CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 20, 2006
Commander-in-Chief George Bush set the news agenda with his year-end press conference on the prospects for the war in Iraq. Bush abandoned his habitual optimism. He no longer believes that US-led forces are winning the war--although he is still confident that they will win eventually. CBS and NBC both led with the press conference. CBS devoted almost its entire newscast to military matters.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 20, 2006: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush retracts his habitual optimismJake TapperWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush retracts his habitual optimismKelly O'DonnellWhite House
video thumbnailABC
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Defense Department budget increased by cost of warAnnual expenditure increased by $170bnJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailCBSMilitary recruitment and retention effortsROTC relies on family tradition, incentivesByron PittsGeorgia
video thumbnailNBCMilitary recruitment and retention effortsUSArmy lowers standards to meet quotasMark PotterMiami
video thumbnailCBSAnti-missile defense program in Pacific OceanAleutian Islands radar faces fierce weatherArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailCBSMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesColorado sports program teaches amputees to skiHarry SmithColorado
video thumbnailABCSyria terrorism: plot on Embassy Row in DamascusSecurity CCTV shows botched attackBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABCCrocodiles are tourist attraction in Ghana villageFed diet of live chickens to keep humans safeMike LeeGhana
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
NO VICTORY IN IRAQ Commander-in-Chief George Bush set the news agenda with his year-end press conference on the prospects for the war in Iraq. Bush abandoned his habitual optimism. He no longer believes that US-led forces are winning the war--although he is still confident that they will win eventually. CBS and NBC both led with the press conference. CBS devoted almost its entire newscast to military matters.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell interpreted Bush's mood shift as "less certainty, more hedge." She also noted that he has given up on his promise to be guided on troop deployment policy by his military commanders. Bush now calls the brass just "one part of his consultation process." CBS' Jim Axelrod asked the President about his interpretation of the Republican defeat in the midterms: "He still does not see the last election as a call to reduce troop levels." As for the future, ABC's Jake Tapper heard a "grim message--2006 in Iraq was bad; 2007 could be even worse."

And CBS' Bob Schieffer previewed an interview with First Lady Laura Bush for Face the Nation. He asked how her husband is handling the stress of wartime leadership. "It has been a very tough year. You do not just have this job and not live with it 24-hours-a-day."


OUT ON A LIMB ABC decided to lead with winter weather. Los-Angeles-based Brian Rooney (subscription required) described how heavy snow at the hub in Denver has disrupted airline traffic across western states and closed Interstate highways. One nugget, as it were, from Rooney was that NBA star Allen Iverson, just now traded to Denver, was unable to fly in to join his new teammates. ABC was out on a limb in deciding to make such a big deal of the blizzard. NBC covered the storm with a brief stand-up by Lorie Hirose. CBS mentioned it with nothing more than a voiceover.


ON THE DEFENSIVE The day's military theme continued with the follow-up to the President's announcement that ground forces would be expanded once more. The policy of a leaner military changed "literally the moment Donald Rumsfeld walked out of that door," CBS' David Martin mused.

In the halls of the Pentagon, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski (in the middle of the O'Donnell videostream) heard muttering from the military about the President's motives, characterizing his pledge to expand the military as "highly suspicious." The brass see it as "an effort to buy support" for reinforcements in Baghdad: "Throw in 30,000 troops now in exchange for an overall larger force four or five years down the road." Miklaszewski's bureau chief Tim Russert (at the tail of the O'Donnell videostream) predicted that any plan to increase troops in Iraq will be actively opposed at hearings on Capitol Hill, held to "refute the President."

ABC's Jonathan Karl (subscription required) concentrated on the escalating size of the Pentagon budget. He gave due credit to Bloomberg News for breaking the story that the budget request had grown by $170bn for 2007 because of the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon had once estimated that the cost of the entire Iraq war, from start to finish, would be $50bn. That $170bn was sought before the Pentagon even began contemplating sending reinforcements into Baghdad. Karl predicted that persuading the Democratic Congress to pay for the war would be a "colossal challenge" for the President.


UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU CBS and NBC both contemplated the recruitment challenges that face the military if it is to get larger. CBS' Byron Pitts called the pitches that high school students in Georgia get from the ROTC as "pride and the promise of a free education;" for those who reenlist "bonuses and benefits." NBC's Mark Potter detailed the corners that the army has already cut to meet its annual 80,000-recruit quota: the maximum age ceiling was raised and aptitude requirements were relaxed. "More than 8,000 recruits were given moral waivers for past criminal misconduct or drug use."


SEA LEGS CBS' military theme continued with Armen Keteyian Investigates on the seaworthiness of a $1bn Boeing radar platform, currently being tested in sunny Hawaii. It will be deployed as part of the anti-missile defense program in the Aleutian Islands of the Bering Sea, "home to some of the most unforgiving weather in the world." The Coast Guard calls those waters "inherently dangerous."

And CBS concluded in Colorado on the slopes of the Breckinridge resort where Harry Smith celebrated the efforts of the Wounded Warrior Project in helping amputated combat veterans learn how to ski on one leg--or none at all.


CONSPIRACY THEORY ABC touted an Exclusive by Brian Ross about that botched terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Damascus in September. Ross obtained the embassy's CCTV security videotape that showed just how incompetent the supposed followers of abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi had been. He suggested that this could be evidence of Syrian duplicity: the Damascus regime may have turned a blind eye to the raid in order to pretend to Washington that it was an ally in the War on Terrorism. "In Syria very little happens that the government does not know--or want to happen."


NO TEARS As a closer, ABC's Mike Lee reported from the village of Paga in northern Ghana, which has become a mecca for crocodile watchers. Tourists can get up-close and personal with the beasts--Lee even sat on a giant croc for a $15 fee--because they are so well fed. A contented crocodile, apparently, gives up its appetite for humans.

Lee showed us how the villagers keep the critters stuffed by throwing live chickens into their jaws--"feathered fast food."


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: Gen John Abizaid, the military head of the Pentagon's Central Command, which includes Iraq, announces his retirement…the formation of a new coalition government in Iraq, which would exclude Muqtada al-Sadr's political bloc, is supported by al-Sadr's co-religionist Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.