As previews continue for President George Bush's primetime policy speech, the War in Iraq was yet again the Story of the Day. Yet NBC was the only network to lead with White House preparations. ABC and CBS both chose actual combat from downtown Baghdad as troops fought building-to-building down the insurgent-infested Haifa Street.    
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video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesAttack on Sunni fighters on Baghdad's Haifa StLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesAttack on Sunni fighters on Baghdad's Haifa StTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush's troop build-up speech previewedDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSen Kennedy urges vote on any troop build-upJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSSuspected al-Qaeda leaders manhunt continuesLeading African cell pinned down in SomaliaDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCUSArmy rocket-grenade interceptor procurement disputeIsraeli-produced TROPHY system is rejectedLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailABC
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Healthcare reform: universal and managed careCalifornia plan for mandatory universal coverageBrian RooneyLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSCellular telephone computer combination inventedApple iPhone allows handheld multitaskingDaniel SiebergLas Vegas
video thumbnailABCDetroit International Automobile ShowChevrolet Volt is all-electric concept carDean ReynoldsDetroit
video thumbnailNBCBritish royals coveragePaparazzi chase Prince William's girlfriendDawna FriesenLondon
ATTACK ON HAIFA STREET As previews continue for President George Bush's primetime policy speech, the War in Iraq was yet again the Story of the Day. Yet NBC was the only network to lead with White House preparations. ABC and CBS both chose actual combat from downtown Baghdad as troops fought building-to-building down the insurgent-infested Haifa Street.

The Iraqi government is not waiting for Bush to announce a stepped-up commitment to fighting in Baghdad. So the weekend sweep of Haifa Street continued with US fighter jets and attack helicopters supporting overhead. "This is not the first time US forces have cleaned up this very street," CBS' Lara Logan reminded us, rerunning videotape from a similar operation in January 2005. "Locals call it Sniper Street," said ABC's Terry McCarthy (subscription required), who relied on exclusive CNN videotape to portray the action. He called the target of the sweep, "a concentration of Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters."

Logan observed that many Sunnis in Baghdad "believe the Shiite-led Iraqi government is using this crackdown as a cover to drive the Sunnis from the capital, with the help of US forces."

NUMBERS GAME How many more troops will the President dispatch in his speech? ABC's Martha Raddatz (no link) noted a decision in the jockeying over vocabulary: "He will call it an increase, not a surge." Her reporting found "more than 20,000." CBS' Jim Axelrod reported only 11,000 troops into Iraq initially. A second wave will be phased in over March-April-May, on condition that the Iraqi government "becomes a more effective partner in making Baghdad safer." And NBC's David Gregory previewed 3,000 new troops in January, with 17,000 more being added gradually.

Whatever the Commander-in-Chief announces, Sen Edward Kennedy proposed legislation that would only permit implementation of the Bush plan after it had been approved in an up-or-down vote. "The liberal lion of the Senate roared," ABC's Jake Tapper observed. Tapper countered with a soundbite from Joe Biden, Kennedy's Democratic colleague, on NBC's Meet the Press arguing that such a measure is unConstitutional.

SOMALIA UPDATE CBS' David Martin identified the trio of suspects targeted by the US commando air-raid on Afmadow in southern Somalia he covered exclusively yesterday. They were abu-Talha al-Sudani, the supposed head of al-Qaeda operations in east Africa; Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an indicted fugitive in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and Saleh ali-Saleh Habhan, wanted for a plot against Israeli tourists in Kenya. Martin said that the raid killed eight people, none of whom has yet been identified.

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski cited the on-the-ground reporting from Mogadishu of ITN's Nima Elbagir: "The perception here is that actually the Americans have come in to prop up the interim government rather than coming in to fight al-Qaeda." Miklaszewski mused: "The operations in Somalia appear far from over."

NO DEFENSE TROPHY is a new interceptor weapon that blocks rocket-propelled grenade attacks. The USArmy needs such a weapon but procurement chief Gen Jeffrey Sorenson rejected the recommendations of the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation to acquire it. NBC News Investigates inquired why. Sorenson cited three reasons: it cannot defend against attacks from all directions; it cannot reload automatically; it adds risks to the troops who use it. Lisa Myers asked Rafael, TROPHY's Israel-based manufacturer, and the Israel Defense Force, which has deployed it. They flatly contradicted Sorenson point by point.

So now soldiers will be defenseless against RPGs until US-based Raytheon perfects its system. "When will it be ready?" Myers inquired. The army previously said by 2011 "but now declines to say whether it is still on course to meet that deadline."

NO NEED FOR SPECIALISTS Medicine is a major beat on the nightly newscasts and all three networks have correspondents assigned fulltime to health issues. Yet when Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled a plan for mandatory universal healthcare coverage for all California residents, all three networks had their general-assignment Los Angeles based reporters cover the story. Expertise in medicine, apparently, does not extend to expertise in healthcare.

In ABC's A Closer Look, Brian Rooney (subscription required) explained how Scwarzenegger planned to fund his program: the gross income of doctors and hospitals would be taxed; the state hopes that universal preventive care prevents more expensive emergency care later on; and many lower middle class households would be forced to buy insurance. CBS' Sandra Hughes weighed the benefits for the state's 6.5m uninsured against the extra burden on its small businesses.

And NBC went In Depth into the plan. George Lewis put it in a national context. He traced the trend of state legislatures, spurred by the "lack of action in Washington:" some states plan to offer guaranteed coverage only for children; Schwarzenegger wants to include adults too.

TECH TRUMPS AUTOS Once upon a time, the location for the trade show in the second week of the year for futuristic hi-tech features was Detroit and its International Automobile Show. True to tradition, ABC's Dean Reynolds offered the "prohibitively expensive" all-electric Chevrolet Volt and CBS' Anthony Mason showed us "dream machines," including a $407,000 Rolls Royce convertible.

But concept cars are so yesterday. Detroit is upstaged by Silicon Valley.

CBS' Daniel Sieberg was not even in San Francisco to Apple's announcement of its iPhone but at the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas. There he collected together the handheld devices that the single $500 iPhone is expected to replace: music iPod, video iPod, Internet browser, e-mailer and telephone. "You cannot underestimate the power of that shiny logo." ABC's Neal Karlinsky did attend Macworld--"the scene was somewhere between a rock concert and a religious experience"--where he actually got his hands on an iPhone prototype. He was allowed to hold it for all of two minutes.

DIANA DO-OVER It is one of the oldest tricks in the journalism playbook. How to cover a story that is too demeaning to report on? Answer: report on the controversy about journalists lowering their standards.

Enter Kate Middleton, celebrating her 25th birthday, and girlfriend of Prince William of Britain. How did NBC's Dawna Friesen tell us that she is a pretty, rich, self-confident commoner, lacking in "proper pedigree," whose favorite drink is Jack Daniel's with Coca-Cola? By covering the condemnation of the paparazzi, who plague her just as they did her boyfriend's princess mother.

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: the collapse in global crude oil prices...fires destroy millionaires' mansions on the Malibu shore…the Baseball Hall of Fame spurns the steroids-tainted Mark McGwire.