The President set the network news agenda with a late afternoon press conference. All three newscasts led from the White House with the Story of the Day as George Bush refused to allow his aides to testify under oath on Capitol Hill about why the Justice Department fired those eight US Attorneys. He called such hearings "show trials." Instead he offered off-the-record unsworn interviews behind closed doors with Congressional leaders as a "reasonable way to avoid an impasse."    
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video thumbnailNBCJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysPresident Bush resists sub-poena of aidesDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailABC
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Justice Department fires eight US AttorneysPresident Bush resists sub-poena of aidesJonathan KarlWhite House
video thumbnailCBSJustice Department fires eight US AttorneysDoJ e-mails reveal discussions over oustersBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Presidential race advertising trendsUnofficial, amateur viral videos spread onlineRichard SchlesingerNew York
video thumbnailNBCGov Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) agenda analyzedEnjoys enhanced national political cloutCampbell BrownLos Angeles
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Iraq: Kurdistan is autonomous political regionMore prosperous, secure than rest of countryTerry McCarthyIraq
video thumbnailNBCSudan-US relations are complicatedCooperates with CIA on al-Qaeda monitoringAnn CurryKhartoum
video thumbnailABCAlzheimer's Disease coverageIncidence increases, now 5m patients nationwideDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailCBSAlzheimer's Disease coverageCongress debates family support, research fundsWyatt AndrewsCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCBoy scout goes missing in North Carolina woodsTracker dog finds boy, aged 12, after four daysMike von FremdNorth Carolina
WHITE HOUSE AIDES IN CROSS HAIRS The President set the network news agenda with a late afternoon press conference. All three newscasts led from the White House with the Story of the Day as George Bush refused to allow his aides to testify under oath on Capitol Hill about why the Justice Department fired those eight US Attorneys. He called such hearings "show trials." Instead he offered off-the-record unsworn interviews behind closed doors with Congressional leaders as a "reasonable way to avoid an impasse."

NBC's David Gregory noted that Bush's statement was "hastily arranged…to set the stage for a showdown with Democrats." By contrast, when Bill Clinton was President, "more than two dozen" White House advisors agreed to testify. When Democrats insisted that key Bush aides take an oath too, CBS' Jim Axelrod aired the punning reply of the Senate's Texas Republican John Cornyn: "Democrats see Karl Rove behind every Bush." ABC's Jonathan Karl (subscription required) characterized the Congressional reaction to the White House offer as "scorn" and predicted subpoenas, which the White House will fight "all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary."

Only CBS followed up from the Justice Department with an analysis of 3,000 pages of internal e-mail discussions about how to handle the uproar. Bob Orr saw "confusion at the highest levels" over how to account for the firings, however "the big questions remain unanswered. Who first floated the idea of firing the prosecutors? Who put together the hit list? How much influence did the White House have in the whole affair?"

ABC and NBC both sought political analysis from their Sunday morning anchors. Tim Russert (at the tail of the Gregory videostream) of NBC's Meet the Press concluded that Bush had listened to those Republican advisors who warned that Democrats would not be placated with the dismissal of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales so he had to "hang tough." George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week took Bush's comments as a means to protect Rove: "If they throw the Attorney General overboard too early, Democrats will come straight at the White House."

ABC anchor Charles Gibson observed that "Washington has been filled with people in the last couple of days who thought they knew--and said they knew--what was going to happen to the Attorney General." Those "people" seemed like a reference to CBS' Axelrod, who reported last week that it was "inevitable" that Gonzales would be fired. Axelrod now was obliged to note that the President "forcefully voiced his support for his embattled Attorney General."

BREAKTHROUGH In other political news, CBS' Richard Schlesinger filed a full report on the latest Campaign 2008 advertising that NBC's in-house political analysts Chuck Todd touched on yesterday. The ad in question purports to be made by the Barack Obama campaign, portraying rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as an Orwellian Big Sister in a tribute to Apple Computer's famous iconoclastic 1984 commercial for Macintosh. Schlesinger updated us on the latest development on CNN, in which Obama officially stated that the spot was not produced by his campaign: "We do not have the technical capacity to create something like that," he told Larry King.

"Voter-generated content is the wild card in 2008," Micah Sifrey of declared. So Schlesinger traced the ad's progress. It was posted on YouTube by an anonymous ParkRidge47--named for a Chicago suburb and Rodham Clinton's year of birth. There "it had already been viewed by more than a million people online before broadcasters discovered it." Now viewership exceeds 8m as the video has migrated "from YouTube to your tube."

