For the second straight summer Friday, two of the network anchors took a long weekend. NBC had Lester Holt substitute for Brian Williams. ABC had George Stephanopoulos take Charles Gibson's chair. CBS and NBC each led with heightened counterterrorism alerts--NBC fearing infiltration from Pakistan, CBS from Iraq. ABC led with the Story of the Day, the mass funeral for the nine Charleston firefighters killed on Tuesday. But the ideal flippant story to kick off a family weekend was the research published in the journal Science that firstborn sons tend to score better in IQ tests than their kid brothers.    
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video thumbnailNBCBirth order impact on siblings studiedFirstborn brothers score higher on IQ testsMike TaibbiNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Charleston SC furniture showroom fire kills nineMass attendance at firefighters' funeralSteve OsunsamiSouth Carolina
video thumbnailCBSSuspected al-Qaeda leaders manhunt continuesDispatch Iraqi-trained cadres to Europe, GulfSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailNBCGermany terrorism: high-security alert issuedFear infiltration from Pakistan training basesLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUS medics save shot pregnant woman, newbornDamian GrammaticusAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSIraq: political coalition government under fireOpposition plans ouster of PM al-MalikiLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailABCWall Street private equity firms makes fortunesProfits taxed at lower rate than corporationsJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCKarachi kidnap, murder of Wall St Journal reporterDramatized in movie, inspires peace activismAndrea MitchellToronto
video thumbnailCBS2008 issues: healthcare reformDocumentary movie Sicko will have little impactJeff GreenfieldNew York
video thumbnailCBSVideogames titles, design, development trendsObsessive playing may be psychiatric disorderDaniel SiebergNew York
SIBLING RIVALRY For the second straight summer Friday, two of the network anchors took a long weekend. NBC had Lester Holt substitute for Brian Williams. ABC had George Stephanopoulos take Charles Gibson's chair. CBS and NBC each led with heightened counterterrorism alerts--NBC fearing infiltration from Pakistan, CBS from Iraq. ABC led with the Story of the Day, the mass funeral for the nine Charleston firefighters killed on Tuesday. But the ideal flippant story to kick off a family weekend was the research published in the journal Science that firstborn sons tend to score better in IQ tests than their kid brothers.

None of the three networks could resist the sibling study. It was conducted in Norway among 240,000 late-teenage military men--so when ABC's Bill Weir (subscription required) called it "one more reason to resent your big sister" he was off the mark, since it measured only men. "Not due to nature but nurture," Weir explained in his A Closer Look, since firstborns are more likely to be lavished with undivided adult attention as infants and then have to act as tutors when younger siblings arrive.

Weir and CBS' Kelly Wallace and NBC's Mike Taibbi all characterized the three point advantage in average IQ score between firstborn sons and their secondborn brothers as the difference between an A student and a B student. What a coincidence that they all chose that grade level! No one called it the difference between a D student and an F. There were other strange similarities in the three reports: all cited Albert Einstein as an example of a genius firstborn. As for younger siblings that succeeded in the face of their elder's statistical edge, Weir and Wallace both proposed Thomas Edison. Taibbi, believe it or not, cited the "charm and inventiveness" of Beaver Cleaver, the fictional secondborn in the classic TV sitcom.

CHARLESTON’S BRAVEST The South Carolina firefighters' funeral was a ceremonial event rather than a breaking news story. "From California to Massachusetts it was as though every fire station in America felt its loss," CBS' Mark Strassmann observed. Thousands crowded into the local civic center. "The bagpipes came from New York. The national anthem from Indianapolis," narrated ABC's Steve Osunsami (subscription required). He also noted "a handful of Presidential candidates," showing us Rudolph Giuliani and John Edwards. The fire at the Sofa Super Store showroom and warehouse is believed to be accidental, not arson, NBC's Martin Savidge updated us. It probably started in a dumpster, an area where "employees would go for a cigarette."

NOTES FROM THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM Yesterday (text link) we complained about the absence of any reporting to tie suspected al-Qaeda militants in the Iraqi city of Baqubah to Osama bin Laden's chain of command. Here comes CBS' Sheila MacVicar to connect the dots. She reported that bin Laden's top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri "urged foreign fighters to take their campaign of terror beyond Iraq's borders" with targets in Europe and the Persian Gulf. Militants in Iraq are "battle-hardened survivors of the world's toughest urban guerrilla fighting," noted MacVicar. "If Afghanistan was a school, Iraq is a university," proclaims one Website. The current route for foreign radicals is a direct flight from Europe to Irbil in Kurdistan. MacVicar's spook sources told her that for those who stay alive long enough to acquire that on-the-job training, Algeria is the "gateway to Europe" on their return.

On NBC, Lisa Myers turned to the Pakistan-Germany terrorist pipeline. She reminded us that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the attacks of September 11th, 2001, was based in Hamburg. And in his Exclusive on Monday about the Taliban's assignment of suicide bomb squads to German targets, ABC's Brian Ross pointed out that Germany is a leader among the NATO forces in Afghanistan. In the wake of the arrest of three German Islamists in Pakistan, Myers quoted "dire warnings" from German security officials. Yet unidentified western spook sources told her the warning was not triggered by a specific plot, only "troubling indicators." There is "no plan to issue travel warnings to Americans headed to Germany this summer."

