All three national papers lead with another disastrous day on Wall Street, this one the seventh-worst ever for the Dow, according to the Los Angeles Times. The index lost 390 points, or 4.6 percent, while the others fell almost as hard: The S&P dropped 3.8 percent and the Nasdaq 2.8, the New York Times reports.
"The pain is definitely spreading," says a J.P. Morgan manager in the Washington Post. "And it is impacting the less controversial names, the PepsiCos, the Coca Colas, who may face certain problems but nothing terribly serious. That's the true hallmark of a bear market operating with a life and a momentum all its own." PepsiCos fell 10.2 percent yesterday after announcing that its sales grew less than expected.
Other big losers, as listed in the NYT: AOL Time Warner was down 7 percent in the wake of Robert Pittman's resignation on Thursday; Sun Microsystems, after predicting a loss for the quarter, dropped 26.7 percent, to $4.25; and Johnson & Johnson fell off a cliff (down 15.8 percent) following reports that the government is conducting a criminal investigation into one of J&J's plants in Puerto Rico.
The major indexes went below their post-Sept. 11 lows, according to the NYT, which also figured out that it will be the worst year for the markets since the 1970s if things fail to pick up.
As if that weren't bad enough, the NYT and the Post off-lead (and the LAT stuffs) the second largest meat recall in U.S. history: some 19 million pounds of beef (most of it ground) that might be chock full of E. coli. The recall was seen as a precaution after 19 people in a variety of Western-ish states got sick, the Times reports, perhaps from beef from the ConAgra Beef Co. in Colorado. The Times dryly informs that most of the 19 million recalled pounds has probably already been eaten, while the Post implores its readers to heat their beef to 160 degrees this weekend and to use a thermometer to check it.
The LAT and NYT front the arrest of a suspect in the kidnapping and murder of the missing 5-year-old girl in California. The 27-year-old production-line superviser/suspect was acquitted of child molestation two years ago, according to both papers. "I told you we would hunt you down," the local sheriff said at a news conference, addressing the suspect. "If you thought for one minute we were kidding, tonight you know we were deadly serious." The NYT has Rick Bragg—one of its stars—on the story.
The NYT fronts the "lurching and improvising" of Republicans in Congress, who are beginning to get out from under the Bush umbrella. "Only months ago," the Times explains, "many Republicans believed that Mr. Bush's extraordinary ratings and the war on terror would help them expand their majority in the House and regain control of the Senate. Now, some say, not only do they not expect Mr. Bush to have coattails, they also worry that some Democratic candidates for governor might." Among other things, Senate Republicans have supported tougher penalties than the White House favors for corporate crimes, and the House voted to arm pilots, which George W. didn't like the sound of.
There is, remarkably, a second tape in the California police-brutality case, the LAT reports. This one, taken by a surveillance camera trained on the gas pumps at the service station in Inglewood where the beating took place, is probably inconclusive, though both sides are claiming it helps their case. The LAT says the figures on the tape are difficult to identify.
The NYT stuffs an inquiry in England that revealed that a doctor convicted two years ago of murdering 15 of his patients actually did away with more like 215 of them. The "gray-bearded, soft-spoken general practitioner built up a reputation for attentive and trustworthy medical care while systematically injecting the people in his care with lethal doses of the painkiller diamorphine," the Times reports. The judge in charge of the inquiry said the murders "would have been dismissed as fanciful if they had been described in a work of fiction."
Finally, the Post publishes a letter from an irate 19-year-old (going on something much younger) Britney Spears fan, who doesn't want the "goddess of pop" pushed around anymore. "Your article covered the same issues every other paper covers (that she's played out, old—blah blah blah). The article opened with a mention of Spears's Lubbock, Tex., concert, which was cut short because of a power outage. First of all, are we in Texas? No, don't think so. Second of all, what was she supposed to do? Sing in the middle of a dark stage?… The article failed to mention how the show was updated with her two newest singles, which rocked!"
How refreshing to see such impassioned—and sassy—commitment in our nation's young.