CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 21, 2007
The President threw down the gauntlet yesterday. Today a House panel signaled that it intended to pick that glove up. George Bush led all three newscasts yesterday when he suggested that his aides talk to Congress informally about why those eight federal prosecutors were let go--instead of on the record and under oath. In response a sub-committee approved sub-poenas for White House operative Karl Rove and two colleagues insisting on formal testimony--although the summons have not yet been served. That procedural vote was the undeserved Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC's newscast. CBS led with the War on Drugs, ABC with Al Gore on global warming.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 21, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysHouse panel OKs subpoenas of White House aidesDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailABC
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Global warming greenhouse effect climate changeFormer VP Al Gore testifies on Capitol HillKate SnowNew York
video thumbnailNBCIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashICE workplace raids split families apartRehema EllisMassachusetts
video thumbnailABCICE border controls along Mexico lineIllegal crossing volume slows in Arizona sectorBill RedekerPhoenix
video thumbnailCBSWar on Drugs: cocaine freighter bust off PanamaCoast Guard seizes 21 tons en route to MexicoBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSWar on Drugs: federal crackdown scaled backFBI narcotics resources diverted, uptick at DEAByron PittsNew York
video thumbnailNBCIraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesInternally displaced refugees number 1.9mAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCIraq: sectarian Sunni vs Shiite violence escalatesBaghdad ethnically cleansed along Tigris RiverTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: war-zone journalists at risk of violenceMSNBC documentary from four-year video diaryRichard EngelNew York
video thumbnailCBSPet food for cats and dogs tainted, recalledManufacturer unable to identify lethal toxinsBill WhitakerLos Angeles
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
DUEL ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE The President threw down the gauntlet yesterday. Today a House panel signaled that it intended to pick that glove up. George Bush led all three newscasts yesterday when he suggested that his aides talk to Congress informally about why those eight federal prosecutors were let go--instead of on the record and under oath. In response a sub-committee approved sub-poenas for White House operative Karl Rove and two colleagues insisting on formal testimony--although the summons have not yet been served. That procedural vote was the undeserved Story of the Day and the lead item on NBC's newscast. CBS led with the War on Drugs, ABC with Al Gore on global warming.

All that attention was undeserved because there was no substance to advance the US Attorneys story. None of the networks offered even a snippet of new information about the underlying circumstances of the firings. Instead we heard dueling soundbites as the tussle over testimony begins. NBC and CBS assigned the story to their White House correspondents. CBS' Jim Axelrod found "the battle lines now drawn" as "Congress is pushing back hard." NBC's David Gregory called it a "dispute about ground rules…a gathering political storm." ABC had Jake Tapper (subscription required) file from Capitol Hill but he came to the same conclusion: he found "a major showdown" with "each side waiting for the other to blink."

Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams followed up for NBC, but, again, not on the underlying story. He offered a primer on how rarely the White House claim of executive privilege has been invoked: "The number of actual big showdowns with subpoenas and court fights is quite small." In the past 60 years, 49 senior White House aides have testified under oath and only seven have refused. If this feud turns out to be an exception, CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen suggested to Axelrod, "the executive branch has a trump card here, which is a quite conservative judiciary."


MORE HEAT THAN LIGHT There was more hoopla elsewhere on Capitol Hill--but as little lawmaking. Gore, former Congressman, Senator, Vice President and current teller of Inconvenient Truths, testified to both House and Senate panels about the dangers of global warming. All three networks covered his testimony. ABC's Kate Snow (subscription required) summarized his legislative agenda as calling for a current ban on any increase in carbon emissions and drastic reductions in greenhouse gases by 2050. NBC's Chip Reid characterized it as "a massive tax on polluting industries." CBS' Gloria Borger did not mention any legislative substance.

Instead, most of the coverage consisted of Academy Awards soundbites and political squabbling. Snow and Reid showed us green activist senator Barbara Boxer waggling her gavel at her predecessor and global warming denier James Inhofe: "You are not making the rules. You used to when you did this. You do not do this any more." And Snow and Borger ran Gore's joke in self-deprecation: "Rin Tin Tin was a movie star. I just have a slide show."


HOMELAND IS MORE SECURE The Department of Homeland Security's various agencies attracted coverage from all three networks: positive from ABC and CBS; mixed from NBC.