ABC's report from Afghanistan chose heartwarming over ominous. Filed by Damian Grammaticus of the BBC, ABC's newsgathering partner, it showed the emergency cesarean operation on an eight-months pregnant women who had been shot in the belly as part of a family feud. The bullet had lacerated the fetus, leaving a four-inch gash in its back. ABC's Stephanopoulos presented the effort by US medics in a military field hospital as part of the "constant struggle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan" but there was no need to exaggerate the consequence of the emergency surgery. It was riveting anough. And anyway, the mother's wound had little to do with war: her relative "was probably trying to kill her baby," Grammaticus mused. Mother and son survived.

MINISTRY OF FEUDS In Baghdad, CBS' Lara Logan turned from warfare to politics. Opposition to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is mounting and a coalition dubbed the Iraq Project has formed to back a no-confidence vote to force his ouster. Logan explained that al-Maliki is under fire for decentralizing the government so that each ministry is under the control of a single political party. An opposition leader and former general Aziz al-Yazeri al-Yasiri called it "a multiparty dictatorship instead of a government of national unity." The result, Logan reported, is "a sectarian government, which fuels the violence, instead of stopping it." For now, al-Maliki is secure as President George Bush continues to back him.

IN THE BLACK ABC's Betsy Stark (subscription required) called it the hottest initial public offering since Google entered the stock market three years ago. "On most summer Fridays the Wall Street money set is more likely to be crowding the Hamptons than the floor of the New York Stock Exchange--but not this Friday." The "ton of buzz" was about the Blackstone Group and Stark showed us the hoopla on the cable business channels. However only ABC caught that fever. Neither NBC nor CBS mentioned it even in passing. Stark explained what Blackstone, a private equity company, does: "It makes money buying companies, tuning them up and selling them for a profit--a very tidy profit."

And then ABC's Jake Tapper explained what makes Blackstone's profits even tidier: the tax rate for most Americans is 25% to 35%; for Blackstone's billionaire owner Stephen Schwarzman it is just 15%. Tapper explained that operators of private equity firms and hedge funds classify their earnings not as income but as investment profits, so they do not pay income tax but the less onerous tax on capital gains. "Congress will soon hold hearings" and members "are being lobbied on behalf of these millionaire and billionaire interests right now, more so than on any other issue." Tapper added that "not one of the Presidential frontrunners, including the Democrats," supports equalizing the tax rates.

TWO THUMBS UP A couple of summer movie releases were deemed newsworthy. Unlike ABC's publicity for Evan Almighty yesterday, with John Berman's (subscription required) soft animal feature, CBS and NBC both took the serious route. NBC's Andrea Mitchell celebrated Judea Pearl, the bereaved father of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whose kidnapping and execution is the theme of the biopic movie A Mighty Heart. Mitchell praised the father for Making a Difference upon his son's death, setting up the Daniel Pearl Foundation to "fight back against the hatred between Moslems and Jews with fellowships for Moslem journalists and--another of Danny's passions--music." Mitchell made an unfortunate choice of words to describe father Pearl's mission, calling him "a global crusader."

CBS had Jeff Greenfield contemplate the impact of Michael Moore's activist documentary Sicko on Campaign 2008. The movie, with its "affecting stories of personal suffering at the hands of indifferent corporations" is propaganda for government-run single-payer universal healthcare. Greenfield observed that Moore himself concedes that Fahrenheit 9/11, his hit during Campaign 2004, "did not change many minds about President Bush." Greenfield fairly concluded that Sicko is "likely to have a much bigger impact at the box office than at the ballot box." What was unfair was when Greenfield asserted that "no one, Democrat or Republican, has come close to advocating the kind of government-run national health system" that Sicko endorses. Greenfield is entitled to ignore single-payer-proponent Dennis Kucinich if he wants, simply by inserting a qualifier such as "contending" or "viable"--as ABC's Tapper did with "frontrunner" in his Blackstone story. But then Greenfield should not illustrate his point with a soundbite from Wisconsin Republican Tommy Thompson, who is no more of a viable contender than the Ohio Democrat is.

UPDATE: Greenfield explains in a post by Brian Montopoli (text link) on the CBS blog Public Eye that he did not count Kucinich's proposal for a single-payer program as a "government-run national health system" because Kucinich would not turn physicians into federal workers, a system that Greenfield says Moore advocates in Sicko.

ONLY A GAME What have World of Warcraft, Everquest and Final Fantasy got in common? They can all drive you mad, CBS' Daniel Sieberg answered. "Online games involving role playing and never ending quests" can lead to such obsessive playing that the American Medical Association is debating whether "Internet videogame addiction be included as a formal diagnostic disorder." Sieberg concluded that "it is apparent that there are those who need help separating fantasy from reality"--but it is not clear whether he was referring to teenage gamers or AMA shrinks.

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 NATO air raid in Helmand Province in Afghanistan killed 25 civilians…a US attack helicopter raid in Baqubah in Iraq killed 17 suspected guerrillas…NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis completed its mission, landing in California…the Food and Drug Administration will tighten regulations on dietary supplements.