There was a trio of stories deemed newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a correspondent on all three of the network newscasts. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama locked in long distance debate over energy policy. Love was in the air throughout California as scores of lesbian and gay couples got legally married. And the midwest floods moved steadily southwards as the swollen Iowa and Cedar rivers drained into the Mississippi. NBC and CBS, with Iowan Harry Smith substituting for anchor Katie Couric, both led with the floods, which were Story of the Day. ABC chose another story entirely as its lead--projected $7bn to $13bn annual losses for the beleaguered domestic airline industry.    
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video thumbnailCBSFloods in Mississippi River statesWaters polluted with raw sewage, farm chemicalsCynthia BowersIowa
video thumbnailNBCMass transit system ridership volume increasesLight rail systems expand in western citiesTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSCommodities trading on ICE goes unregulatedOnline loophole exploited for crude oil futuresArmen KeteyianWashington DC
video thumbnailABC2008 issues: oil prices, energy policyMcCain-Obama duel over drilling, taxes, greeningJake TapperVirginia
video thumbnailABCReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseHuge equity loans incurred via credit card debtDavid MuirNew York
video thumbnailNBCAlcohol: Anheuser-Busch brewery takeover bidWeak US dollar makes firm bargain for BelgiansBob FawWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMilitary detains terrorist suspects in Cuban campSenate hearings into abusive interrogationsJim MiklaszewskiPentagon
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingTeenage bombers trained in Pakistani madrassahsSheila MacVicarLondon
video thumbnailABCGay rights: same-sex marriage legalization debateCouples enjoy wedding boom across CaliforniaLaura MarquezSan Francisco
video thumbnailNBCSichuan Province earthquake in China: Richter 7.9Giant panda breeding center largely unscathedMark MullenChina
ENERGY, MATRIMONY, WATERY There was a trio of stories deemed newsworthy enough to warrant coverage by a correspondent on all three of the network newscasts. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama locked in long distance debate over energy policy. Love was in the air throughout California as scores of lesbian and gay couples got legally married. And the midwest floods moved steadily southwards as the swollen Iowa and Cedar rivers drained into the Mississippi. NBC and CBS, with Iowan Harry Smith substituting for anchor Katie Couric, both led with the floods, which were Story of the Day. ABC chose another story entirely as its lead--projected $7bn to $13bn annual losses for the beleaguered domestic airline industry.

Both NBC's Kerry Sanders and CBS' Cynthia Bowers filed from the Iowa banks of the Mississippi River, across the water from the small town of Gulfport Ill, which had been inundated by a levee break. Bowers explained that record high water marks had already crested at Iowa City on the Iowa River and Cedar Rapids on the Cedar River. "The floodwaters are a toxic stew," warned NBC's Sanders, a mixture of raw sewage and diesel fuel and agricultural chemicals. The pollution may have ruined hunting and fishing in Iowa, CBS' Bowers worried, washing away pheasant nests and creating the specter of a massive fish kill as far down stream as the Gulf of Mexico.

ABC's flood angle was A Closer Look at the "nasty transportation snarl" caused by waters across the nation's midsection: Chris Bury (embargoed link) told us that 200 miles of north-south Mississippi River barge traffic were shut down for two weeks and at least ten east-west major freight railroad lines were inundated and rendered impassable. A typical agribusiness two of 15 barges carries the same cargo as 200 railroad cars or 900 highway tractor trailers. The disruption "means higher prices for everything that moves in or out of here by train, truck or boat."

AIRLINES HURT, LIGHT RAIL HELPED ABC's lead on the woes of the airlines by Dan Harris (embargoed link) had an end-of-an-era mood. Cost savings in response to the high price of aviation fuel will mean thousands of lost jobs in the industry, the cancelation of service at 200 airports nationwide, he speculated, and increased fares to travel to surviving destinations. The upshot, industry analysts warned Harris, will be "a fundamental change in American air travel. It may mean the ability of middle class families to fly away on frequent vacations will be seriously curtailed."

NBC's Tom Costello countered with transportation that is benefiting from the high cost of fuel--the dawn of an era for light rail mass transit. In his Staying Afloat feature, Costello told us about Denver's system, "the national poster city for a mass transit vision." Starting from scratch 14 years ago, it already has 35 miles of light rail track and 38 stations with $6bn plans for 122 more miles and 57 more stations. Professor Yossi Sheffi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology cautioned Costello not to generalize too much from Denver's example: the denser infrastructure of eastern cities mean that western metropolitan areas will find it easier to build systems.

LONDON, THE NEW CAYMAN ISLANDS How much is the high cost of crude oil caused by commodity speculators on global financial markets? Senate hearings into the Inter Continental Exchange, an all-electronic trading floor that accounts for 48% of oil futures contracts, caught the eye of Armen Keteyian for CBS' Investigation. Keteyian worried that speculators are using ICE to manipulate the cost of crude either by "excessive buying designed to drive up the price or phony transactions that imply a supply problem that does not exist." He ticked off a list of major players who trade using ICE: banks such as Citi, JP Morgan, Bank of America; Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital, Morgan Stanley; Big Oil conglomerates such as ExxonMobil, bp, Royal Dutch Shell.

ICE was founded by Wall Street brokerage houses Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley; it is based in Atlanta; its computers are located in Chicago; its transactions are conducted in US dollars. Yet it avoids federal regulation by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission because it is "considered a foreign exchange." ICE told CFTC that it is based in London. Explained Keteyian: "British financial authorities are notoriously lax."

REDUCE GREENHOUSE GASES BY DRILLING FOR MORE OIL Following Democrat Barack Obama's endorsement Monday by Mr Environment, as NBC's Andrea Mitchell dubbed Al Gore, all three networks' campaign coverage turned to the congeries of issues that includes the cost of gasoline, energy independence, global warming, alternative fuels, oil taxes and drilling policy. NBC's Mitchell called "energy--not national security--the first test for both candidates."

Republican John McCain took the initiative in forcing energy to the top of the agenda as he "formally changed his position," as ABC's Jake Tapper put it, on drilling for oil in coastal waters. McCain had once supported a federal ban; now he proposes that each state make its own rules. NBC's Mitchell pointed out that at the same time as McCain called for increased exploration for undersea oil he "tried to reach out to independents with a new ad on global warming." Mitchell did not explain how McCain squares the circle of limiting fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging oil companies to discover more of them. McCain's plan, noted ABC's Tapper, does call for "new investments in nuclear power, clean coal and alternative energies like wind and solar power" yet he is opposed to an Obama proposal for $150bn in federal tax credits to subsidize renewable energy. "He calls such incentives handouts to special interests," CBS' Dean Reynolds reported. "He prefers to let individual states promote energy alternatives."

ABC News, meanwhile, published its horse race poll that showed Obama ahead of McCain by a 48%-42% margin. George Stephanopoulos (embargoed link) noted bad news for each candidate inside the numbers. McCain suffers from the "formidable obstacle" of a 29% approval rating for his party's incumbent. Stephanopoulos accounted for McCain's advertising on global warming climate change as part of an effort to distance himself from George Bush. As for Obama, Stephanopoulos isolated two voting blocs that "go with the winners" where the Democrat does not enjoy a lead: the candidtaes are tied among independents; and McCain is preferred by "a group that has been right in the last eight elections--white Catholics."

