CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MAY 09, 2007
Natural disaster and wild weather struck from coast to coast. CBS led with the premature start of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season as Tropical Storm Andrea formed off the Georgia coast. NBC led with a wild fire in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. ABC had Charles Gibson anchor from San Francisco but nevertheless led with brush fires in drought-wracked Florida. Add in President George Bush's trip to inspect tornado damage in Kansas and the rising river waters in Missouri and the Story of the Day was…none of the above. The natural disaster coverage was so fragmented that the day's most heavily covered single item was Vice President Dick Cheney's surprise visit to Baghdad.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MAY 09, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailNBCWild forest fires in western statesBlaze in Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory parkPeter AlexanderLos Angeles
video thumbnailCBSTropical Storm Andrea forms off Georgia coastUnusual early start to Atlantic hurricane seasonBianca SolorzanoFlorida
video thumbnailABCStorms, heavy rains, floods on great plainsMissouri River levees fail in farm countryDean ReynoldsMissouri
video thumbnailCBSTornado seasonPresident Bush inspects damage at Greensburg KsHari SreenivasanKansas
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: political coalition government under fireVP Cheney visits Baghdad, urges end to inactionTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIran suspected of holding Americans prisonerFormer FBI agent missing, expatriate scholar heldPete WilliamsWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCSyria politics: President al-Assad wields powerBritish-born wife is former banker, modernizerAnn CurryDamascus
video thumbnailCBSMandarin Chinese taught as foreign languagePRC trains bilingual teachers for posting in USBarry PetersenBeijing
video thumbnailCBSPoet sells custom compositions to grocery shoppersTypes pay-per-verses at Berkeley Cal supermarketJohn BlackstoneCalifornia
video thumbnailABCVideostreams shared online in viral networksBritish elderly post YouTube v-log, music videoDavid WrightLondon
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
WATER, WIND & FIRE Natural disaster and wild weather struck from coast to coast. CBS led with the premature start of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season as Tropical Storm Andrea formed off the Georgia coast. NBC led with a wild fire in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. ABC had Charles Gibson anchor from San Francisco but nevertheless led with brush fires in drought-wracked Florida. Add in President George Bush's trip to inspect tornado damage in Kansas and the rising river waters in Missouri and the Story of the Day was…none of the above. The natural disaster coverage was so fragmented that the day's most heavily covered single item was Vice President Dick Cheney's surprise visit to Baghdad.

Tropical Storm Andrea was the most unusual development. CBS' Bianca Solorzano said it was the "earliest named storm ever, three weeks before hurricane season even begins." CBS' in-house meteorologist Bryan Norcross admitted that it was not a true seasonal storm but a "hybrid" of a summertime tropical system and a wintertime nor'easter. Even though Andrea is heading for landfall in southern Georgia it will not help douse the brush fires burning in the parched southeast. On the contrary, its high winds may fan flames as it heads ashore, warned ABC's Gigi Stone.

"Months of drought conditions have turned Florida's forests into tinderboxes," ABC's Stone stated, as more than 200 separate fires burned throughout the state, from the panhandle to the "famed Alligator Alley." Florida is now in its sixth day of emergency. NBC's Michelle Kosinski described a "layer of smoke" hovering over "virtually the entire state."

Visually the flames in Los Angeles were more eyecatching. NBC's Peter Alexander showed us the city's predawn skyline lit by flames. The fire that raged through Griffith Park destroyed a scenic picnic area named Dante's View. It "looked like it leaped from the pages of Dante's Inferno," mused CBS' Sandra Hughes. Griffith Park is the largest urban park in the nation, noted ABC's Bill Redeker (at the tail of the subscription-required Stone videostream): "Navigating planes and helicopters in this tight mountain canyon is extremely dangerous." A giant firebreak of deforested land surrounds the park's famous observatory, so that was not affected--neither was the city zoo and all but one home survived. So the fire was more pictorially vivid than strictly newsworthy.

For personality, no one beat Julian Gibson, the tree trimmer in Levasy Mo, who rowed ABC's Dean Reynolds through the flooded streets of his hometown. "This old river--it will come up and it will go down but we will still be here." Was Gibson angry about the flood control system that protected valuable real estate in the major towns along the Missouri River by flooding rural areas like Levasy? "You know, everybody that lives on the river is most generally poor. And that is what they can afford because it is cheaper land. And that is what you have got to put up with," was his phlegmatic response. CBS' Cynthia Bowers inquired why the dirt levees had not been strengthened after the floods of 1993: "People here say the federal government's help, with all its red tape, never seemed to be worth the trouble--until now."


TEXAS CHAINSAW PUSHBACK None of the networks had its White House correspondent join the President's trip to Kansas. CBS and ABC both assigned the visit to reporters already on the ground in Greensburg; NBC mentioned it only in passing. Besides offering consolation, the residual political question concerned whether the reaction of the Kansas National Guard was compromised because of its deployment in Iraq. Gov Kathleen Sebelius, who is a Democrat, "pressed that issue on Monday," ABC's Barbara Pinto (subscription required) recalled, "but today she had no complaints." When a chainsaw wielding Bush staged a photo-op with National Guardsmen, CBS' Hari Sreenivasan interpreted it as "a subtle way to push back on criticism that Guard resources are strained." When the President was asked about the controversy "he either ignored the question or did not hear it."

