The war in Iraq was Story of the Day as all three networks covered a pair of angles. CBS led with the plan by Congressional Democrats to insist on a fixed date for withdrawing US troops. NBC led with Gen David Petraeus, the commander of occupation troops in Baghdad, countering that the deployment would be long drawn out. ABC did not lead with Iraq--it chose a fatal family fire in The Bronx instead--but covered both the Democrats and Petraeus anyway.    
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video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen David Petraeus foresees lengthy deploymentRichard EngelBaghdad
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen David Petraeus foresees lengthy deploymentJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesDemocrats propose troop pullout date certainSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCIraq: Saddam Hussein's Baath regime aftermathBaghdad palace has only superficial splendorBrian WilliamsBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: post-war reconstruction effortsElectricity grid rebuilding projected for 2013Allen PizzeyBaghdad
video thumbnailABC
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Bronx NY home fire traps family: nine deadBuilding smoke alarms failed, no batteriesDavid MuirNew York
video thumbnailCBSEnergy conservation and alternate fuel useDenmark's island of Samso is totally renewableMark PhillipsDenmark
video thumbnailABC
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Prescription drug FDA approval process under fireNo tests required for pediatric safety, dosageJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailNBCPharmaceuticals industry makes low-priced genericsPatent holders pay cheaper rivals not to produceDavid FaberNew York
video thumbnailABCWealth statistics: billionaire population rankedForbes Magazine documents more women's successBill WeirNew York
BELTWAY & BAGHDAD The war in Iraq was Story of the Day as all three networks covered a pair of angles. CBS led with the plan by Congressional Democrats to insist on a fixed date for withdrawing US troops. NBC led with Gen David Petraeus, the commander of occupation troops in Baghdad, countering that the deployment would be long drawn out. ABC did not lead with Iraq--it chose a fatal family fire in The Bronx instead--but covered both the Democrats and Petraeus anyway.

NBC's Williams started his newscast with a promo for an Exclusive one-on-one tomorrow with the four-star general who has the reputation as "the smartest general in all of the USArmy…a new warrior and a new thinker." Williams' interview was upstaged by Petraeus' decision to go ahead with the first open press conference of his tenure in Baghdad. NBC and CBS covered it from Baghdad, ABC from the Pentagon. Petraeus presented plenty of contradictory options for reporters to focus on.

NBC's Richard Engel noted Petraeus' decision to underplay the importance of his troop build-up: "There is no military solution to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus declared, as he advocated political talks with insurgent forces. CBS' Lara Logan concentrated on Petraeus' plea for patience: "He will not be rushed," she said, as he acknowledged that some suicide attacks "are impossible to stop." ABC's Jonathan Karl focused on Petraeus' demand for reinforcements--"He is going to need those additional troops for some time to come…Petraeus does not rule out asking for even more troops"--and contrasted it with Pentagon plans to begin a drawdown of troops as soon as this September: "The stress on the army is simply too great to maintain higher force levels any longer than that."

BENCHMARKS & TIMETABLES Yet again Congress was the center of inside-the-Beltway newsmaking. With today's three Capitol Hill reports, it has now overtaken the White House (24 reports v 21) as a dateline for nightly news coverage in the weeks since the State of the Union. President George Bush has asked for an extra $100bn for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "without strings and without delay." All three networks covered the Democrats' proposal to add those strings.

NBC's Chip Reid described the plan as "all troops out by September 2008," and even earlier if "security, political and economic goals" are not met. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson summarized those benchmarks as Iraq "taking over its own security, holding new provincial elections and finalizing plans to distribute the country's oil wealth." If the Democrats' plan passes, Attkisson added, the President has promised a veto: "It may never come to that," she pointed out. Passage will be "very tough in the Senate." ABC's Jake Tapper envisaged a "vicious fight" ahead. He characterized the difference between the two parties thus: the Democrats want "an end" to US involvement in Iraq; Republicans want "a successful end."

BUILDING BAGHDAD NBC's Williams, co-anchoring from Amman, rounded out his tour in Baghdad with an expose of one of the vaunted luxury palaces built by Saddam Hussein in what is now the Green Zone. The al-Faw Palace, a resort retreat for the Baath Party elite, was certainly large enough, with 62 rooms and 29 bathrooms and a water-skiing lake. But opulent--not so much: "The famous chandelier is part-plastic. The walls are paper thin. And a lot of the gold is not at all."

