For the second straight day both ABC and CBS led with Barry Bonds. The baseball slugger was indicted yesterday for perjury about using dope to boost his home run totals. Today's coverage assessed the federal prosecutor's prospects for winning a conviction. While Bonds was the Story of the Day, NBC decided to lead instead with the latest statistics from the Pentagon. In the past year almost 5,000 soldiers have deserted the army, a 42% increase over the previous twelve months.    
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video thumbnailCBSBaseball career home run record set by Barry BondsStrength of steroids perjury case assessedArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailABCBaseball players steroids abuse suspectedMitchell Report expected to expose many cheatsJohn BermanNew York
video thumbnailNBCMilitary personnel desertion rate increasesAlmost 5,000 soldiers go missing annuallyJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBS2008 debate for Democrats in Las VegasAcerbic accusations exchanged, veracity assessedJim AxelrodLas Vegas
video thumbnailABC
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2008 tactics: illicit push polls spread negativesRepublican race turns nasty in New HampshireJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSAgribusiness subsidized by federal farm billMany proposed beneficiaries are already richSharyl AttkissonWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCRetail sales suffer slowdownStarbucks Coffee is index of consumer cautionTrish ReganNew Jesey
video thumbnailABCHurricane Katrina aftermath along Gulf CoastStorm wiped out massive southeastern forestsBill BlakemoreNew York
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Cyclone in Bay of Bengal blasts BangladeshStorm surge blasts ashore, may have killed 1100Nick SchifrinBangladesh
video thumbnailABCThanksgiving Day holidayTurkey farmer raises tasty heritage breedsCharles GibsonNew York
SECOND SPORTS CELEBRITY ON STEROIDS For the second straight day both ABC and CBS led with Barry Bonds. The baseball slugger was indicted yesterday for perjury about using dope to boost his home run totals. Today's coverage assessed the federal prosecutor's prospects for winning a conviction. While Bonds was the Story of the Day, NBC decided to lead instead with the latest statistics from the Pentagon. In the past year almost 5,000 soldiers have deserted the army, a 42% increase over the previous twelve months.

Bonds allegedly obtained his steroids from BALCO, the San Francisco Bay laboratory that supplied sprinter Marion Jones when she, too, became Story of the Day last month (text link), after she pled guilty to lying about cheating with steroids. Bonds, by contrast, "the onetime beanpole turned behemoth," as ABC's John Berman characterized him, intends to maintain his innocence.

CBS' Armen Keteyian predicted that Bonds' defense will accuse prosecutors of "misconduct" and "falsifying documents," specifically impeaching the evidence of a federal agent named Jeff Novitzky: "In 2004, the government conducted an investigation into whether the agent's credibility would be an issue if the case against Bonds went to trial." Also, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, continues to refuse to testify against his former client, even allowing himself to be imprisoned for his silence. Anderson was released as soon as Bonds was indicted. NBC's George Lewis quoted Victor Conti, BALCO's owner, undercutting the validity of Bonds' doping tests: "There are a lot of other legal substances that could have been consumed that could have caused a positive test result." Lewis added that the trial will take place in San Francisco where Bonds "is regarded as a local hero." On ABC, Jim Avila (subscription required) countered that incriminating evidence against Bonds includes Anderson's "doping calendar, a schedule of steroids use, with Bonds' initials on it" and hinted that the prosecution may call Bonds' former mistress to testify that "the slugger told her he used steroids and beat her during steroid rages."

As for the national pastime itself, ABC's Berman previewed the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned to "determine just how thoroughly steroids have saturated the game." Berman intimated that the report, authored by George Mitchell the former senator, "is going to be scathing" naming "big, popular players." So far, all this talk of cheating has hardly harmed the popularity of the major leagues, however: "Baseball has set attendance records four years in a row."

ALL VOLUNTEER Both CBS and NBC had their Pentagon correspondents look into army desertions. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski conceded that some soldiers go missing on antiwar principle, although most leave because of "personal or financial problems back home," according to brass. Not that the war has nothing to do with it: the rate "is accelerating in a pattern that tracks almost exactly with the extension of tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months," CBS' David Martin asserted. To put the problem in perspective, Martin contrasted the 5% desertion rate from the drafted army during the Vietnam War with the current volunteer force's 1%. NBC's Miklaszewski at first called army brass "deeply concerned" but then pointed out that after conviction at court martial most deserters were given no greater punishment than a dishonorable discharge.

ASBESTOS PANTS Reporting on last night's Democratic Presidential candidates' debate on CNN in Las Vegas, NBC's Andrea Mitchell was disappointing. She noted the "flying" insults and a "nastier" contest, quoting snippy soundbites between Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards on national defense, neo-cons and Iran, Social Security and healthcare coverage. But Mitchell made no effort to evaluate the accuracy, fairness or efficacy of the barbs. She informed us merely that they were said. On CBS' Jim Axelrod added reporting: he validated Edwards' criticism of Rodham Clinton that her campaign is lobbyist-funded; he validated Rodham Clinton's criticism of Obama's healthcare plan that it does not contemplate universal coverage; he validated Obama's criticism of Rodham Clinton that he would not make good any Social Security shortfall "on the backs of middle class families," as she charged.

