For the second straight day, the networks' transportation correspondents parked themselves inside crowded airport terminals to cover the woes of American Airlines' passengers. The safety directive by the Federal Aviation Administration to correct the bundling of wires in the wheel wells of the carrier's MD-80 jetliners has now caused some 2,500 flights to be canceled, grounding more than 250,000 passengers. All three newscasts led with the dislocation, making it the Story of the Day ahead of President George Bush's speech on troop deployments in Iraq. Again, same as Wednesday, not a single reporter filed from the campaign trail.    
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video thumbnailNBCAir safety: aging jetliner fleet requires inspectionAmerican Airlines delays continue on FAA ordersTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailABCAirline travel: anti-terrorism security precautionsSimple batteries can detonate liquid bombsPierre ThomasWashington DC
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Bush orders July troop pullout haltMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailNBCHaiti politics: riots outside presidential palaceLooting in Port-au-Prince, poor go hungryMara SchiavocampoHaiti
video thumbnailCBSIllegal immigration increases, sparks backlashArizona crackdown creates exodus, harms economyBen TracyPhoenix
video thumbnailCBSBeryllium factory in Ohio toxic dust worriesCDC safety tests curbed after governor's letterArmen KeteyianOhio
video thumbnailCBSMormon fundamentalist sect practices polygamySheriff's informant infiltrated Texas compoundHari SreenivasanTexas
video thumbnailABCPremature babies require intensive hospital careWet nurses' milk bank saves motherless girlSharyn AlfonsiPittsburgh
video thumbnailNBCInternet maps created from satellite photographyGoogle's photographs infringe on private roadsRon MottPittsburgh
video thumbnailCBSCollege sports: sixtysomething tennis playing coedMature student hits books, revitalizes teamSandra HughesLos Angeles
AIRLINE DELAYS CAUSED BY QUARTER INCH For the second straight day, the networks' transportation correspondents parked themselves inside crowded airport terminals to cover the woes of American Airlines' passengers. The safety directive by the Federal Aviation Administration to correct the bundling of wires in the wheel wells of the carrier's MD-80 jetliners has now caused some 2,500 flights to be canceled, grounding more than 250,000 passengers. All three newscasts led with the dislocation, making it the Story of the Day ahead of President George Bush's speech on troop deployments in Iraq. Again, same as Wednesday, not a single reporter filed from the campaign trail.

The FAA directive, ABC anchor Charles Gibson pointed out, insists that wires be bundled together at intervals of one inch, not an inch and a quarter. "Are we tying up the entire airline system of this country because of a quarter of an inch? Is that safety regulation run amok?" he asked correspondent Lisa Stark. Gibson's complaint would be more credible if he had not shared in the decision by all three networks last Thursday to make the FAA's coziness with Southwest Airlines their Story of the Day when the agency was investigated by a House committee. It is hard to make by-the-book oversight seem an overreaction now when sloppy oversight was a scandal then.

ABC's Stark explained: "The FAA's crackdown is, in part, an effort to repair its image" after those House hearings. She predicted that "over the next three months additional carriers will have to park their planes too" as the FAA expands its audit of maintenance work. NBC's Tom Costello raised a similar question about FAA overreaction with Jim Hall, former head of the National Transportation Safety Board. Opined Hall: "What we are seeing now is a divorce between the FAA and the airlines. It has been brought about by one of the partners failing to keep their promises--that being the airlines'--to maintain the safety of flight."

NBC's Costello called the progress towards a resumption of normal service "a slow crawl out of a dead stop." Looking forward, CBS' Nancy Cordes expected American to be fully "back on track" by Sunday: so far, of the 300 MD-80s in its fleet, "it has inspected and fixed the wiring harnesses in just 130." At O'Hare Airport in Chicago, ABC's Barbara Pinto (embargoed link) checked as airline personnel "scrambled to deal with disgruntled passengers." She inquired about the response rate on the telephone hotline: "Three hours on the phone?" "On hold, yes."

Turning to anti-terrorist aviation safety, ABC's Pierre Thomas showed us an Exclusive demonstration by the Transportation Security Administration of how liquid explosives can be detonated by a suicidal passenger in midair. A small electric charge will do--from the battery in an mp3 player…or a wristwatch…or an electric toothbrush.

NEWSMAKER AT THE NEWSEUM Only ABC assigned its White House correspondent to cover George Bush's speech on the Iraq War. Martha Raddatz was at the President's Crawford ranch in Texas, where she will file an interview Friday. He ordered a freeze in troop reductions in July and shorter tours of duty starting in August. NBC's Martin Savidge collected vox pop from the wives of the Third Infantry Division in Georgia: "Just about everybody we talked to at Fort Stewart liked the idea of shorter deployments."

ABC's Raddatz quoted Bush as welcoming "major progress in Iraq"--a far cry from his commanding general's cautious assessment at Senate hearings, when David Petraeus merely characterized the progress as "real but fragile and reversible." ABC did not send its anchor to interview the general, but both CBS' Katie Couric and NBC's Brian Williams traveled to the soon-to-open Newseum in Washington for a one-on-one with Petraeus. This is how he described that halting progress to Couric: "The trajectory--which was down really 15, 18 months ago, maybe even nine of ten months ago--in our view has been one that has been in an upward slope, never as fast as we would like." NBC's Williams asked Petraeus to "draw me a picture of how this war ends." "It will be a thinning out," was his gradualist reply.

