President George Bush commanded headlines with his Rose Garden press conference. Each network led with its White House correspondent's coverage of Bush's prediction of a summer of vicious warfare in Iraq: "It could be a bloody--it could be a very difficult--August," as politicians inside-the-Beltway prepare for a September vote on how to proceed in Iraq. That is when Gen David Petraeus will to present his progress report on the so-called surge of troops, designed to impose security on Baghdad. Bush predicted plenty of lack of security in the meantime: "What they are going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home."    
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video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush warns of summer of violenceMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesWould US troop pullout lead to homefront risks?Jeff GreenfieldNew York
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesHometown of Torrance mourns captured, slain GIMiguel MarquezCalifornia
video thumbnailNBCIran nuclear weapons program suspectedUN-imposed sanctions start to impact economyAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCHijacked jets kamikaze attacks on NYC, DCDeath from toxic dust lung disease added to tollMike TaibbiNew York
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Oil, natural gas, gasoline pricesABC News poll on impact on motorists' behaviorBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailCBSAuto safety: seatbelt use saves livesPSA buckle-up campaigns undercut by TV dramasNancy CordesNew York
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careAssurant Health insurer accused of bad faithArmen KeteyianConnecticut
video thumbnailNBCNurse practitioners run discount medical clinicsMinute Clinic drugstore chain quality questionsTom CostelloMaryland
video thumbnailCBSVideoconference technology grows more lifelikeLarge screen projection helps telecommutersJohn BlackstoneCalifornia
A BLOODY SUMMER IS BEGINNING President George Bush commanded headlines with his Rose Garden press conference. Each network led with its White House correspondent's coverage of Bush's prediction of a summer of vicious warfare in Iraq: "It could be a bloody--it could be a very difficult--August," as politicians inside-the-Beltway prepare for a September vote on how to proceed in Iraq. That is when Gen David Petraeus will to present his progress report on the so-called surge of troops, designed to impose security on Baghdad. Bush predicted plenty of lack of security in the meantime: "What they are going to try to do is kill as many innocent people as they can to try to influence the debate here at home."

CBS published an opinion poll that showed 76% of Americans "believe the war is going badly." All three White House correspondents picked up hints that the President is laying the groundwork to change his policy come September. NBC's David Gregory called it "significant" that Bush should suggest a reduction of troop levels: "I would like to see us in a different configuration." CBS' Jim Axelrod flat out contradicted the Commander in Chief when he aired this soundbite: "As I have constantly made clear the recommendations of Baker-Hamilton appeal to me." Not! According to Axelrod, the Iraq Study Group report was something "he largely ignored when it was first published last December."

"Resolute as he appeared," mused Axelrod, "the President hinted strongly at a back-up Plan B," modeled on the ISG's proposals to step up regional diplomacy, to draw down troops and to disengage from sectarian violence. NBC's Gregory was on the same page as Axelrod. He saw the ISG as a potential "basis for a bipartisan exit strategy." Congress finally approved the $120bn to pay for the war until September without attaching a schedule to pull troops out. "Democrats were denied their top goal," was how ABC's George Stephanopoulos (no link) assessed the vote. A consolation prize, noted NBC's Gregory, was an "off-topic add"--an increase in the federal hourly minimum wage to $7.25.

ABC's Martha Raddatz (subscription required) pointed out another mechanism for the President to agree to a withdrawal of US troops. Even though he asserted that "leaving Iraq would be catastrophic," he pledged to bring them home if asked to do so by the government of Iraq. "Even with the warnings of catastrophe?" Raddatz pressed. "I hope that they would recognize that the results would be catastrophic. But this is a sovereign nation, Martha. We are there at their request.

CBS' Jeff Greenfield filed a Reality Check on the President's premonitions of catastrophe--his nightmare that a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq would lead to Iraq-based al-Qaeda cells emigrating to the United States to conduct terrorist attacks on future generations of domestic citizens. John Mueller, a professor at Ohio State University, reminded Greenfield that the President's fears echoed a Vietnam War scenario that "we would be fighting Communists in San Diego." Greenfield concluded that there is "widespread agreement" that the majority of the violence in Iraq is indigenous. As for the transnational al-Qaeda presence, it poses "a threat to other nations in the region" rather than to this country.

TOO MANY YELLOW RIBBONS The networks' disproportionate preoccupation with that ambush against a unit of the Tenth Mountain Division in the countryside south of Baghdad twelve days ago persists. Of the seven GIs involved, five are known dead with the remaining two missing, believed captured. The latest update was the identification of the fifth fatality--Pvt Joseph Anzack--which sent NBC's George Lewis and ABC's Miguel Marquez to his Torrance Cal hometown as his former high school football Spartans mourned their one-time nose guard.

It is astonishing those two reports were the 11th and 12th on the weekday nightly newscasts devoted to this single skirmish. As much as the US military seemed to overreact to the incident by sending 4,000 troops to search for a mere three captives--that was covered by ABC's Terry McCarthy, CBS' Mark Strassmann and NBC's Ian Williams from Baghdad--the networks' overattention has been in kind.

When it was revealed that the unit is based in Fort Drum, ABC's David Muir (subscription required) and CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi visited. When Gen David Petraeus stated, erroneously, that the trio was alive, NBC's Williams aired that soundbite. When troops went door to door in the so-called Triangle of Death, CBS' Strassmann accompanied them. When the fourth fatality was identified, NBC's Jennifer London brought us his bereaved family. When Anzack's body was found in the River Euphrates, NBC's Williams and CBS' Strassmann told us about it.

By rights, this should be enough--but we still await the fates of the sixth and seventh members to be documented in minute detail.

FEED THE NUCLEAR FAMILY It was NBC's turn to cover the pressure on Iran--although this time Andrea Mitchell filed a regular news report rather than a scoop. Tuesday, ABC's Exclusive by Brian Ross outlined non-lethal covert operations by the CIA against Iran. Wednesday, Sheila MacVicar had CBS' Exclusive on industrial sabotage of Iran's uranium enrichment equipment on the black market. Mitchell's coverage concerned the bite of economic sanctions on the Iranian economy: inflation is running at 30%; European businesses are diverting investment to Dubai and Singapore; gasoline prices have been raised by 25%. Mitchell even included this anecdotal soundbite from the proverbial Teheran taxi driver: "I cannot give atomic energy to my wife and kids."

Now the International Atomic Energy Agency has predicted that Iran may possess a nuclear weapon in three years, Mitchell outlined three more possible sanctions: a financial blacklist of banks owned by the state; a ban on travel visas for leaders of the government; an end to business credits for operations controled by the Revolutionary Guard.

BREATHING DUST & MINING DATA The attacks of September 11th, 2001, resurfaced on CBS and NBC. NBC's Mike Taibbi brought us the case of Felicia Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old lawyer. She did not die at the World Trade Center on that day, but New York City's Medical Examiner has now ruled that the toxic dust she breathed there was as fatal as if she had been felled by debris. The verdict of death by natural causes from lung disease has been changed to homicide. Taibbi pointed out that 80,000 were "at or near Ground Zero during and after the attacks," of whom many may be terminally impaired and "could be deserving of millions in death benefits."

CBS' Bob Orr covered a dispute between the Department of Homeland Security and the European Union over airline passengers from so-called visa-waiver countries. EU citizens need only a passport in order to enter the United States, rather than having to undergo screening for a visa. So Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Orr that his agents need detailed information on arriving passengers to perform background checks. Chertoff claimed that his checks, if they had been in place at the time of 9/11, would have flagged eleven of the 19 hijackers including ringleader Mohammad Atta. DHS wants the following data: name, date of birth, address, frequent flyer accounts, credit card accounts, telephone numbers and travel history.

Orr is not fan of privacy rights. He was categorical that Chertoff's demands are not unreasonable: "9/11 proved there is no other safe option."

DRIVING SEASON As the Memorial Day kickoff to the summer driving season approaches, ABC looked at costs and CBS looked at safety. Both ABC and NBC ran video clips of the new buckle-up PSA reminding us of seatbelt laws: "I am New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and I should be dead." Corzine was referring to his own violation as an SUV passenger in a crash that broke a dozen bones. CBS' Nancy Cordes contrasted that "dramatic message" with the rest of the content we see on television: 82% of us "ordinary Americans" routinely use seatbelts compared with 62% of the characters on the 20 most popular TV shows. Cordes cited CBS' The Amazing Race, ABC's The Bachelor and CBS' CSI as beltless offenders. In contrast, siding with Corzine were his fictional citizens: HBO's The Sopranos warns that seatbelts are key to staying alive.

On Tuesday, Dean Reynolds used ABC News poll data to demonstrate that the rising price of gasoline hits harder at low-income households than the upper middle class. ABC's Betsy Stark (subscription required) follows up with the observation that, so far, higher fuel costs have not caused cutbacks in miles driven. The so-called tipping point, where prices at the pump provoke changes in behavior, is predicted at $4.38/gallon, according to ABC's survey. Motorists are more likely to cut back on expenses such as restaurant dining than driving, "things that are a lot easier to change than where you work and where you live."

MEDICAL-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX Following yesterday's Investigation into cherry-picking by health insurance companies when deciding which individuals to cover, Armen Keteyian now looks at the treatment of those who managed to find coverage. His second Investigation zeroed in on Milwaukee-based Assurant Health, an insurer that stand accused of acting in bad faith, refusing to pay claims by finding non-existent pre-existing conditions. Keteyian offered the example of Todd Smith, a 54-year-old children's book illustrator, who was screened for possible angina three years ago and was assured by a doctor that he "did not have any sort of cardiac related illness." When he had a heart attack, Assurant refused to pay $40,000 in hospital bills citing as "pre-existing" the very condition that prompted the negative diagnosis. Assurant assured Keteyian that its procedures are "fair, equitable and consistent with state laws and industry standards."

For NBC, Tom Costello filed an In Depth report on Minute Clinics, the chain of discount clinics based in drugstores and operated by nurse practitioners. For $60-or-so per visit, they diagnose and treat basic infections. The chain has locations at CVS, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreen's and Rite-Aid, Costello reported, with the tie-in that the patient can fill a prescription "just ten feet away." Their fees are undercutting physicians and in some states, citing a lack of thoroughness and continuity of care, "doctors are pushing for laws" to regulate them.

VIDEO PUBLICITY For CBS' closer, John Blackstone told us about super-expensive large-screen televisions. They are not just for home entertainment, he demonstrated, but also for office videoconferences. Blackstone filed a q-&-a with Hollywood's Jeffrey Katzenberg on Hewlett Packard's $350,000 multi-screen system while throwing in a clip of free publicity for Katzenberg's latest Shrek release. He also gave a plug to Cisco Systems. Margaret Hooshmand, a personal assistant there helps her Silicon Valley boss Marthin De Beer from her Texas home with the firm's cheaper $80,000 single screen system. She is constantly visible to her boss, as if sitting in the next door office…except "I cannot get him his coffee, which I think is a step in the right direction."

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 sale price of new homes continues to fall even as the number of purchases rises…an Iraqi funeral for a local sheikh in Fallujah was bombed, leaving 26 dead…a House panel held hearings on the inadequate mental health treatment in the armed forces...CBS News' opinion poll on the Democratic field for Campaign 2008 shows Hillary Rodham Clinton widen her lead…NBC anchor Brian Williams offers a sly hat-tip to Comedy Central's The Daily Show with this video.