CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 07, 2008
Child welfare authorities in Texas reacted to a telephone call alleging abuse from an unnamed 16-year-old mother by taking into custody 401 children and teenagers, accompanied by 133 mothers, from the Yearning for Zion ranch outside San Angelo. The residents of the 1700 acre ranch are self-styled fundamentalist Mormons, a sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints that practices polygamy, with adult men taking child brides. Both CBS and NBC led with the mass commitment of the youngsters, which was the Story of the Day. ABC enlarged its newshole, to coin a phrase, (24 min v CBS 19, NBC 19) courtesy of Viagra, its single sponsor. It led with human rights protests against the People's Republic of China targeting the relay of the Olympic torch en route to Beijing.    
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video thumbnailNBCMormon fundamentalist sect practices polygamyFear abuse of 400 children at Texas compoundDon TeagueTexas
video thumbnailABCBeijing Summer Olympic Games previewedSan Francisco prepares to protest torch paradeLaura MarquezSan Francisco
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Petraeus to testify on troop levels outlookJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSIraq: political coalition government under firePM al-Maliki suffers setback against al-SadrLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailABC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignTop aide Mark Penn undercuts message on tradeJake TapperWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSAirline travel: carriers ranked for qualityDiscounters score well, commuters poorlyThalia AssurasVirginia
video thumbnailCBSNewborn citizens often born to foreign mothersPregnant women cross border for ER hospital careByron PittsTexas
video thumbnailNBCGrand Canyon ecosystem conservation effortsFlooding experiment restored river sandbarsJohn LarsonArizona
video thumbnailABCWest Virginia supreme court corruption allegedConflicts of interest with coal industry probedBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailABCIndia economy: growth and globalization trendsMumbai twentysomething straddles ancient, modernDan HarrisMumbai
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
CHILD PROTECTION OR RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION? Child welfare authorities in Texas reacted to a telephone call alleging abuse from an unnamed 16-year-old mother by taking into custody 401 children and teenagers, accompanied by 133 mothers, from the Yearning for Zion ranch outside San Angelo. The residents of the 1700 acre ranch are self-styled fundamentalist Mormons, a sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints that practices polygamy, with adult men taking child brides. Both CBS and NBC led with the mass commitment of the youngsters, which was the Story of the Day. ABC enlarged its newshole, to coin a phrase, (24 min v CBS 19, NBC 19) courtesy of Viagra, its single sponsor. It led with human rights protests against the People's Republic of China targeting the relay of the Olympic torch en route to Beijing.

All three networks had reporters on hand in west Texas. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan repeated the argument for such a mass intervention: "The state says all the children need protection." He reported that the teenager who called in about the abuse has a 50-year-old husband. NBC's Don Teague called it "the largest mass removal of children in Texas history" and said that both mothers and children live "highly sheltered lives without television or Internet" on the ranch. ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) noted that the welfare shelters in San Angelo are "overflowing" and filled with "frightened children." The state, so far, has refused to grant visitation rights to any of the men at the ranch, which is now "surrounded by police."

In an echo of the terminology used for the Branch Davidians 15 years ago, CBS anchor Katie Couric switched from calling the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints a sect of Mormonism to a "cult" when she interviewed John Llewellyn "a former deputy sheriff in Salt Lake City and himself a former polygamist." Llewellyn called the Texas group the "most isolated" of all the FLDS communities. "What they are really all about is power, sex and money…These little girls are raised to be nothing more than brood mares. That is what they are there for."


EXTINGUISHED The Olympic torch is being passed from London to Paris to San Francisco. CBS' Mark Phillips covered the European angle from London while ABC's Laura Marquez awaited its arrival in the City by the Bay. NBC, whose sports division has the broadcast rights to cover the Beijing Games, contented itself with a brief video clip of the dousing of the flame in Paris and the spectacular pro-Tibetan signs festooning the Golden Gate Bridge.

ABC's Marquez reported that the flame's route through San Francisco has already been modified, skipping some of the city's "iconic sites" and missing out on a cable car ride. Beijing organizers had dubbed the relay the Journey of Harmony, CBS' Phillips said scornfully, "Not." He called the torch "too tempting and too handy a target" for protestors and speculated about a backlash against the major corporate sponsors of the Games. The top five firms--AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, General Motors--risk "being tainted by association" with China's policy of repression in Tibet.


PETRAEUS PREPARATIONS All three networks previewed the Capitol Hill testimony on Iraq by Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker. NBC had Jim Miklaszewski file from the Pentagon where he concentrated on troop levels: "Petraeus wants to keep some 140,000 American forces in Iraq at least through the Presidential election in November." In Baghdad's Green Zone, ABC's Miguel Marquez (embargoed link) looked at the "huge spike" in mortar and rocket attacks in the last month: "Many wonder if the increased attacks have been timed to coincide" with the Petraeus testimony.

On CBS, Lara Logan looked at Iraqi politics in the wake of the failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to pacify Basra. Now al-Maliki has threatened to disqualify the political opposition led by Muqtada al-Sadr from upcoming provincial elections. "On the streets of Sadr City," al-Sadr's power base, "the prime minister has never been more unpopular." Logan showed posters in Arabic with the slogan al-Maliki! Your Punishment will be in Hell. "He is widely seen as the loser in the fight against al-Sadr's followers."

