For the third straight day NBC led with the icestorm on the great plains. The slow progress towards restoration of electric power was Story of the Day and the lead on CBS as well. ABC selected nationwide statistics that showed that American adults now have an average cholesterol level below 200; it was higher than 220 when the data were first collected in 1960. As for the winter weather, it has now killed 30-or-so people from Texas to Michigan and half a million Oklahoma homes remain without power.    
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video thumbnailNBCWinter weatherIcestorm, blackouts paralyze UOkla campusDon TeagueOklahoma
video thumbnailABCWinter weatherRural Kansas forced to revert to pioneer rootsBarbara PintoKansas
video thumbnailCBSMilitary personnel suffer mental health problemsHouse hearings on high veterans' suicide ratesArmen KeteyianCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCVeterans Administration healthcare quality surveyedCut costs by electronic tracking of patient dataTimothy JohnsonWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSIraq: terrorist bombers attack civilian targetsTrio of carbombs kills 41 in Amarah in MaysanJeff GlorBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCBank system suffers global lack of liquid fundsCentral Banks coordinate, inject $64bn in loansSteve LiesmanNew York
video thumbnailNBCEmperor penguin conservation efforts in AntarcticaWorld Wildlife Fund warns of warming habitatAnne ThompsonNew York
video thumbnailNBC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignExperience accrued as First Lady examinedAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 issues: diplomatic outreach to hostile powersCandidates identify frightening foreign nationsKatie CouricNew York
video thumbnailABCCongressional lobbying regulations loopholesLavish parties with finger food are permittedBrian RossWashington DC
ICY ANECDOTES For the third straight day NBC led with the icestorm on the great plains. The slow progress towards restoration of electric power was Story of the Day and the lead on CBS as well. ABC selected nationwide statistics that showed that American adults now have an average cholesterol level below 200; it was higher than 220 when the data were first collected in 1960. As for the winter weather, it has now killed 30-or-so people from Texas to Michigan and half a million Oklahoma homes remain without power.

The weather watchers came up with frigid anecdotes rather than newsworthy developments on their third day of coverage. NBC's Don Teague visited the darkened campus at the University of Oklahoma where students are studying for final examinations: "It is really hard to focus on how to conjugate a Spanish verb," complained one coed. ABC's Steve Osunsami (no link) checked The Full Circle Book Store in Oklahoma City, which has power. "What you see here is a lot of refugees--well-read refugees," a customer commented. ABC's Barbara Pinto traveled to the remote Kansas town of Waterville, where water well pumps do not work and cows cannot be kept on the farm by electrified fences: "The locals are all frozen in time" using gear from pioneer days to survive. And on CBS, Hari Sreenivasan found himself so eager to get a soundbite from a heatless greatgrandmother that he asked a question whose answer he clearly knew just as well as she did: "How cold is it?" "How cold is it outside? That is how cold it is in here," she stated the obvious.

PLAUDITS FOR ARMEN Kudos was given to Armen Keteyian for last month's report on CBS into the suicide rate of military veterans, averaging 120-or-so each week, twice the rate of suicides among those in the population with no record of military service: "Members of Congress cited our Investigation as a national wake-up call." Both Keteyian and NBC's Jim Miklaszewski filed on House hearings into requiring the Veterans Administration to keep better records on the mental health of its patients.

At the same time on ABC's Critical Condition series, in-house physician Timothy Johnson was giving top marks to the VA for its state-of-the-art record keeping in hospitals: "Study after study puts the VA system at the very top for fewer medical errors, for effective treatments, for lower costs and for patient satisfaction." Johnson publicized author Phil Longman's book Best care Anywhere on how the "once maligned VA" transformed itself. Johnson's top line finding: "Socialized medicine may sound unAmerican but in fact it is exactly what we provide to our American heroes, more than 5m armed service veterans."

By the way, Johnson was featured twice on ABC. Besides his VA report, he commented on ABC's lead by Lisa Stark (no link) on lowered cholesterol levels. Both Johnson (no link) and CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook gave most of the credit for our improved arteries to the statin class of medicines. Johnson called them "absolutely remarkable…predictably effective…very safe…I almost would dare use the words miracle drugs."

VACUUM EXPLODES All three networks mentioned the trio of carbombs that killed 41 people in Amarah, capital of Maysan Province in southeastern Iraq. Only CBS assigned a reporter to the carnage. Jeff Glor of the network's Early Show filed from Baghdad. He noted that British troops are withdrawing, leaving "the southern region of Iraq, rich with oil, up for grabs" and creating "a dangerous power vacuum with rival militias vying for control." The British and completing "a surge in reverse," Glor quipped.

CARTOON CYNIC NBC filed its In Depth feature on the arcane world of global finance. Economist Steve Liesman from CNBC, the financial cable news channel, was assigned to explain the coordinated action by five central banks--Switzerland, England, Canada, the Euro zone and the Federal Reserve--to inject a liquid $64bn to ease the so-called credit crunch caused by the problems in the real estate housing market in this country. Liesman took a leaf out of Robert Krulwich's (link to grid) book at ABC and decided to explain the plan using cartoon drawings. Anchor Brian Williams inquired: "To be a cynic here for a minute. Why is this not a bailout for the US from the rest of the world?" "This is like Plan B or C. They have tried a few other things. Bailout is probably Plan D or E. You will know it when there is a bailout," Liesman answered, equally cynically.

BACKWARDS MARCH None of the networks has yet managed to send a correspondent to tropical Bali for the United Nations' conference on global warming. Yesterday, CBS anchor Katie Couric posed Primary Questions to the Presidential candidates on the issue. Last Friday from Borneo, NBC's Ian Williams issued warnings with images of palm oil plantations and ABC's Nick Watt with orangutans. Now Anne Thompson takes another crack at illustrating the ills of global warming for NBC's Our Planet series. She visited New York City's Bronx Zoo to show us penguins who are not endangered by the lack of ice in the Antarctic Ocean. "It is no coincidence," Thompson told us, that the World Wildlife Fund has timed the release of its report on the depletion of the habitat for the emperor penguin for the Bali confab. "The coldest place on earth is warming, threatening the birds' very survival."

NOTHING TO FEAR BUT IRAN ITSELF NBC and CBS filed from the campaign trail. CBS' Jeff Greenfield offered a brief stand-up from the spin room in Iowa after the Republican Presidential candidates debated for the Des Moines Register earlier in the afternoon. The headline was "the dog that did not bark." He had expected a "tough exchange" between Iowa frontrunners Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee and none materialized. NBC's Andrea Mitchell turned to the Democratic side to investigate precisely what Hillary Rodham Clinton is referring to when she campaigns on her experience in the White House. "Mixed" was Mitchell's word for her record as First Lady. She was "widely blamed for a healthcare proposal so secretive and complex it died at birth." As for her claim to have been "the face of America" for her husband's foreign policy, Mitchell inquired of Madeleine Albright, a Rodham Clinton supporter, whether Albright, instead, had not been "the face of American foreign policy." "Well, I was Secretary of State and I developed and carried out policy. She was the human face. We were partners."

Question #4 in Katie Couric's series of ten Primary Questions--like #2 last week--focused on fear. That second question asked what candidates were afraid of losing. This one went: "What country frightens you the most?" Last week, Republican Fred Thompson had boasted that he was "afraid of nothing." Now his bravado evaporates. "Iran," he replied because "they have been killing our people for a long time through Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations." He did not attach a number of deaths to that incendiary charge. In all, six of the ten candidates Couric questioned--four Republicans and two Democrats--named Iran. Both Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani asserted, as a fact, that Teheran has a nuclear weapons program. Presumably they offered those soundbites before last week's National Intelligence Estimate found that the weapons development had been suspended four years ago. Pakistan frightens two other Democrats; China frights one; and no nation--but the non-state actor of "radical Islamic extremism"--frightens Republican John McCain.

FINGER FOOD & FREE BEER To celebrate the Yuletide season, ABC sent Brian Ross to the nation's capital on The Money Trail. He checked how inside-the-Beltway lobbyists wine and dine members of Congress now stricter rules on entertainment have been introduced. The new law cracks down on lobbyist-paid restaurant meals and "intimate gatherings." Accordingly, they ban paying for knife-and-fork food and require "widely attended" events. The lobby responds with "champagne, chocolate fondue and finger food--lots of finger food" in vast halls, like the nuclear power industry's party in Union Station. Then Ross found a second trick for spreading seasonal cheer, courtesy of the beer wholesalers' lobby. It made use of the cafeteria of the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill as a catering hall for no charge. That is because heir party, with 50 different kinds of beer, counted as "an educational event."

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 senior general was assassinated in Lebanon…the HIB vaccine against meningitis in toddlers has been recalled by Merck…Ike Turner, former husband and rock-n-roll partner of Tina, died, aged 76…the White House released its Christmas videotape, again depicting the exploits of Scottie-dog Barney the First Pet.