As for Mitchell, when she quoted Rodham Clinton arriving on stage after "poor reviews at the previous debate" as saying "this pantsuit is asbestos tonight" she also failed to point out the implicit self-accusation in the New York senator's choice of clothing. After all, it is a liar, liar that has her pants on fire.

Instead of covering the debate, ABC had Jake Tapper (subscription required) explain push polls, the illicit telephone technique "designed not to gather information but to spread information, often ugly or untrue, always anonymously." John Edwards is called an unfit husband for campaigning instead of tending to his cancer-stricken wife…Mitt Romney is insulted for his Mormonism…Barack Obama is accused of being the Moslem Manchurian Candidate. Noted Tapper: "These kinds of malicious attacks usually come in the closing days of a campaign. But as with all things in this Presidential contest, that schedule has moved up considerably."

AGRIBUSINESS AS USUAL For the first time during its passage through the halls of Congress, the federal farm bill came in for scrutiny. Sharyl Attkisson filed a Follow the Money feature for CBS on the recipients of the $20bn annual agricultural subsidy, funds that "at their best" go to farmers who would "go out of business…when crops do not grow or prices are weak." At their worst "more and more payments have gone to Fortune 500 companies, the wealthy and even members of Congress." Attkisson picked on New York City billionaire Edgar Bronfman and rice farmer Rep Marion Berry (D-AR) as egregious examples. "For some well-to-do farmers the harvest is bountiful: they are sowing the land and reaping your tax dollars."

DECAFFEINATED When JC Penney, Kohl's and Macy's warned earlier this week that sales were slowing in the retail sector, those mundane names never qualified for coverage on the nightly newscasts. The networks were waiting for a retail bellwether with pizzazz: "One of my favorite economic indicators," CNBC's Trish Regan called it, when Starbucks, the gourmet coffee chain, announced a drop in customer traffic this fall. Explained Regan: "If people start to scale back, they will cut back on the little things--even those addictive lattes." So both Regan on NBC and Neal Karlinsky, reporting from Starbucks' Ground Zero in Seattle for ABC, got to cover the prospect of a slow Christmas shopping season using a cuppa Joe as their hook. Commented Karlinsky: "That high priced cup of coffee in your hand may say more about the health of the overall economy than your taste in beverages.

BLOW WINDS Only ABC put a reporter on the scene in Bangladesh to show us the impact of the 150 mph winds and the 15-foot storm surge that flattened coastal villages and forced the evacuation of homes for 600,000 people. NBC had Ian Williams warn about the Bay of Bengal cyclone yesterday; now ABC's Nick Schifrin (subscription required) showed us elephants "put to work to clear the roads." As many as 1,100 Bengalis may be dead "but in a country that is one of the most crowded in the world, it will take weeks, maybe even months, to know the full extent of the damage." ABC also had Bill Blakemore file an update on the floods following Hurricane Katrina. A combination of the storm's high winds and the subsequent weeks of standing water created the "largest forestry disaster in US history." Some 5m acres of forest have been wiped out in Mississippi and Alabama. Rotting vegetation releases as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as "all the rest of the US forests, all of them, absorb in an entire year."

GOBBLE GOBBLE All three networks closed with their usual weekending features. Kevin Tibbles' tale of Joey Juneau, the ex-Hab of the NHL Making a Difference on NBC by teaching hockey to the Inuit children of Quebec's Arctic, was especially fun because it is so rare for a double-u in a word to be literally a pair of u's: the village was Kuujjuaq…on CBS' Steve Hartman's Assignment America was enchanted by Dora and Doris, an eightysomething pair of identical twins from Wisconsin, who talk alike, look alike, dress alike and love each other very much…but our favorite was Frank Reese, ABC's Person of the Week, who introduced anchor Charles Gibson to the Standard Bronze, the White Holland, the Narragansett, the Bourbon Red and the Black--all heritage breeds of turkey, all with extra dark meat, all ready for your Thanksgiving table.

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 protest rally on the Justice Department in Washington DC demanded that the display of lynchmob-style hangman's nooses be categorized as a racist hate crime…a photograph has been unearthed in the Library of Congress that may show Abraham Lincoln arriving at Gettysburg before he gave his Address…the Witch Fire in San Diego Country last month was indeed started by downed utility power lines…the flow of water to Florida and Alabama from Lake Lanier has been abridged in order to alleviate Georgia's shortage…a bill to fund the Iraq War with strings attached has been blocked in the Senate…First Lady Laura Bush urges a boycott of precious stones from Myanmar because of its repressive military junta…the State Department's John Negroponte is holding talks in Pakistan to try to end President Pervez Musharraf's State of Emergency…Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani asserts that the United States has a divine mission to "save our civilization from Islamic terrorism."