Bringing troops home from Iraq is a mark of failure--except when it is the sign of victory. The looming decision by the British government to withdraw from Iraq was the Story of the Day, although the news broke so late that the networks covered it with live stand-ups rather than produced videotape packages. CBS and NBC led their newscasts from London. ABC, which specializes in Sex-and-Family stories, led with a premature baby survivor instead.    
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video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBritish troops to hand over control, leave BasraKeith MillerLondon
video thumbnailCBSBritish royals coverageArmy officer Prince Harry may fight in IraqMark PhillipsLondon
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSmall towns suffer disproportionate death tollDean ReynoldsChicago
video thumbnailNBCMilitary combat casualties suffer disabilitiesDC's Walter Reed out-patients suffer in squalorAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMilitary detains terrorist suspects in Cuban campInmates denied access to federal courtsPete WilliamsSupreme Court
video thumbnailCBSSmoking: tobacco industry faces liability lawsuitsSupreme Court nixes $80m damages in single caseWyatt AndrewsSupreme Court
video thumbnailNBCCIA undercover agent's name leaked: perjury trialProsecution, defense make closing argumentsKelly O'DonnellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Barack Obama campaignMakes fundraising trip for Hollywood dollarsBill WhitakerLos Angeles
video thumbnailABC
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Premature babies can survive despite extreme oddsMiami 21-week birth cited by pro-life activistsDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailABCGang violence by inner city teenagers escalatesHeavily-armed turf wars in Palm Beach CountyPierre ThomasFlorida
TROOP WITHDRAWAL Bringing troops home from Iraq is a mark of failure--except when it is the sign of victory. The looming decision by the British government to withdraw from Iraq was the Story of the Day, although the news broke so late that the networks covered it with live stand-ups rather than produced videotape packages. CBS and NBC led their newscasts from London. ABC, which specializes in Sex-and-Family stories, led with a premature baby survivor instead.

The 7,100 British soldiers in Iraq are to be completely pulled out by the end of next year. NBC's Keith Miller gave us Prime Minister Tony Blair's formal rationale: "Operation Sinbad, securing the city of Basra, is a success. The Iraqi army has now taken up front line positions there." CBS' Mark Phillips provided the background: "Blair has been under huge political pressure at home" because the war is "very unpopular."

All three White House correspondents chipped in. "This is good news," unnamed sources told NBC's David Gregory (at the tail of the Miller videostream). ABC's Martha Raddatz (no link) was skeptical about the " success" spin coming out of London. Basra "seems to be far from completely secure," she observed and offered the theory that the British want out in order to send more troops to Afghanistan. "They are stretched thin. Does that sound familiar?" Unidentified White House aides told CBS' Jim Axelrod that they "would like this to be a model for what would happen with US troops." Instead, he shrugged, "more are going in."

And CBS returned to Phillips in London for a celebrity closer on the Iraq theme. Prince Harry, the Queen of England's grandson, is an army lieutenant and his regiment may be sent to Iraq before Prime Minister Blair's pullout is complete. Phillips showed us a movie clip from Lawrence Olivier's Henry V to illustrate how modern wars are "much more complicated" than the "clearer" battle lines of Harry's ancestral namesake. Phillips forgets Henry V's infamy at the Battle of Agincourt: he did not have his prisoners of war humiliated abu-Ghraib-style; he had them massacred.

DEAD & WOUNDED ABC fleshed out an Associated Press survey, which found that a disproportionate number of the US military dead in Iraq joined up from small towns. Dean Reynolds' (subscription required) moving report offered a litany of obscure outposts of grief: Crimora Va, Lena Wisc, Beatrice Neb, St Anne Ill, Alanson Mich. "There is dwindling support for the war in rural America, where it was once strongest."

NBC had Andrea Mitchell follow up on Washington Post coverage of the facilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Mitchell noted the frequent photo-ops of President Bush visiting the state-of-the-art in-patient care for disabled combat casualties. By contrast, the out-patient buildings are decrepit, vermin-infested, rotting and moldy. The Pentagon had ordered a "hurried fix-up" after the Post's expose but Mitchell was unconvinced: "The building reeks of bleach," she sniffed.

