A very light day of news saw only one development considered important enough to be covered by a reporter on all three newscasts. That was the market action on Wall Street, where the bears had their fourth best day so far this year, selling off the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 362 points to 13567. Even the financial Story of the Day received cursory coverage: CBS and NBC gave it a brief live stand-up--although NBC did make the sell-off its lead. ABC and CBS each led with an Exclusive instead: CBS chose contractor fraud at the Pentagon; ABC kicked off with raids on steroids mills by the Drug Enforcement Administration.    
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video thumbnailABCNYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesStocks sold on interest rate, inflation worriesChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailCBSPentagon waste-fraud-abuse investigatedUSArmy lacks managers to catch contractor fraudDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCAttorney General Michael Mukasey nominationRisks defeat for waffling on waterboard tortureDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignReturns to alma mater to seek women's supportAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashNew York State may offer them driver's licensesByron PittsNew York
video thumbnailABC
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2008 Barack Obama campaignDiscusses father, wife, Law School studiesCharles GibsonWashington DC
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War on Drugs: steroids laboratories raided by DEADatabase of users is larger than expectedPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSOrganized crime: FBI agent accused of mob tiesMurder witness lies, Brooklyn trial called offJeff GlorNew York
video thumbnailNBCWild forest fires in southern CaliforniaBlaze blamed on ten-year-old boy with matchesChris JansingCalifornia
video thumbnailNBCChildren shielded from risks, dangers, negativityAuthor decries protections as nanny's coddlingBob FawWashington DC
BEARS FROLIC A very light day of news saw only one development considered important enough to be covered by a reporter on all three newscasts. That was the market action on Wall Street, where the bears had their fourth best day so far this year, selling off the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 362 points to 13567. Even the financial Story of the Day received cursory coverage: CBS and NBC gave it a brief live stand-up--although NBC did make the sell-off its lead. ABC and CBS each led with an Exclusive instead: CBS chose contractor fraud at the Pentagon; ABC kicked off with raids on steroids mills by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

NBC continues to assign most of its economic coverage to correspondents from its sibling cable channel CNBC, a smart use of resources for cross-promotion, as CNBC starts its rivalry with News Corp's new financial news entrant, Fox Business Network. So NBC's Wall Street lead--filed by CNBC's Erin Burnett--was followed by CNBC's real estate correspondent Diana Olick on home mortgage foreclosures and CNBC's auto industry expert Phil LeBeau on downsizing at Chrysler. Production of Chrysler's Pacifica and Crossfire models, its convertible version of the PT Cruiser and Dodge's Magnum will be discontinued. So far this year, Chrysler, now run by the privately-held Cerberus Capital fund, has announced the layoff of a full third of its workforce. Meanwhile in the housing market, Olick reported that some 500,000 homes were undergoing foreclosure during the third quarter of 2007, double the rate in the same quarter of 2006.

As for the stock market, this was one of those days that Bob Garfield (audio link) celebrated in his classic 2003 On The Media radio rant about the convention of financial journalists to shoehorn the complexities of the millions of trades of a single day on Wall Street into a simple cause-and-effect headline. CBS' Anthony Mason was definitive about the selloff: "It all goes back to the mortgage mess again…Financial stocks got creamed, down nearly 5%, as a group their worst day in five years." CNBC's Erin Burnett was on the same page: "Today's plunge all comes down to worries about the nation's biggest banks, specifically…Citigroup." Meanwhile over at ABC, higher energy prices, not lower housing prices, were the driving force. Chris Bury assured us that "the stock market tumbled after hints from the Federal Reserve it may pause in cutting interest rates, a red flag that it sees inflation led by energy around the corner."

WAR ZONE UPDATES CBS' Exclusive label for David Martin's lead was misleading, since the bulk of his coverage concerned the public release of a report entitled Urgent Reform Needed calling on the USArmy to hire more managers to handle its $100bn in contracts for supplies in Iraq and Afghanistan. "There are currently 160,000 contractors working for the United States in the warzone but only 75 contract managers--and most of them are not trained." The "exclusive" appeared to refer to just one of those contracts: a kickback scheme "worthy of Tony Soprano" at Bagram AFB in Afghanistan. A pair of workers for Kellogg, Brown and Root have been arrested for signing false receipts for 80 tanker loads of aviation fuel that were never delivered and diverted to the black market. The KBR contractors are accused of pocketing $800,000 in kickbacks.

ABC and CBS filed a couple of other Iraq-related stories. As noted on Monday (text link), CBS continues to keep a closer eye than its rivals on the investigation into September's killing of 17 Baghdad civilians by diplomatic bodyguards working for the paramilitary Blackwater USA. Now Jim Axelrod files an update from the FBI. Detectives have purchased the wrecks of two of the bullet-ridden cars from Nisoor Square and shipped them back to its forensic laboratories at Quantico Va where they will use 3-D reconstructions to determine "the trajectory of the bullets, as well as the speed and direction of the vehicles."

ABC filed from the Pentagon, where Defense Secretary Robert Gates heralded a moderation in Iraq's carnage since it peaked four months ago. The civilian death toll has returned to the levels of this time last year; the frequency of US military deaths and attacks by roadside bombs have reverted to October 2004 levels. Gates argued that "the reduction in violence would not have been possible without the surge of 30,000 additional troops," Jonathan Karl pointed out. "Those troops are going home in the coming months raising the question of whether the violence will go up when they leave."

MUTE ON MUKASEY The nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be Attorney General has been systematically undercovered on the network nightly newscasts. David Gregory's report from the White House for NBC was the first assignment of a correspondent to the controversy since Mukasey was nominated in September. "The issue standing in the way for the judge is the technique called waterboarding, used to simulate drowning" during interrogations, Gregory explained. Mukasey has refused to characterize waterboarding as torture on the grounds that he does "not know what is involved"--what Gregory called a "hedge." Today President George Bush "suggested" that if the Senate refuses to approve Mukasey he may not nominate anybody else, Gregory observed, "leaving him without an Attorney General potentially for the rest of his term."

HILLARY & BARACK NBC and CBS both followed up on Tuesday night's Democratic debate on MSNBC in which Hillary Rodham Clinton was accused of doublespeak on the wisdom of licensing immigrant drivers who do not have residency visas. CBS' Byron Pitts told us that New York State's proposal is not completely cutting edge. In total, ten states have policies that allow illegal residents to become legal drivers. Fellow northern border states Vermont and Washington have the so-called "enhanced" plan that New York's Gov Eliot Spitzer is proposing. Another eight states "have variations of a don't-ask-don't-tell policy." NBC's Andrea Mitchell covered Rodham Clinton's counterattack "after a faltering debate performance." Her campaign played both "the gender card" and "the woman as victim card," noted Mitchell. The former saw her return to her alma mater, the all-women's Wellesley College, to celebrate the shattering of glass ceilings; the latter had her Website "accusing the men of piling on."

ABC had anchor Charles Gibson (subscription required) resume the Who Is? series of candidate profiles that was interrupted last week by the southern California wildfires. This week's profile was of Democrat Barack Obama, who offered a pair of psychological insights. About his father leaving home when Barack was still a toddler: "Every man is either trying to live up to his father's expectations or make up for his father's mistakes." About his own overweening ambition: "If you do not have enough self-awareness to see the element of megalomania involved in thinking you can be President, then you probably should not be President."

THIS IS THE NEWS ON DRUGS ABC's lead story was Pierre Thomas' (subscription required) Exclusive on September's DEA raids of 56 laboratories which seized 11m doses of performance enhancing steroids. "Dealers utilized underground Websites, chatrooms and message boards to market the steroids. Sales were made online and steroids were mailed to the homes of buyers," Thomas revealed, with the upshot that the DEA now has a database of more than 30,000 customers, identified through e-mail messages and credit card receipts. "Worry is already spreading over who is on the list of users." The NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the major leagues and the NCAA have all made inquiries. Meanwhile the federal Department of Transportation claims that its testing program has found that less than 2% of the nation's 18-wheeler fleet is driven by truckers who are high. Even that low percentage amounts to 40,000 drivers, NBC's Lisa Myers pointed out. However that estimate may be optimistic. Myers cited a Government Accountability Office analysis that found that the urine test was "surprisingly easy to cheat" by adulterating or diluting samples.

SHOPPED MOLL The Brooklyn prosecution of an alleged turncoat FBI agent for four mob murders by the Colombo organized crime family "looked like a slam dunk," CBS' Jeff Glor assured us, until the intervention of a Village Voice reporter. Lin deVecchio was on trial for "betraying the bureau," as Glor put it. On the stand was Linda Schiro, a onetime mobster's moll. She claimed she was witness to deVecchio's conspiracy with her then-boyfriend gangster Gregory Scarpa as they plotted the four killings. The only trouble was that Schiro's testimony greatly embellished, even contradicted, the account she gave to reporter Tom Robbins ten years ago. Robbins produced those interviews "and turned the prosecution case upside down," Glor exclaimed. The corruption case, it turned out, was built on just "one shaky witness."

CHILD’S PLAY Bob Faw's feature in NBC's Kids Now series profiled the arguments of Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi in his book Nanny State. Harsanyi argues that children are coddled, overprotected, shielded from disappointments. Faw's list of woes ran the gamut from the frankly silly to perfectly sensible precautions: banning dodgeball and tag as roughhouse games; rewarding losers with sports trophies; teaching yoga for stress relief; implanting GPS tracking devices in shoes; fitting CCTV cameras in school buses; designing safer playgrounds; forbidding parental second hand smoke; discouraging schoolyard bullies.

Yet Harsanyi's overall thesis that it is safe to let kids be kids happened to be confronted by the harshness of the rest of the news agenda. CBS' Nancy Cordes (no link) filed a feature The Truth About Toys on lead-tainted imports from China. Much of the contamination is minuscule, she reported, but regulators have found "dangerous levels in children's jewelry"…NBC's Chris Jansing offered a follow-up on last week's Buckweed fire that destroyed 21 homes and burned 38,000 acres in Santa Clarita Cal. That blaze was started by a ten-year-old boy playing with matches…ABC's Jim Avila returned to the "brutal mutilation murder" of three eight-year-old Arkansas cub scouts in 1993. A jury appears to have falsely blamed it on the Satanic ritual of "misfit teenagers" and the true killer is probably still at large.

Lead poisoning…brush fires…mutilation murders. Faw and Harsanyi chose the wrong news day to denigrate keeping a watchful eye on children.

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: draconian mandatory prison sentences for possession of crack cocaine have been relaxed… USArmy recruiters fell short of quota in October…the bridge over Biloxi Bay, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, has been rebuilt…the bridge over the Mississippi River that collapsed in Minneapolis is starting to be rebuilt…Paul Tibbets, the WWII pilot whose plane dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, died, aged 92.