Last week ended with Bear Stearns, the Wall Street brokerage house, on the brink of bankruptcy. This week started with the denouement. Over the weekend the Federal Reserve Board organized its takeover by rival JP Morgan. Morgan's buyout was not only at the bargain price of $236m, it also included a sweetener from the Fed of $30bn in guarantees against the riskiest parts of Bear Stearns' portfolio of debt. The end of Bear Stearns was the unanimous choice for Story of the Day, leading all three newscasts, including CBS, which had Russ Mitchell as substitute anchor for Katie Couric.    
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video thumbnailNBCWall Street brokerage Bear Stearns nears bankruptcySold to JP Morgan with $30bn Fed Reserve subsidyCarl QuintanillaNew York
video thumbnailABCWall Street brokerage Bear Stearns nears bankruptcyFree market failure required federal bailoutTerry MoranWashington DC
video thumbnailABCWall Street brokerage Bear Stearns nears bankruptcyRisk unlikely to spread to small investorsBarbara PintoChicago
video thumbnailNBCEconomy expansion slows: recession risks assessedDeveloper Mort Zuckerman offers gloomy forecastMike TaibbiNew York
video thumbnailABCIraq: post-war reconstruction effortsPoll finds focus on economy, infrastructureTerry McCarthyIraq
video thumbnailCBSPakistan fighting along North West FrontierWaziristan warlord Baitullah Mehsud videotapedBob OrrWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSGov David Paterson (D-NY) sworn inSpeaks from memory, inspires fellow sightlessByron PittsNew York
video thumbnailCBSSalmon fishery depleted in Sacramento RiverPacific fleets idled to conserve wild stocksJohn BlackstoneSan Francisco
video thumbnailABCBlue whales conservation efforts in ChileSeek to keep Gulf of Corcovado waters pristineJeffrey KofmanChile
video thumbnailNBCNeurology of memory investigated with brain scansRadio announcer's near-total recall studiedRobert BazellWisconsin
HOUSE OF MORGAN BUYS AT FIRE SALE Last week ended with Bear Stearns, the Wall Street brokerage house, on the brink of bankruptcy. This week started with the denouement. Over the weekend the Federal Reserve Board organized its takeover by rival JP Morgan. Morgan's buyout was not only at the bargain price of $236m, it also included a sweetener from the Fed of $30bn in guarantees against the riskiest parts of Bear Stearns' portfolio of debt. The end of Bear Stearns was the unanimous choice for Story of the Day, leading all three newscasts, including CBS, which had Russ Mitchell as substitute anchor for Katie Couric.

The historic nature of the federal intervention in the capital markets was driven home by NBC. Anchor Brian Williams called it the first of its kind since the Great Depression. Carl Quintanilla from CNBC, NBC's sibling financial news cable channel, quoted former central banker Alan Greenspan characterize the underlying crisis in the housing market to be "the most wrenching since the end of World War II." On NBC's In Depth, Mike Taibbi profiled billionaire real estate developer Mort Zuckerman as seeing "the worst economic downturn in his lifetime."

ABC's Dan Harris (embargoed link) reported that the motive behind the Fed's intervention was to stave off a "fullscale meltdown" on Wall Street that an outright collapse at Bear Stearns could have triggered. CNBC correspondent David Faber judged that the Federal Reserve Board's decision to extend the loans it usually offers only to commercial banks to investment banks too, like Bear Stearns, was "perhaps more important" than the Morgan deal itself.

President George Bush congratulated the Fed for its swift action "to bring order to the financial markets," ABC's Harris told us. This prompted A Closer Look from Harris' colleague Terry Moran. Moran sarcastically quoted the President's own words back to him--"It is not the government's job to bail out speculators"--noting that there had been no such federal intervention on behalf of laid-off Ohio factoryworkers or foreclosed and evicted homeowners. "Those rules did not seem to apply to Bear Stearns" a firm Moran called "an aggressive Wall Street buccaneer that took big risks for big profits." In the end "the free market did not work here; the government did."

Yet if there was a bailout, Bear Stearns was hardly its beneficiary, being forced into a distressed sale at rock bottom prices. CNBC's Quintanilla told us that a single investor lost $1bn in the deal as the firm lost "90% of its value in one weekend." Bear Stearns management will face a class action suit from its shareholders, CBS' Anthony Mason pointed out, as the firm's share price fell from $170 to $2 in little more than a year: "Nearly a third of Bear Stearns is owned by its employees. Not only have their savings been wiped out but more than half of those 14,000 workers reportedly could be fired."

If any institution was the beneficiary of federal largesse it was JP Morgan. "The Fed essentially eliminated the risk for JP Morgan," ABC's Harris observed, by its $30bn indemnity on any bad debt. Furthermore, for its $236m purchase price it picked up Bear Stearns' headquarters building on Manhattan's Madison Avenue. CNBC's Quintanilla showed us the frontage, "worth more than $1bn by itself."