NBC is running a weeklong series on immigration entitled Whose America? Monday, Mark Potter covered the guestworker visa program that provides foreign workers for the Florida tourism industry. Yesterday, Ron Allen contrasted municipal tactics towards immigrants without proper papers: Suffolk County on Long Island cracks down on illegal residents; New Haven in Connecticut advertises itself as a sanctuary for them. Now Rehema Ellis investigated the consequences of the increasing volume of Homeland Security's ICE raids on immigrant workplaces: 3,600 have been arrested in the past year, with 95% facing deportation. That will tear families apart, Ellis told us, since many have children who are citizens and are therefore eligible to stay.

ABC took A Closer Look at Homeland Security's efforts to staunch illicit crossings at the US-Mexico border and came away impressed. Bill Redeker reported from Phoenix that a combination of increased Border Patrol staffing, support from the National Guard, fence construction and hi-tech monitoring had reduced the volume of unapproved entries by two thirds in the past year: "Migrants are still coming to America but in the hundreds not thousands." The only downside Redeker could find was that Arizona's construction and agribusiness sectors face a labor shortage--prison inmates may have to be hired to make up the shortfall.


THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS CBS led with the Homeland Security press conference touting its success in the War on Drugs. Anchor Katie Couric praised the Coast Guard as "the good guys." Its agents seized 21 tons of cocaine from a freighter traveling from Colombia to Mexico. The raid happened in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Panama. Bob Orr's unidentified sources explained why US authorities got involved: if the cocaine had managed to arrive in Mexico, it would have been transported overland by narcotraffickers, who would then try transship it out of Gulf of Mexico ports to the southeast coast of this country. "There is no evidence that the demand for drugs here in the US is dropping."

CBS followed up with a survey of the general domestic state of the War on Drugs. Byron Pitts found out that illegal drug use is changing from narcotics (3m cocaine users nationwide) to pharmaceuticals (6m abuse prescription drugs). After the FBI shifted its focus to counterterrorism, "violent crime fueled by drugs has spiked in many parts of the country," Pitts observed. Yet narcotics still account for a minority of cases: in New York City, for example, 26% of homicides are drug-related. Pitts wanted the city's Police Commissioner to call it a scourge: "For you, the War on Drugs is the War on Crime," Pitts proposed. It is "a War on Crime," the top cop Raymond Kelly demurred.


RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT Both ABC and NBC focused on the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq. NBC's Andrea Mitchell got hold of a report by Refugees International that documented ethnic cleansing. Out of a total Iraqi population of 24m, not only have 2m fled to neighboring countries, "threatening to overwhelm Jordan and Syria," but another 1.9m have been internally displaced--with a further million expected in 2007. How many refugees has the United States accepted? Last year, 202 because of "restrictions on immigration from the Middle East" imposed in the wake of the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

ABC's report was part of its Where Things Stand series. Terry McCarthy told us that the Tigris River is turning into the border between Shiite East Baghdad and Sunni West Baghdad. Before the US invasion, as many as a third of all families were intermarried and "people rarely asked, or cared, if someone was Sunni or Shiite." Now each side has to live in its own enclave for safety's sake. Those that defy the cleansers end up in the Tigris: "The river that for thousands of years has made life possible in this desert is now used for dumping dead bodies."


DEAR DIARY NBC closed with a promotion for the MSNBC documentary War Zone Diary by its own Richard Engel, a compilation of his daily musings into a handheld camera during the four years he has spent as war correspondent in Baghdad: "I did at one stage think I was recording my own obituary." Engel reassured us that he is settling in for the long haul. He wants to produce a follow-up documentary "in four more years."


HOW MUCH IS THAT DOGGY? That confounding pet food story made a reappearance on all three networks. It is mystifying why 60m cans and pouches of moist pet food have been recalled as tainted by Menufoods, when it has accounted for the deaths of just 15 cats and one dog nationwide. CBS' Bill Whitaker compounded the mystery by reporting that toxicologists have not yet discovered what is wrong with the food. Monday's theory about wheat gluten may not hold up. Still, pet owners are "going organic, sweeping natural foods, those without wheat gluten, off store shelves."

A veterinarian from Boston helped NBC anchor Brian Williams understand. More animals may have died of kidney failure in the past six months without a food poisoning diagnosis, Lisa Moses of the Angell Animal Medical Center explained: "Retrospectively this is probably why we lost these animals." Needless to say, bereaved pet owners are heartbroken but ABC's David Kerley (subscription required) explained that they have little recourse: legally speaking pets are nothing but property "like cars or toasters" so any wrongful death lawsuit against Menufoods will result in no greater liability than the purchase price of the animal.


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 Federal Reserve Board left interest rates unchanged…the West Virginia coal mine where that explosion killed twelve in 2006 was shuttered…the military reports increased complaints of sexual assault between comrades in arms.