CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MAY 10, 2007
After a hiatus of a week, the negotiations inside the Beltway over how to fund the war in Iraq returned to the top of the news agenda. President George Bush relented ever so slightly from his previous insistence that Congress should attach no strings. He accepted the principle that so-called benchmarks should be established to measure the performance of the government in Baghdad. That shift was enough to be the lead story on NBC and CBS and to qualify as the Story of the Day. ABC led with the deceptive marketing of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MAY 10, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesHouse debates funding in quarterly incrementsJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush accepts benchmarks tied to fundsDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesMore Senate Republicans contemplate withdrawalSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCBritain politics: PM Tony Blair announces resignationHighlights of ten years in power surveyedKeith MillerLondon
video thumbnailCBSWild brush fires in southeastern statesFirefighters set back fires in Fla-Ga swampKelly CobiellaFlorida
video thumbnailCBSGlobal warming greenhouse effect climate changeNASA predicts ever hotter southeastern summersRandall PinkstonNew York
video thumbnailNBCCollege student loan abuses investigatedHouse hearings into banks' kickback schemesLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: prescription painkiller abusePurdue fined for OxyContin addiction deceitBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Coffee gourmet chain Starbucks expandsRetail success depended on consumer insightsCharles GibsonSeattle
video thumbnailABCKiwi birds in New Zealand lay giant eggsChicks born with enough food to be independentRobert KrulwichNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
SEPTEMBER BENCHMARKS After a hiatus of a week, the negotiations inside the Beltway over how to fund the war in Iraq returned to the top of the news agenda. President George Bush relented ever so slightly from his previous insistence that Congress should attach no strings. He accepted the principle that so-called benchmarks should be established to measure the performance of the government in Baghdad. That shift was enough to be the lead story on NBC and CBS and to qualify as the Story of the Day. ABC led with the deceptive marketing of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

The President apparently shifted his position--he "signaled compromise" noted NBC's David Gregory, "for the first time"--not because of pressure from Democrats but because there are signs of splintering in his previously near unanimous support from Congressional Republicans. Specifically, Bush was criticized by eleven GOP House members in the Tuesday meeting that NBC's Tim Russert covered yesterday. CBS' Jim Axelrod followed up: they "told him bluntly that his policy in Iraq is threatening the party."

The benchmarks that may be formally imposed on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are similar to the measures urged by Vice President Dick Cheney during his surprise visit to Baghdad. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson previewed one possible formula from Sen Olympia Snowe, the Republican from Maine. Snowe would give Iraq four months to take control of its own military, disarm militias and undertake political reforms otherwise "most combat troops would be out within six months" after that.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Democrats debated paying for the war on the instalment plan, in quarterly tranches of $43bn. ABC's Jake Tapper reported that Bush pledged to veto that scheme as "haphazard piecemeal funding." Yet the current policy will only hold until September anyway. That is when Gen David Petraeus is scheduled to report on the troop reinforcement to establish security in Baghdad, the so-called surge. "There is no one in the country right now who has more power over the conduct of this war or whether Congress will accept it," declared ABC's George Stephanopoulos (no link) of Petraeus. If he does not report progress, "Republicans are going to abandon the President in droves." If it is true that the future of the US in Iraq is to be determined in September, CBS' Axelrod repeated the warning from his unnamed Republican sources: "August could get awfully bloody."


POODLE OFF THE LEASH It was not quite an obituary or even an end of an era--Tony Blair will hold office in Britain for six more weeks--but all three networks took the prime minister's announcement of a date for his resignation as an opportunity to survey Blair's decade in office. "I think that is long enough for me," Blair declared, "but more especially for the country." All three reporters quoted the nickname he earned for his dogged support for the President's war in Iraq: Bush's Poodle.

He was just 43 when he was first elected Britain's leader. NBC's Keith Miller recalled him as a "rock star politician" and the "face of Cool Britannia." ABC's David Wright (subscription required) credited his handling of the death of Princess Diana as his political coming of age. CBS' Elizabeth Palmer saw his role as an "idealist with a conscience" standing up to Slobodan Milosevic over Kosovo as a precursor to his unpopular decision to send troops to Iraq. Blair is only 53 now, Wright added, "far too young to retire" but after ten years, Palmer observed "much of Britain has fallen out of love with its prime minister."


