The Transportation Committee of the House of Representatives hit the jackpot as its hearings into sloppy supervision of Southwest Airlines' safety by the Federal Aviation Administration qualified as Story of the Day. ABC led its Wednesday newscast with a preview of the panel. Now all three newscasts led with the actual testimony. Several safety inspectors from the FAA's Dallas office accused their supervisors of ignoring violations by Southwest. The upshot was that 47 of the airline's aging Boeing 737 fleet continued in service for 30 months when the rules required that skipped inspections should result in grounding.    
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video thumbnailNBCAir safety: aging jetliner fleet requires inspectionFAA supervisors ignored rules, House panel hearsTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseSenate relief aids businesses more than ownersChip ReidCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCReal estate home mortgage foreclosures increaseBank successfully sued as predatory lenderJim AvilaNew York
video thumbnailABC2008 Hillary Rodham Clinton campaignFundraising lags, superdelegates may defectKate SnowNew York
video thumbnailCBSInfants neglected in first year of life: CDC studyNewborns' condition reveals need for counselingSandra HughesLos Angeles
video thumbnailABC
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Beijing Summer Olympic Games previewedHuman rights activist jailed for Games protestsStephanie SyBeijing
video thumbnailABCHighway safety: drivecams on rear view mirrorsHighlight reel of car crash videos compiledDavid MuirNew York
video thumbnailCBSSurgery improved by minimally invasive techniquesLaparoscope used for low-pain hysterectomiesJon LaPookKentucky
video thumbnailNBCSenators have controversial spiritual counselorDouglas Coe's sermons cite Mao Zedong, HitlerAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCCivil-Rights-era leader MLK rememberedKilled in Memphis while organizing strikersBrian WilliamsNew York
NATIONAL AIRPORT NOT CAPITOL STEPS The Transportation Committee of the House of Representatives hit the jackpot as its hearings into sloppy supervision of Southwest Airlines' safety by the Federal Aviation Administration qualified as Story of the Day. ABC led its Wednesday newscast with a preview of the panel. Now all three newscasts led with the actual testimony. Several safety inspectors from the FAA's Dallas office accused their supervisors of ignoring violations by Southwest. The upshot was that 47 of the airline's aging Boeing 737 fleet continued in service for 30 months when the rules required that skipped inspections should result in grounding.

For all the success of the committee at attracting cameras, the networks treated this as an airline safety story not an oversight hearing. All three networks had their transportation correspondents file, not their Congressional reporters. So they stationed themselves at DC's Reagan National Airport rather than on the Capitol steps. ABC's Lisa Stark (embargoed link) heard "withering criticism" of FAA management for "intimidating and punishing inspectors who found safety problems." NBC's Tom Costello called it "a complete breakdown in leadership in the Dallas office." He explained that a lack of staff means that the FAA itself cannot inspect every commercial jetliner "so the agency relies on the airlines, voluntarily, to inspect themselves and report problems." That system breaks down when FAA supervisors become "too cozy" with the operators. CBS' Nancy Cordes warned that this may be part of "a pattern of excessive leniency" by the FAA.

GET OUTSIDE HELP CBS' Chip Reid followed up on the proposed federal intervention to ease the pain of home foreclosure that his colleague Wyatt Andrews and ABC's Betsy Stark (embargoed link) covered Wednesday. Reid reported a larger dollar figure than the previous two--$25 in tax breaks--going mostly to homebuilders and banks "while doing little for homeowners." Reid pointed out that some states are "tired of waiting for help from Washington" so protections for homeowners are now in force in Maryland and may come soon in Florida and California. For ABC's A Closer Look, Jim Avila told us the tale of David and Karen Shearon, a Staten Island couple, who complained of bait-and-switch when their home was foreclosed. They claimed La Salle Bank offered a fixed rate loan with low interest but delivered high interest and a balloon payment. Avila advised others to follow the Shearons' example: "Get outside help. Do not negotiate with the bank alone." A judge found the bank guilty of predatory lending and allowed the couple to avoid eviction.

NOT BUBBLY The campaign fundraising statistics for the month of March showed Hillary Rodham Clinton with $20m and Barack Obama with $40m. ABC News political analyst Mark Halperin told Kate Snow: "In a normal campaign if a candidate raised $20m in one month they would be popping champagne corks." But Rodham Clinton is in no normal contest: "Obama has revolutionized campaign fundraising." On CBS, Jeff Greenfield offered the top line of his network's latest poll, which shows Obama and Rodham Clinton in a national statistical tie (46% v 43. He identified as the "most interesting numbers in the whole poll" the ones that show Obama ahead of John McCain (70% v 66%) in sharing American values, usually an attribute that Democrats struggle with. "Republicans have gone to school the last two elections saying: 'OK, voters may agree with the Democrats more on policy but they like our candidates better.' They feel they share their values."

ABC's George Stephanopoulos has interviewed undecided Democratic superdelegates to find out what pitches Rodham Clinton and Obama are making to attract their support. He discussed his findings with anchor Charles Gibson. Rodham Clinton's campaign says Obama is inexperienced, not sufficiently vetted and unattractive to white working class male swing voters. "Do they raise race directly?" "No. This is not an argument that he cannot win because he is African-American." As for Obama, he points out that Rodham Clinton is behind in the polls, has a poor image as trustworthy and credible and "her argument is not working. Just about every day we pick up another superdelegate."

