A single surgical procedure on an unidentified brain-damaged patient was the Story of the Day. The experiment was written up in the magazine Nature. By implanting electrodes into the thalamus portion of the brain, surgeons were able to revive the man after six years in a minimally conscious comatose state. ABC and NBC both led with the procedure. CBS chose Capitol Hill instead, where the Food & Drug Administration may be given the power to regulate the tobacco industry.    
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video thumbnailNBCBrain injuries can cause minimally conscious comasElectrode implant experiment revives patientRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailCBSSmoking: tobacco industry regulation debateSenate panel drafts bill to grant FDA authorityNancy CordesWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSHealthcare reform: universal and managed careCongress may extend children's care programThalia AssurasWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCNFL former player Pat Tillman killed in combatFormer Secy Rumsfeld denies lies at House panelChip ReidCapitol Hill
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesUS troop build-up reduces civilian death tollTerry McCarthyBaghdad
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPentagon plans logistics of pullout via KuwaitJim MiklaszewskiKuwait
video thumbnailCBSSaudi Arabia-US diplomacy: arms sale initiativeUS puts pressure on Riyadh to recognize IraqSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailABC
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2008 Barack Obama campaignPolicy speech advocates aggression on al-QaedaJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailCBS2008 Mike Huckabee campaignDark horse has visibility, fundraising problemsJeff GreenfieldArkansas
video thumbnailABCReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseLas Vegas housing speculators are hardest hitMiguel MarquezLos Angeles
HOPE SPRINGS IN THE DEEP BRAIN A single surgical procedure on an unidentified brain-damaged patient was the Story of the Day. The experiment was written up in the magazine Nature. By implanting electrodes into the thalamus portion of the brain, surgeons were able to revive the man after six years in a minimally conscious comatose state. ABC and NBC both led with the procedure. CBS chose Capitol Hill instead, where the Food & Drug Administration may be given the power to regulate the tobacco industry.

The mother of the patient, a 38-year-old nursing home patient disabled by a robber's assault, recounted how her son went from occasionally moving an eyelid, to now eating, drinking, expressing pain, tears, laughter and limited speech. NBC's Robert Bazell called it "an astounding case of science because it is an awakening based on a new understanding of the human brain." ABC's John McKenzie detailed the painstaking neurological procedure, ten hours in duration, with electrodes "traveling gingerly at a quarter of an inch an hour" and then "firing mild electrical impulses 100 times a second."

This type of deep-brain stimulation "has already been used to help Parkinson's patients," CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook pointed out, and may now by used on those in "a minimally conscious state--devastating but not as severe as a coma or vegetative state." ABC and NBC estimated that there are 100,000 such patients nationwide; CBS cited 200,000. "Now there is more hope," stated CBS' LaPook…"There is real hope where there was none," asserted ABC's McKenzie…"This has got to be hopeful," NBC's Bazell suggested

CBS ON THE HILL CBS chose to relegate the feature-style brain damage story to late in its line-up as it adopted a crisp newsy pace for the top of its newscast, starting with Capitol Hill. It was the only network to cover a pair of legislative proposals there--on tobacco regulation and healthcare reform. Nancy Cordes kicked off with what she called a "landmark" Senate proposal to put cigarettes under FDA regulation. It would allow the feds to police advertising, labeling, marketing, nicotine levels and non-tobacco additives. "Misleading terms like light, mild or low tar would be eliminated while warning labels would be bigger and bolder." Cordes found divisions among Big Tobacco: most of the industry resists FDA controls--but market leader Philip Morris has "broken from the pack," to coin a phrase, welcoming "predictability and clear standards."

Next Thalia Assuras brought us dueling plans for extending federal funding for the state-run S-CHIP--the State Children's Health Insurance Program--that currently provides subsidized healthcare for 5m children in uninsured working class households. A bill in the House of Representatives seeks to expand the program to cover 6m more children at an increased five-year cost of $50bn; the Senate has 3m more at $35bn; the President's preferred hike is $5bn. George Bush and his supporters contend that "the bills go to far" calling them "a slippery slope towards a universal healthcare plan." Whichever S-CHIP emerges is veto bait.

RUMSFELDIAN RHETORIC Correspondents on Capitol Hill for NBC and ABC turned instead to House hearings into the Pentagon's handling of the notorious death of Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player, on a battlefield in Afghanistan (note that yesterday (text link) we questioned CBS' elevation of Tillman to "star" status; now NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson perform the same athletic inflation). At stake was how high up the chain of command the decision had gone to portray Tillman's death, falsely, as heroic.

The witnesses were the three men in charge at the Pentagon at the time, all now retired: then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Chairman Richard Myers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen John Abizaid, then commander of Central Command. NBC's Chip Reid reported that Abizaid testified he had been warned of the true facts of the incident within one week and that he relayed that information on to Myers.

Rumsfeld for his part "vigorously denied" deception, according to Reid, although--reminding us of his relish for indirect rhetorical soundbites--his use of words was not categorical: "I know that I would not engage in a cover-up" was his formulation, without explaining the force of the "know" and the "would." ABC's Pentagon correspondent Jonathan Karl commented that "the military says the buck stops with three-star Gen Philip Kensinger…the committee tried to get Kensinger to testify but not even the federal marshals could find him."