As for the town itself, Sreenivasan pointed out that the local wheat harvest begins in one month and the twister destroyed the bin loading mechanism at the town's feed and grain co-op. Pinto focused on a rebuilding deadline of August when school starts: if parents register their children elsewhere they may decide never to return.


POLITICS OF IRAQ At the Solarium Room of the White House yesterday, NBC's Tim Russert reported, Bush had heard "unvarnished," "candid" and "blunt" talk about Iraq from eleven Republican congressmen led by Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charles Dent of Pennsylvania. According to Russert, they told the President that he had lost credibility when speaking about the war and any public message had to come from Gen David Petraeus instead. Russert quoted one: "How can our daughters and sons spill their blood while the Iraqi parliament goes on vacation?"

Apparently in response Vice President Dick Cheney was sent on an unannounced trip to Baghdad to urge the parliament not to take its two-month summer recess but to stay in session to settle three key disputes. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski paraphrased Cheney's message: "Reach political reconciliation between Shias and Sunnis or risk losing US support." Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised President Bush six months ago to find compromises concerning oil revenues, former Baath Party bureaucrats and sectarian power sharing, ABC's Terry McCarthy (subscription required) reminded us. "So far nothing." Tariq al-Hashimi, Iraq's vice president, told McCarthy there was "simply not enough goodwill among politicians to make progress."

In Diyala province Gen Dana Pittard told CBS' Mark Strassmann that "capable" Iraqi military commanders who targeted Shiite militias are "often sabotaged" in some case "forced to quit" or "fired." The general blamed "different political leaders." Strassmann's unnamed sources construed that as including the prime minister's office.


THE AGENT AND THE SCHOLAR A potential new flashpoint with Iran emerged in reporting by NBC's Pete Williams. He told us about a former FBI agent turned "private consultant" and a "scholar and Iranian expert" who both traveled there and have not returned. The ex-agent is Bob Levinson last seen negotiating deals on the island of Kish, an Iranian-controled free trade zone. He disappeared two months ago and has not been seen since. The scholar is Haleh Esfandiari, an expatriate Iranian living in Washington DC. Her husband Shaul Bakhash told Williams that Esfandiari is a conference organizer, who was detained, questioned and jailed by authorities in Teheran after visiting her elderly mother. Stay tuned.


BANKER SEEKS HUMAN CAPITAL Ann Curry of Today completed her third day of reporting from Damascus for NBC with an Exclusive profile of Asma al-Assad, the 31-year-old British-born former banker who is married to President Bashar al-Assad. Curry sat down with the president himself Monday and Tuesday profiled the plight of Iraqi war refugees in Damascus. Curry's profile of Syria's First Lady may be unprecedented but it was scarcely illuminating: her policy priorities are as anodyne as developing "human capital" and "building capabilities and skills." What does the world not know about her husband? "I cannot comment about the president." What is the al-Assad ambition as rulers? "We share the same principle, and that is to make a difference."


HORSE MOTHER In the past six years, the number of high school students in the United States studying Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language has increased tenfold, to 50,000. "Once Japanese was the language most Americans thought their children should learn but then Japan's economy faded," recalled CBS' Barry Petersen in his Eye on Education feature. "China's economy keeps rising fast." The government of the People's Republic is trying to capitalize on the trend, Petersen reported from Beijing, by training bilingual volunteers and sending them to teach in American schools. Chinese is a "tough and subtle language," Petersen opined. A student from Snohomish Wa demonstrated: "You could say 'ma' and then you could also say 'mma' and have it mean 'mom' or 'horse.'"


TAKING THE PLACES TO US CBS and ABC both chose the lively arts for their closing feature. From England, ABC's David Wright brought us The Zimmers, a pop group named for the brand name of the senior citizen's walker. The singing band has a music video hit on YouTube. It is their cover version of Who's My Generation and was made for a BBC documentary on the plight of the elderly: as Wright put it "the anthem of one generation is borrowed by their parents' generation and released as a video using the technology of their grandkids' generation." See a Zimmer chant: "People try to put us down…"

CBS brought us Zach Houston, the retail poet. He sits outside a supermarket in Berkeley Cal with a manual typewriter and composes commissioned verses for shoppers: they assign him a topic; he activates his muse; one day he earned $150. John Blackstone was inspired to quote William Wordsworth on the work of the poet: "In common things that round us lie/Some random truths he can impart/The harvest of a quiet eye."

Here is Houston's response to the commission "love and motorcycles."

We are two wheels,
Between us a machine
That keeps the concrete
From touching our feet,
Taking the places to us
On a machine made of
Two pieces of each
Other.


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: facilities of the regional government of Kurdistan were bombed in the normally-peaceful Iraqi city of Irbil…Pope Benedict XVI began a visit to Brazil…the Food & Drug Administration may be required to monitor the safety of prescription drugs after approval as well as in clinical trials.