The approval by the House of Representatives of $124bn to fund the war in Iraq war was Story of the Day yesterday. Now the Senate approval--by a similar, narrow, margin--qualified for the next Story of the Day, even though only ABC led with the vote. Both houses of Congress split almost precisely along party lines so President George Bush should have no difficulty having his veto sustained. NBC chose cross-promotion for MSNBC for its lead: the cable news channel conducted an eight-candidate debate in South Carolina for the Democrats who would be President. CBS led with an Exclusive on the nuclear program in Iran.    
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video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSenate OKs funding with troops-out, faces vetoJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesDemocrats, Republicans jockey for post-war imageTerry MoranWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Petraeus assesses impact of troop build-upJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: weapons of mass destruction investigationFormer Director Tenet rehashes CIA adviceScott PelleyNew York
video thumbnailCBSBritish royals coveragePrince Harry may not be sent to fight in IraqRichard RothLondon
video thumbnailCBSIran nuclear weapons program suspectedUS spies see rapid uranium enrichment progressDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBC2008 Presidential race Democratic field overviewBarack Obama under scrutiny in SC debateAndrea MitchellSouth Carolina
video thumbnailNBCCivil-Rights-era Orangeburg Massacre rememberedState troopers killed three at SC State in 1968Martin SavidgeSouth Carolina
video thumbnailABC
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TV violence content regulation urged by FCCCongress encouraged to protect child viewersLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCPhysicist Stephen Hawking defies gravityWheelchairbound scientist goes weightless in jetTom CostelloAtlantic Ocean
VETO BAIT The approval by the House of Representatives of $124bn to fund the war in Iraq war was Story of the Day yesterday. Now the Senate approval--by a similar, narrow, margin--qualified for the next Story of the Day, even though only ABC led with the vote. Both houses of Congress split almost precisely along party lines so President George Bush should have no difficulty having his veto sustained. NBC chose cross-promotion for MSNBC for its lead: the cable news channel conducted an eight-candidate debate in South Carolina for the Democrats who would be President. CBS led with an Exclusive on the nuclear program in Iran.

On the Iraq vote, paradoxically, the Democrats found themselves voting to fund the war in order to bring it to a close; the President pledged to veto the funding in order to continue fighting. ABC's Jake Tapper summed up the difference thus: from the Republican President "win the war;" from the Democratic Congress "end it." The bill, which calls for the withdrawal of US combat troops to begin in six months and to finish by April 2008, will be presented to the White House next Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the President's Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, an "uncomfortable reminder," as Tapper put it, "of everything that remains unaccomplished."

On CBS, Sharyl Attkisson filed a package on the Senate debate complete with dueling soundbites: Sen Kit Bond (R-MO) saw "defeat for our troops and our safety in Iraq;" Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) called for the President to "work with us to bring the war to a responsible end." Attkisson also quoted Gen David Petraeus at the Pentagon reflect on looming deadlines: "There is a Washington clock ticking--actually, to be fair to those in Washington, it is an American clock." NBC was content with a live stand-up summary by Chip Reid: the looming veto "highlights just how powerless" Democrats are "to force any kind of change of course in Iraq."

MILITARY, POLITICAL, HISTORICAL What made Iraq the Story of the Day was the follow-ups to the debate. NBC chose the military angle, as Gen Petraeus gave his briefing on the troop build-up, the so-called surge. Jim Miklaszewski zeroed in on three major points that may make the political debate moot. First, the reinforcements have not improved security in Baghdad--sectarian killings reduced while carbomb killings increased--and the worst of the violence "may be yet to come." Second, there is no sign of political progress by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: "It is split into so many factions, each with its own agenda, that it is difficult to pass any meaningful legislation." Third, even if the Democrats are overridden, their desired withdrawal of combat troops will begin next year anyway, since the "military is stretched so thin it will not be able to keep up the current pace of deployments" beyond next spring.

ABC had Nightline anchor Terry Moran (subscription required) look at the political angle. "What is the point?" he asked. Why are the Democrats going through the effort of passing a bill they know is doomed to fail by veto? Moran's analysis was that this provides a "first look" at how the two parties will be configured after the war is over: "toughness" vs "carrying out the will of Americans." Moran observed that the Democrats risk seeming defeatist and losing national security credentials, as they did in the decades after the Vietnam War, while he could not find the long-term downside for Republicans for refusing to accept a pullout. He quoted GOP operative Vin Weber: "Being blamed for losing an unpopular war can hurt a political party for a whole generation"--and he was referring to Democrats not Republicans.

CBS chose the historical angle, as Scott Pelley previewed his 60 Minutes profile of George Tenet, the onetime Director of Central Intelligence, who was famously quoted by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward as guaranteeing to the President that the case for Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk." Tenet recalled his own fury when he read the White House leak that pre-war WMD errors were the fault of the CIA: "You have gone out and made me look stupid. It is the most despicable thing I have ever heard in my life. Men of honor do not do this…You do not throw people overboard."

And from London, CBS pulled off a rare feat: Richard Roth found the celebrity angle in the Iraq conflict. What to do about Prince Harry, a second lieutenant trained as a tank commander? Roth reminded us of the prince's expectation that he would get to fight in Iraq: "If they said, 'No. You cannot go to the frontline,' then I would not drag my sorry arse through Sandhurst." Now, in response to threats of kidnap and killing from insurgent Websites, the British army is having second thoughts. "The dilemma," as Roth put it, is that "a decision now to keep Harry home could hand insurgents a symbolic victory."

