CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM DECEMBER 30, 2008
Another relentless day of violence along the Gaza Strip was not enough to sustain the Israel-Hamas conflict as Story of the Day. That pride of place was seized by Rod Blagojevich, the Governor of Illinois. Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris, a fellow Democrat, to the very Senate seat over which the governor is under investigation for corrupt dealing. Burris, a former Attorney General of Illinois, has no role in the federal prosecutor's inquiries. All three newscasts led from Chicago. The three regular anchors continued their vacations and Monday's substitution pattern was repeated: David Muir on ABC; Maggie Rodriguez on CBS; Lester Holt on NBC. ABC and CBS both ended their newscasts with Year in Review tributes to bold face names who died in 2008. Unfortunately neither obituary feature is available for viewing online.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR DECEMBER 30, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCGov Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) accused of corruptionFills empty Senate seat despite pending chargesChris BuryChicago
video thumbnailCBSIsrael-Palestinian conflictIDF bombardment, Hamas rocket attacks continueMark PhillipsIsrael
video thumbnailABCIsrael-Palestinian conflictGaza Strip hospital emergency room overwhelmedMiguel MarquezJerusalem
video thumbnailNBCNASA Space Shuttle Columbia disaster upon reentryOfficial report on flaws in crew safetyTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCAvalanche season on ski slopesUnstable snowpack in western mountain rangesGeorge LewisLos Angeles
video thumbnailNBCReal estate housing market prices continue to fallAnnual 18% decline in values is unprecedentedTrish ReganNew York
video thumbnailCBSAutomobile industry in financial troubleGM cuts interest rates, relaxes credit standardsAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailCBSFinancier Bernard Madoff accused of $50bn fraudPhilanthropic endowments vulnerable to schemeJeff GlorNew York
video thumbnailNBCMercury pollution of fish causes dietary risksGuidelines for pregnant women, nursing mothersRobert BazellNew York
video thumbnailABCPresident Obama Inauguration ceremonies previewedInvitations engraved at Brooklyn printing pressDavid MuirNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
BLAGOJEVICH NAMES SENATOR ABOVE SUSPICION Another relentless day of violence along the Gaza Strip was not enough to sustain the Israel-Hamas conflict as Story of the Day. That pride of place was seized by Rod Blagojevich, the Governor of Illinois. Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris, a fellow Democrat, to the very Senate seat over which the governor is under investigation for corrupt dealing. Burris, a former Attorney General of Illinois, has no role in the federal prosecutor's inquiries. All three newscasts led from Chicago. The three regular anchors continued their vacations and Monday's substitution pattern was repeated: David Muir on ABC; Maggie Rodriguez on CBS; Lester Holt on NBC. ABC and CBS both ended their newscasts with Year in Review tributes to bold face names who died in 2008. Unfortunately neither obituary feature is available for viewing online.

Even though Blagojevich has not been indicted for his apparent attempted wheelerdealing over the vacant Senate seat, ABC's Chris Bury found "audacity" in the governor's decision to make the appointment anyway and NBC's Lee Cowan mused: "If anyone thought Illinois politics could not get more circuslike, the Big Top went up again." Cowan reminded us that Burris himself had called Blagojevich's actions "appalling and reprehensible" when US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had the governor arrested only a few weeks ago.

No reporter could find a blemish on Burris' character. CBS' Cynthia Bowers called him "an historic figure in Illinois, the first African-American ever elected to statewide office." NBC's Cowan stated: "None of the governor's critics suggest Burris is anything but a respected political player." ABC's Bury pointed out that Burris was not among the six original would-be appointees referred to in Fitzgerald's arrest warrant complaint about kickback schemes. Bury quoted President-elect Barack Obama describing Burris as "a good man and a fine public servant."

NBC's substitute anchor Lester Holt was a longtime local news anchor in Chicago. He landed an interview with Burris, who called him "friend." Burris insisted that Blagojevich was fulfilling his Constitutional duty as duly-elected governor and that the presumption of innocence applies. Blagojevich was "finding a person who is qualifies, who has integrity, who has the desire to represent the 13m people of our state, who has the ability to go to Washington and to begin help tackle the problems--and I mean the crises--that America is facing," Burris stated, referring to himself.


WHAT DOES THE CONSTITUTION SAY? All three newscasts turned to political analysis into whether the Senate could refuse to seat appointee Roland Burris when he arrives on Capitol Hill with his credentials. CBS' Jeff Greenfield cited a Supreme Court case that found disqualifications may be on Constitutional grounds alone: "Is he old enough? Is he a citizen?" ABC's Jonathan Karl addressed the argument by Democratic leaders that Gov Rod Blagojevich's selection process is tainted by alleged corruption. Yet "if Burris is not tainted the Senate does not have the right to deny him the seat." NBC's political director Chuck Todd foresaw a stalemate that could end up before the Supreme Court: "It actually could take a couple of years."


