After a three-day hiatus with the Story of the Day focusing on political hijinks from Illinois, the networks returned to the serious business of the imminent collapse of the Detroit-based automobile industry. All three networks led with the failure of a federal $14bn loan plan to pass the Senate as the Republican minority upheld a filibuster. CBS and ABC, with substitute anchor George Stephanopoulos, led from Capitol Hill while NBC led from Detroit.    
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video thumbnailNBCAutomobile industry in financial troubleSenate blocks loan, Detroit seeks TARP fundsRon AllenDetroit
video thumbnailABCAutomobile industry in financial troubleEconomic anxiety across industrial midwestChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile industry in financial troubleParts supply factories are vulnerableCynthia BowersMichigan
video thumbnailABCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionState attorney general seeks removal from officeBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailCBSFinancier Bernard Madoff accused of $50bn fraudFund for wealthy, charities labeled Ponzi schemeArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailNBCChina economy: manufacturing sector contractsFactories shuttered in Zhejiang as exports stallIan WilliamsChina
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingMedals for Green Berets for Shok Valley heroicsMartha RaddatzWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSWinter weatherNortheastern icestorm causes electricity outagesKelly WallaceNew York
video thumbnailNBCNewspaper content read aloud for blind listenersVolunteers share words over EIES radio networkPeter AlexanderNew Jersey
video thumbnailCBSSculptor Nathan Sawaya works in medium of LegoTurns children's toy into portraits, statuesSteve HartmanNew York
SENATE REFUSES CAR LOAN TO DETROIT After a three-day hiatus with the Story of the Day focusing on political hijinks from Illinois, the networks returned to the serious business of the imminent collapse of the Detroit-based automobile industry. All three networks led with the failure of a federal $14bn loan plan to pass the Senate as the Republican minority upheld a filibuster. CBS and ABC, with substitute anchor George Stephanopoulos, led from Capitol Hill while NBC led from Detroit.

The trio of American car firms has not collapsed yet--although ABC's Jonathan Karl pointed out that both Chrysler and General Motors have hired law firms that specialize in bankruptcy. The White House issued a statement promising to "consider other options" concerning the $14bn to keep the firms in business through the first quarter of 2009. Karl explained that "that was a reference to the $700bn financial bailout program," which, conveniently, has $15bn remaining for the Treasury Department to spend. CBS' Sharyl Attkisson reflected that "up until today the White House had insisted it would not use the giant Wall Street bailout fund for the auto industry. Now it seems the most likely source of help."

CBS anchor Katie Couric aired an interview with Ron Gettelfinger, the president of the United Autoworkers union. He predicted that bankruptcy reorganization would not save Detroit: "When one of these companies goes into Chapter 11, they are going to go from there to Chapter 7 and they are going to dissolve. The company will no longer exist."

While ABC had George Stephanopoulos of This Week anchor its newscast, his Sunday morning rivals appeared as guests on the other two newscasts. David Gregory, the newly appointed host of NBC's Meet the Press distinguished between the $14bn nixed for Detroit and the $700bn granted to Wall Street. A bank failure posed "systemic risks to the economy" while there are "a lot of questions about the future viability of the Big Three." Bob Schieffer (no link) of CBS' Face the Nation opined that "it was a very easy vote for Republicans" to oppose the Detroit loan since it was "overwhelmingly unpopular…with the public in general."

CBS' Attkisson added that it is "worth noting" that many of the Republican senators opposing the loans represented states with factories run by Detroit's competitors: BMW in South Carolina, Honda and Mercedes Benz in Alabama "to name just a few."

TWISTING IN THE WIND General Motors announced that it will shutter plants for the month of January in order to cut production of 250,000 vehicles. The cutback "affects workers in Canada, the United States and even in Mexico," NBC's Ron Allen reported, although 14 of the 20 plants are in Michigan. ABC's Chris Bury reported from Kokomo in neighboring Indiana where 20% of the city's entire workforce is employed by either Chrysler or Delco, the auto parts supplier. "No one in car country is under any illusions that the latest rescue hope is much more than a holiday reprieve, leaving places like Kokomo twisting in the wind." CBS' Cynthia Bowers pointed out that the vast majority of the Detroit-based automobile workforce is not represented by the UAW: "It is non-union shops that make most of what actually goes into a car."

