CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MARCH 23, 2007
A Constitutional showdown over the War in Iraq has been shaping up ever since Democrats gained control of Congress with a commitment to pull troops out and President George Bush responded with a decision to send more troops in. That clash inched one step closer: the House of Representatives voted to pay $100bn-or-so more for the war only on condition that the pullout begin; and the President pledged to veto any bill with those strings attached. Both ABC and NBC led with the vote--but amazingly it did not qualify as Story of the Day. In a shocking example of warped priorities the networks collectively spent more time on the discovery of rat poison in pet food.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MARCH 23, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesHouse passes troops-out funding bill, faces vetoChip ReidCapitol Hill
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesHouse passes troops-out funding bill, faces vetoJake TapperCapitol Hill
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Iraq: political coalition government under fireDeputy Premier al-Rubaie dodges assassinationTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIran military expansion feared in Persian GulfRevolutionary Guard confronts British militaryAllen PizzeyBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSSmoking: tobacco industry faces liability lawsuitsDoJ ordered litigator to soften damages demandsBob SchiefferWashington DC
video thumbnailNBC2008 John Edwards campaignWife's cancer translates into renewed sympathyAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSFine art teacher continues painting without handsLearns to use prostheses after amputationsSteve HartmanAlabama
video thumbnailNBCCreative writing workshop funded by thumb wrestlerSF champion's book pays for children's programJosh MankiewiczSan Francisco
video thumbnailABCPet food for cats and dogs tainted, recalledToxin identified as imported rat poisonDavid KerleyWashington DC
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Sea lion conservation efforts in Oregon backfireMammals hunt endangered Columbia River salmonNeal KarlinskyOregon
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
FOOD FOR FIDO OUTWEIGHS FUNDS FOR FIGHTING A Constitutional showdown over the War in Iraq has been shaping up ever since Democrats gained control of Congress with a commitment to pull troops out and President George Bush responded with a decision to send more troops in. That clash inched one step closer: the House of Representatives voted to pay $100bn-or-so more for the war only on condition that the pullout begin; and the President pledged to veto any bill with those strings attached. Both ABC and NBC led with the vote--but amazingly it did not qualify as Story of the Day. In a shocking example of warped priorities the networks collectively spent more time on the discovery of rat poison in pet food.

All three networks covered the House-Bush showdown from Capitol Hill. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson called the 218-212 vote "the slimmest of margins," achieved only by $13bn in extraneous spending "that have nothing to do with the War on Terror." Attkisson's turn of phrase is a trifle tendentious, since a minority of Democrats argues that the War in Iraq has nothing to do with the War on Terror, either.

ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) called Bush's mood "blistering" as he promised to veto the bill. Tapper explained the Democrats' defense against the President's charges that they are interfering with his conduct of the war: "They are not micromanaging the war…they are trying to end the war." Yet NBC's Chip Reid called the Democrats' chances of forcing a troop withdrawal "slim" since they have "nothing close" to the votes required to override the President's veto.

But if he does veto, how will the military get the money it needs? ABC's Pentagon correspondent Jonathan Karl (no link) warned that there is a three-week deadline to resolve the stand-off. After that the Defense Department would have to pay its bills by juggling its books, diverting funds from equipment repair and troop training.


INSIDE JOB In Baghdad itself, Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie dodged an assassin as a suicide bomber infiltrated his security detail. Only ABC assigned a correspondent to the story. Terry McCarthy (subscription required) narrated a Virtual View computer animation of the attack on the politician's home that killed nine others. Just last month al-Zubaie himself had warned ABC that he could not trust his bodyguards: al-Zubaie is the senior Sunni Arab politician in the coalition government, McCarthy explained, "as such he is seen as a traitor by Sunni hardliners." CBS' substitute anchor Russ Mitchell mentioned the story in passing. NBC paid it no attention.


INFLATABLE CBS led with a report from Baghdad--but not about Iraq. Allen Pizzey covered the detention of 15 British military personnel by Iran. The crew of sailors and marines was patrolling the waters near the Shaat al-Arab waterway in the very north of the Persian Gulf when they may or may not have strayed into Iran's territorial waters. CBS' computer graphics depicted the pickle the British were in: a couple of inflatable rafts surrounded by six Revolutionary Guard gunboats with "heavy bow-mounted guns."

At the Pentagon, CBS' David Martin called Iran's flotilla of high-speed gunboats "only part of a much larger struggle for control" of the Gulf. Also from the Pentagon, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski observed that the United States has a pair of aircraft carriers in the region but is being "very careful not to provoke a military clash." The US views the Britain-Iran conflict as "a diplomatic matter not a military fight." ABC only mentioned the incident in passing.