NUCLEAR SPIES CBS led with a pair of reports on Iran's nuclear program. David Martin claimed an Exclusive for the scoop he obtained from unidentified spies that Teheran's scientists had solved a technical problem in centrifuge technology so that enough uranium can be enriched to manufacture a nuclear bomb by 2010, instead of the 2015 date that is the official estimate of the United States.

Martin reflected that this timeline narrows any window for the Israel Defense Force to launch a pre-emptive airstrike on Iran. If Israel attacks Iran, using US-supplied warplanes, it will be interpreted by Iran as an attack by the United States itself, former CIA spy Bruce Riedel told Martin. An Israeli attack "could involve the US in a war against a much tougher opponent than Iraq."

To round out Martin's report, CBS sent a skeptical Elizabeth Palmer to Teheran. There may be fewer centrifuges in operation to enrich uranium than Iranian officials boast or US spies fear: Iran hints at 3,000 working machines; IAEA inspectors find only 1,300, "and only a few had uranium gas in them." The fuel may still be used for generating electricity or for producing medical isotopes instead of making bombs. "Few world leaders are convinced and for the moment there is no surefire way of checking until, perhaps, it is too late."

SEXTET NOT OCTET NBC led with the Democrats' debate on the campus of South Carolina State University with anchor Brian Williams as moderator. CBS had Jeff Greenfield (no link) file a preview. ABC did not mention it even in passing. Greenfield's preview focused on the southern setting, where the Democratic Party is almost half African-American. He listed the issues of special concern to that base: former radio host Don Imus' insults…misogynist lyrics in hip-hop music…the popularity among blacks of Bill Clinton, a candidate's husband…self-inflicted black wounds and personal responsibility, favorite talking points of Barack Obama…poverty and universal healthcare, issues championed by John Edwards.

NBC's Andrea Mitchell saw the "spotlight on Obama," seeing the debate as a test of the strength of his closing challenge to frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton. "He has got plenty of sizzle, huge crowds and has raised more money this year." Mitchell saw flaws in Obama's platform: he "did not deliver" on healthcare and his foreign policy is "long on vision, short on specifics," according to critics. NBC's Tim Russert offered a tipsheet on the challenges facing each of the Democrats--well, not quite each of them. He had no words whatsoever for Mike Gravel, former senator from Alaska, nor Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman (those two were not mentioned by CBS' Greenfield either).

For the other six, Russert laid out these challenges: Clinton needs to be "likable, not aloof" and "sufficiently against the war in Iraq;" Obama needs "specificity on the issues" with positions of "substance;" Edwards has to remove "inconsistency" between his emphasis on poverty and his "personal lifestyle;" in the second tier, Bill Richardson can showcase his executive credentials; Joe Biden his plan for partition of Iraq; Christopher Dodd his experience, "no on-the-job training."

ANOTHER CAMPUS MASSACRE The SCSU campus is the site of 1968's so-called Orangeburg Massacre, in which three students were killed and 27 wounded by state troopers during a campus protest of a local all-white bowling alley. Most were shot in the back, recalled Cecil Williams, who photographed the incident. The nine accused police officers, identified by their shell casings, were acquitted after fewer than two hours of jury deliberation. NBC's Martin Savidge pointed out that these killings took place two years before those at Kent State yet remain "virtually unknown." Why? "Only black people were killed," responded Herman Boller, who took three bullets.

VALENTI’S LEGACY On the day that Jack Valenti died, the former Hollywood leader who lobbied against copyright piracy and introduced the sex-and-violence rating system for movies, a pair of apt stories surfaced. From Hollywood, NBC's Jennifer London brought us the tale of Lucky and Flo, sniffer dogs trained to search out the chemicals used to manufacture movie DVDs. The "tail-wagging operatives" were unleashed in the arcades of Kuala Lumpur and are soon heading for Manila to protect blockbusters such as Spider-Man 3 from bootlegging pirates.

Meanwhile inside the Beltway, the Federal Communications Commission has informed Congress that it would not violate the First Amendment if it passed regulations to shield child viewers from violent content on television. Possible new rules include restrictions on early evening content and the unbundling of cable TV channels so that households can subscribe singly. ABC's Lisa Stark (subscription required) called "a la carte" cable "an option with broad appeal." Yet Stark doubted that any changes would survive a "fierce fight from the industry" and subsequent anti-censorship battles in the courts.

NBC's co-anchor Campbell Brown properly informed us that her network is part of the Hollywood anti-piracy trade group. ABC's Stark was remiss in failing to inform us of Disney's stake in the FCC's proposed crackdown, especially as one example of cable a la carte she quoted advocated the separation of Disney Channel from FX.

HORIZONTAL STAND-UP Wheelchairbound physicist Stephen Hawking provided invaluable publicity for, a jetliner that flies rollercoaster fashion to create 25-second episodes of weightlessness. Hawking was able to float free inside the cabin as TV cameras observed his brief liberation from disability. NBC's Tom Costello went along for the float--and was able to deliver what must be the most memorable "stand-up" of his career, hovering horizontal in midair.

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: as mentioned movie industry leader Jack Valenti died, aged 83…President Vladimir Putin of Russia escalated his objections to NATO's missile defense plans in eastern Europe…an astronaut on the International Space Station may be suffering from radiation and loss of bone density.