On a day when little happened with a weekend of holiday shopping and blizzards beginning, what can a newscast do to fill its headlines? Well, there is always the weather. Looming snowstorms on the great plains and along the northeastern border with Canada were the Story of the Day. NBC led with winter for the fourth day out of the last five, this time focusing on New England. ABC led from Kansas where the electricity blackouts from this week's icestorm persist. CBS chose to follow up on yesterday's headlines for its lead--the Mitchell Report into doping by baseball cheats.    
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video thumbnailCBSWinter weatherOklahoma City loses million trees to icestormSeth DoaneOklahoma
video thumbnailNBCBaseball players steroids abuse investigatedFans resent cheating, urge strict punishmentMike TaibbiNew York
video thumbnailCBSBaseball players steroids abuse investigatedHuman growth hormone is new cheating threatArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: steroids abuse by teenagersAnti-doping backlash grows among HS athletesJohn BermanNew York
video thumbnailCBS2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignUnsure negative response to challenge by ObamaJim AxelrodIowa
video thumbnailCBS2008 Mike Huckabee campaignCriticized on taxes, immigration, gift ethicsNancy CordesNew York
video thumbnailABCElectric utilities seek to reduce peak power useSmart meters permit discount flextime home useDavid WrightWashington DC
video thumbnailABCArctic Ocean ice cap warms, melts, shrinksWaters may be icefree by summer's end 2013Bill BlakemoreNew York
video thumbnailNBCBay of Bengal islands threatened by storm erosionRising waters make Sundarban islanders refugeesIan WilliamsIndia
video thumbnailNBCHurricane Katrina aftermath along Gulf CoastNew Orleans housing shortage, homeless in parksMartin SavidgeNew Orleans
WHEN IN DOUBT THERE IS ALWAYS WEATHER On a day when little happened with a weekend of holiday shopping and blizzards beginning, what can a newscast do to fill its headlines? Well, there is always the weather. Looming snowstorms on the great plains and along the northeastern border with Canada were the Story of the Day. NBC led with winter for the fourth day out of the last five, this time focusing on New England. ABC led from Kansas where the electricity blackouts from this week's icestorm persist. CBS chose to follow up on yesterday's headlines for its lead--the Mitchell Report into doping by baseball cheats.

The forecast for snow this weekend posed problems because it will fall before the mess from the previous wave of winter weather has been cleared. NBC had Victoria Block of its Boston affiliate WHDH-TV describe the foot of snow that fell during Thursday's rush hour even as a nor'easter is expected on Saturday. "When it starts to fall at a rate of three inches an hour it is really hard to keep up." CBS and ABC turned to the plains instead. ABC's Eric Horng (no link) was in Kansas where one in five residents is still without electric power, so for power crews "a difficult job just got tougher" as they brace for a forecast foot of snow. CBS' Seth Doane went to one Oklahoma City neighborhood "known for its trees"--that are now no more than firewood. "Burdened by the weight of ice more than a million trees in the Oklahoma City area were damaged."

CLEAN UP HITTERS The investigation into doping by steroids in major league baseball was so newsworthy that it transcended the sports section, noted NBC's Mike Taibbi. He showed us "ugly front pages scream the obvious headlines" and picked up on sentiment that the Mitchell Report should result in "more than just another list of suspect big names and another promise to finally clean up the game." For example, Marion Jones, the onetime Olympic golden girl caught cheating at track and field, is facing more than shame--she is "perhaps headed for prison." In his lead story for CBS, Armen Keteyian moved on to HGH "the new drug of choice in sport," a synthetic form of a protein produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate cell development. In recent years Human Growth Hormone has been widely available in anti-aging clinics: "In Hollywood it is seen as a fountain of youth for reducing fat and wrinkles. In sports it is used to build muscles, to speed recovery and to extend careers." The timeline to develop a laboratory test to catch HGH cheats "is likely to be years."

