The desecration of the al-Askariyah mosque in Samarra, a sacred Shiite Moslem shrine whose golden dome was bombed last year, was the Story of the Day. However it topped a very light news agenda. Only ABC led with the destruction of the Iraqi mosque's minarets. CBS and NBC led with items that were not deemed newsworthy enough to be covered by any other network: NBC chose its in-house political opinion poll; CBS the closing of the gun control loophole that was exposed by the murder-suicide this spring at Virginia Tech.    
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Shiite Moslem shrine in Samarra desecratedMinarets demolished despite tight securityJohn HendrenBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPentagon progress report on insurgency tacticsDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailNBCIraq: State Department builds giant embassyContractor investigated for using slave laborAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSPalestine politics: Hamas-Fatah factional fightingHamas gains control of Gaza, civilians hideRichard RothWest Bank
video thumbnailCBSGuns: firearms control regulations debateMentally ill to be added to sales ban databaseSharyl AttkissonCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCBush Presidency poll approval ratingsNBC News measures 29% support, pessimistic moodTim RussertNew York
video thumbnailCBSOvarian cancer coverageWarning signs are similar to everyday ailmentsKatie CouricNew York
video thumbnailNBCBipolar psychosis coverageDebate neuro-safety of medicating child patientsMika BrzezinskiConnecticut
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Brain aging, memory loss neurological researchStimulation software mind workouts prevent decayGigi StoneLos Angeles
video thumbnailABCBowhead whale hunted by Alaskan eskimoKill 50-ton mammal with C19th harpoon in blubberNed PotterNew York
SHIITE SHRINE DESECRATED The desecration of the al-Askariyah mosque in Samarra, a sacred Shiite Moslem shrine whose golden dome was bombed last year, was the Story of the Day. However it topped a very light news agenda. Only ABC led with the destruction of the Iraqi mosque's minarets. CBS and NBC led with items that were not deemed newsworthy enough to be covered by any other network: NBC chose its in-house political opinion poll; CBS the closing of the gun control loophole that was exposed by the murder-suicide this spring at Virginia Tech.

After the dome, the next step in the terrorist demolition of the shrine was "two century-old minarets," noted NBC's Jim Maceda. They leave "a lone clock tower as the defining feature of the sacred Shiite mosque," according to ABC's John Hendren (subscription required). Hendren's unidentified sources with the US military told him that the towers were "toppled by explosives placed inside the mosque, suggesting a serious security lapse." CBS' Lara Logan was emphatic: "Those security forces failed spectacularly" while NBC's Maceda reported that "police collusion with insurgents is being investigated."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fingered al-Qaeda as the culprit and ordered a curfew in Baghdad to forestall a repeat of the revenge violence that followed the destruction of the dome 16 months ago. ABC anchor Charles Gibson interviewed Gen David Petraeus, who called the destruction of the minarets "a serious blow" and described his "terrible sinking feeling" when he heard about it. Petraeus stopped short of definitively blaming al-Qaeda although he noted that the operation "fits the hallmarks." CBS' Logan was not so cautious. She interpreted the desecration as "al-Qaeda showing it can still seize the initiative and undermine US promises to provide security." Reflecting on Petraeus' comments, ABC's Martha Raddatz (at the tail of the Petraeus videostream) called him "one of the most optimistic people I have ever met" yet even he "looked very uncomfortable" as he had "a hard time painting a positive picture." For an overview, CBS had David Martin survey the Pentagon's latest report on the progress of the so-called surge of troop strength. The overall level of violence "remains unchanged" in Iraq: sectarian killings and marketplace bombings have declined while sabotage of bridges and attacks using enhanced explosive devices "smuggled in from Iran" are on the increase.

A day after the State Department issued its annual report on global trends in slave labor, indentured servitude and forced prostitution, NBC's Andrea Mitchell investigated the Persian Gulf construction contractor First Kuwaiti. She interviewed a former employee, Rory Mayberry, who alleged that First Kuwaiti enticed a planeload of Filipino workers with promises of employment in Dubai and then coerced them as "forced labor" to work on a different, more dangerous project. No prizes for guessing the name of First Kuwaiti's client: the State Department. The project was the $600m, 21-building "fortified complex as big as Vatican City" that is to become the new US Embassy in Baghdad.

MAKE THEM STOP All three networks showed videotape of the street fighting in Gaza: ABC and CBS assigned reporters. Richard Roth reported from the West Bank for CBS where the feuding in Gaza "has already spilled over" with an exchange of bullets in Nablus now Hamas has gained control of most of the Strip and "all its borders." From Jerusalem, ABC's Wilf Dinnick narrated footage of "an extraordinary act of desperation and bravery" as dozens of civilians marched into the middle of a Fatah-Hamas gun battle in an effort to force them to stop. "By the end of the day the gunmen still controled the streets."

