CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 13, 2006
The late-breaking news that Sen Timothy Johnson was hospitalized with a presumed stroke threw the networks' news lineups into disarray. ABC and NBC each pre-empted its scheduled lead story for a live stand-up report. The headline was not the Democrat's health--but the political implications if he were to be rendered unable to serve. Since South Dakota is governed by a Republican, any replacement would change the balance of power in the Senate from a 51-49 Democratic majority to a 50-50 Republican one (GOP wins tiebreakers).    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 13, 2006: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCSen Timothy Johnson (D-SD) hospitalizedResignation would switch Senate party controlChip ReidWashington DC
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush mulls troop reinforcement planMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPentagon reviews tactics on insurgents, militiasJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSChristmas holiday seasonRetailers' strong start may end with weaknessAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Airline industry consolidation prospectsUnited-Continental combo would spur competitionLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPrescription anti-depressants side-effects risksFDA panel examines suicide risks in adultsSharyl AttkissonWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPrescription drug Ketek side-effect safety problemsFDA accused of downplaying risk to liverArmen KeteyianWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCPakistan fighting along North West FrontierArmed Islamist militants rule in WaziristanJim MacedaPakistan
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesForeign insurgent fighters end in Jordan prisonJim SciuttoJordan
video thumbnailCBSActor Peter Boyle dies, aged 71ObituaryJerry BowenHollywood
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
SENATE POWER IN THE BALANCE The late-breaking news that Sen Timothy Johnson was hospitalized with a presumed stroke threw the networks' news lineups into disarray. ABC and NBC each pre-empted its scheduled lead story for a live stand-up report. The headline was not the Democrat's health--but the political implications if he were to be rendered unable to serve. Since South Dakota is governed by a Republican, any replacement would change the balance of power in the Senate from a 51-49 Democratic majority to a 50-50 Republican one (GOP wins tiebreakers).

NBC spent most time on Johnson--even without knowing whether he had indeed suffered a stroke or whether it would disqualify him from service.

Chip Reid recounted that he "suddenly began to stutter" while conducting a radio interview. Nancy Snyderman (at the tail of the videostream) emphasized how urgent it is to treat a suspected stroke: "Think of it like a brain attack." Tim Russert listed the issues that would change with that one vote switch: the Iraq War, Supreme Court nominations, environmental legislation, tax policy. "Profound impact," he speculated.


NO RUSH NBC had planned to lead with Iraq. For the third straight day, a network unveiled opinion poll numbers. For the third straight day, the findings were dismal for President George Bush. Russert (at the tail of the videostream) described his political condition, quoting the Iraq Study Group, as "grave--and deteriorating." Public approval for the war in Iraq has fallen to 23%, a decline from 34% "in just one month."

The President, meanwhile, was at the Pentagon where he continued his attempt to rollback the momentum from that ISG report. "I am not going to be rushed," he insisted.

ABC's Martha Raddatz listed Bush's "complicated, conflicting advice:" the National Security Council--send 40,000 more troops; the Joint Chiefs of Staff--send no more troops; the Iraq Study Group--send more trainers, pull out combat troops; the Shiite-led Iraq government--give it control over Baghdad; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia--the "chilling warning" that it may back the Sunni insurgency if Shiites gain more power.

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reported that the US military cannot decide who its main adversary is: the Sunni insurgency or the Shiite militias. The Penatagon is developing a so-called Do-or-Die option, he reported, whereby the Iraqi Army, with embedded US military advisors, fights the Mahdi Army in Baghdad while the USArmy withdraws to al-Anbar province to fight the insurgency plus al-Qaeda cells.


PENTHOUSE Christmas was the lead on CBS as Gloria Borger (no link) filed her live stand-up about Sen Johnson's health later in the newscast. Anthony Mason interpreted November's retail sales statistics as an indicator for the entire holiday shopping season. The start was "stronger than expected" but its finish may be flat.

Both ABC and NBC closed its newscast with Yuletide features.

For possible gifts for one's female friends, NBC's Rehema Ellis observed that consumer electronics products are now designed and marketed with women in mind. SONY and Dell were the brands she emphasized so Philips Electronics did not get that free plug, despite its sponsorship of NBC's advertising-light newscast last Monday.

ABC's closer, by Nancy Weiner Cordes, was on the billions in year-end bonuses paid to Wall Street's investment bankers. CBS' Byron Pitts filed the same story paired with Mason's Xmas package. Pitts took a tour of the luxury penthouse apartment that can be picked up with a spare $20m. Cordes showed us a shiny red sports car at the Maserati dealership. Pitts went with the shiny red sports car at Ferrari.


COMBINATION At ABC the scheduled lead that was bumped by Sen Johnson's health was on the airline industry. A possible United-Continental merger is in the works, so Lisa Stark (subscription required) speculated on the ripple effect for the industry as a whole. She envisioned "merger mania" including Delta-USAirways and American-NorthWest. She added that regulators would insist that the merged airlines shed some routes, meaning more competition from such discount carriers as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue.

It is not clear why ABC considered this trend piece to be worthy of its lead. Neither of its two rivals even mentioned the UAL-Continental talks.


PHARMA-CIDE The other big story to which all three networks assigned a reporter was the FDA panel on the side-effects of anti-depressant medication. The pills are designed to treat depression but in some cases they exacerbate it instead and lead to suicide. The drugs already have a warning label for teenage patients. The FDA is now likely to add young adults to its advisory.

As usual CBS was most heavily committed to the pharma beat. Sharyl Attkisson covered the distraught testimony at the FDA panel and Armen Keteyian followed up with an Exclusive on another pill. The FDA is being investigated for using fraudulent clinic trials for the new antibiotic Ketek and adding a cover-up of the risks for liver failure. Keteyian's source David Ross claimed he was ordered not to share his warnings with the press by FDA leadership.


GOING GLOBAL From overseas there was a pair of unusual insights into the global war on terrorism. ABC's Jim Sciutto snared Exclusive access to the inmates of the Swaaka maximum security prison in Jordan where dozens of foreign militants who joined the anti-US insurgency in Iraq are incarcerated: "Iraq was a magnet for us because we felt our own home had been invaded," one Jordanian guerrilla explained.

NBC's Jim Maceda went In Depth into the "sanctuary" of Waziristan, along the north-western frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is out of the control of the central government in Islamabad: three years of Pakistani offensives "have failed." Maceda quoted Faqir Mohammed, a local imam, pledging to continue fighting until "infidels" leave "Moslem lands."


HOLY CRAP All three networks mentioned the death of actor Peter Boyle, aged 71. Fittingly, CBS, where he appeared for years as the sitcom father who embodied the sarcasm in the title Everybody Loves Raymond, was the only network to assign a correspondent, Jerry Bowen, to his obit.


MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out

Today's examples: Jeffrey Skilling, the former executive of the bankrupt Enron Corporation, begins his 24-year prison sentence…Taco Bell shifts its suspicion in that e.coli food poisoning outbreak from scallions to lettuce.