FINANCIAL NEWS YOU CAN USE All three networks followed up by a look at the impact of high finance on personal finance. CBS substitute anchor Russ Mitchell sought out Ray Martin, financial advisor on The Early Show. In the face of falling home values and falling stock prices, Martin advised viewers to "look at increasing your savings if you can do that." On ABC, Barbara Pinto reassured viewers with savings or checking or investment accounts that they would be unaffected by banking woes: "The risk comes for those who own stocks in banks, such as Bear Stearns." NBC's Michelle Franzen checked out precious metals. She attended a house party in Grosse Point where guests bring "unwanted jewelry, broken chains, lone earrings" to be assayed, weighed and melted down. Gold is worth more as scrap than as an objet d'art on eBay.

PROGRESS IS UNPHENOMENAL The fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq saw Vice President Dick Cheney visit Baghdad. NBC's Richard Engel reported on Cheney's discovery of "phenomenal progress" in the past ten months--on a day that more than 70 Iraqi civilians were killed: "The worst attack was a suicide bombing in Karbala." Engel explained that all women in that holy Shiite city wear voluminous capes. A bomber hid explosives underneath her clothing that killed 40 pilgrims.

As it does on every anniversary of the start of the war, ABC commissioned an opinion poll on the progress of reconstruction in a consortium with fellow broadcasters BBC, ARD and NHK. Terry McCarthy filed a Where Things Stand report that confirmed VP Cheney's impression of progress yet stopped short of his "phenomenal." McCarthy advised that "you cannot say life is good in Iraq today, not yet, only that life is less bad." Majorities of Iraqis called the healthcare system bad; do not have enough electricity; and a growing minority would like to emigrate. Troops out sentiment is overwhelming--73% oppose the US military occupation--but the sticking point is the pace of the withdrawal: "Only 38% want US troops to leave now."

TROUBLE AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD Only ABC assigned a reporter to follow up on the independence protests in Tibet. Stephanie Sy (embargoed link) was still forbidden from reaching the province. She filed en route from Szechuan where she saw the transport of "hundreds of army vehicles, including rented tour buses packed with armed soldiers." Sy resorted to talking to a Tibetan monk in India who had cellphone contact with monasteries in Lhasa. She thus relayed reports of police clubbing monks to death.

Meanwhile CBS claimed an Exclusive for its videotape of Baitullah Mehsud, the warlord of Waziristan in Pakistan's remote northwest. Bob Orr ticked off the raps against Mehsud: he is reputed to be the "supreme commander" of guerrilla forces in the tribal areas; the "accused mastermind" of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; the alleged organizer of suicide bomber training camps for radical Islamist recruits from Europe; and the apparent guarantor of sanctuary to al-Qaeda. As Orr summarized the assessment of his unidentified spook sources working in US intelligence, Mehsud is "one of the most dangerous people on the planet."

BLIND FAITH NBC News' political director Chuck Todd told anchor Brian Williams that Democrats will not conduct a do-over vote in Florida to ensure recognition for its delegation at the convention in Denver. The problem was logistical not political. Florida had proposed a mail-in vote, as is held in Oregon, but the campaigns of both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton objected, "worried, frankly, about Florida's reputation as being sort of a fiasco of a state when it comes to holding elections. The first time you do one of these mail-in elections, it is not going to be smooth."

On ABC, Jake Tapper (embargoed link) previewed Obama's formal speech on his pastor Rev Jeremiah Wright and the state of race relations generally. Tapper reran the soundbite from a Wright sermon in which he characterized "white America" as the "US of KKK-A." Tapper noted that "the kind of fiery language Wright uses is not uncommon in black churches throughout the country." Obama has now condemned Wright's controversial remarks but has refused to disavow the important role Wright played in his life for the previous 20 years.

CBS' political coverage focused on New York State where David Paterson was sworn in as Eliot Spitzer's successor as Governor. Paterson, who is blind, gave his acceptance speech from memory. "He nailed it without a script or a single note," marveled Byron Pitts. "The nation's visually impaired got a new role model."

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE… By coincidence ABC and CBS both had salmon in their animal features. CBS' John Blackstone reported on the closure of the Pacific Ocean's wild salmon fishery in northern California because stocks in the Sacramento River system are so seriously depleted. ABC's Jeffrey Kofman worried that the salmon-raising farms of Chile are polluting the pristine waters of the Gulf of Corcovado. The gulf is where schools of blue whales feed. Each blue whale weighs more than 100 tons and can grow as long as 100 feet. Kofman called them "magnificent creatures," a description that cannot be denied…on NBC, check out Robert Bazell's Mind Matters feature. He found Brad Williams, a radio announcer on WKTY and former Jeopardy champion. Williams has such a voluminous memory that his radio station in LaCrosse Wisc runs a Stump Brad Trivia call-in show. See his recall abilities at Neurologists at the University of California are scanning Williams' brain for their research into how we remember.

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 death toll in the collapse of a construction crane in New York City reached seven…Paul McCarthy, the former Beatle, must pay Heather Mills, his former wife $48m in their divorce settlement…it is Saint Patrick's Day!