COMMENTS: If This Is Friday…

It is the end of the week, so as usual, all three newscasts loaded up on features. ABC sent Good Morning America's Chris Cuomo (no link) to Islamabad for an Exclusive with Pervez Musharraf. He asked the Pakistani president to justify his State of Emergency: "We do not want agitational politics. Agitation means breaking down everything and burning things…That cannot be allowed"

On Capitol Hill, CBS' Sharyl Attkisson used research from Taxpayers for Common Sense--an organization she dubbed a "watchdog group"--to survey the authors of the $67bn in annual earmarked spending, "pet projects that get special funding from individual members of Congress." Her Follow the Money found that the leading earmarkers in each chamber turn out to be southern Republicans: $161m from Rep Bill Young (R-FL) and "a whopping" $773m from Sen Thad Cochran (R-MS). Attkisson also threw in a mention of a couple of her favorites: improving the fine wine of the Finger Lakes and North Carolina's Museum of Teapots. That $67bn number though seems out of kilter--it was cited by anchor Katie Couric in her introduction to Attkisson's piece. If true, the 535 members of Congress would have to average $125m in earmarks each. Since the most spendthrift member of the House only gets as high as $161m such an average looks implausible.

NBC invited former anchor Tom Brokaw to survey trends in evangelical Christianity, the so-called Emerging Church. He profiled a twentysomething former congregant of the Rev Jerry Falwell who has just opened the Pine Ridge Church in a converted North Carolina supermarket. The Rev Ted Grandstaff uses contemporary media to spread the word--Christian rock, Weblogs,, podcast sermons--and his gospel is "not as doctrinaire" as that of his Southern Baptist elders in their megachurches: "Let us focus on what we are about. And that is loving people."

For NBC's Making a Difference closer, John Larson accompanied teenager Austin Gutwein to Zambia for the opening of a high school for AIDS orphans. Larson had profiled Gutwein's Hoops of Hope basketball shooting fundraiser last December. This 1,000-student boarding school was the payoff.

ABC's Person of the Week was Evel Knievel. Bill Blakemore (no link) dug through clips from his network's Wide World of Sports to find vintage footage of the 1970s motorcycle daredevil to mark his death at age 69. Knievel "invented a whole new artform, the spectacle possible when an artist is addicted to high octane adrenaline," was Blakemore's obituary tribute.


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