Today's Papers

Let Kids Cough

The Washington Postand the New York Times lead with renewed calls for a ban on over-the-counter cold remedies for young children; a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel reported yesterday that the drugs had no proven value for children under 6 years of age, and in rare cases could even be harmful. The Los Angeles Times leads, and the Wall Street Journal tops its online newsbox, with jitters in the financial markets; the Dow slipped more than 360 points amid fresh concerns about the health of the economy.

There is no evidence that over-the-counter cold and cough remedies for children actually work, an FDA panel reported yesterday, calling for a ban on products intended for children under 6; the Post notes that the panel stopped short of calling for a ban on remedies for children under 11, but acknowledged that there was no evidence the products worked for older children, either. The agency will now consider whether to follow the panel’s recommendation; in any case, the NYT reports, the advice to parents was clear: Don’t give over-the-counter remedies to young children. The WSJ gives the story big play inside, arguing that the move could force a re-evaluation of the regulatory system for pediatric treatments.

Disappointing reports from Caterpillar, Honeywell International, and Schlumberger sparked a selling frenzy on Wall Street yesterday, 20 years to the day after the Black Monday crash; the LAT reports that Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq indices all fell by about 2.6 percent as skittish investors sought refuge in Treasury bonds. The NYT  dubbed the sell-off “Gray Friday”; in a front-page report, the WSJ notes that the slump stoked fears that the housing bust could spread to other industries, damping down profits and ushering in a full-blown recession.

The fragile power-sharing deal between Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto edged closer to collapse yesterday; the Post reports that both sides pointed fingers after a bomb killed 140 of the would-be prime minister’s supporters. The NYT carries a similar report, and fronts a look at U.S. efforts to avert a breakdown of the tenuous truce between the two camps. The WSJ warns that if Bhutto uses the attacks to stir up anti-government sentiment, she could provoke the increasingly isolated Pakistani leader to declare martial law.

The Post off-leads news that the improvised explosive devices currently wreaking havoc in Iraq could also pose a threat on the home front; first responders and lawmakers say the Bush administration has been slow to provide funds, training, or leadership to counter the increasing threat from homemade bomb attacks. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI both acknowledged the danger; Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff said the White House would shortly issue a national strategy to coordinate anti-terror efforts.

Michael Mukasey, Bush’s pick for the post of attorney general, testified before senators this week; the NYT fronts a report suggesting that while lawmakers were pleased with Mukasey’s straightforward answers, his statements suggest that he believes Congress lacks the power to rein in the president when national security is at stake. In an editorial, the WSJ heaps praise on the nominee, calling for Democrats to give him credit for his “robust and refreshing” stand.

The Post fronts news that the government mistakenly made payments of up to $300 million to student loan companies amid confusion over subsidy rules. Education Secretary Margaret Spelling said the federal government “had some responsibility” for the error, but did not intend to try to calculate how much had been wasted or to seek reimbursement.

In a major shift in direction, the World Bank yesterday put agricultural growth at the center of global efforts to reduce poverty. In its annual development report, the Bank argues that governments and development workers need to put new resources into boosting agricultural production, particularly in Africa, where foreign aid is increasingly being channelled into AIDS prevention and literacy programs.  “We’re not saying health and education aren’t important,” one of the report’s authors told the NYT. “But if you look at Africa, there’s no alternative to agriculture as a source of growth.”

The NYT eyes the political deals that led to the Senate intelligence committee’s approval of new eavesdropping legislation this week; after bargaining with Dick Cheney, the committee agreed to give retroactive immunity to telecom companies that carried out warrantless wiretaps on behalf of the National Security Agency. The WSJ reports that the bipartisan bill could still leave telecom companies vulnerable to lawsuits related to surveillance conducted before 9/11.

In Bolivia, local residents armed with clubs seized control of Santa Cruz airport yesterday, evicting government troops sent in to restore order after an American Airlines plane was detained in a dispute over landing fees. In a wire story, the NYT notes that the clash tapped into growing tension between the federal government and provincial elites who oppose President Evo Morales’ redistributive policies.

Evangelicals gathered in D.C. yesterday to weigh their options following Sen. Sam Brownback’s withdrawal from the race for the GOP presidential nomination. The Post reports that Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani met with predictable skepticism; the WSJ notes that the  results of a straw poll, due to be released this afternoon, could signal which candidate is most likely to corner the bloc’s votes.

Neanderthals were probably quite talkative, reports the LAT; a genetic analysis of 43,000-year-old bones found that the extinct anthropoids possessed a gene that in humans is known to be linked to linguistic ability.