Looming global catastrophe? Or the explanation by a boatload of young Britons for their soundbites on Iranian television? The networks filed a split decision. NBC and ABC both led with the press conference in England about the Persian Gulf dispute. CBS did not even assign it a reporter and led with the report on global warming by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Even though the Iran-Britain war of words was the Story of the Day, CBS was correct: global warming should have had pride of place.     
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video thumbnailCBSGlobal warming greenhouse effect climate changeUN scientists' panel outlines worldwide impactMark PhillipsLondon
video thumbnailABC
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Global warming greenhouse effect climate changeUN scientists' panel outlines worldwide impactBill BlakemoreNew York
video thumbnailCBSWild forest fires in western statesBlazes burn hotter, longer, drier than everJerry BowenLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCCoal is major source of air pollution in ChinaCity of Linfen in Shanxi may be world's dirtiestMark MullenChina
video thumbnailNBCIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfBritish sailors recount capture, detentionJim MacedaLondon
video thumbnailNBCIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfFormer brass second-guess sailors' conductNed ColtLondon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBehind scenes at Sen McCain's market photo-opScott PelleyNo Dateline
video thumbnailABC
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Military reserves, National Guard call-up extendedReservists' jobs are insecure, even at USPSJim AvilaFlorida
video thumbnailABCIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashFox News anchors' angry debate over police roleDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailCBSChristians worship in illicit churches in ChinaHome-based congregations are banned by stateBarry PetersenBeijing
WAR OF WORDS OR WARMING OF WORLD Looming global catastrophe? Or the explanation by a boatload of young Britons for their soundbites on Iranian television? The networks filed a split decision. NBC and ABC both led with the press conference in England about the Persian Gulf dispute. CBS did not even assign it a reporter and led with the report on global warming by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Even though the Iran-Britain war of words was the Story of the Day, CBS was correct: global warming should have had pride of place.

None of the networks sent a reporter to Brussels for the formal release of the report by the UN panel. It is the second in a series of three reports on climate change: this one was on the harmful effects on the planet's ecosystems and on human society. CBS' Mark Phillips summed up the state of the debate: "The scientific argument about global warming is over. It is a political argument now."

A warming world will harm most "those least able to endure it--the poor," CBS' Phillips pointed out. The poor of sub-Saharan Africa face drought, crop failure and famine. The poor of the river deltas and shorelines of southern and eastern Asia face floods from rising ocean waters. ABC's Bill Blakemore (subscription required) warned that the oceans' coral reefs are endangered, too, as water grows more acidic. NBC's Anne Thompson quoted panel member Stephen Schneider: "Do not be poor in a hot country. Do not live in hurricane alley. Watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic." Yet Thompson found William Gray, the National Hurricane Center forecaster, who "disputes any link" between manmade global warming and an increased incidence of such storms.

SMOKE AND FIRE CBS and NBC both offered environmental follow-ups. NBC sent Mark Mullen to the Shanxi province of China for an In Depth report on the world's dirtiest city. So much coal is burned in the steel mills and power plants of Linfen that the air is thick with old-fashioned soot, let alone greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Farmers need to grow tomatoes in greenhouses, not to keep their plants warm but to keep the dirt off them. Children sometimes attend school with face masks to block smoke particles. Life expectancy in Linfen is 60 years, ten years shorter than the rest of China.

On CBS, Jerry Bowen followed up on the climate panel's prediction of hotter weather, smaller snow packs and drier forests in the southwestern states of the United States. The Grand Prix forest fire in southern California in 2003 "was thought to be exceptional at the time" but it may turn out to have been "just a practice lap." The duration of an average forest fire was seven days in the 1970s; nowadays it is 37 days. The length of the average fire season is 78 days longer than then and climate change may mean "a never-ending fire season."

DISGUST It was NBC's decision to offer both sides of the argument that propelled the saga of those 15 British seamen into Story of the Day status. From England, both ABC's Jim Sciutto and NBC's Jim Maceda covered the explanations by navy and marine officers that they agreed to apologize for their territorial violation after their Revolutionary Guard captors threatened them with seven years in prison. The seamen "acknowledged that they were on the defensive," Maceda conceded, facing "major questions about the crew's willingness to fight." They recounted their surrender, capture, detention, fear of execution, interrogation and solitary confinement. They even had to explain why cameras had caught them smiling when they shook hands with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The crew's defense of those soundbites was that they "couched their statements to make it clear they were not in their own words," as Sciutto put it. When the crew's press conference was aired on Iranian TV, the anchor called the statements "dictated by the British government," Sciutto added.

