It is no surprise that the coverage of Andrew Speaker has been intense. What is it about a tubercular bridegroom who may have spread supergerms on a plane that does not scream headlines? Now, finally, that fever of coverage appears to be breaking. For the fourth day in a row Speaker was Story of the Day--but he did not qualify for the lead item on any of the three network newscasts. ABC led with military planning for Iraq; CBS with Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia activist; and NBC with the formal beginning of the hurricane season.    
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video thumbnailABCTuberculosis: drug-resistant strain isolatedPatient details medical advice on airline travelLisa StarkWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSAssisted suicide, euthanasia legalization debateActivist Jack Kevorkian completes prison termCynthia BowersMichigan
video thumbnailCBSHospice care for terminally-ill patients improvesProvide end-of-life care to 1.2m nationwideByron PittsNew York
video thumbnailNBCNew Orleans levee design, repair makes progressBreaches fixed, flood walls not yet upgradedMartin SavidgeNew Orleans
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPlans for partial pullout, permanent US basesMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailNBCPalestine refugee camps in Lebanon breed militancyArmy bombards Fatah al-Islam fighters in TripoliRichard EngelLebanon
video thumbnailNBCWhite House aide Dan Bartlett resignsMember of President Bush's Texas inner circleDavid GregoryWhite House
video thumbnailCBSDistrict of Columbia lacks representation in CongressHouse debates adding seat for DC, seat for UtahKatie CouricWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSArlington Cemetery tombs scrupulously maintainedWhere Valor Rests photo book for bereaved kinSteve HartmanVirginia
video thumbnailABCPediatric medical student at UCLA is triple amputeeSeverely infected as child, will treat childrenCharles GibsonNew York
SPEAKER TALKS TO SAWYER It is no surprise that the coverage of Andrew Speaker has been intense. What is it about a tubercular bridegroom who may have spread supergerms on a plane that does not scream headlines? Now, finally, that fever of coverage appears to be breaking. For the fourth day in a row Speaker was Story of the Day--but he did not qualify for the lead item on any of the three network newscasts. ABC led with military planning for Iraq; CBS with Jack Kevorkian, the euthanasia activist; and NBC with the formal beginning of the hurricane season.

There were few newsworthy developments in the extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis story so the coverage consisted of the patient's words--highlights from the interview he granted to Diane Sawyer of ABC's Good Morning America. "I am very sorry for your fear and putting you at risk," was how NBC's Robert Bazell quoted his apology to his fellow airline passengers. However, Bazell's unnamed official sources stressed that "this one case presents little danger to the public health." By contrast, CBS' Kelly Cobiella emphasized the outrage that Speaker's behavior has provoked. She called him "the now infamous globetrotting tuberculosis patient" and cited "page after page" of online attacks against him "calling him selfish and demanding he be disbarred." Speaker is a lawyer.

So was Speaker reckless or was he not properly warned? ABC's Lisa Stark called it a "he-said-she-said argument." In Georgia, Fulton County health authorities did indeed write him a formal letter advising him not to fly--but it was delivered only after he had already left for Europe. Speaker conceded to Sawyer that they told him in person that they would "prefer" that he not leave. The way Speaker paraphrased that conversation was: "We have to tell you that to cover ourselves but it is not a risk."

What about his travel decisions when he was in Rome, once he had been diagnosed with the XRD-TB supergerm? Surely he should have obeyed Centers for Disease Control then and not flown back across the Atlantic? Sawyer stated: "They were looking at working on options to get you back." "Again that is a complete lie." How about his entry into the United States via Canada? His passport had been "red-flagged" with the instruction "Isolate…Detain…Call Public Health Services," ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) pointed out. Speaker told Sawyer he used his own name and passport at all times. Sure enough, the Department of Homeland Security "placed all of the blame with that agent" in Plattsburgh NY who failed to observe the red flag.

DR DEATH’S NEW LEASE ON LIFE CBS led with Jack Kevorkian, the Dr Death of the 1990s, released from a Michigan prison with time off for good behavior after serving eight years for the second degree murder of Thomas Youk, a terminally-ill ALS patient. Cynthia Bowers reminded us that Kevorkian's lethal injection of Youk was seen on CBS' 60 Minutes in 1998. She played a clip from Mike Wallace's forthcoming interview with the paroled Kevorkian for 60 Minutes this Sunday: "What would you do if a desperate person comes to you, Jack Kevorkian, and says I need help?" "It would be painful for me but I would have to refuse him, because I gave my word that I will not do it again."

That "it" was committing euthanasia. ABC's Dean Reynolds (subscription required) repeated Kevorkian's claims that he "helped" more than 130 sick people die "secretly, in homes, motels or even his van." Legislation to permit so-called assisted suicide has been voted on in seven states: successful in Oregon; defeated in Maine, Vt, Mich, Wisc, Wash, Hi. Reynolds noted that supporters of the measures believe that Kevorkian's "back-alley methods" did not help their cause. CBS' Byron Pitts found that in response to Kevorkian's activism, end-of-life pain relief and medical care for the teminally ill has improved. The number of patients in hospices has increased from 150,000 to 1.2m in 20 years. "Caring for emotional and spiritual needs" is part of the treatment, "to make the last days more pleasant than painful."

