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News Briefs II

Instruments on Doomed Swissair Flight Showed Problems


The pilot on Swissair Flight 111 spoke of problems with flight instruments just seconds before the cockpit voice recorder cut off, investigators said Thursday.

"The first officer's instrument displayers were affected during the last few seconds of the recorder conversation," said Vic Gerden, chief investigator for Canada's Transportation Safety Board. "Precisely how they were affected is not clear."

At a news conference in Halifax Thursday, investigators also said that the cabin crew was in the process of serving a meal to passengers when the pilots decided to divert the Geneva-bound plane to Halifax. The meal service was suspended and passengers were told they would be landing in Halifax in 20 minutes, Gerden said. Instead, six minutes after the recorders cut off and the pilots lost contact with air traffic controllers, the MD-11 plunged into the Atlantic last month, killing all 229 people aboard.

Investigators are still trying to understand a series of error codes, or faulty data, that appeared on the flight data recorder about 90 seconds before the recorder stopped. The faults crop up in 30 to 40 of the measurements on the recorder. Investigators don't know if the data indicates faulty electrical equipment or wiring problems.

Gerden said the safety board will draw no conclusions from the data until key electrical components of the plane have been retrieved. Investigators are working under a tight deadline to recover wreckage before winter storms scatter the debris. Diving in the 180-foot deep waters was suspended last week after all accessible human remains were recovered. A special heavy-lift barge that will use a crane to lift wreckage is being brought in.

Portuguese Writer Saramago Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Los Angeles Times

Portuguese fabulist Jose Saramago, whose entrancing tales and playful skepticism about history and reality make him one of Europe's most original contemporary writers, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature Thursday.

The 75-year-old author rose from obscurity late in life to become the grand old man of Portuguese letters. Saramago is the first writer in Portuguese, the language of 140 million people around the world, to win the prize. Saramago's 19 novels, four plays and three volumes of poetry form an iconoclastic body of literature that champions the common man and challenges conventional views on religion and the goal of a united Europe.

The Swedish Academy said it chose Saramago, a contender for several years, because his work, "sustained by imagination, compassion and irony, continually enables us to apprehend an elusory reality."