IRAQ FACTS PUNCTURE PENTAGON OPTIMISM On Monday, CBS' Pentagon correspondent David Martin reported positive news out of Iraq: he claimed that the month of July had seen a reduction in casualties both for US military and Iraqi civilians. Now, reporting from Baghdad, his colleague Allen Pizzey contradicts him, at least on the latter statistic: "An unofficial count by the Associated Press made July the second deadliest month for Iraqis so far this year." ABC's Terry McCarthy (subscription required) offered an explanation for the discrepancy. Life is getting "less grim" for Iraqis living in the area of the US military's misnamed surge as "suicide bombers moved further north, killing hundreds in and around Kirkuk." As for the reduction in GI casualties, ABC's McCarthy warned, counterintuitively, that this may be a sign the US plan is not working: "The military said it expected casualties to go up as the extra surge troops forced their way into new areas." All McCarthy could conclude was that "less bad" may be a more accurate description than "getting better."

CBS' Pizzey pointed out that the Iraqi government is on "the point of collapse" as the largest political bloc of Sunni Arabs walked out of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition saying it had "slammed shut the door to any meaningful reforms." Pizzey sought the reaction of US military brass in Baghdad. They admitted that a functioning government "has to go hand in hand with the security gains they claim they are making." Meanwhile, in Kuwait, US logistics commanders told NBC's Jim Miklaszewski that "they could easily handle" the pullout of all 160,000 troops from Iraq "in a matter of months." A plan is in place already and ready to go. Equipment would take longer--"two years for a complete withdrawal."

CAP IN HAND The diplomatic outreach by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is receiving thin coverage. NBC previewed the trip with Andrea Mitchell in Washington on Monday. She focused on US efforts to encourage the kingdom to confront Iran. Now CBS has Sheila MacVicar in London focus on the second item on Rice's agenda--that the kingdom should warm up to Iraq. MacVicar listed the State Department's beefs with Saudi Arabia over Iraq: as many as 45% of all foreign-born insurgents in Iraq are Saudi nationals; King Abdullah characterized the US military presence in Iraq as "an illegitimate foreign occupation;" Riyadh does not even recognize the Baghdad regime. The Secretary, accompanied by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, extracted "a grudging agreement" from the King "to consider the possibility of renewed diplomatic relations with Baghdad." MacVicar commented sarcastically: "All it took was a visit by two US Cabinet secretaries and the promise of a $20bn arms deal."

DIPLOMACY WITH FOES, INVASION OF ALLIES Campaign 2008 coverage consisted of new opinion poll standings from NBC News and a major policy speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center inside-the-Beltway think tank by Democratic candidate Barack Obama, reported on by CBS and ABC. The poll found that Hillary Rodham Clinton has "solidified her lead" (43% v Obama 22%, John Edwards 13%) among Democrats, according to NBC's Tim Russert, and on the Republican side "resiliency and a widening lead" for Rudolph Giuliani, whose nearest rival Fred Thompson (20% v 33% with John McCain at 17%) not even a declared candidate.

After last week's pledge to conduct personal diplomacy with hostile states, Obama now turned to his military options for the non-state ai-Qaeda. ABC's Jake Tapper (subscription required) heard Obama countenance the invasion of an ally: "He put the President of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, on notice," insisting that "if Musharraf will not take action against al-Qaeda in Pakistan's mountainous tribal region, the US should." CBS' Sharyl Attkisson understated that Obama's was "an aggressive plan." She called it "one of the toughest from a Democratic candidate so far."

Bill Richardson's candidacy has not been profiled on a network nightly newscast so far…neither has Sam Brownback's…nor Tom Tancredo's…nor Chris Dodd's…nor Ron Paul's…nor Dennis Kucinich's. How lucky, then, was Mike Huckabee to attract the attention of CBS' Jeff Greenfield? Huckabee "faces the same obstacle that confronts just about every dark horse candidate. If you are not visible, how do you raise money? If you do not have money, how do you get visible?" For Greenfield, Huckabee's gimmick was that "he was born and raised in the small Arkansas town of Hope." The Republican's favorite punchline refers to that other native son: "All I ask is--Give us one more chance!" And by the way, Huckabee has two attention-getting policy positions that are "not always in synch with the Republican base"-- opposed to corporate outsourcing of jobs and in favor of environmental conservation.

GAMBLERS TAP OUT The day after American Home Mortgage went bankrupt, NBC's Lee Cowan found more "jitters" as unfounded rumors spread that Beazer, a homebuilder, was going under too. "Just last year homes in the nation's top 20 markets were appreciating by about 15%. Since then it has been a steady drop. Homes are now depreciating by as much as 3%." And ABC's Miguel Marquez noted that nowhere are things harder than in Las Vegas, where speculators were left holding the bag as the demand dried up. In Nevada so far this year, Marquez found, one home is foreclosed out of every 69 in the state's housing stock.

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 Congressional Budget Office projects an extra $1tr budget requirement for the Defense Department over the next decade to pay for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan…the domestic market share of Detroit's Big Three automobile manufacturers has fallen below 50% for the first time…Attorney General Alberto Gonzales conceded that he used confusing language in his Senate testimony last week…the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise has begun patrols in the Persian Gulf.