On Thursday CBS' John Blackstone followed up on baseball's professional superstars to examine the much more frequent abuse of steroids by amateur athletes in high school. Now John Berman, too, takes A Closer Look for ABC and his reporting paints a picture that is less bleak than Blackstone's. Berman found that since 2004, when the major league's scandal first attracted notoriety, the reported abuse of steroids by high school students has been cut in half. Berman credited education campaigns about health risks such as "heart disease, liver tumors, depression" and random testing in some states.

THREE WEEKS LEFT IN IOWA NBC decided to skip campaign coverage on the last day of the week--offering only a promo of Sunday's Meet the Press, where Republican Mitt Romney will answer Tim Russert's questions. CBS had Jim Axelrod play catch up on Thursday's reporting by NBC's Andrea Mitchell and ABC's Kate Snow (no link) on the travails of Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, "reeling from its roughest month yet," as Axelrod put it, "trying to hit the reset button." Axelrod found her "softening her image with new ads featuring her mother and her daughter." As George Stephanopoulos (no link) pointed out on ABC, Iowa for Rodham Clinton "is all about women. She does not do as well with Iowa women as she does in the rest of the country."

ABC's Stephanopoulos anticipated negative attacks against Republican Mike Huckabee in Iowa: "Romney has invested too much time and too much money in Iowa to lose. " CBS also summarized the gathering negative attacks. Huckabee's "surprise rise has put a big bull's eye on his back," as Nancy Cordes put it. Cordes outlined a trio of Huckabee's perceived vulnerabilities. First is his record of raising taxes in Arkansas, where he has a reputation as a "pro-life, pro-gun liberal." Second is his switch from criticizing a punitive push against immigrants who are here illegally as "driven by racism or nativism" to his new denunciation of amnesty and support for a border fence. Third is the issue NBC's Lisa Myers so enjoyed exploring on Tuesday, namely Huckabee's receipt of "expensive gifts" while in the Governor's Mansion and his department store registries to acquire more as he left office. Cordes quoted Huckabee's response to those questions: "Again it is Arkansas politics. Welcome to my world."

LATE NIGHT LAUNDRY ABC anchor Charles Gibson briefly outlined the highlights of the Energy Bill that is heading for President George Bush's signature. They include measures to increase automobile fuel efficiency, to boost ethanol production and to conserve electricity. David Wright then followed up with an innovation by electricity utilities--not to use less power but to use it less expensively. Smart electric meters record not only how many kilowatts a household consumes but when, allowing the utility to offer a discount for off-peak use. A "disciplined family," Wright suggested, can wait to clean its dishes and wash its laundry until just before bedtime--and save 11% of its utility bill.

WATER'S EDGE Finally the negotiations at the United Nations Bali Conference on global warming got a glimmer of attention. NBC had Anne Thompson update us on a compromise about how much greenhouse emissions will be reduced by 2040, but she was not on the scene in Indonesia to report it out. Based in the New York studio Thompson relayed reports that the United States and the European Union are "both going to get a little bit of what they want." The US succeeded in keeping a 25%-40% reduction out of the text of the communique; the EU succeeded in having those specific numbers cited in a footnote.

Global warming was not skipped over utterly, however. Ignoring the dry discourse of diplomacy, both NBC and ABC reported on the impact of climate change on the water's edge. ABC's New York based Bill Blakemore covered a prediction by NASA that the first summer to see the complete melting of the Arctic Ocean will be sooner than expected--2013 instead of 2040. Blakemore reminded us how the Arctic acts as a "cooling system" for the entire planet: "Ice, because it is white, reflects the sun's heat right back into outer space." An ocean of water would absorb that heat instead. NBC's In Depth feature sent Ian Williams to the Sundarban Islands of the Bengal Delta, population four million, land that the United Nations has warned "could disappear completely as a result of more severe storms and rising sea levels." Williams showed us the islanders replanting shoreline mangrove forests and retrieving mud at each low tide to rebuild embankments.

