The resurgence of al-Qaeda was the Story of the Day--not because of any headline-grabbing attack by Osama bin Laden's organization but because the United States' top spies issued a report that labeled his comeback official. Both ABC and CBS led with the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate. NBC chose Wall Street instead, assigning its lead to its sister network CNBC as the Dow Jones Industrial Average flirted with a closing high of 14000.    
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video thumbnailCBSSuspected al-Qaeda network leaders manhuntNational Intelligence Estimate finds regroupingBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCSaudi Arabia terrorism: network of cells arrestedRehabilitation program for militant inmatesRichard EngelRiyadh
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesSenate schedules all-night troops-out debateJake TapperCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCNYSE-NASDAQ closing pricesBull market boosted by booming global economyErin BurnettCNBC
video thumbnailNBC2008 Barack Obama campaignAttracts funds, large crowds, not poll supportLee CowanNew York
video thumbnailCBSFood supply safety, poisoning prevention measuresHouse hearings into FDA import inspection flawsNancy CordesWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCBreast cancer coverageRecurrence chances not improved mega-veggie dietRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Breast cancer coverageLifestyle changes can improve prevention oddsJohn McKenzieNew York
video thumbnailCBSWolf packs reintroduced to Yellowstone National ParkRanchers cite threat to herds, call for huntingTracy SmithWyoming
video thumbnailABC
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Gulf sturgeon leap out of Suwannee River watersGiant armored fish startle Florida boatersJeffrey KofmanFlorida
WAR ON TERRORISM IN REVERSE GEAR The resurgence of al-Qaeda was the Story of the Day--not because of any headline-grabbing attack by Osama bin Laden's organization but because the United States' top spies issued a report that labeled his comeback official. Both ABC and CBS led with the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate. NBC chose Wall Street instead, assigning its lead to its sister network CNBC as the Dow Jones Industrial Average flirted with a closing high of 14000.

There was not much to the NIE to warrant all that attention: the unclassified key judgments "run only a page and a half," ABC's Martha Raddatz showed us. Furthermore they only set down in writing what was covered by "days of leaks to the news media," as NBC anchor Brian Williams noted, broadcasting on the road from Los Angeles. Sure enough last week, ABC's Brian Ross, NBC's Andrea Mitchell and CBS' David Martin had already covered much of the material.

What was new was President George Bush's reaction to the official acknowledgment that his War on Terrorism is in reverse gear. ABC's Raddatz pointed out that as recently as last year another NIE had claimed that the US had "seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qaeda and disrupted its operations." No more. The new NIE finds al-Qaeda has "regenerated key elements" with top leadership "restoring their ability to direct operations." CBS and NBC ran one of the President's soundbites trying to mitigate the negative news: "They are not nearly as strong as they were prior to September 11th, 2001." ABC ran another: they "would have been a lot stronger today had we not stayed on the offensive."

Why have al-Qaeda's fortunes improved? CBS' Bob Orr blamed "a failed truce" between President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and leaders in the tribal zones along its northwest frontier that has created "a secure place to hide from US and Pakistani forces"--yet none of the networks filed from Pakistan itself. NBC's Mitchell reported that the Pakistan may now be a starting point for a plotters' pipeline to travel to north Africa and then to Europe. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told CBS' Katie Couric that "they morph, they begin to stretch into places like Europe, north Africa and east Africa." CBS' Orr, however, found "no evidence" either that al-Qaeda has acquired weapons of mass destruction or that it has inserted a sleeper cell of would-be terrorists into this country.

NBC's terrorist-related follow-up was an extraordinary Exclusive by Richard Engel from Riyadh. He showed us a Saudi Arabian version of Club Fed, a halfway house where prison inmates convicted of jihadists radicalism receive rehabilitation before returning to civil society. "Security is minimal," Engel assured us as he showed us inmates "defusing anger through videogames and soccer" and enjoying the center's four swimming pools, "even room service." A team of clerics and psychiatrists teach the prisoners that blowing people up violates Koranic teaching. The inmates include a former prisoner at Guantanamo Bay. Released after five years in USNavy custody, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ponied up "$20,000 to furnish his apartment." And it paid for his wedding.

MR SMITH GOES TO BAGHDAD David Muir was the substitute anchor for Charles Gibson at ABC for a second day. He found his viewers' response to yesterday's Exclusive footage of GIs in Baghdad from embedded photographer Sean Smith "extraordinary." Audience reactions included one from the bereaved mother of a 19-year-old member of the platoon, who watched the vehicle fire that killed her son. She recalled that he had seen "the futility of the Iraq invasion and occupation." Another e-mailer saw the focus of the footage as uniformly negative and concluded that it was the result of "irresponsible and cowardly reporting." Please. A journalist who decides to embed himself with the Second Infantry Division on the streets of Baghdad may display many attributes. Cowardice is not one of them.

