COMMENTS: Scary Inflation Trumped by Weight Loss Schemes

Economic statistics were the unanimous selection to lead off each newscast. Inflation is starting to skyrocket. The Consumer Price Index rose by 1.1% in the month of June, the second sharpest monthly jolt in a quarter of a century. Yet oddly, such a serious shock was not most heavily covered. Although selected as the lead item by none, the networks, combined, spent most time on a topic better suited to morning television than the nightly newscasts. Funnily enough NBC's substitute anchor was Today's Ann Curry. Anyway, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study contrasting the weight loss results for a sample of obese Israelis on three different diets. Low-fat shaved off an average of just seven pounds in 24 months; the Mediterranean scheme lost ten; low-carb shed twelve. Still, such meager results were enough to satisfy correspondents. They lapped the study up and made it Story of the Day.

Chairman Benjamin Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board was "waking up to another inflation hangover," observed CNBC's Erin Burnett, reporting for NBC. "Inflation currently is too high," she quoted Bernanke, as he testified that it is the Fed's "top priority" to bring it down. On ABC, Betsy Stark (embargoed link) was skeptical about the Chairman's words, finding him in "a real quandary" since raising interest rates to slow inflation "runs the risk of further damaging a weak economy." CBS' Ben Tracy took the consumer's eye view of inflation as gasoline and electricity and food and travel are all more expensive: "Inflation like this is kind of like taking a pay cut."

Next stop for economic coverage was the housing market. CBS' Anthony Mason offered a progress report on proposed federal legislation to prop up the sector. It would subsidize new home buyers; encourage mortgage renegotiation for homeowners at risk of default; and would guarantee the solvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Even if a package is ironed out it may not become law, Mason warned: "The White House argues parts of the bill would bail out bad lenders who caused the mortgage mess."

Then comes the banking sector. In the wake of the failure of California's IndyMac Bank both Bill Whitaker for CBS and CNBC's Jane Wells for NBC reassured those with regular deposits in any bank that is FDIC insured that their money is secure. Both warned about banks that offer unusually high rates of interest. Such desperation to attract funds may be a warning sign of trouble. Meanwhile, Wells reported, the FBI is investigating IndyMac for possible fraud in its mortgage business.

On ABC, Brian Ross investigated the LGT Bank in the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, owned by Prince Hans-Adam II. Ross told us that a "disgruntled computer technician" named Heinrich Kieber stole the confidential tax shelter account data perhaps thousands of the secretive prince's millionaire customers. Kieber sold the files to taxmen at the Internal Revenue Service and to European authorities. They may expose tax cheating amounting to $100bn.


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