CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MAY 23, 2007
The day after ABC's Exclusive revealed that the CIA has been given the green light by President George Bush to mount covert operations against Iran, the escalating frictions between Iran and the United States were the Story of the Day. Yet only CBS led with Iran coverage, its own Exclusive on covert sabotage against the uranium enrichment program. NBC led, instead, with the President's warning about terrorist sabotage here at home. By accident, that was ABC's lead too. ABC meant to kick off with summer plans for airline travel but its videotape soundtrack failed temporarily so the President qualified for its lead by default.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR MAY 23, 2007: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCIran-US frictions intensifyUSNavy build up as Americans are taken prisonerAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCIran-US frictions intensifyUSNavy build up as Americans are taken prisonerJonathan KarlPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIran nuclear weapons program suspectedBlack market equipment sabotaged by opponentsSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailNBCDomestic terrorism preparedness and preventionPresident Bush discloses 2005 Iraq-based plotDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesCorpse in Euphrates River may be missing GI'sMark StrassmannBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCPalestine refugee camps in Lebanon breed militancyTripoli camp residents flee continuing violenceRichard EngelLebanon
video thumbnailABCIRS income tax seasonHouse hearings into abusive collection agenciesBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careIndividual coverage often rejected triviallyArmen KeteyianCalifornia
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Airline travel: disruptions, delays, cancelationsFAA revamps flight patterns to avoid stormsLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMuseum in SC celebrates Medal of Honor recipientsTribute to war heroes on USS Yorktown carrierBrian WilliamsWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
TEHERAN TENSIONS The day after ABC's Exclusive revealed that the CIA has been given the green light by President George Bush to mount covert operations against Iran, the escalating frictions between Iran and the United States were the Story of the Day. Yet only CBS led with Iran coverage, its own Exclusive on covert sabotage against the uranium enrichment program. NBC led, instead, with the President's warning about terrorist sabotage here at home. By accident, that was ABC's lead too. ABC meant to kick off with summer plans for airline travel but its videotape soundtrack failed temporarily so the President qualified for its lead by default.

As military and diplomatic and espionage action heated up between Teheran and Washington, the networks chose different angles. CBS' David Martin watched the USNavy sail into the Persian Gulf with a pair of aircraft carrier groups--17,000 sailors and Marines, and nine warships. He called it a "made-for-photo-op formation." ABC's Jonathan Karl noted that the ambassadors to Baghdad are scheduled to begin negotiations on Monday, the "first high-level one-on-one meeting between the United States and Iran in years." As the International Atomic Energy Agency reported "startling progress toward producing nuclear fuel," according to NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice "appeared to be almost pleading with Iran to negotiate."

The nuclear program was the topic of Sheila MacVicar's scoop for CBS. Because sanctions prohibit Teheran from purchasing equipment for the program legally, "it has turned to the black market," with clandestine procurement operations in Frankfurt and Dubai. The black market, in turn, makes it "vulnerable to industrial sabotage." Intelligence operatives including "former Russian nuclear scientists" and expatriate Iranians sell components "with flaws that are difficult to detect, making them unstable or unusable." In April 2006, for example, 50 uranium centrifuges were destroyed because their power supply had been tampered with. The upshot is that Iran appears "almost paranoid and predisposed to believe that any of its many technical problems" may be caused by saboteurs.

As NBC's Mitchell confirmed that report by Brian Ross on ABC yesterday that President Bush "has opted for secret non-lethal operations against Iran," ABC's Karl concentrated on Teheran's arrest of Americans accused of "trying to use soft power to overthrow the government." As Mitchell did yesterday, Karl profiled Haleh Esfandiari, a scholar from the Woodrow Wilson International Center, now being held in the Evin Prison in Teheran, "a dark place known for brutal interrogations." Karl called Esfandiari "the face of what is being called the New Iranian Hostage Crisis" even as her family, friends and colleagues contradicted the accusations against her as "preposterous." Mitchell added that another academic, Kian Tajbakhsh of Columbia University, is the latest to be locked up. Meanwhile US military forces, CBS' Martin reminded us, have "raided Iranian offices and taken Iranians prisoner" in Iraq.


REAL WAR OR WAR SLOGAN? The President himself preferred to concentrate on his Global War on Terrorism, on al-Qaeda and on Iraq--rather than on Iran. NBC and ABC found his speech at the commencement exercise for the US Coast Guard Academy newsworthy. CBS did not.

ABC's Martha Raddatz (subscription required) reported on Bush's allegations about abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. Back in the winter of 2005, before the Jordanian militant was killed, the Saudi exile apparently hatched a scheme with him. Bush asserted that al-Zarqawi accepted the task of organizing a cell in Iraq to conduct terrorist attacks on targets inside the United States such as reservoirs, the stock exchange and the military academies. Raddatz was skeptical: "Despite all the President's dire warnings the threat level has not been raised."