TANKS MASS ALONG GAZA LINE All three newscasts located a reporter amid the Israel Defense Force tanks along the Gazan border as a fourth day of air raids against Hamas targets found a response in 40-or-so rockets shot into Israel. The day's death toll was 40 Palestinians and one Israeli. "A full scale military reoccupation of Gaza, we are told, is not on the table," CBS' Mark Phillips reported, reminding us that the last time Israel invaded "their fruitless occupation lasted 38 years." ABC's Simon McGregor-Wood (embargoed link) showed us a clip from Hamas' TV station with women "willing to welcome Israeli soldiers--as suicide bombers." He reported that Hamas is demanding "open border crossings and more supplies" in return for a long-term ceasefire. In the short term, NBC's Martin Fletcher showed us 100 trucks crossing into Gaza from Israel with food and medicine, "some small relief." From Jerusalem, ABC's Miguel Marquez narrated footage of Gaza's Shifa Hospital, whose 25 bed intensive care unit has been overwhelmed by 200 trauma casualties. The hospital is running low on bandages, sutures and medicine. The windows have been shattered by the IDF bombardment so plastic sheeting has to suffice to keep out winter cold.


COLUMBIA CRASH NBC had Tom Costello summarize NASA's 400-page report into the conditions for the astronauts inside Space Shuttle Columbia almost six years ago. They were killed when the spacecraft broke apart as it reentered Earth's atmosphere. Costello noted that shoulder harnesses and seats and spacesuits and helmets did not work properly--not that those failures made any difference: "The loss of oxygen pressure would probably have incapacitated the astronauts within seconds" and they would have been unconscious when they were killed. Why did NASA release the report in the middle of the holiday season? "So the children of the astronauts would not be asked about it at school next day."


AWESOME WALL OF SNOW ABC's Brian Rooney (embargoed link) showed us awesome avalanche videotape Monday in his report on the eight snowmobilers who died in British Columbia backcountry. Now George Lewis narrates similarly fearful footage of walls of snow for NBC's In Depth look into the reason why avalanches have killed 19 in the mountain west in December alone. The region's snows were unusually light in November, followed by an unusually "heavy and crusty" layer. The resulting snowpack is unstable. "This avalanche season has become very deadly, very early."


WHO WOULD CHEAT A CHARITY? It is no coincidence that the endowments of philanthropic foundations were especially vulnerable to the apparent fraud perpetrated by financier Bernard Madoff against his investors, Jeff Glor of The Early Show explained to us on CBS. There are two reasons why someone running a fund as a Ponzi Scheme would want philanthropies as investors. First, they give the fund credibility: "After all, who would cheat a charity?" Second, federal law requires charities to spend at least 5% of their endowment on good works each year; in practice most take that as a maximum as well as a minimum so as not to deplete their capital. With few "unforeseen expenses" they tend to make "no unpredictable withdrawals"--just the sort of stability on which Ponzi relies.

For the record, we stipulate that Madoff is presumed innocent. Glor was referring to Ponzi Schemes in the abstract, illustrating his story by using a charity--the $8m Lappin Charitable Foundation--that happened to have invested with Madoff and that happens to have been wiped out. That is why Glor was careful to say that charities "might have been the perfect target" for Madoff.


SHOPAHOLICS WILL GO COLD TURKEY CBS' Anthony Mason found a sliver of cheer amid economic gloom. He covered the $5bn injection by the Department of the Treasury into GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors. GMAC's lack of capital had cost the automaker 60,000 vehicle sales in October, the firm claimed. With federal funds infused, it can now offer 0% financing and lower its minimum credit rating to qualify for a loan.

Apart from that sliver, CBS' Kelly Wallace and CNBC's Trish Regan on NBC both looked at the latest statistics on the plummeting prices of homes. In 20 major cities around the country, the average value of housing is 18% lower than this time last year. Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Francisco have fallen by more than 30% in a year, both reporters noted. Monday CNBC's Regan was delivering equally gloomy news from the retail sector. Now Bill Weir (embargoed link) covers that same beat for ABC's A Closer Look. He quoted analysts' estimates that by summer as many as 3,000 shopping malls and shopping centers will be bankrupt as the nation remedies its oversupply of retail outlets. "America will see a different kind of sale in the New Year--Going Out of Business."


BAZELL BLUB-BLUB-BLUBS It is a conundrum, NBC's Robert Bazell confessed. If pregnant women eat plenty of fish, their children have developmental advantages. If pregnant women have mercury in their blood, their children are disadvantaged developmentally. Yet "toxic mercury, mostly from coal-fired power plants, makes its way into the ocean where it can end up in the meat of certain fish."

Bazell's solution was not to stop burning coal to keep the sea unpolluted. Instead he advised pregnant women--and breastfeeding mothers--to avoid fish species that store the mercury in their flesh and to add clean species to their diet. His story offered its advice complete with blub-blub-blubbing sound effects. Avoid swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish; eat salmon, cod, trout. What about tuna? Albacore from a can tends to be safe; tuna steaks for sushi not so much.


ETCHED & ENGRAVED Precise Continental in Brooklyn is a busy print shop. ABC substitute anchor David Muir watched the printers "going nonstop, turning out the product of a lifetime." They are etching and engraving plates to produce one million invitations for the Presidential Inauguration. Barack Obama's committee gave Precise Continental the contract because it uses recycled paper and has a union-organized shop--and it uses technology that has not changed since Harry Truman's invitations in 1948.