DEFINING DISABILITY DOWN The next development in the soap opera from Illinois was the application by Lisa Madigan, the state's Attorney General, to have the Illinois Supreme Court certify Gov Rod Blagojevich as disabled, thus removing him from office temporarily. Madigan called it a disability that the governor's official acts would be "challenged as illegal or improperly motivated," noted NBC's Kevin Tibbles. "To some constitutional experts it is a long shot." Disabled people, one imagines, would also take exception.

On CBS, Dean Reynolds looked at the next White House: "It would be no surprise to see that someone of Barack Obama's staff at least talked to governor" about who would replace him in the Senate. ABC's Brian Ross focused on the fifth of the candidates for the seat, Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. Ross followed up on a Chicago Tribune report that a group of Indian-American Jackson supporters held a fundraiser last weekend for Blagojevich that the congressman's brother attended. Ross produced a photograph of the two together. He noted that the FBI affidavit against Blagojevich quoted him as claiming that emissaries from "Senate Candidate #5" had promised to raise $500,000 in campaign contributions "and $1m if I made him senator."

MY FATHER RUNS A PONZI SCHEME All three newscasts covered financier Bernard Madoff, a former head of the NASDAQ stock exchange, who surrendered to federal prosecutors on charges of running his $50bn investment fund as a Ponzi scheme. "There is no innocent explanation for all of this. I expect to go to jail," was his reported confession. "For decades a charismatic and connected Madoff promised investors double digit returns--in bull markets and bear--the kind of returns that seemed too good to be true," CBS' Armen Keteyian reported. "They were." CNBC's Charles Gasparino told NBC anchor Brian Williams that many hedge funds had been suspicious of Madoff's methods for years and had reported him to the Securities & Exchange Commission: "The regulators did nothing and that is why this is really scary." Madoff was finally arrested when a pair of senior executives in his firm turned him in, ABC's David Muir (embargoed link) concluded. "They were in fact his sons."

NO SOCKS FOR STUFFING STOCKINGS Tyndall Report congratulated CBS Thursday for its imaginative California-to-China-to-England coverage of the globalizing recession. Now NBC performs a less creative, pared down twofer version on the same phenomenon, switching from CNBC's Trish Regan on the retail woes of small businesses in New Jersey this holiday season to Ian Williams on the shuttered factories of Zhejiang in southern China. He showed us one town that supplies "most of the world's decorations" and a county that produces "a third of the world's socks, the most perennial of Christmas presents." Now the sock factory produces nothing but dust.

SHOK VALLEY FASTNESS NBC Thursday had Jim Miklaszewski tell us how a band of Green Berets earned Silver Star medals for fighting in Afghanistan's Shok Valley. Now ABC's Martha Raddatz rehearses the same tale of their seven-hour mountain battle. Raddatz told us of a "daring air assault" against a "militant stronghold on the edge of a 10,000-foot peak." The commandoes "scaled the sheer rock face to the stronghold above" before being pinned down by gunfire and eventually retreating to the valley below. Raddatz made it seem like the guerrillas prevailed in their fastness but neither she nor Miklaszewski explicitly stated that the commando raid was defeated.

THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL ABC's John Berman (embargoed link) and CBS' Kelly Wallace both filed from New York City on the icestorm that hit the northeast--but not the city itself--from Pennsylvania to Maine. The ice weighed down tree limbs that downed power lines that caused electricity blackouts in a million-or-so homes. Berman had actual audio of the startling snap as a branch broke in Worcester Mass: "It is a shiny, glittering, crystal-coated mess." NBC used meteorologist Mike Seidel of its corporate sibling network The Weather Channel to show us some upstate ice.

AUDIO ABBY The woes of the newspaper industry were covered on Monday as ABC's John Berman (no link) and CBS' Ben Tracy told us about the bankruptcy of the Tribune Media conglomerate. Now NBC brings us a newspaper-friendly feature for its weekending Making a Difference series. EIES New Jersey is the Electronic Information and Education Service, Peter Alexander told us, an all-volunteer audio feed that supplies 100 hours of programming each week for the state's blind population--"all the news that is fit to read." EIES airs "no traffic, no weather, no commercials" but includes the full array of newspaper fare, not just the front page by sports and Dear Abby too.

BUILDING BLOCKS The fine arts won a spot on CBS' weekending Assignment America feature. Steve Hartman introduced us to sculptor Nathan Sawaya. For a commission, he will render one's portrait; a life-sized statue as a likeness costs $60,000. His medium is Lego, the colored plastic building blocks.