Both anchors asked Petraeus about Iran. "Are we fighting a proxy war?" inquired NBC's Williams. "We certainly do not want to," was Petraeus' evasion. Couric asked "what role specifically" Iran is playing in support of recent violence in Iraq. Petraeus cited detainees who were "trained, equipped and paid by the Iranian Quds Force and, in some cases, directed by them" and identifying as Iranian-made "in some cases, entire rockets that we have captured in weapons caches or interdicted."

NBC's Williams asked Petraeus to reflect on the five years that have passed since troops under his command were greeted as liberators in Najaf: "We are all much older than that, by far more than just the years that have passed," came the war-weary response. Also on NBC, Ann Curry aired reflections on the cost of war in a Homefront profile of Andi Parhamovich, the "beautiful…headstrong, idealistic" pro-democracy activist who was working for a nation-building NGO in Baghdad when she was caught in an insurgent ambush. Her fiance, Newsweek war correspondent Michael Hastings, has written a "bittersweet" memoir of his grief, I Lost My Love in Baghdad. "I could write a thousand books and it would never be enough," Hastings told Curry. "It is not dollars, it is in our blood--and it is not just blood. It is in their future. We lose people's futures."

EAT DIRT ABC and NBC took different approaches to the global crisis caused by the rising cost of food. Basic staples cost 50% more than a year ago--not a crisis in the developed world where as little as 10% of our money is spent on sustenance; a calamity for the poor in developing countries, where food can account for 80% of all income. For ABC's A Closer Look, David Muir (embargoed link) rounded up vignettes from his colleagues: Bill Weir followed food riots in Egypt; Jim Sciutto saw demand for biofuels drive up kale costs in Kenya; Stephanie Sy cited China's appetite for pork putting a squeeze on feed for humans; Nick Schifrin told us that India has stopped all rice exports, driving up the world price.

NBC focused on just one country as Mara Schiavocampo filed In Depth from the road-blocked, fire ravaged, looted streets of Port-au-Prince. Food riots had rattled the gates of the palace of Haiti's President Rene Preval. Schiavocampo showed us a staple fare in poor neighborhoods. Ready for the recipe? "Butter, water, salt and dirt"--that is right, "dirt cookies."

ON THE BORDERLINE CBS continued its excellent series Immigration Nation. To recap, Byron Pitts told us Monday of the drive in Texas to repeal the 14th Amendment to strip citizenship from native born babies of visaless mothers. Bill Whitaker showed us Border Patrol video Tuesday of the creative fence-breaking techniques of would-be immigrants. John Blackstone snared a trip to Guanajuato Wednesday to visit a lettuce farmer joining his workers in Mexico because they are forbidden to harvest his land stateside. Now Ben Tracy is in Arizona where the state government strips the business license of any employer that "knowingly hires an illegal immigrant." The consequence has been mass exodus: "Entire apartment buildings are empty. Students are disappearing from schools. Stores that cater to Hispanic families closed."

BERYLLIUM DUST-UP CBS claimed an Exclusive for Armen Keteyian's investigation into the reason why the toxic substances agency of the Centers for Disease Control scaled back plans for blood tests in Elmore Ohio and discontinued dust readings. Elmore is the location of Brush Wellman's beryllium factory, a toxic metal used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons parts, golf clubs and computer chips. The CDC toxic survey was truncated after Health Secretary Michael Leavitt received a letter from Ohio Governor Bob Taft in 2006. Taft was worried that Brush Wellman would refuse to go ahead with a planned expansion. Just five months after the CDC survey was changed, the plant expansion went ahead. Keteyian asked whether there was a connection between the letter and the change and received this non-denial denial from the CDC's Thomas Sinks: "I received no pressure that would have altered the decision that we made to go forward to use the most definitive tests we could."

SINGLE MOTHERS SHARE HUSBAND CBS stayed on the investigation of child abuse at the Yearning for Zion ranch outside San Angelo Tex, with Hari Sreenivasan filing for the fourth day in a row. Both he and NBC's Don Teague told us that the Schleicher County Sheriff's Department claimed to have had an informant inside the fundamentalist Mormon community for four years. Sreenivasan found tax documents that showed that the polygamists' ranch made money from a cement plant and a cheese factory--and added that, typically, such communities have a further source of income. Because a polygamous husband is married in law only to his first wife, all his other wives are, legally speaking, single mothers and therefore eligible for welfare. He offered the example of one "predominantly polygamous" town in Arizona whose welfare rolls were five times the national average.

FOR CLOSERS… NBC's Ron Mott told us of trouble for GoogleMaps' 360-degree Street View neighborhood photographs. A photographer in Pittsburgh missed the sign where the public thoroughfare turned into a private road so Google is being sued for invasion…ABC celebrated the International Breast Milk Project last October for organizing wet nurses to milk themselves to send bottles to AIDS orphans in Africa. Now the aid comes closer to home as Sharyn Alfonsi shows us Isabella Sciulli, an orphaned premature baby in Pittsburgh, who was nursed to health with milk from those same strangers' teats…from Los Angeles, CBS' Sandra Hughes celebrated the latest coed to join the Antelopes' tennis team at Grand Canyon University. Sheila Johnson dropped out in 1968 but is now hitting the books again--and playing doubles--at the age of sixty. "Let us see that famous Sheila drop shot," shouted Hughes from the wrong side of the net. Love-15.

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 Dalai Lama of Tibet, visiting Seattle, expressed support for the Beijing Olympic Games…retail sales slowed overall in March, except at discount stores…Arnold Palmer opened the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta.