CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM JANUARY 29, 2007
As Moslem pilgrims head for the Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala to observe the feast of Ashura, a small millenarian cult known as the Soldiers of Heaven was suspected of planning a massacre in order to usher in the end of the world. The Story of the Day featured conflicting reports about its clash with the Iraqi Army while the USAF dropped bombs in support. Some 200 of its 600 devotees were reportedly killed in the date palm orchards north of Najaf. NBC, however, was the only network to lead with the fighting.    
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video thumbnailNBCShiite Moslem pilgrims in Najaf threatened by cultCult attacked by Iraqi army and USAF, 200 deadJane ArrafBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSShiite Moslem pilgrims in Najaf threatened by cultCult attacked by Iraqi army and USAF, 200 deadLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailABC
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Shiite Moslem pilgrims in Najaf threatened by cultCult attacked by Iraqi army and USAF, 200 deadJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfTeheran accused of spreading munitions to IraqDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABC
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Automobile industry in financial troubleDetroit faces falling sales, plant closingsCharles GibsonMichigan
video thumbnailNBCCIA undercover agent's name leaked: perjury trialWhite House ex-spokesman is prosecution witnessKelly O'DonnellWashington DC
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Iraq: war-zone journalists at risk of violenceABC's Bob Woodruff was injured one year agoCharles GibsonMichigan
video thumbnailCBSIraq: war-zone journalists at risk of violenceCBS' wounded Kimberly Dozier visits colleaguesKatie CouricNew York
video thumbnailNBCMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesVolunteer-funded rehab center opened in TexasDon TeagueTexas
video thumbnailABCHorse racing Triple Crown: Barbaro breaks legSurgery fails, veterinarians put champion downDan HarrisPennsylvania
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
APOCALYPSE NOW IN NAJAF As Moslem pilgrims head for the Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala to observe the feast of Ashura, a small millenarian cult known as the Soldiers of Heaven was suspected of planning a massacre in order to usher in the end of the world. The Story of the Day featured conflicting reports about its clash with the Iraqi Army while the USAF dropped bombs in support. Some 200 of its 600 devotees were reportedly killed in the date palm orchards north of Najaf. NBC, however, was the only network to lead with the fighting.

NBC's Jane Arraf in Baghdad reported that the cult was heavily armed with mortars, Katyusha rockets and automatic weapons, and included a mixture of Shiites, Sunnis and foreign fighters. "The group planned to assassinate the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered cleric in Iraq," Arraf's unnamed sources in the Iraqi government told her. "The group believed the resulting violence would bring on the apocalypse." Arraf said that the Soldiers of Heaven may not be unique: "Iraq has become a magnet for all sorts of groups that are not on anybody's radar."

CBS' Lara Logan told us that mopping up operations are difficult because soldiers have to "separate suspected militants from thousands of pilgrims that have flooded the south of Iraq." Her sources in the US military could not confirm the religious cult story since "they did not know exactly whom they were fighting…they no longer have any presence in Najaf."

ABC compounded the confusion by filing its report from the Pentagon. Its military consultant Jack Keane, the retired general, referred to the armed group not as cultists but "insurgents." Jonathan Karl's (subscription required) unnamed military sources called them "Shiite extremists" or "a bunch of thugs." Karl concluded that "this illustrates just how difficult it is to understand the enemy in Iraq."


ARMS FROM IRAN Following up on Martha Raddatz' (subscription required) lead for ABC last Friday, CBS led with Iran's regional military ambitions. David Martin detailed the munitions that Teheran is manufacturing--advanced explosive devices, rocket grenade launchers, assault rifles, anti-aircraft missiles--some of which, he reported, have been found in Iraq. Martin cited evidence that "small arms" had been supplied to some Shiite militias and that one British helicopter had been downed by an Iranian weapon. Apart from that Martin offered no specifics about which fighters have Teheran's backing, just that he has been told that "clear evidence" exists that "Iran wants the United States to bleed as much as possible."