LEGAL EAGLES There was a split vote on the day's key legal developments. NBC was the only network to assign a reporter to an appeals court panel on suspects in the War on Terrorism. "The Bush Administration had hoped that putting those detainees in Guantanamo Bay would keep them out of US courts," Pete Williams pointed out. "That strategy is working." The 400-or-so inmates held in Cuba for five years and counting "have no legal rights to plead for their freedom in federal courts." Williams speculated that Congress, now under Democratic control, may vote to reverse this ruling.

The other two networks sent correspondents to the Supreme Court to cover a win by Philip Morris. The tobacco firm appealed against an $80m Oregon award to a Marlboro widow back in 1999. The Court objected to the jury considering all those that cigarettes have killed instead of concentrating on just the smoker in question. CBS' Wyatt Andrews called it a victory for "all big business trying to limit punitive damage awards." But ABC's Jan Crawford Greenburg cautioned that the Court "refused to hand Philip Morris that sweeping victory it wanted"--a ruling that "big money damages" are unConstitutional.

And only NBC had a reporter cover the closing arguments in the Lewis Libby perjury trial. NBC had to, really, since the lack of credibility of its own DC bureau chief Tim Russert was cited by defense attorney Ted Wells as the key argument for acquittal. Kelly O'Donnell dutifully told us about the lawyer's attack on her boss: "If you say 'I believe Russert beyond a reasonable doubt,' then my client's life is destroyed." And she repeated prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's innuendos: "A cloud still hangs" over Vice President Dick Cheney.

SHOW ME THE MONEY CBS' Phillips used Lawrence Olivier. His colleague Bill Whitaker responded with a Tom Cruise clip: "Hollywood has always felt like the Jerry Maguire of politics. Candidates would take the money and then run to smaller states with early primaries." But next year, the Golden State will move its primary forward to early February, to "play a bigger role." The news hook for Whitaker's report was Barack Obama's $1.5m fundraiser--part of the "the political pot of gold Hollywood liberally dishes out." Hillary Rodham Clinton cannot take celebrity donations for granted in the way her husband used to. Hedging his bets, director Steven Spielberg "is throwing fundraisers for both."

UNTIMELY RIPPED A four-month-old Miami baby was chosen as ABC's lead. Amelia Taylor is still tiny, only four pounds, and has defective lungs and digestive system. But the headline is that she is alive at all. When she was born, Dan Harris (subscription required) told us, she weighed ten ounces and was the height of a ballpoint pen. Because she had been in her mother's womb for just 21 weeks, she is being used "as a national poster child" by pro-life activists to repeal laws in 49 states that fail to ban abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. Only North Carolina currently imposes such a time limit.

EXCLUSIVE CLUBS ABC's Pierre Thomas continued Mean Streets, his revealing series on teenage gang crime. It is striking how tiny the gangs are for the mayhem they cause. Yesterday Thomas (subscription required) told us about the iiBloods in East Orange NJ: the group had just 42 members yet was responsible for two dozen murders. Next he went to Palm Beach County Fla where the gangs are even smaller: just 3,000 hoodlums spread across 200 rival outfits. Nevertheless there is "enormous fire power on the street," Thomas reported, showing off impounded assault weapons. Police told him most of the violence arose from a "fierce turf war" for control of the county's narcotics and prostitution among just ten of the 200 gangs.

NOT SO FAT Last year on Mardi Gras, six months after Hurricane Katrina, all three network newscasts anchored from New Orleans. CBS' Bob Schieffer signed off with beads around his neck. A year later, everyone stayed in New York (CBS was anchored by substitute Russ Mitchell). No network even sent a reporter--although CBS had Tracy Smith file from New Orleans yesterday--so they offered no more than videotape clips of the parades.

NBC, as usual, made the greatest post-Katrina effort. Anchor Brian Williams had made his progress report on the city's slow reconstruction two weeks ago, before the festivities started. So for Mardi Gras itself he invited New Orleans' favorite son Wynton Marsalis to play a track from his CD From the Plantation to the Penitentiary live from Jazz at Lincoln Center to close NBC's newscast.

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, as mentioned, were led by Mardi Gras in New Orleans. In addition, terrorist carbomb attacks in Baghdad killed another 17 civilians…Merck Pharmaceuticals has halted its lobbying campaign to make preventive vaccines for cervical cancer mandatory…the Dow Jones Industrial Average set yet another all-time high.