on his unclassified home computer in violation of CIA rules and federal law, he was not prosecuted and indeed refused to even be interviewed by investigators. The paper points out that Deutch’s file-take-home is very similar to what Wen Ho Lee stands accused of. The paper could have also pointed out that the similarity goes even further: Just as Lee can’t account for all the files he brought home, Deutch deleted 1,000 or so of his files after his classified home holdings were discovered.

The story also nicely illustrates a bit of executive perkage: After leaving the agency directorship, Deutch wanted to keep the home computers the CIA had supplied him, and to make this happen, the agency signed him to a no-fee contract as a consultant.

The NYT fronts Major League Baseball’s suspension (until May 1) and fine ($20,000) and rehab (sensitivity training) of John Rocker over inflammatory comments he made in a Sports Illustrated interview late last year. USAT splashes it big on its sports front. Rocker is quoted saying he didn’t think the punishment was appropriate. The players’ union plans an appeal.

The nun and college president who hosted the meeting last weekend of Elián González and his two grandmothers explains in an NYT op-ed why she went from a neutral position to thinking that the boy should stay in the U.S. Her biggest point is that it must be fear of the Cuban government that’s keeping Elián’s father from coming to see him. And, she wonders, should we send the boy back to a climate like that without at least a family court hearing?

Today’s Papers deeply appreciates getting e-mail about a misstep in yesterday’s description of the Super Bowl’s last play from most of the 88.4 million Americans who watched the game. For the record: If the Titan player had been able to score, that would have set up a point-after-kick that, if successful, would have tied the game.

The WP runs an AP story on one of the 10 survivors of Sunday’s crash into the Atlantic off the Ivory Coast, a 33-year-old Nigerian man who … doesn’t know how to swim. The story says the man credits his two hours of against-the-odds flotation to his engineering knowledge and to imitating the heroes of action movies.