NBC's David Gregory consulted his network's in-house terrorism expert Michael Sheehan. He too doubted the President's warnings: al-Qaeda has "not mastered the ability" to export operatives and capabilities from Iraq. Gregory quoted Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards blast Bush's GWoT. He called it "a slogan designed only for politics. It is not a strategy to make America safe. It is a bumper sticker not a plan."


FEW SEARCH OPTIONS The all-out effort by the US military in Iraq to rescue the trio of soldiers from the Tenth Mountain Division that was ambushed eleven days ago suffered a setback. CBS' Mark Strassmann reported that a corpse fished out of the River Euphrates near Musayyib, some 20 miles south of where they were attacked, appears to be one of the three. NBC's Ian Williams noted local police reports that the body was "bruised and had gunshot wounds to the head and torso." It had an identifying tattoo on one arm and was dressed in US military pants and boots. Whatever its identity, "this massive search continues." At this pace, added CBS' Strassmann, "May will be the deadliest month for US forces this year."


ARTILLERY SHELLS & SNIPER’S BULLETS Yesterday ABC's David Wright (subscription required) arrived in Tripoli to report on the fighting between the army of Lebanon and the Fatah al-Islam militant group, "many of them foreign fighters--Yemenis, Saudis, Sudanese, Afghans--fresh from fighting Americans in Iraq." Now NBC's Richard Engel is on the scene, focusing on the plight of the Palestinian residents of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp caught in the middle: some 15,000 have fled; another 25,000 are still inside. The Lebanese artillery bombardment has flattened housing, trapping bodies under the rubble, while the militants use snipers to defend their position. "There is no food or water remaining…ambulances have come under fire.


INVESTIGATE THIS Both CBS and ABC activated its investigative units: ABC was outraged about the way we pay taxes; CBS about health insurance. In his Investigation for CBS, Armen Keteyian exposed "a system stacked against the individual" as the insurance industry uses the massive Medical Information Bureau database to screen applicants. Insurers stand accused of "cherry picking the most healthy people" by screening for even the most trivial ailments. "That is just the A's!" exclaimed Keteyian as he read the questionnaire categories "acne, asthma, athlete's foot, allergy." He found another that asked about headaches, infections, muscle pain…"Have you ever had a drink?" Applicants can also be rejected for individual health insurance on the basis of credit history, driving records, sports activities…"Am I reading this right? Morals and lifestyle!" Susan Pisano, the insurance industry spokeswoman, said this in its defense: "Conditions that seem minor to you and me do entail a level of expense that is fairly substantial."

On ABC, Brian Ross' Investigates attended the House Ways & Means Committee hearings into the harassment of taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Service pays private agencies 25c on each $1 to collect back taxes. Its own internal documents "show hundreds of complaints about repeated and rude calls." The rudeness may not even be efficient, with administrative costs exceeding revenues. Nevertheless the IRS plans to expand its outsourcing to hire eight more collection firms.


FLACK ATTACK HITS MAX ABC's scheduled lead story by Lisa Stark (subscription required), arrived aptly, as anchor Charles Gibson put it, "better late than not at all." The story represented a hat trick for the PR flacks at the Federal Aviation Administration, who achieved face time for their boss Marion Blakey on all three newscasts. She used the impending Memorial Day holiday to publicize FAA plans to reduce delays during the summer airline travel season, when early evening thunderstorms are at their most intense.

"The FAA is the first to admit the current system for dealing with bad weather is outdated and inefficient," stated CBS' Nancy Cordes, as Blakey offered airlines the new option of flying a longer route to avoid a storm instead of compulsory delays until a storm clears the direct route. NBC's Tom Costello described the new system as a "computerized airspace flow program." In regional tests last year the option reduced the frequency of delays by 9%. "The airline industry likes having the choice to wait or go."

ABC's Stark cautioned that air traffic control cannot fix all the disruptions: "There is also labor strife in the air," she warned. FAA controlers are complaining that they are short staffed and pilots and flight attendants "are angry over fat bonuses for bosses." Furthermore, the airlines are flying at greater than 80% capacity, so passengers who find their flights canceled are liable to have trouble finding an empty seat on an alternate flight.


MODEST MEDAL MUSEUM NBC's Brian Williams jetted to Charleston SC to anchor from the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. Williams marked the Memorial Day opening of the ship's conversion into a war museum celebrating recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Williams called himself "happy to serve on the foundation" that created the showcase. He illustrated their heroism with Hollywood clips: the Vietnam war movie We Were Soldiers and, quirkily, President Lyndon Johnson's doctored medal ceremony from Forrest Gump. There are 110 medalists alive, Williams noted, including MSNBC's own in-house military analyst Jack Jacobs: "We do not wear the medal for ourselves. We wear it for all those who cannot wear it." Williams called Jacobs' modesty "unbreakable."


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: Monica Goodling, the former aide of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testified at House hearings about those eight US Attorneys that were let go…the National Geography Bee tournament was held…the foiled plot to sell Coca-Cola's secret recipe to Pepsi-Cola landed a one-time secretary at Coke in prison for eight years…Second Daughter Mary Cheney gave birth to an illegitimate son because she is forbidden from marrying her female companion.