Yesterday the news that Britain would establish a timetable to pull its troops out of Iraq broke so late that the networks provided only truncated live coverage. Following the official announcement in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Tony Blair, all three newscasts gave it the full treatment as Story of the Day. They each led their newscasts from London.    
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video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBritain's PM Blair announces troop pullout planJim SciuttoLondon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBasra militias forced British troops to retreatLara LoganBaghdad
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesVP Cheney hails British pullout as progressJonathan KarlJapan
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesImpact of British pullout on US role assessedDavid GregoryWhite House
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2008 Barack Obama campaignBacker David Geffen taunts ex-friends ClintonsJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careCosts projected to skyrocket in next decadeByron PittsNew York
video thumbnailNBCMedical long-term care insurance popularity growsCosts and benefits of nursing home coverageAnne ThompsonMaryland
video thumbnailCBSAdult children are caretakers for aging parentsFew employers offer eldercare aid to workforceKelly WallaceVirginia
video thumbnailNBCWar on Drugs: prescription painkiller abuseIllicit pills sold by phony online pharmaciesMark PotterFlorida
video thumbnailABCInternet e-mail volume is enormous, addictiveOnline 12-step course helps users kick habitDan HarrisNew York
COALITION GROWS LESS WILLING Yesterday the news that Britain would establish a timetable to pull its troops out of Iraq broke so late that the networks provided only truncated live coverage. Following the official announcement in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Tony Blair, all three newscasts gave it the full treatment as Story of the Day. They each led their newscasts from London.

CBS' Richard Roth characterized the "transfer of security to Iraqi forces" as Blair's rationale for the pullout. He quoted one of Blair's qualified claims of success to parliament: "Basra has not faced the orgy of terrorism confronting Baghdad." NBC's Ned Colt quoted another: "There is no Sunni insurgency. There is no al-Qaeda base." ABC's Jim Sciutto pointed out that Blair "faced enormous pressure from his own party to begin the withdrawal before he steps down as Prime Minister" later this year. As for Britain's continuing membership in President George Bush's coalition, CBS' Roth heard "not a whisper, from his own party or opponents, suggesting the British should consider staying and redeploying to bolster American forces."

TAIL BETWEEN LEGS CBS was the only network to follow up from Baghdad itself. Lara Logan scrutinized Blair's claims that his troops had succeeded in securing the southern Iraqi provinces around Basra and were leaving because their mission was accomplished, as the saying goes. Not quite. Logan recounted how the British were first greeted as liberators but were "forced to swap their berets for helmets and pull back into their bases as their troops repeatedly came under attack." Now rival Shiite militias vie to dominate the oil-rich region. Logan's unnamed US military sources worried that the British pullout "will give Iran free rein to continue its support for these powerful militias."

SPIN ZONE What will the impact of the Blair decision be on Bush's war leadership? The three networks took different tacks. In an ABC Exclusive, Jonathan Karl (subscription required) obtained the reaction from Vice President Dick Cheney during his visit to Japan. He was pleased by the British pullout, seeing "significant progress…an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well."

From the White House, NBC's David Gregory quoted both that Cheney soundbite from his rival Karl's Exclusive and similar upbeat spin from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "She denied that the so-called Coalition of the Willing in Iraq is falling apart." By contrast, Democratic Presidential candidates meeting for an early debate in Las Vegas "urged the President to follow Britain's lead." Bob Schieffer, anchor of CBS' Face the Nation, saw in Blair's announcement an echo of that Vietnam War dictum: "Declare victory and just leave." He predicted this will make "the President more isolated than he is now." Schieffer flatly contradicted Secretary Rice: the coalition "is now coming apart."

SHOW BUSINESS That Las Vegas debate, which was moderated by George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC's This Week, inspired a more trivial angle from ABC and CBS. Both picked up on the soundbite by Hillary Rodham Clinton criticizing that old bugaboo "the politics of personal destruction." As CBS' Gloria Borger asked: "What is that about?" The answer was a column written by Maureen Dowd of The New York Times that quotes the Clintons' onetime big-money show business backer and Lincoln Bedroom sleepover guest David Geffen sniping at his former First Friends. Borger called it "a juicy divorce in Hollywood" when Geffen transferred his backing from the Clintons to Barack Obama.

So now candidate Obama stands accused of being a hypocrite and a negative campaigner because a couple of columnist's snippets of political gossip are attributed to a Tinseltown supporter. When a Clinton campaign spokesman leveled that charge, ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) pointed out that Geffen "has no official role with the Obama campaign."

"The campaign came early and it has gotten ugly early too," concluded Tapper. The coverage is coming early and it is getting silly early too.

NOT HEALTHY Serious coverage should have come from Byron Pitts' report for CBS on the latest ten-year projections for healthcare costs. By 2016, spending is expected to double, accounting for 20% of the entire economy. The proportion of healthcare costs borne by federal and state governments will hardly rise at all (from 45% to 49%), so planning for the increase is a personal as well as a political problem. But by anecdotalizing, Pitts lost the wood for the trees. He spent so much time on the tribulations of a single widow spending $7,200 each month on ovarian cancer medication that he overlooked the general public policy options.

In NBC's continuing series Trading Places on eldercare, Anne Thompson also looked at the personal finance side of healthcare costs: is it sensible for middle-aged people to buy long-term insurance to cover the $70,000 annual costs of long-term residency in a nursing home? "This type of coverage does not come cheap," Thompson warned before stating the obvious. "You must budget for it because if you stop paying your premiums, you lose your coverage."

SOLIDARITY FOREVER Simultaneously, CBS is running a series on adult children looking after their aged parents called The Caregivers. Kelly Wallace told us that few employers--one corporation out of four--include eldercare support for such workers even though it should improve productivity, morale and loyalty. Johnny Taylor, the consultant CBS commissioned to help with Wallace's report, predicted that as the population ages, workers will demand such benefits just as they demanded preschool daycare when they were younger.

Anchor Couric rounded out Wallace's report with this expert advice for workers: gather together like-minded colleagues and approach the human resources department to seek benefits modifications. Translate those euphemisms and Couric seems quite the agitator--she might as well have said "organize a union" so you have the clout to "engage in collective bargaining."

HOOKED ONLINE That eyecatching mix of online commerce and addictive behavior caught the attention of both ABC and NBC. NBC's Mark Potter took the serious approach, following a series of DEA busts of online pharmacies in Florida. They were shut down for organizing sham medical exams to generate prescriptions and then dispensing overdose quantities of "dangerous and addictive" painkillers. Potter called it "electronic drug trafficking."

ABC's Dan Harris (subscription required) took a lighthearted look at Marsha Egan's twelve-step program to help office workers who are addicted to e-mails. Harris shared symptoms of e-ddiction such as e-mailing messages to people sitting next to you rather than talking to them directly. Egan, by the way, disseminates her twelve steps…via e-mail.

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: consumer inflation moderated in the latest statistics from January…terrorist bombers in Baghdad are modifying their tactics to add toxic chlorine gas to their explosions…Iran has refused to discontinue its uranium enrichment program…the jury has begun its deliberations in the Lewis Libby perjury trial…the FDA warns of adverse side-effects in Attention Deficit Disorder medication.