While other Baghdad correspondents were talking to Gen Petraeus, CBS' Allen Pizzey claimed an Exclusive with Gen Michael Walsh from the Army Corps of Engineers. Walsh is in charge of restoring Iraq's electricity grid. His schedule for completion is 2013. Pizzey called electricity "a cornerstone of the new counterinsurgency plan here because unless people have tangible benefits there is little reason to support the government or oppose the insurgency." He showed us the makeshift fixes that Baghdadis have jury-rigged in the meantime: "A rat's nest of wires drapes every alleyway."

BURNING BABIES Back in this country, ABC chose that horrific fire in The Bronx NY as its lead. An immigrant family of 22 from Mali was trapped in a three-story home: "Overnight their screams could be heard across the neighborhood. From an upstairs window a desperate mother began tossing her children through blinding smoke," David Muir (subscription required) recounted. CBS' Randall Pinkston introduced us to a couple of neighbors who tried to catch the babies on the sidewalk below. In all eight children and the mother died: "The family apparently tried to put the fire out themselves before calling 911."

Muir noted that the home's smoke detectors had no batteries in them. He pointed out that just two weeks ago the fire chiefs' association had issued an "urgent plea to media outlets" to publicize malfunctioning home fire alarms. NBC did not assign a reporter to the fire.

NAKED NEWS CBS concluded its three-part series Global Warming: Cool Solutions. On Tuesday, John Blackstone demonstrated the results from California's subsidies for energy efficient homes. Wednesday, Sheila MacVicar showed how solar energy can be generated, even in a country as cloudy as Wales. Next Mark Phillips took a trip to the Danish "ecological fantasy island" of Samso, a 4,000-strong windmill-covered community that is fueled entirely by renewable, carbon-neutral energy, "not a fossil fuel in sight."

The obvious crowd pleaser in Phillips' report was his venture into a shower to test if burning bales of straw gets water hot enough to bathe comfortably. His attempts to extract soundbites from a taciturn dairy farmer were just as much fun. "It is a complete little self-contained energy unit on this farm. Yes?" "Ya." "Is that what you wanted to establish?" "Ya." "Why?" "It is a very good feeling…"

BIG PHARMA Both NBC and ABC examined the pharmaceuticals industry. ABC's John McKenzie (subscription required) looked at pediatric medicine. The FDA does not require separate testing of drugs for children and adults. So doctors have to resort to guesswork about the efficacy and dosage of approved medicines when they prescribe them to children: an arthritis drug is not powerful enough; an asthma drug stunts growth; an anesthesia drug can kill; a chemotherapy drug just does not work. "A child's body can process a drug so differently."

For NBC's In Depth, CNBC's David Faber took on generics, the discount-priced copies of prescription brands that are supposed to appear when patents expire: "Cadillac drugs at Chevrolet prices," his physician source called them. The problem is that the date of expiration can be disputed between the makers of the generics and the name brand…those disputes turn into lawsuits…to avoid trials companies often settle out of court…the upshot is that brand name pharmaceutical companies pay the competition not to produce. "Pay to Delay," Faber dubbed it, as cheaper brands are blocked from patients.

THAT’S RICH NBC also consulted CNBC for a quick debriefing on Forbes magazine's latest rankings of the globe's billionaires. Maria Bartiromo dished wealth trivia to Williams' co-anchor Campbell Brown: 946 on the list, combined net worth $3.5tr, average age 55, two-thirds are self-made, 83 women. Bartiromo cautioned that those numbers were compiled before "the hammering we all took on the stock market recently." Which we all is that, Maria?

ABC's substitute anchor Elizabeth Vargas had a glint in her eye as she introduced Bill Weir's angle on the Forbes list--those 83 women. Weir showed us Oprah Winfrey, JK Rowling, Giuliana Benetton, Meg Whitman--and paper importer Yan Cheung "not only China's richest woman but China's richest person…It turns out the Chinese use a lot of paper."

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 examples: as alluded to earlier, the President is getting short shrift. His five-nation tour of Latin America did not warrant a White House report from any network…The Centers for Disease Control projected healthcare costs through 2030…Great Britain plans to lobby the UN Security Council for action on global warming…the Senate plans to forbid any more unapproved replacements of federal prosecutors.