The terrific visuals of flood and flame led all three newscasts--torrential rains in central Texas, the continuing forest fires in California's Sierra Nevada--but after showing nature red in tooth and claw there was really not much more reporting to be done. So the Story of the Day was a European one that was filed lower down the running order on all three newscasts: in London Prime Minister Gordon Brown replaces Tony Blair. Blair's farewell to his fellow parliamentarians was short and sweet: "That is that. The End."    
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailNBCBritain politics: PM Tony Blair resignsNew Prime Minister Gordon Brown takes officeDawna FriesenLondon
video thumbnailNBCIran politics: anti-government street protestsOutrage at imposition of gasoline rationingAli ArouziTeheran
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesBaker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group may reformJim AxelrodWhite House
video thumbnailNBCFlash floods in Texas, OklahomaTorrential rains swell central Texas riversDon TeagueTexas
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Wild forest fires in western statesHigh winds resume around Lake Tahoe, whip embersMiguel MarquezCalifornia
video thumbnailCBSChina agriculture has poor quality controlUnsafe processing plants for food exports closedBarry PetersenTokyo
video thumbnailABCDairy industry shortages drive up pricesHigher costs on farm, higher demand for milkBetsy StarkNew Jersey
video thumbnailCBSPregnancy safety: prescription drug use safetyNo increased fetal risks from anti-depressantsMichelle MillerNew York
video thumbnailABC
sub req
Political columnist Ann Coulter causes controversyWife of candidate John Edwards challenges slursJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCEgypt archeology: mummy of Queen HatshepsutDiscovery docu searches for C16th BCE remainsRichard EngelCairo
BLAIR BIDS FAREWELL The terrific visuals of flood and flame led all three newscasts--torrential rains in central Texas, the continuing forest fires in California's Sierra Nevada--but after showing nature red in tooth and claw there was really not much more reporting to be done. So the Story of the Day was a European one that was filed lower down the running order on all three newscasts: in London Prime Minister Gordon Brown replaces Tony Blair. Blair's farewell to his fellow parliamentarians was short and sweet: "That is that. The End."

CBS' Elizabeth Palmer characterized the transition as "the sober technocrat" succeeding "the charismatic master of spin." Brown's previous job was Chancellor of the Exchequer "running Britain's booming economy for the past decade." His demeanor upon taking the job was "noticeably stiff, today, and famously unsmiling," ABC's Jim Sciutto observed. On NBC, Dawna Friesen noted that Brown is known for a "formidable intellect and iron determination. He is the son of a Scottish Presbyterian minister."

CBS' Palmer used a soundbite from columnist Simon Hoggart of The Guardian riddled with ethnic stereotypes--"He is a Scot and that spells dour, very serious, very determined, very dogged, very careful with the money"--that would be outrageous if not for the laughable fact that Blair, who supposedly embodies such opposite attributes, is Scottish too. The departing Blair received the applause of the House of Commons. "Never before has anyone received an ovation," Palmer pointed out. "He left London by train tonight," added ABC's Sciutto, "carrying his own suitcase."

As for the politics of the change, an unidentified Brown aide told ABC's Sciutto that he will shift away from the United States and towards Europe and the United Nations and CBS' Palmer called it "a safe bet" that Britain's relationship with the United States "will cool." NBC's Friesen noted that Brown "has taken on Africa as a cause." As proof, she cited his trip to Nigeria last year with the rock star Bono and her own anchor Brian Williams.

TEHERAN AND BAGHDAD Normally a mere stand-up report with little edited footage and no added soundbites is not worthy of mention. The effort by NBC producer Ali Arouzi from Teheran is an exception. Why was he unable to provide footage of anti-government protestors chanting "Death to Ahmadinejad" as they vandalized filling stations upon the imposition of gasoline rationing? "Some of the agencies were able to feed out stills of the incidents but not videos," he explained. "The police will not allow the media anywhere near a gas station. The government has enforced a complete blanket ban on any footage shot last night." Fair enough.

Both ABC and CBS had their White House correspondents follow up on Iraq. CBS' Jim Axelrod reminded us of the Iraq Study Group headed by James Baker and Lee Hamilton whose policy proposals were overridden by President George Bush and his so-called surge. The ISG's main point was that "the security of Baghdad's neighborhoods should not be the top priority for US forces. Training Iraqi troops should be." Axelrod noted that the House of Representatives has just approved funding for the ISG to reconstitute itself.

As for that training, ABC's Martha Raddatz (no link) reported on a disastrous audit from the House Armed Services Committee on the $19bn in US funds spent on bringing 346,000 security forces up to speed: "They do not know how many really show up for work each day, how many have died, how many have deserted." Furthermore, weapons and uniforms have disappeared and some trainees have joined independent militias. "All very bad news."

WET TEXAS, DRY TAHOE In Texas "the rain just will not quit," complained NBC's Don Teague. The Red River, the Brazos River, the Colorado River, the Rio Grande all flooded. In Marble Falls, ABC's Barbara Pinto showed us that puddles were all that remained from a flash flood: "Everything you see behind me was under five feet of water just a few hours ago…half of the city is without drinkable water. Roads and bridges are gone." It has rained in Oklahoma City for 15 days straight. Across the two states in the past week floods have killed eleven people. This is "one of the wettest Junes on record" noted CBS' Hari Sreenivasan--after what NBC's Teague called the region's "worst drought in 50 years."

The firefighters of Lake Tahoe are "up against some of the driest conditions here in decades," warned NBC's Peter Alexander. That tinder is aggravated by winds along the lake with gusts up to 40mph that cause "flames to leap as far as three quarters of a mile away," according to ABC's Miguel Marquez (subscription required). "Even veteran firefighters are on edge." A force of 800 has built fire breaks "by hand and bulldozer," as CBS' Bill Whitaker put it, around 80% of the blaze in the hope that winds do not carry embers across their containment lines. However he quoted the firefighters' commander: "Hope is not a plan."

