Airbust

Airbust

Airbust

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Aug. 24 2000 7:52 AM

Airbust

The Washington Post and USA Today lead with the crash yesterday of a Gulf Air Airbus in the Persian Gulf near Bahrain that killed all 143 aboard. The New York Times goes with what the WP led with yesterday: new rules governing federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells. The top non-local story at the Los Angeles Times is that Ford internal documents (disseminated in the course of lawsuits) show that a decade ago Ford rejected design changes for its Explorer that would have made the SUV less prone to rollover.

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Both USAT and the WP write that the Airbus was reported to have made two passes of the field without landing and then on the third pass the jet plunged into the water just off the coast. Both papers quote eyewitness reports of an engine on fire just before the splash-in, but apparently uneventful flying before then. USAT reports there were about three dozen children on the flight. Both leads say the flight data recorder was recovered. Both also extol the Airbus safety record, with the Post even commenting that it has an automatic landing system that can land the plane as well as or better than the pilots--leaving the reader to wonder why that feature wasn't deployed.

The NYT embryonic cells piece covers much the same ground as yesterday's Post--the cells show great promise for research into a wide range of diseases because they have the ability to form every tissue of the body, and opponents of abortion object to such research because embryos are destroyed in the process. And the piece reviews how the new federal rules try to overcome the tension between these two points of view: They would allow federally funded researchers to use the cells but only if they are actually obtained by other, privately funded researchers. But like yesterday's Post, the Times account seems rather incurious about the Rube Goldberg logic here. Either extracting the cells from an embryo is diverting potential life or it is not. If the former, then how does having someone else do it for you, especially when both parties know the end result, morally mitigate? (If A informs B about a bank and helps him plan a robbery of it, which B then does solo, A is still a bank robber.) If the latter, then the extra step is unnecessary.

The news of the LAT's Ford story is that about 10 years ago, the company learned in the very last stage of developing the Explorer that the vehicle was still more prone to rollover than either its predecessor or its chief competitor. With production deadlines fast approaching, the decision was made to eschew major anti-roll design changes in favor of little tweaks and a lower recommended tire pressure. And this lower tire pressure is at the moment considered a major factor in the sudden disintegration of all those Explorer-mounted Firestones that prompted last week's huge recall.

The NYT fronts a rise in diabetes which it largely attributes to the 76 percent rise in adult-onset diabetes, mostly due to obesity. The paper says that this will take "a harsh toll in disability, death and medical expenses." On the other hand, the WP's off-lead reports that a study of more than 1,000 children from birth to age 13 suggests that being placed in day care enhances a child's immunity to asthma. Indeed, babies in the study who started day care before age six months had only 40 percent the risk of asthma experienced by those who didn't go to day care or live with older siblings. Researchers think this is a very significant finding, especially given that asthma has more than doubled in the last twenty years. The study suggests that immunity is enhanced not just by early use of day care, but also by large families. But guess what did not get mentioned in the Post headline?

"Bogart that joint and you're grounded."USAT's front-page "cover story" startles with a new survey of 600 teen-agers in drug rehab in four states, concluding that 20 percent of them have done drugs with their parents and that about 5 percent of them actually were first turned on by the rental units.

In response to the NYT's sustained focus on Dick Cheney's platinum parachute from his CEO gig at the Halliburton energy company, the Bush campaign has said that the American people should be pleased that they have a vice-presidential nominee who has been successful in business. The Times front today wonders about that too with a long exhumation of Cheney's CEO days. Highlights: Some key executives of the rival company that Halliburton merged with on Cheney's watch quickly came to regret the move. They were startled to learn, says the paper, that several of the major projects undertaken by Cheney and his management team were much less healthy financially than they had appeared during the merger talks; the company's board withheld bonuses from Cheney and his team after they failed to meet financial targets; because of poor performance on road projects, the Cheney-era company was fined more than $300,000 in Texas (by George W. Bush's highway dept.) and barred from such work in North Carolina. But say what you will about the man, at least, says the Times, he managed to hold on to the Libya account. Despite his promise upon coming to the firm that he would cut it loose.

Now to be fair--where's that closer-look story about Joe Lieberman's draft deferments or his Freedom Rider exploits?