PLASTIC, PILSNER, POOKA Money features appeared on all three newscasts. ABC cross-promoted an analysis by USA Today on the relationship between credit cards and the housing slump. David Muir told us that many foreclosures are triggered by excessive home equity borrowing--and much of that was incurred to pay off extended lines of plastic credit, "a cycle that has now crashed as home values plummet." For NBC's In Depth, Bob Faw examined the takeover bid for Anheuser-Busch by a Belgian brewery as part of a larger trend. In the last decade, a weak dollar and a soaring trade deficit have combined to increase foreign ownership of domestic corporate assets fivefold. "The rest of the world owns more of America than America owns the world. The chickens are coming home to roost." On CBS, Byron Pitts offered free publicity to Pooka Pure & Simple, a skin care cosmetics firm based in New Jersey. Pitts profiled owner Dawn Fitch to illustrate the trend towards ownership of small businesses by African-American women, a sector growing twice as fast as other demographic groups. Unfortunately their income trails their numbers: the average small business owned by black women nets just $38K annually; men's small businesses average $107K.

TORTUOUS TESTIMONY "It is like chasing ghosts." That is how NBC's Jim Miklaszewski quoted an unidentified senator after hearings into how the Pentagon approved "new, tougher interrogation techniques" against inmates at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base--we can call it torture even if Miklaszewski was too squeamish to use the word. The witness at Senate hearings was William Haynes, a senior legal advisor in 2002 to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld approved such questionable methods as sleep deprivation, the use of dogs and stripping suspects naked, "techniques which lawmakers claim violate the Geneva Convention and migrated to abu-Ghraib Prison in Iraq." When Haynes was asked how Rumsfeld made his decision, Haynes testified: "My memory is not great. I do not have first-hand knowledge." Compared with a Guantanamo detainee, mused Miklaszewski, "Haynes proved even harder to break."

CBS' Sheila MacVicar reported on the violence in Afghanistan from London. She narrated a compilation of jihadist videotapes to illustrate the "dramatic increase in suicide bombs in Afghanistan since 2006. More of those attacks are now being carried out by children." She told us the sad tale of 14-year-old Shukirullah, a student at a Pakistani madrassah near Peshawar. Upon graduation he was ordered to the Afghan city of Khost, where he was arrested in a raid. MacVicar quoted the teenager: "The imam told me they were sending me to Afghanistan to become a suicide bomber. I told him I wanted to go home to see my mother." The Afghan Intelligence Service claims explosives were found in the house where the teenager was arrested. Instead of blowing himself up Shukirullah faces years in Afghan prison--"saved from one tragedy but facing another."

NBC had Jim Maceda file a stand-up from Baghdad over videotape of the carnage at al-Hurriya market in a Shiite neighborhood. A carbomb exploded near a bus stop killing more than 50 shoppers. "It shattered a growing sense of security as well after three to four months of relatively low violence."

WEDDING ALBUM Images of joy from all over the Golden State overflowed as ABC's Laura Marquez and NBC's Chris Jansing and CBS' John Blackstone brought us gay hugs and lesbian kisses from the west coast's wedding bonanza. "Do you Michael take Michael?" was a cool soundbite from Marquez. Blackstone found man and wife substituted by "lawfully wedded spouses for life." Jansing dubbed it "the new summer of love in California"--a summer that will at least last until November and may yet be endless if voters reject an amendment to the state's constitution to annul these nuptials. NBC's Jansing cited an estimate from the University of California that almost 120,000 gay couples plan to tie the knot in the next three years.

GIANT PANDA PROVIDES SICHUAN PERIOD Last month, we pointed to Tyndall Report's rule of thumb that a major story has ended its prominence on the news agenda when coverage turns to animal features. Finally, from China's Sichuan Province comes official recognition from NBC that the earthquake story has run out the string. Mark Mullen files on the 47 surviving giant pandas at the breeding center for the endangered species just 15 miles from the epicenter. Only two of the animals were lost, of which Mao Mao, a nine-year-old mother of five cubs, was found dead, crushed by a collapsed enclosure wall.

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: a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between the Israel Defense Force and the Palestinian Hamas militia has been brokered by Egypt…dancer Cyd Charisse of Hollywood's golden age of MGM has died, aged 86…Los Angeles is ranked as the nation's worst city for highway congestion…President George Bush was among those paying respects to Tim Russert, the late head of NBC News' DC bureau.