The day's only Iraq-related news to attract a reporter's attention was the all-night Senate debate over a deadline to withdraw troops. "Republicans said it was a political stunt," ABC's Jake Tapper stated, and from the way he reported the story--complete with a clip from Jimmy Stewart's filibustering movie character Mr Smith--Tapper seemed to concur. He told us nothing about policy and plenty about parliamentary process: "Cots were wheeled out at the Senate this afternoon, pillows puffed and prepped."

ASSET PRICE INFLATION The round number of DJIA 14,000 was a milestone that justified the survey of the state of Wall Street's bull market by CNBC's Erin Burnett. She offered a pair of explanations for the 30% rise in the price of financial assets over the past year: "the global economy is booming," China, Brazil and Russia in particular; and "mergers are up 70% from a year ago." Burnett claimed that "the majority of Americans directly benefit" from the bull market by citing the statistic that "more than half" are invested. She reached that total by adding together owners of specific stocks with participants in 401(k) plans and investors in mutual funds.

Thus Burnett lumped small-time diversified savers together with card-carrying members of the investor class. For many in that heterogeneous majority, their "direct benefit" will be too inconsequential to justify the lead story on NBC's nightly newscast.

LEE COWAN 2.0 NBC welcomed its new hire Lee Cowan, formerly of CBS, with an assignment to cover the conundrum of the Barack Obama candidacy for President. How can a campaign that leads all others in fundraising, that attracts "rock star status" crowds on the stump, that is the topic of a political groupie's video crush on YouTube, not be leading in the opinion polls? Cowan reminded us that four years ago Howard Dean "was on the very same track, leading the money race, drawing the big crowds--but then it all collapsed." Obama may follow Dean or he may have learned from his mistakes…and so become "Howard Dean 2.0."

WORLD FOOD CHAIN All three networks assigned a reporter to cover the House hearings into food safety and the shortfalls in the Food & Drug Administration's system for quality control of food imports. The American diet is going global: NBC's Tom Costello offered the statistic that 15% of the nation's food supply is imported; ABC's Dan Harris told us that the volume of food imports doubles every five years. Costello reported that those imports enter through 326 separate ports yet only 91 are staffed by FDA inspectors; Harris found that there are 20m imports of food each year, of which the FDA inspects 1%.

On CBS, Nancy Cordes gave us a couple of ruses for avoiding FDA inspectors' suspicions: after the pet food problems with imported wheat gluten, Chinese shippers changed their labeling to use the logo of a Dutch windmill; and if products show signs of decay or contamination, "carbon monoxide in packaging can make meat and seafood look fresher.

BREAST NEWS YOU CAN USE NBC's In Depth and ABC's A Closer Look each chose breast cancer prevention for its topic, ABC on what to do to cut the odds of getting a tumor in the first place, NBC on what patients should eat to avoid a recurrence after treatment. NBC's Robert Bazell reminded us of previous research that showed that five daily portions of fruits and vegetables are helpful in preventing a second lump; a new study has found that five is enough--excessive gorging on veggies does not further increase their protective efficacy. ABC's John McKenzie (subscription required) listed three lifestyle factors that will certainly improve a woman's chances of keeping her breasts cancer free and one possible one: the latter may be to add extra olive oil to the diet; the former consist of avoiding stuff--Hormone Replacement Therapy, excessive alcohol and overweight fat.

WOLVES’ TAILS AND FISH TALES On the animal beat, CBS' Tracy Smith chose the wolf packs of Yellowstone National Park. It is now twelve years since 41 wolves were reintroduced into Wyoming after they had been wiped out by cattle ranchers, who hunted the predators to protect their herds. Smith recalled that conservationists had expected the 41 to breed to 100. Instead the wolves in a three state region, inside and outside the park, now number 1,300, not counting another 260 who have been killed by ranchers already for killing 1,000-or-so sheep and cattle. The ranchers want to resume hunting wolves at will. Meanwhile wolf-watching accounts for a local annual tourist economy of $35m--not to mention affording spectacular nature videotape for a newscast closer.

Footage of the gulf sturgeon is more spectacular still. A couple of weeks ago a sturgeon lunged onto a boat on the Suwannee River in northern Florida, breaking a girl's leg and tearing its artery. It is a species that has not evolved for 150m years and ABC's Jeffrey Kofman (subscription required) demonstrated that it is hard to the touch, like armor, "because its bones are on the outside." Kofman showed us a four-foot-long 150lb specimen leaping bodily out of the water. "That is one big fish!"

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 TAM Airlines crash at Sao Paulo Airport was a late-breaking story that occurred too late for more than an anchor mention… the FAA found that domestic airline flight delays and cancelations deteriorated in June…the nuclear leak resulting from earthquake damage at Japan's Kashiwazaki power plant may be more serious than first acknowledged…Iran released a television documentary in which a pair of Americans held prisoner in Teheran purportedly confessed to espionage…Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson resigned…agronomist Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for the so-called Green Revolution that boosted crop yields was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal…NFL star Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons is accused of running dog fights.