THANK YOU FOR SMOKING After all three networks concentrated last week on the Justice Department and its US Attorneys, only CBS picked up the story broken by The Washington Post about Sharon Eubanks, its litigator in a civil lawsuit against Big Tobacco. Bob Schieffer obtained an Exclusive with Eubanks, a career prosecutor who left the Justice Department of her own accord rather than being fired. Eubanks revealed how she was ordered "to go easy on tobacco companies" by Bush Administration appointees. She accused them of telling her to slash her request for damages from $130bn to $10bn; they dictated her closing argument for her; they had her withdraw a demand to have top tobacco executives fired; and they told key witnesses to change their testimony.


THE BIG C After John Edwards' Presidential campaign was thrust into unaccustomed prominence by the news of his wife's ill health, only NBC followed up by looking into the delicate question of whether Edwards' prospects have been enhanced by his wife's misfortune. "A blizzard of sympathetic stories" has been the "unintended result," Andrea Mitchell, found with $100,000 in unsolicited campaign contributions collected by an unaffiliated Website. NBC's in-house political analyst Chuck Todd told Mitchell that Elizabeth's relapse will reap benefits: he will "personally connect on the issue of healthcare" with millions of voters.

The safer, more obvious follow-up was on cancer itself. ABC's John McKenzie took A Closer Look at the survival prospects of the 20% of breast cancer patients whose tumors metastasize, as Elizabeth Edwards' has: if the cancer spreads to the bone it causes chronic pain. NBC's in-house physician Nancy Snyderman took the Edwards case as an example of the changing priorities in cancer care generally, less emphasis on finding cures, more on managing the disease as a chronic illness like diabetes, heart disease or HIV-AIDS. "There is now a place between cure and death--living with cancer and managing it day by day."

CBS skipped the topic, having already this week filed a two-parter Heal Thyself on cancer. On Wednesday, anchor Katie Couric profiled the ironic plight of Houston brain surgeon Sam Hassenbusch, who found a near-lethal tumor inside his own skull. Thursday, Couric followed up with an explanation of how cancer patients can join experimental clinical trials run by the National Cancer Institute. Dr Hassenbusch volunteered as a guinea pig in one of them.


NO FINGERS, ALL THUMBS It is Friday, which means week-ending human interest features. NBC and CBS both found an artistic angle. On Assignment America, CBS' Steve Hartman told us the macabre tale of the Alabama high school art teacher and painter who had both feet and both hands amputated when she had an adverse reaction to a common blood medicine. Becky Guinn would not give up painting, however: now she holds her brushes with hooks not fingers.

The digits on Oscar Villalon's hands are not only still attached, they are the finest in San Francisco. Villalon, a San Francisco Chronicle journalist, is the city's thumb wrestling champion and has just written a how-to book The Art of the Thumb. Villalon ostensibly qualified for NBC's Making a Difference feature because he wrote the book to raise funds for 826 Valencia, a children's creative writing workshop.

The true reason appeared to be the opportunity Villalon afforded to Josh Mankiewicz to bombard us with all things thumbery: thumb wrestling is "a mano-a-mano contest"…his book is "complete with notches so that you can thumb through it"…Villalon "always wins, hands down"…he is a "bare knuckle brawler who is singlehandedly Making a Difference in a digital age."


ANIMAL PLANET Then there is the rat poison, identified as the toxin in the moist pet food made, and now recalled, by Menufoods. Aminopterin is banned in this country and so may have arrived here in a shipment of gluten from wheat grown in rat-infested fields in China, ABC's David Kerley reported. NBC's Tom Costello called the entire week one of "fear and heartbreak" for pet owners nationwide even though the Food & Drug Administration's death toll for dogs and cats still stands at only 14. CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi consulted the American Veterinary Medical Association to find out whether that is all there is to the pet scare. She suspects not: New York City statistics that showed 5% of visits to animal clinics earlier this week have been for the kidney failure that the rat poison causes.

And for the second straight day ABC violated our rule for animal stories: most days none is indicated and never more than one per newscast. Yesterday ABC added Ned Potter's grizzly bears to the pets; now Neal Karlinsky (subscription required) showed us the battle between salmon and sea lion in the waters of the Columbia River below the Bonneville Dam. Both species are endangered so wild life agents are not allowed to harm the mammals to protect the fish.


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: Kyle Sampson, the former Chief of Staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has agreed to testify under oath about the firing of those eight federal prosecutors…White House spokesman Tony Snow, a former colon cancer patient, has to undergo further stomach surgery…the pace of real estate sales has started to pick up again although prices are still falling…the USNavy has decommissioned the John F Kennedy aircraft carrier…a 120-strong USMC unit is being investigated for killing civilians in Afghanistan.