Rounding out the day's Iraq coverage, Richard Engel returned to the Alwiya Orphanage in Baghdad for NBC's In Depth. He updated us on the Hussein sisters--Marwa, Aliya and Sora--he first profiled two years ago after their parents were murdered in front of their eyes. Aliya and Sora are still there; Marwa, now 15 years old, has had to move on: "Since she left, men have been trying to marry her. Marwa had three proposals in the last month and turned them down. 'I do not want to marry; school is more important,' she said. Marwa still wants to be an engineer like her father. Now she wears a veil and is guarded."


COLOMBIA & IRAQ VOTES Iraq was also the topic on the campaign trail, where NBC's Kelly O'Donnell covered John McCain's "glass half full" speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. McCain reassured his audience that "we are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat" in Iraq even though promises of troop withdrawals disregard "calamitous consequences." ABC had Martha Raddatz edit together vox pop comments on the candidates from soldiers in the war zone that she gathered while traveling with Vice President Dick Cheney. Even though they had just listened to the Veep's "rousing speech, he did not change their political preference." Most of the GIs supported either Barack Obama or Hillary Rodham Clinton, while "there were some McCain backers." The military vote is enthusiastic, Raddatz reported, with a 73% turnout in 2004, and yet higher expected in 2008.

ABC also had Jake Tapper cover the hiccup in the Rodham Clinton campaign as Mark Penn was "demoted" as chief campaign strategist. Rodham Clinton has made a big deal in Pennsylvania of opposing a free trade deal with Colombia because of its repression of labor unions. Yet Penn, in his capacity as head of Burson Marsteller public relations, advised the government of Colombia on how to get the trade deal passed. Tapper saw "ammunition" for Obama to target the labor vote and also a black eye for Rodham Clinton among superdelegates. He called it "difficult" for her to argue "that she has been running the superior campaign."


COMMUTER CHAOS Both NBC and CBS covered an annual survey of the quality of the airline industry's passenger service that found lower ratings than ever before. CBS' Thalia Assuras ticked off a litany of complaints: fewer on-time flights, more passengers bumped, more bags lost, more complaints about service. NBC's Tom Costello noted that discount airlines--AirTran, jetBlue, Southwest--were top of the list; commuter airlines--Delta Connection, American Eagle, Comair--were at the bottom.


REPEAL THE FOURTEENTH! CBS kicked off a series dubbed Immigration Nation by focusing on the very youngest native born US citizens. Byron Pitts told us that 300,000 babies are born on American soil each year to foreign mothers who are in this country illegally. Those women can apply for green cards 21 years later when their children qualify as sponsors. Pitts profiled such long term planning along the Texas border by recounting the story of Fabiola, a six-months pregnant Mexican who crossed the Rio Grande illegally so her baby could be a yanqui. Meet Elliott, whose rights are guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

Pitts argued that this form of gaining citizenship is so appealing that it strains the budgets of maternity wards at Texas hospitals: fully 40% of the citizens born at the McAllen Medical Center have visaless foreign mothers. Rep Lamar Smith (R-TX) has proposed repeal of the 14th Amendment, calling it "fundamentally wrong."


BEAUTY, QUIRKY, EXPOSE All three networks filed a feature on energy and the environment. NBC's was the most beautiful, with John Larson filing an update from the floor of the Grand Canyon on the restoration of the sandbars in the Colorado River after the mass water release from the Glen Canyon Dam. CBS had the most quirky story from Ben Tracy. California's environmental legislation is so eager to have homeowners install solar panels on their roofs that its Shade Act forces neighbors to trim thick trees. ABC had the most hard hitting from Brian Ross.

Ross covered King Coal in West Virginia where Massey Energy is so powerful that it paid $3.5m to fund a judge's successful candidacy to the state's supreme court, where he voted to overturn a fraud verdict against Massey. Massey's chief executive Don Blankenship, Ross added, is a close friend and regular dining companion with Elliott Maynard, the Chief Justice of West Virginia. The two friends and their girlfriends took a vacation together to the French Riviera yet Maynard at first did not recuse himself from the Massey appeal. See Blankenship refuse Ross' questions by manhandling ABC's camera with the joke: "You are liable to get shot."


WHAT IS THIS BRADPITT? ABC announced that its single sponsor format would continue on Mondays throughout April. It will use the extra time for a four-part series 21 and the World is Yours, a comparison of the lifestyles of twentysomethings across the globe. Dan Harris kicked off in Mumbai with a profile of Nisha Mehta, a medical laboratory sales manager who plans to live with her parents until she gets married: "I believe in love marriage" not arranged marriage. The most amazing thing Harris observed about Mehta, apart from her "extreme commuting" fearlessness in crossing a street during rush hour traffic, was how indifferent she was to the United States: "Who needs America?" She had no desire to emigrate here and did not even know whoever this Brad Pitt might be.


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: President George Bush urged Congress to ratify a free trade agreement with Colombia…movie star and gun rights activist Charlton Heston died, aged 84.