TARGET PRACTICE Sharyl Attkisson reported on the gun control legislation that was CBS' lead. The headline was that the bill passed the House because of "a curious alliance of Democrats and the National Rifle Association." The $750m legislation was sponsored by Rep Carolyn McCarthy, who was widowed by a shooting rampage on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, and "the NRA helped write the details." Some 2.7m mental patients are already prohibited from buying firearms but only 10% are identified in the federal database. The bill would require states to register them all so that stores can execute a full background check at the point of sale. "Information could flood into the FBI's computers," Attkisson predicted.

"Target people that should not have guns," insisted NRA organizer Wayne LaPierre, infelicitously choosing his verb. Attkisson provided no details about how many of those 2.7m are currently armed, or the extent to which they may have used guns to harm others, or themselves.

POLITICAL POT POURRI NBC led with what Tim Russert called the "bleak" results from its latest national opinion poll: 19% believe the country is on the right track; 23% approve of the performance of the Congress; 29% give President George Bush a positive approval rating. "People think Washington is broken," Russert concluded.

Meanwhile Congress issued sub-poenas for two former White House aides--Sara Taylor the one-time political director and Harriet Miers the one-time counsel--in its investigation into whether the Justice Department improperly responded to political pressure when it fired those eight US Attorneys last year. ABC had its legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg (no link) provide analysis, even though she declared that the scenario of sub-poena, executive privilege and contempt citation is "more of a political battle than a legal battle." She added that the White House believes that political operative Karl Rove "will be next," hence its strategy: "Strongly assert executive privilege and stay firm."

Turning to Campaign 2008, NBC News's poll numbers showed Hillary Rodham Clinton consolidating her lead among Democrats--"the two debates have been good for Sen Clinton," Russert declared--and her fellow New Yorker Rudolph Giuliani still ahead among Republicans, even though he "lost some points since April." Russert justified his network's horse race polling on the grounds that both nominees will be known eight months from now. "It is happening very quickly, breakneck speed."

EVERYDAY WARNING SIGNS All three networks responded to the publication of a list of symptoms that could facilitate lifesaving early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. CBS had anchor Katie Couric file a report--"bloating, feeling full quickly, abdominal pain and frequent or urgent urination," were the warning signs--while NBC and ABC checked in with their in-house physicians. The problem with the list, noted NBC's Nancy Snyderman, is that "they include things that women experience every day." So she emphasized the "duration of the symptoms" as the key to raising concern. ABC's Timothy Johnson (no link) felt the need to reassure women that "the vast majority" with these symptoms "do not have ovarian cancer."

GRAY MATTER What was on the mind of the feature assignment desk at NBC and ABC? The brain.

NBC's Mika Brzezinski, newly arrived from CBS, filed an In Depth look at a "medical community sharply divided" over whether to prescribe anti-psychotic drugs to children. She told us the story of Carly Rambish, a Connecticut three-year-old who threw horrible tantrums, tried to jump out of a moving car, even tore a closet door off its hinges. After three years of consultation she was diagnosed as bipolar. Then came the question of whether to medicate her. "No, no no no," insisted psychiatrist Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry "Every drug causes a biochemical imbalance. We do not want to be doing that to the growing brain." Her parents decided otherwise. So every day for breakfast, the child gets a bagel plus Risperdal plus Depakote before going off to a special school for bipolar students. "She acts more like a little girl," her mother Tina explained.

Babyboomers, too, worry about their brains, ABC's Gigi Stone (subscription required) told us, leading to "an emerging industry" offering that "cognitive fountain of youth." Nintendo sells Brain Age a memory boosting videogame. The Neurowave Chair offers multi-sensory brain stimulation. A memory gym in Florida offers workout software for the mind for a $125 monthly fee. Stone conceded that some of mental fitness schemes "might just be marketing ploys." Why not just do Sudoku?

THERE SHE BLOWS Marine biologists have been mystified, ABC's Ned Potter told us. "Nobody was quite sure how long a bowhead whale could live." They swim in the Arctic Ocean; can grow as long as 90 feet; can weigh as much as 50 tons; have blubber up to two feet thick. When Eskimo hunters killed a bowhead off the coast of Alaska, they found a clue. Buried in the blubber in its neck was a harpoon that was used in the 1880s. "The whale got away from other hunters more than a century ago."

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 children's toy train set imported from China used lead paint and is being recalled…children's science expert Bob Herbert, classic TV's Mr Wizard, died, aged 89…the FDA refused to approve the use of theanti-obesity drug Rimonabant…Lebanese politician Walid Eido was assassinated in Beirut…abu-Dujana, an alleged leader of the radical Islamist group Jemaah al-Islamiyah, was arrested in Indonesia…retail sales strengthened in May…a giant dinosaur species has been discovered by paleontologists in China.