Today's Papers

On the Runaround

The New York Times leads and the Washington Post and Los Angeles Timesgo inside with the National Transportation Safety Board’s release yesterday of documents and FBI reports pertaining to the October 1999 crash of EgyptAir Flight 990. The board has not yet analyzed the information or drawn a conclusion from the reports, but it recommended that a public hearing not be held, because it believes there are no unresolved public safety issues at stake. Lack of a hearing, notes the NYT, points to the suspicion that a suicidal co-pilot was responsible for the crash. The WP’s top non-local lead focuses on a recent presidential race poll showing Texas Gov. George W. Bush leading Vice President Gore 52 percent to 43 percent. The LAT leads with the announcement that a federal judge has barred the Los Angeles Police Department from taking measures to pre-empt protest activities at the Democratic National Convention and required that they have a federal order in hand before entering any protestors’ HQ. This decision stems from several lawsuits pending in Philadelphia, where police arrested protestors and seized protest materials during the Republican National Convention.

At yesterday’s NTSB press conference, more questions than answers resulted from the release of some 1,700 pages of documentation, reports the NYT–including FBI reports that co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti had been accused of sexual misconduct while staying at a New York hotel in 1998. Interviews with Batouti’s acquaintances (including one who claims he saw Batouti drunk several times and called him “a tragedy waiting to happen”)–coupled with the transcript of the crew’s in-flight conversations and psychological analysis of Batouti’s state at the time of the crash–has underscored a difference in opinion between EgyptAir and the American investigators. The Egyptians, reports the WP, still maintain that a mechanical problem probably caused the crash. Although the board re-emphasized that they have not reached any conclusions about the crash’s cause, the NYT reports that many staff investigators “are persuaded that the crash was a suicide and are eager to move on to other mysteries.” A final report will be issued in several months, states the NYT. Meanwhile, reports the WP, the NTSB chairman said yesterday that he has asked the FBI director to investigate who leaked the FBI reports to USA Today, which published a scoop yesterday.

The WP fronts a cornucopia of election coverage, ranging from the narrowing gap between Bush and Gore to an article with this sub-headline: “Voters in One Midwest Battleground Highlight Risk in Gore’s Choice of Jew.” In this yarn, the reporter’s unspoken (or spoken) questions of seven rural Missourians, aim, we must conclude, to show that anti-Semitism in the Midwest region of the United States will be a challenge for Gore, having chosen a running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who is Jewish. What the article actually illustrates is that there simply aren’t very many Jews in rural Lincoln County, Missouri. Though prejudice was expressed by some of the seven interviewees, not one voiced the opinion that Lieberman’s religion would stop them from voting Democrat in the presidential election. The reporter then asks a pro-life Catholic why she wouldn’t find the pro-choice Lieberman appealing, since he, too, has strong religious beliefs. She responds by saying that she’ll vote Bush, since he’s pro-life. Duh! Since when does a group of seven people, four of whom practically verbalize that they’re going to vote Gore-Lieberman, constitute a battleground?

The LAT and the WP go below the fold with more on Wednesday’s Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall. The recall of 6.5 million 15-inch tires came in response to reports that the tires, most of which were bought by Ford Motor Co. for use on its Explorer sport utility vehicle, can be linked to nearly 300 accidents. Not only are federal highway safety regulators investigating the link between the tires and the accidents, but consumer groups are calling for a recall of Firestone’s 16-inch tires, which Ford pulled from several foreign markets last year, reports the LAT. Meanwhile, the WP quotes a Ford engineer saying that all tires are subject to a battery of tests and the Firestone truck tires never showed signs of weakness.

The NYT fronts an article on the onerous (and oddly personal) application process some states require needy people to fill out in order to receive food stamps. According to the NYT, in California, New York, and 27 other states, applicants are asked if they own a burial plot. Applications also include obscure questions about earnings from blood donations, garage sales, bingo, and paper routes. Although state and local governments justify the process because they are trying to cut down on fraud and welfare costs, reports the NYT, the questionnaires –as long as 36 pages in Minnesota–have nothing to do with the legal requirements for stamps. For example, Ohio’s eight-pager contains the Soprano Clause (a nod to the popular HBO Mafia drama), since applicants are required to answer if they, or anyone in their household, is fleeing from New Jersey. “We live in Cleveland,” said a single mother of three, “Why would they ask if you’re from New Jersey?”