A major consequence of the midterm elections for the networks' news agenda is that Capitol Hill will become a dynamic dateline. A Democratic majority can hold hearings, dig up dirt, challenge policies, confront the White House--all the raw material of headlines. Today was a case in point. CBS led with hearings on Iraq and NBC with hearings on global warming. Global warming was Story of the Day.

A House panel provided the forum for research by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled Atmosphere of Pressure. It charges that 150 federal climate scientists "personally have experienced political interference" to spin the facts from George Bush's White House, ABC's Jake Tapper reported. NBC's Andrea Mitchell fingered a "former oil industry lobbyist working for the White House" for watering down reports. Philip Cooney "then left to work for ExxonMobil. He refused to talk to NBC News." The White House denies such interference.

NBC followed up with an In Depth example of the long-term impact of a changing climate. Mike Taibbi told us that grapevines are to a greenhouse gasses as canaries are to coalmine gasses. "Too much heat for too long upsets the delicate balance of sugar and alcohol and acid needed to produce great wine." He took us to a vineyard in Lodi Cal operated by the fifth generation of the Lange family. At the current rate of change, their land will be too hot and too dry to make fine wines within 25 to 50 years and the California wine industry will be confined to the cooler valleys near the Pacific shoreline.

CBS did not assign a reporter to the global warming hearings. However Bill Whitaker began a two-part environmental feature, dubbed Troubled Waters, into ever-larger neurotoxic algae blooms in coastal waters off California. Whitaker illustrated how animals can get "whacked out on acid" with clips from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The toxin is called domoic acid. It enters the food chain as an invisible bloom but is powerful enough to drive birds mad--and hundreds of mammals as large as 400lb sea lions. By the way, Whitaker compared sea lions, too, with canaries in a coal mine.


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