MISUSE OF SHAKEN BABY So the Centers for Disease Control conducts a survey into the neglect and abuse of infants in their first year of life. They find that each year some 90,000 babies suffer ill-treatment. Most babies are not abused but neglected, with substandard housing, insufficient clothing and inadequate nutrition. Fully one third of such cases are detected in the first week of life, allowing social workers to intervene to train parents in childcare.

Fair enough. So which individual case does CBS decide that Sandra Hughes should use to illustrate this study? By showing us the example of a brain damaged four-year-old who cannot walk or talk because he was violently shaken by his mother's boyfriend at the age of twelve months. To represent neglect, we are shown abuse. To represent the first week of life, we are shown the first year. To represent fixable social problem, we are shown heinous violent crime. This is not good journalism.

OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN There was only one report filed from an overseas deadline on all three networks combined. No, not the continuing political crisis in Zimbabwe. No, not the NATO Summit in Romania. No, not the trial of the alleged airline liquid bomb plotters in England. It was ABC's assignment of Stephanie Sy (embargoed link) to the trial of Hu Jia in Beijing. Hu, a well-known political dissident, had been harassed by authorities, although not jailed, when he protested the People's Republic's policies on AIDS and Tibet. It was only when he started criticizing the Olympic Games that the authorities cracked down: a 42 month prison sentence. As the torch was lit in Olympia, Sy added, a protestor named Yang Chunlin was sentenced to a five year term for collecting 10,000 names on a petition We Want Human Rights not the Olympics.

DRIVERS GONE WILD There are 100,000 mini video recorders, brand name DriveCam, fitted onto the rear view mirrors of cars nationwide. They are designed to monitor a driver's behavior and provide evidence of the circumstances of any crash. ABC's David Muir told us that the firm now has footage of 3.5m separate accidents, which it has now compiled as a blooper reel. Muir showed us tailgating drivers, drowsy drivers, distracted drivers, unseatbelted drivers and intersection collisions. Ostensibly "the company released the images because the drivers in them have already learned their lesson and are hopeful the rest of us will now learn too." Sure, DriveCam did it as a public service, not as a means to get free publicity for DriveCam, the name of their company. That is DriveCam.

DOCTOR’S ORDERS In-house physician Jon LaPook got on his public health soapbox for CBS' Eye on Your Health. He visited gynecologist Lori Warren at Louisville's Baptist Hospital East to dramatize the difference between minimally invasive and traditional hysterectomies. His campaign, in collaboration with Business Week magazine, is to persuade women about to undergo uterus surgery for pain and bleeding from fibroids to ask their doctors to use a laparoscope. LaPook's statistics are that only 15% of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed annually nationwide use the low-pain procedure like Dr Warren does. LaPook is convinced that patient pressure is the key to ending surgeons' inertia: some 15 years ago when a laparoscope was invented for gall bladder surgery "it did not catch on right away." Now 90% of gall bladder surgeries use it. Besides reducing pain, LaPook argued that laparoscopes save money because post surgical hospital stays are shorter. He offered no statistics to back that up, however.

MATRICIDE FOR JESUS Christians will recognize Jesus Christ's teachings about the family from the Gospel of St Luke: "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." That was the text NBC's Andrea Mitchell showed Douglas Coe preaching from in exclusive videotape.

Coe is a lay preacher, who organizes the National Prayer Breakfast that Presidents attend and whose Capitol Hill prayer circle includes four senators: Sam Brownback (R-KS), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Mark Pryor (D-AR). Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) took Coe's spiritual counsel when she was First Lady although he is not "one of her leading spiritual advisors." His ministry, called The Fellowship, is the topic of a new book The Family by a former member Jeff Sharlet.

So why does Mitchell find Coe newsworthy, besides his obvious close ties to those in power? Because when he preaches on the blind devotion that Jesus requires of Christians--devotion that supersedes that to family or self--Coe invokes the "leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao," according to Sharlet. The example of the requirement to renounce one's family he evoked in Mitchell's video was of Mao Zedong's Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution: "They would bring in this young man's mother. He would take an ax--and cut her head off."

I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU NBC anchor Brian Williams continued his preparations for his Friday trip to the Lorraine Hotel to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Tuesday, he had Tom Brokaw preview Sunday's airing of his documentary King on the History Channel. Now Williams himself recounts the reasons why King was in Memphis that fateful week. His politics had changed from civil rights to economic justice. He was organizing a march in support of the city's striking sanitation workers. The footage Williams vividly reminds us of the vitriolic racism and mortal fear that King faced. In one scene a crowd of angry white man screams We Want King--and not in a supportive way. In another he is walking in a crowd when a loud explosion is heard in the background. His companions keep walking. King, clearly a dead man walking, reflexively ducks to dodge a bullet.

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: in Zimbabwe government security forces have started a crackdown on foreign journalists and opposition politicians…the NATO Summit approved an anti-missile defense and an increase in troop levels in Afghanistan…the Census Bureau will use paper and pencil, not handheld computers, for its 2010 count…a pair of small airlines, ATA and Aloha, declared bankruptcy and discontinued service…Chairman Benjamin Bernanke defended the Federal Reserve Board's intervention to subsidize JP Morgan's buyout of rival Bear Stearns at Senate hearings…the Medal of Honor will be awarded posthumously to Michael Monsoor, a USNavy SEAL slain in Ramadi in Iraq.