WORLD FOOD CHAIN The spate of bad publicity following recalls of tainted pet food ingredients and toxic children's toys has the People's Republic of China worried, CBS' Barry Petersen reported from Tokyo. His camera crew tried to cover the factory that used lead paint on Thomas the Tank Engine but it was turned away--"no surprise. In some parts of China rich factory owners can often keep even official prying eyes out, often by buying them off." Food exports are so valuable--China has 73% of the United States garlic market, for example--that authorities launched a crackdown as "a way of safeguarding hard-won market share." They closed 200 plants processing such foods as candy, crackers, pickles and seafood products, Petersen reported. The problem was their ingredients--"formaldehyde, illegal dyes and industrial wax."

"Prices have climbed to more than $4 a gallon in some parts of the country," ABC's Betsy Stark reported from New Jersey. No she was not at an oil refinery but at a dairy farm, and the liquid in question was white--although petroleum plays a role in the hikes. "Fertilizer is more expensive and so is cow feed now that corn is being turned into ethanol fuel." It is not only the cost of production that is going up, "global demand is growing too" as milk grows more popular in India and China, while global supply shrinks as that drought in Australia puts the squeeze on its global dairy exports.

SELECTIVE SEROTONIN REUPTAKE INHIBITORS Pre-partum depression was the topic of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that attracted coverage from NBC and CBS. If a pregnant woman is depressed, will medication with so-called SSRIs--brands like Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac--harm the development of her fetus? "Not risk free," was the analysis by NBC's in-house physician Nancy Snyderman. "Little reason to worry," was how CBS' Michelle Miller put it. Miller explained that any pregnancy has an average 3% risk of resulting in a birth defect. SSRIs increase those odds by a further 1%. However, as Snyderman noted, depressed women "may be at higher risk if they do not get treated." The bottom line, CBS' Miller concluded tritely, is that "women on antidepressants should consult their doctors immediately when they learn they are pregnant"--as if non-depressed women should not too.

HATEFUL, GODLESS AND MEALY-MOUTHED Columnist Ann Coulter "has a book to promote this week," as ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) put it, showing us the cover of her Godless but not deigning to mention it by name. Accordingly Coulter appeared on ABC's Good Morning America from which NBC's David Gregory ran her incendiary soundbite pledging to desist from insinuating that one of the Democratic Presidential candidates is gay: "If I am going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I will just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."

ABC's Tapper ran a C-SPAN clip that gave background to Coulter's Edwards-baiting: "You have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot so I am kind of at an impasse. I cannot really talk about Edwards." He also cited a Coulter column where she accused Edwards of exploiting a family tragedy to gain sympathy with the joke that Edwards' bumper sticker reads Ask Me About My Son's Death in an Horrific Car Accident.

So bad blood already existed when Coulter's book tour reached Hardball on MSNBC. While the columnist was taking questions from anchor Chris Matthews, the candidate's wife Elizabeth called in to decry Coulter's "hatefulness and ugliness." Said Elizabeth: "We cannot have a debate if you are using this kind of language." Replied Ann: "I think we have heard all we need to hear. The wife of a Presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking." Coulter said she would not: "No!" The Edwards Campaign publicized the spat in a fundraising e-mail by the candidate's wife, asking for Coulter Cash.

Neither Tapper nor Gregory chose to take sides. NBC's Gregory saw a "calculated effort to confront Coulter" and generalized that the entire episode is a "reminder of what so many Americans so dislike about politics." ABC's Tapper noted that "Edwards has a fundraising deadline--enemies can have their uses."

Please. Both Tapper and Gregory are being mealy mouthed here. Admittedly the Edwards Campaign frittered away some of its moral high ground when it raised money by bragging as a badge of honor that it has Coulter as an enemy. As crass as that may be, Edwards still has every right to express her resentment when she hears her husband gay-baited, teased in his bereavement and wished dead at the hands of terrorist assassins. And Coulter has no excuse to talk like that.

UPDATE: at the conservative, Brad Wilmouth (text link) reprimands NBC's Gregory for taking Coulter's Good Morning America quote out of context. The full quote, Wilmouth demonstrates, consisted of Coulter defending herself for making faggot jokes about Edwards on the ground that they are less offensive than HBO comedian Bill Maher having assassination fantasies about Vice President Dick Cheney. Coulter declared that she would cause less offense by fantasizing about Edwards' assassination than about his sexual orientation. The fact that Gregory quoted the latter rather than the former proves her wrong--but it still does not justify Gregory's misrepresenting her point.

DRY BONES Both ABC and NBC closed with the discovery by the Discovery Channel for its new documentary Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen. NBC's Richard Engel was in Cairo at the Royal Mummy Hall to report on the CAT scan investigation that linked a tooth believed to be that of the C16th BCE Pharaoh Hatshepsut to a previously unidentified skeleton. The pharaoh, who "stole power from her stepson and dressed as a man, reigned over Egypt for 20 years at the height of its glory." The skeleton is of a 5'2" obese, diabetic woman who died of bone cancer. NBC's Engel credited Discovery with providing the funds for Egyptian archeologists to perform the scans. ABC's Ned Potter (subscription required) narrated documentary footage of the scans from New York. Even as the footage sported Discovery's logo, Potter credited chief archeologist Zahi Hawass, not the cable channel whose funds he used, as the leader of the search for the bones of Hatshepsut.

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 Senate Judiciary Committee issued sub-poenas for the White House in its investigation of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps…fashion designer Liz Claiborne dies, aged 78…the nationwide prison population now exceeds 2.2m…a 23-year-old completed his small plane circumnavigation, the youngest pilot ever to do so.