ARMY CORPS & MOTHER NATURE NBC's decision to lead with the start of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season was inspired more by the date on the calendar than the news of the day. Granted Tropical Storm Barry was forming in the Gulf of Mexico northwest of Cuba but that was hardly cause for alarm. Bill Karins of NBC Weather Plus said Barry "is actually going to bring some good news"--partial drought relief for Florida and help for firefighters in Georgia. So NBC's Martin Savidge used the start-of-season news hook to update us on the reconstruction of the flood control levee system around New Orleans as Hari Sreenivasan did for CBS last week. Declared Savidge: "The Army Corps of Engineers has fixed what broke but has barely begun the job of making the system better, as ordered by Congress." The flooding after Hurricane Katrina, Savidge reminded us, is considered by many citizens of New Orleans to be "not a natural disaster but a manmade one"--caused by the breach of substandard structures not the overtopping of sound ones by a storm surge.

MINOR DRAWDOWN Iraq was ABC's lead--not the current conduct of the so-called surge of US troops--but the Pentagon's plans for what should follow it. Anchor Charles Gibson gave Martha Raddatz' (subscription required) report a misleading introduction when he focused on "when some of our troops can start coming home." True, Raddatz outlined a pair of scenarios containing drawdowns in troop levels, but their major thrust was the continuation of the US military presence rather than its reduction. Medium term, Raddatz contrasted the plans of Gen Raymond Odierno and Gen David Petraeus for troop reductions from the current 150,000 force in the ten month period starting in February 2008: the former would scale down to 100,000; the latter only to 130,000. Long term, the Pentagon plans to build seven permanent bases, housing in total from 30,000 to 50,000 troops until at least 2014, perhaps 2019. The seven bases would consist of the current Camp Victory plus outposts in the "strategic locations" of Irbil, Mosul, Balad, al-Assad, Tallil and Basra.

As for current fighting, NBC's Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon mentioned an incident near Fallujah in which a US tank blew away three children, aged between seven and eleven, during an operation to clear roadside bombs. The Pentagon termed the incident "a regrettable tragedy." Miklaszewski called it "disturbing."

RAG TAG Fighting flared at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Tripoli between the army of Lebanon and Fatah al-Islam militants. The siege began 13 days ago and "had gone quiet for several days" according to CBS' London-based Mark Phillips, until the army received fresh ammunition from the United States. NBC's Richard Engel was on the scene. He reported that Lebanese "special forces" had stormed the Palestinian camp while the militants "retreated to the few areas" that are still densely populated, using the 3,000 to 5,000 civilians trapped there "as human shields." Engel called Fatah al-Islam "al-Qaeda-inspired radicals." Phillips was slightly more dismissive: it is "an international ragtag force said to be ideologically, but not operationally, linked to al-Qaeda.

BOOK TOURS Both NBC and CBS updated us on events Inside-the-Beltway. Katie Couric anchored from Washington for CBS, where she updated us on the bill to give the District of Columbia a voting seat in the House of Representatives. Since the electorate of the District is so overwhelmingly Democratic, the plan is that its new Representative would be joined by a fellow rookie from Republican-leaning Utah: "In Washington principle is peppered with politics." Even with that deal passage is unlikely: the Senate has not yet voted; President George Bush has threatened a veto; and the whole idea may be unConstitutional.

Joining Couric in DC was CBS' Steve Hartman, whose Assignment America publicized the photojournalism book Where Valor Rests. It documents the "pomp and horrible circumstance" as well as the care and maintenance of Arlington Cemetery. The commemorative book is presented in an exclusive box set to the bereaved kin of everyone buried there. The public can buy a mass market version. Proceeds go to "providing this book for families who have lost soldiers."

NBC's In Depth took note of the resignation of counselor Dan Bartlett, an aide to George Bush as Governor and then as President for 14 years. White House correspondent David Gregory ticked off the members of the "Texas exodus" preceding Bartlett: Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, Donald Evans, Harriet Miers, Scott McClellan--Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales are "the two left standing." Anchor Brian Williams asked NBC's in-house historian Michael Beschloss (at the tail of the Gregory videostream), who was promoting his new book Presidential Courage, for context. Beschloss said that such a turnover of the inner circle was common "late in a Presidency…Presidents evolve. They particularly evolve when they lose two houses of Congress."

HEALING HAND It is de rigeur that an inspirational individual be profiled in a feelgood feature to end the week. At NBC that individual is said to be Making a Difference; at ABC it is the Person of the Week. And this week they are the self-same individual. NBC's George Lewis and ABC's Charles Gibson both praised Kellie Lim, a 26-year-old graduate of UCLA Medical School. Lim suffered near fatal meningitis as a child. She had two legs and one arm amputated. She was raised by a mother who went blind. Now, with just two working fingers on her left hand, she is about to embark on a career as a pediatrician.

Who knows the skinny about the clout of the PR department at UCLA?

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: a suspect in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania may have been traced in Somalia…job market data for May showed 157,000 new hires nationwide and an unemployment rate of 4.5%…imported toothpaste manufactured in China may be tainted with antifreeze …President Bush demanded that Teheran release that trio of Iranian-Americans held on espionage charges.…Rupert Murdoch's News Corp may prevail in its takeover bid for Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.