Then Ned Colt filed a follow-up on the opinions of combat veterans. Had the 15 displayed poor military judgment by cooperating with their captors? In London, Colt found no critical soundbites from military pensioners in the Rose & Crown pub. However, the retired brass were not nearly so lenient. A former British army colonel called himself "ashamed" as he mixed his metaphors: "This was a screw-up. They were caught with their trousers down…They were singing like canaries and I do not agree with that." NBC's in-house analyst Jack Jacobs was blistering: "Disgusting. Disreputable. Dishonorable." Jacobs called the crew's leader a "meathead."

UPDATE: Colt did not identify Jacobs as being on the network's payroll--only as a "veteran and Medal of Honor recipient"--although NBC anchor Brian Williams (text link) does on his Daily Nightly blog.

CALL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD Both ABC and CBS followed up NBC's Exclusive lead yesterday by Jim Miklaszewski that the Pentagon had put four National Guard brigades on alert to expect involuntary early call-up to active duty. CBS' substitute anchor Russ Mitchell announced that the units would come from Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Hari Sreenivasan traveled to Oklahoma to check out the progress in the guardsmen's training for their premature return to Iraq, three years ahead of schedule. Not well. The 3,500-strong brigade is short 2,600 night vision goggles and 2,100 M4 rifles.

ABC looked at what happens to reservists and guardsmen after their tour of duty is complete. Jim Avila (subscription required) pointed out that the law requires employers to keep jobs open while workers serve but the deployments are longer and more frequent than expected and many positions end up being filled. The Department of Labor has 8,000 complaints on file about lost jobs or missed promotions, one claim for every 95 homebound reservist. Avila even found one commando, Richard Erickson, who had been let go by the United States Postal Service when he returned to work in Florida after two years in Afghanistan.

WIDE SHOT Republican Presidential candidate John McCain is in trouble for sugarcoating the security situation in Iraq. He has retracted statements that he made to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that exaggerated the success of Gen David Petraeus' so-called surge. Last week he traveled to Iraq for a photo-op to illustrate his optimism. He visited Baghdad's al-Shorja Market, the site of a carbomb just two months ago. The senator went rug shopping as proof that civilian commerce has been peacefully restored in its newly-pedestrianized arcades. McCain invited CBS' cameras along for an Exclusive report on 60 Minutes. Scott Pelley gave us a preview by pulling back from the photo-op into a wide shot. McCain's shopping trip was secure because the market was crawling with GIs armed to the teeth. "The tour of the bazaar seemed, well, a little bizarre," Pelley suggested.

CABLE NEWS The angry newsmen at cable's Fox News Channel made enough noise that they attracted A Closer Look from ABC's Dan Harris. Anchor Bill O'Reilly invited his colleague Geraldo Rivera into the no-spin zone at The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the role of local police in enforcing federal immigration laws. The anchors' dispute concerned a motorist arrested for drunken driving by the cops in Virginia Beach Va. He was not a legal resident but the police did not report his status to the feds' Immigration and Customs Enforcement because ICE does not handle misdemeanor cases, only felonies. When the immigrant allegedly drank and drove again, killing two teenage girls, O'Reilly blamed the illegality of his residency; Rivera blamed his intoxication. Harris aired clips. "You want open border anarchy…" "He was a drunk…" "He should have been deported…" "Do not obscure a tragedy in order to make a cheap political point…"

NBC's anchor Brian Williams also chose a cable TV show as his week's closer. He wangled an invitation onto the set of The Sopranos as the HBO drama prepares to open its final season this weekend. Williams has a soft spot for the story of an "upper middle class mob boss with a family, a cholesterol problem, and a shrink"--as have other fans "and not just those of us from Jersey."

GOOD FRIDAY This weekend is a holy one for Christians so CBS sent Barry Petersen to study the clandestine growth of underground house churches in the People's Republic of China. There are some churches that are approved by Communist authorities whose worshippers must register with police. Many more operate illicitly: one congregation opened up to Petersen's cameras "to show both faith and defiance;" another provided cellular telephone videotape of authorities demolishing a half-built village church. If arrested for illegal assembly, a Chinese-American Christian activist stated, his co-religionists face beatings, imprisonment and harassment. "Even traditional eastern religions like Buddhism are flourishing again," Petersen observed about Communist China post-Mao Zedong, "but none like underground Christians."

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 pair of examples: protests by Islamist opponents against President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan are intensifying…two French passengers may have drowned when a cruise ship sank in the Aegean Sea…another truckbomb attack in Iraq had a mixture of explosives and chlorine gas…former First lady Betty Ford is hospitalized in California.