Today's Papers

Motivation Unknown

The Washington Postand Los Angeles Times lead with follow-ups to yesterday’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that spin similar information (or lack thereof) very differently. The LAT headline, “FBI Still Seeks Motive in LAX Shootings,” focuses on how little is known about why Hesham Mohammed Hadayet opened fire on a ticket agent and a traveler yesterday morning, while the WP story “L.A. Shooting was Planned, FBI Says” suggests that the fact that the attack was premeditated constitutes a significant advance in investigators’ understanding of the case in and of itself. The New York Timestakes a cue from James Carville and leads with the news in economics that the American unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.9 percent in June, which it says is an indication that the U.S. has fallen into a “jobless recovery” similar to that of the early 1990s.

The LAT leads its Hadayet story by stressing that investigators have not found that he had any ties to terrorist organizations or was involved in any sort of dispute before opening fire. The WP’s first paragraph also distances Hadayet from terrorist organizations but adds that he “apparently planned the attack in advance.” The WP also calls much more attention to Israel’s insistence that the incident was likely a terrorist attack than the LAT, mentioning it in the third paragraph, but explains that the difference may be largely semantic because the FBI defines terrorism much more narrowly than Israel does. The LAT ran a separate story on what classifies a crime as a terrorist attack. The NYT (above the fold) and WP quote a former driver of Hadayet’s saying that Hadayet hated Israel, while the LAT is more cautious about assigning primacy to political motives. The LAT corrected the spelling of one of the victims’ names, Victoria Hen, from yesterday’s edition, but the papers still do not agree whether she was 20 or 25.

The NYT economics story assigns a great deal of significance to an 0.1 percent rise in the unemployment rate, saying that companies are not confident enough in the direction of the economy to hire new employees. Instead, it says, they are trying to meet increased demand by being more efficient.

The NYT above-the-fold picture shows an Afghan man standing near the graves of 25 of his relatives killed when an American plane mistakenly opened fire on a wedding party there, and a story beneath it says President Bush called Afghan leader Hamid Karzai yesterday to express sympathy about the deaths. But the piece made clear that the phone call was by no means an apology, as the Pentagon has not yet issued a statement saying whether American fire caused the deaths.

All three front pages feature obituaries of baseball legend Ted Williams, almost universally regarded as either the greatest or second-greatest hitter in the game’s history, who died yesterday at 83. Each piece was lengthy and recounted the critical themes: Williams’ unprecedented combination of power and average (including being the last player to hit .400), his arrogance, and his war service. But the NYT put information about his childhood much higher than the other two papers and also included a reference to Williams’ humorous side that has been largely forgotten in Americans’ collective memory.

The LAT put the flooding in Texas on its front page (unlike the WP and NYT) and wrote an original story on it, while the NYT and WP were content with inside wire stories on conditions that have caused more than 4,000 people to evacuate their homes and killed seven.

The WP foreign desk got its story about class discrimination in Mexico’s criminal justice system on the paper’s front page. It says that Mexico is unusually vigilant about arresting and prosecuting minor criminal offenders but added that criminals successful enough to have money and connections can typically dodge the system.

The WP front page also includes a story on the declining influence of the Catholic Church in state politics since its sex scandals have become public. Not only have legislators who have deferred to the church in the past sought to toughen laws on statutes of limitations and require church officials to report allegations of sexual abuse to the police, but the influence the church has traditionally wielded on unrelated issues such as abortion is also beginning to wane.

While much attention has been paid to President Bush’s current fitness push, the LAT front page reports that the weight-loss bug has taken hold of the California state legislature. “Trapped in an insular world of gastronomic excess, long hours and sedentary floor sessions,” the story says, legislators have their own version of the proverbial “freshman fifteen” when they are exposed to a lifestyle that demands they eat out frequently and places them in close proximity to donuts and ice cream bars in the workplace. Now those returning to the campaign trail have an extra incentive to shed what they have gained in order to look good at rallies and fund-raisers.