Confusingly, Williams warned that "sea levels are rising faster than elsewhere in the world." So in Sundarban, apparently, water fails to find its level.

ENVIRONMENTAL REFUGEES NBC's Williams called the Sundarban islanders "among the world's first environmental refugees." His colleague Martin Savidge failed to make a case that the subjects of his story are rivals for that title. Savidge showed us "the fastest growing neighborhood in New Orleans" right next to City Hall. It is a tent city for the town's homeless, who now number 12,000; before Hurricane Katrina a larger city had half that many on the streets. Savidge pointed out that "rents have nearly doubled" since the floods and that 4,000 units of storm-damaged public housing have been demolished. Besides those in tents in the park, hundreds more "bed down beneath city overpasses…they are finally back in the city they once fled but still a long way from home."

UPDATES Thursday we extended a gentle admonishment (text link) to NBC's Mark Potter for his failure to mention his network's corporate-sibling relationship with the light bulb business. His anchor Brian Williams acknowledged the error on-air in response to a viewer's e-mail. "We sometimes forget who our parents are around here. General Electric, parent company of NBC Universal, makes a lot of things, including LED lights, and we should have said so."

In Tuesday's episode of CBS' Primary Questions, the one on global warming hype, we noted that (text link) a trio of Republican candidates called for energy independence from imported oil: one of those was Mike Huckabee, who used the opaque formulation "oil-free of energy consumption" later clarifying that as being "not dependent upon oil coming from countries who, frankly, are not very friendly to us."

Huckabee's soundbite was transcribed by Heather Moyer on the Clean Energy Watch blog of the Sierra Club environmental lobby, with one error. She skipped the "oil" and quoted Huckabee as wanting to be "free of energy." Her misquote was picked up by Jesse Walker on the libertarian Reason blog without the "not dependent upon oil coming from countries" clarification. Huckabee, as a consequence, was ridiculed in Reason's comments as an anti-scientist who wants to repeal the Laws of Thermodynamics. That ridicule inspired Andrew Sullivan on his Daily Dish blog at The Atlantic to call the line a Huckabee "classic." Sullivan, who runs an anti-clerical propaganda campaign against so-called Christianist control of his Republican Party teased Huckabee as "energy free," relying solely on Reason's decontextualized quote of a misquote.

Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist preacher and self-styled "conservationist," did nothing to embody the stereotype of the evangelical enemy of science in his Tuesday answers to Couric's questions. His call for energy independence was indistinguishable from that of Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani. The only thing that made him worthy of the ridicule of Reason or the Daily Dish was the fact that the Sierra Club had misquoted him.

FURTHER UPDATE: surfing around, I have found three other bloggers that rely on the misquote of Huckabee's soundbite to ridicule him. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly calls Huckabee a "village idiot," again linking to the error at the Sierra Club. Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report calls Huckabee's plan "physically impossible" and repeats the misquote even though he links to the original videostream. Eric Kleefeld at Talking Points Memo links to Benen's misquote in order to tease Huckabee for making "Al Gore look like Montgomery Burns."

David Roberts on the environmental blog Gristmill has done the right thing and corrected his initial misquote of Huckabee. Roberts' quibble is with Couric's phrasing of her question, using the "overblown" angle. I disagree. It worked as a device to separate the ten responses on a spectrum and it allowed candidates to address two separate, and important, issues regarding climate change: 1) is the science accurate or exaggerated? 2) which public policy solutions are insufficient, appropriate, excessive?

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: inflation is accelerating at the consumer level, exceeding 4% year to date…the suicide rate in middle age is rising faster than among young adults…commercial airline pilots will now be forced to retire at age 65 instead of 60…the contraceptive technique of tubal ligation has been improved by using radio waves…Wackenhut, the private security firm, will no longer guard Exelon nuclear power plants…shagadelic--"sexy, especially in a psychedelic or a retro way"--is among the words added to the vocabulary of the online Oxford English Dictionary.