SMALLER THREE ABC started its series called Running on Empty on the problems confronting the Detroit auto industry. Charles Gibson (subscription required) anchored from a Ford pick-up truck plant in Dearborn Mich. He recited the familiar litany of the Big Three's woes: falling market share, plant closings, massive layoffs, high overhead costs. Then he talked to the upbeat bosses of General Motors and Ford--but not German-owned Chrysler. GM CEO Rick Wagoner was bullish: "You will see some cars that I think will knock your socks off." Ford CEO Alan Mulally smiled: "We need to create cars that are more efficient, that customers really want and value." Gibson concluded that Detroit needs "an entire generation" to win its customers back. "But do they have that time?"


CAFETERIA GOSSIP ABC and NBC continue to treat the Lewis Libby perjury trial as more newsworthy than CBS, which has yet to assign a reporter to cover it for the Evening News. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer took the stand for the prosecution, under promise of immunity, to describe Libby dishing about Joseph Wilson's spy wife "hush, hush, QT" over lunch at the White House. Fleischer, in turn, passed the information on in "private, casual conversation" to a few reporters, including NBC's David Gregory. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell added that Fleischer saw "no reaction" to his dishing from the reporters. O'Donnell summarized the impact: "Fleischer blew another hole in Libby's story." As for Fleischer's demeanor under crossexamination, ABC's Pierre Thomas observed that his "previous training of being grilled by reporters appeared to help him. He was largely unflappable."


BATTLE SCARRED Both CBS and ABC offered updates on their wounded war correspondents. CBS' Katie Couric recounted a visit to the newsroom by a blushing Kimberly Dozier, survivor of 20 surgical operations with one more to come: "She is obviously much more comfortable covering the story than being the story." ABC's Gibson (subscription required) reminded us that this is the first anniversary of the explosion that almost blew his predecessor anchor Bob Woodruff's brains out. Next month Woodruff will file a documentary on combat casualties for ABC. Gibson showed us clips of a tuxedo-clad, rehabilitated Woodruff making a speech about his ordeal in November. Interestingly those clips showed only a right profile. Presumably most of the lasting damage is to the left side of his face.


WOUNDED IN WAR Last week in NBC's series Coming Home, Ann Curry paid tribute to a series of Ronald-MacDonald-style homes for disabled war veterans. Soldiers' families can stay in Fisher Houses, named for New York City real estate magnate Arnold Fisher, next to VA rehabilitation centers while the wounded receive therapy.

All three networks were on hand when the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio was opened. The state-of-the-art $50m physical therapy facility-- dubbed "mega-gym and science lab wrapped in one," by CBS' Kelly Cobiella--was paid for entirely by Fisher-led private fundraising. ABC's Mike von Fremd opened his report with a file of wheelchairbound soldiers entering the ceremonies on a red carpet and NBC's Don Teague closed his with the same legless array, all saluting as the national anthem played.

More and more, a Campaign 2008 angle is shoehorned into otherwise unrelated stories. When both candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and likely candidate John McCain attended the San Antonio ceremonies, NBC's Teague mused that it provided "competing Presidential hopefuls with a common cause." NBC's Martin Savidge filed a separate story on Senate hearings into the federal reconstruction effort, dubbed the Road Home program, after Hurricane Katrina. He mentioned that candidate Barack Obama was asking questions: "His third visit to New Orleans comes just a month after another Democrat, John Edwards, used the city as a backdrop to announce his own run for the White House…Katrina's shadow may be cast all the way to 2008."


LAST PLACE OR FIRST? NBC's closer by Dawn Fratangelo concerned the race horse Barbaro. The Kentucky Derby champion had failed to recover after surgery for the leg he broke in the Preakness Stakes--Fratangelo played that "still painful to watch" video one more time. His veterinarians had to put the horse to death. Even though Barbaro was the final item of the newscast, where the least consequential of stories are to be found, Brian Williams felt he had to justify paying so much attention to a mere horse: some folks "will want to know why, with all that is going on in our world, we chose to spend even some of our precious airtime on a thoroughbred horse"…the answer is that "the world lost a great competitor today."

Not so ABC. Unapologetically, it made Barbaro its lead. Introducing Dan Harris' story, anchor Gibson asserted that Barbaro was "not just any other horse."


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: a suicide bomb hit the Israeli resort of Eilat on the Red Sea…the Powerball lottery paid off a $254m jackpot to an elderly Missouri couple…former congressman Robert Drinan, who served in the House while a Jesuit priest, dies, aged 86...the FAA will raise airline pilots' mandatory retirement age to 65.