BLOWING SMOKE Next year's Super Tuesday Presidential primary in the first week of February got a huge boost last week when Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger agreed that California would participate. It turned his state's voters into key players in deciding who will be each party's nominee. NBC's Campbell Brown observed that it also elevates Schwarzenegger himself into the role of kingmaker--but in which party? Nominally a Republican, Brown pointed out that conservative talkradio host Rush Limbaugh called him "a Democrat pretending to be a Republican" with his support for universal healthcare, limits on greenhouse gasses and stem-cell research. Schwarzenegger responded: "Limbaugh is irrelevant. I am not his servant. I am the people's servant." Then he lit up a giant cigar.

KURDISH ENCLAVE ABC's Where Things Stand series marking the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War took Terry McCarthy (subscription required) to the mountains of Kurdistan. The nearly autonomous region, with its own border checkpoints, is so secure from the rest of Iraq's violence that a local shepherd professed his major fear is not from terrorists but from wolves. Sheep's heads are the local gastronomic delicacy. The population of Kurdistan is growing as Iraqis move north to escape the violence. McCarthy showed us the $1bn commercial real estate development in downtown Irbil, built by Nizar Hana "one of the most optimistic people in Iraq."

Meanwhile CBS compiled the anecdotes of a handful of correspondents--not including the still-convalescing Kimberly Dozier--for its series 4 Years of War: Byron Pitts showed his gas mask; David Martin showed a tattered $100 bill from a USAF Stealth Fighter air raid; Harry Smith described the tension of riding in a HumVee; Barry Petersen remembered "complete danger all the time…and it is the Americans who get blamed." Elizabeth Palmer recalled a young homesick sergeant who thought he was helping a Baghdad family with food, clothing and medicine but was in fact turning them into targets: "The things he brought were probably the things that were going to get them killed."

KHARTOUM CONFIDENTIAL Yesterday, NBC's Ann Curry tried to pin down Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on the atrocities in Darfur. In the second part of her Exclusive, Curry pointed out why the United States is reluctant to exert wholehearted pressure on al-Bashir's regime to make peace in the region. She called it "a complex relationship." Khartoum, "flush with oil money," is also "a crossroads for militants, including al-Qaeda," heading for war. The government has been an invaluable ally for the CIA ever since Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan: "Cooperation is still frequent and at the highest levels," Curry's unnamed "government" source told her. She did not specify which government.

DEMENTED The publicity department of the Alzheimer's Association had a boffo day. All three networks covered its estimate that the disease now afflicts 5m Americans, an increase of 10% since 2000. It is not that the nation is becoming more demented, merely that we are growing older, ABC's in-house physician Timothy Johnson explained to Dan Harris. NBC illustrated the point with these statistics: 2% of Americans between 65 and 74 have the disease yet 42% of those older than 85 are afflicted. Nevertheless, babyboomers account for some half million patients, CBS' Randall Pinkston pointed out, diagnosed early with memory tests, genetic spinal taps and brain scans for plaque build-up.

For background, NBC revived its Trading Places series about eldercare: Robert Bazell noted that fully 70% of patients are cared for by family at home. CBS sent Wyatt Andrews to Capitol Hill to check on the federal government's response: $120bn from Medicare to treat patients; proposed tax credits for home care; and a plan for a 100% increase in medical research funds. Caring for the demented elderly is so expensive that the cost of a successful treatment would be "spending millions to save billions," Andrews argued. ABC's John McKenzie (subscription required) offered scant encouragement on that front: the pharmaceutical industry is making slow progress developing treatments, let along cures, "one of the great disappointments in medicine."

BOY AND DOG And all three networks also had reporters in Doughton Park where a four-day search through North Carolina woods for a missing twelve-year-old boy scout ended successfully. NBC's Ron Mott mentioned that Michael Auberry was "homesick" and got lost trying to hitchhike back to his family. Search teams had tried helicopters and hi-tech thermal imaging, mused ABC's Mike von Fremd, but a search dog Gandalf "was the day's real hero," said CBS' Mark Strassmann. A volunteer's pet sniffed out the boy along a creek half a mile from the campsite.

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: both British Petroleum and federal OSHA authorities were criticized for the oil refinery disaster that killed 15 near Galveston two years ago…another top Baath Party leader was hanged in Iraq…a reorganized Delta Airlines is soon to emerge from bankruptcy…Vice President Dick Cheney's ailment in his left leg is slow to improve so he returned to hospital.