DRY SWAMP The surge of weather news yesterday--winds, floods, fires--subsided. Only the brush fires in the parched swamps along the Georgia-Florida line qualified for further coverage by reporters. NBC's Dawn Fratangelo donned fire gear to walk through the scorched earth of a forest blackened by the fire in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge. CBS' Kelly Cobiella updated us on the "brief hope" offered yesterday by Tropical Storm Andrea. It turned out to be false hope, "no needed rain" just "unwanted wind."

Florida's record drought allowed CBS' Randall Pinkston to look forward to a century of summers in the region. He quoted a global warming forecast from NASA's Goddard Space Center that envisioned a truly Hotlanta 80 years from now. Pinkston apologized for filing another doom-and-gloom climate change piece: "As troubling as it is," it offers a "business as usual approach." CBS had skipped the report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that ABC's Bill Blakemore covered last week so Pinkston played catch-up. That "offers hope," he declared, "using methods already available to government and private industry" to prevent that hotter disaster from happening.


LEARNING LOAN LESSONS Also playing catch-up was Lisa Myers for NBC. The college student loan scandal had already been covered by Armen Keteyian for CBS and Dan Harris (subscription required) for ABC. Myers took the opportunity of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings' appearance at House hearings to summarize the key points of the investigation. Myers told us about double dipping by student loan officers, employed by both bank and college simultaneously. She outlined the kickbacks paid by banks to colleges to steer high-interest-rate business their way. She documented the high-pressure marketing that referred to students as "targets." When some students called college financial aid hotlines, unknowingly, they spoke to loan marketers instead.


DRUG PUSHERS DODGE THE BIG HOUSE OxyContin, the potent prescription painkiller, was chosen for ABC's lead when its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, was fined $634m for deliberate deceit. Brian Ross reported that the drug was originally "seen as a godsend for people with serious pain." Yet it was marketed by Purdue between 1996 and 2001 without mention of known risks of addiction and serious withdrawal symptoms. The upshot was that thousands of patients became addicted including celebrity OxyContin junkies Jack Osbourne, of the rock-n-roll reality TV Osbournes, and radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh.

The drug is still being legally prescribed. The Food & Drug Administration said "it can still be safe if used properly," according to NBC's Pete Williams. CBS' Bob Orr reported that 6m legal patients use OxyContin annually, amounting to $1bn in sales. Some 400 have died from an overdose. A black market developed for recreational use of the pill in snortable powdered form, with $2 pills worth $25 each, Orr added. While the corporation is paying the fine, its executives face no prison time. ABC's Ross told us that CEO Michael Friedman and two others pled guilty to misdemeanors.


ONE MORE CUP OF COFFEE ABC continued its west coast swing. Anchor Charles Gibson (subscription required), after two days in San Francisco, moved on to Seattle where he filed a glowing tribute to Starbucks, the gourmet coffee chain. He tapped into the wisdom of author Karen Blumenthal, whose book Grande Expectations examined the innovations that made Starbucks so successful. Conventional retailing wisdom said: do not clutter a market with too many franchise outlets; do not overcharge customers; use familiar names for products; move traffic rapidly through retail outlets; sit customers at square tables.

Gibson explained Starbucks' opposite thinking: no customer wants to walk far for coffee; spending extra on coffee is a way to give oneself a daily treat; if something seems like a novelty, we will feel like insiders learning a new vocabulary for it; hanging out at coffee shops contradicts a fast food atmosphere; an individual sitting alone at a round table seems less lonely. Starbucks call their stores "the third place" after home and office as a "gathering spot."


MOTHERS DAY What species in the animal kingdom has its mothers suffer most on behalf of its offspring. ABC nominated New Zealand's kiwi bird. Check out why from Robert Krulwich.


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: the USArmy will spend $18bn to replace all its HumVees in Iraq with more heavily armored vehicles…retail sales registered an unexpected slowdown in April…the evenflo brand of infant car seat announced a safety recall…Hollywood movie ratings will classify cigarette smoking as adult content.