CONTAINING LINKS TO 35725 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM APRIL 08, 2008
Almost seven months to the day after Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker testified to Congress about the success of the so-called surge in Iraq, the pair returned with a more tentative progress report. Petraeus called the security improvements "real" yet "fragile and it is reversible." Petraeus reiterated his recommendation that the surge should finish in July, with its five extra combat brigades returning home, but he called for no further drawdown of troops. For their September testimony, the Iraq War attracted a daily three-network total of 29 minutes. The return was again Story of the Day, with each network assigning its lead to its Pentagon correspondent, but slightly less newsworthy, accounting for 41% (22 min out of 56) of the combined newshole.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR APRIL 08, 2008: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
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video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Petraeus, Amb Crocker before Senate panelJonathan KarlCapitol Hill
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesAll three Presidential candidates ask questionsAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSMedal of Honor recipients honoredPosthumous award to USNavy SEAL hero in IraqJim AxelrodWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCMormon fundamentalist sect practices polygamyRemoval of children sparked by teenager's callDon TeagueTexas
video thumbnailNBCBeijing Summer Olympic Games previewedSan Francisco prepares to protest torch relayPeter AlexanderSan Francisco
video thumbnailABCReal estate housing market prices continue to fallAverages indicate decline lasting 15 yearsRobert KrulwichNew York
video thumbnailCBSICE border controls along Mexico lineFence planned for 670 miles, routinely evadedBill WhitakerMexico
video thumbnailNBCEnergy conservation and alternate fuel useAustralian teenage activist urges solar panelsIan WilliamsSydney
video thumbnailCBSFish mating rituals create submarine noiseBlack drumfish make eery sounds in Florida lakeKelly CobiellaFlorida
video thumbnailABCGorillas suffer premature deaths at zoosNational Zoo tries to diagnose heart diseaseJohn DonvanWashington DC
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
REAL, FRAGILE, REVERSIBLE Almost seven months to the day after Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker testified to Congress about the success of the so-called surge in Iraq, the pair returned with a more tentative progress report. Petraeus called the security improvements "real" yet "fragile and it is reversible." Petraeus reiterated his recommendation that the surge should finish in July, with its five extra combat brigades returning home, but he called for no further drawdown of troops. For their September testimony, the Iraq War attracted a daily three-network total of 29 minutes. The return was again Story of the Day, with each network assigning its lead to its Pentagon correspondent, but slightly less newsworthy, accounting for 41% (22 min out of 56) of the combined newshole.

"Petraeus came armed with charts showing security progress," ABC's Jonathan Karl stated, and his testimony described it as "significant but uneven" with deterioration as recently as the last two weeks. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski characterized the progress as "very tenuous," that could "still turn on a dime." The good news for those in military was that the general is expected to recommend reducing the length of combat tours from 15 months back down to a year. CBS' David Martin expected the next milestone for deciding on troop levels to be the provincial elections to be held in October yet "whoever the next President is, he or she will inherit a war with no end in sight." ABC's George Stephanopoulos called that plan "one big exercise in kicking the can down the road."

The political angle to these Senate hearings was that all three Presidential candidates were members of the committees that questioned Petraeus and Crocker. CBS' Chip Reid found the trio leaving "the political theater at the hearing room door:" John McCain "toned it down;" Hillary Rodham Clinton "was unusually subdued;" Barack Obama "left politics aside." NBC's Andrea Mitchell reminded us that both Democrats are running on a platform of "a phased withdrawal" of troops from Iraq. Obama put it this way: "If we cannot get the Iraqis to stabilize themselves within seven years, we are not going to do it in fourteen." She quoted McCain as rejecting "calls for a reckless and irresponsible withdrawal," asserting: "There is no substitute for victory and withdrawal is defeat."

Petraeus did not agree that any withdrawal would amount to defeat: NBC's Miklaszewski picked up on the general's timeline in response to a question by Democrat Joseph Biden: "On a scale of one to ten, how far along are we…before we get to the point we can significantly reduce?" "I think we are in six or seven." However NBC's Mitchell noted that Omaha "never got a clear answer to his question: how would the administration's witnesses define enough success to permit the United States to withdraw?" Back home briefly from Iraq, Richard Engel, NBC's man in Baghdad made similar comment. He called it "frustrating and disheartening in that the rules of the game have changed. For years military commanders have said that once conditions on the ground improve, then troops can start to pull out. Petraeus said conditions on the ground have improved but--you know what?--the troops have to stay."


PETTY OFFICE MONSOOR Rounding out the Iraq coverage was a ceremony at the White House in which a President George Bush awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to USNavy SEAL Michael Monsoor, who was killed by a hand grenade in Ramadi eighteen months ago. Monsoor was honored because he threw his body on top of the grenade in order to save the lives of his three comrades in arms. ABC and NBC had their anchors Charles Gibson (embargoed link) and Brian Williams narrate the videotape. CBS assigned the ceremony to Jim Axelrod, who noted that the tale of self-sacrifice "brought tears to a President who was honoring uncommon valor."


MAKING BABIES All three networks followed up on yesterday's mass removal of children by Texas welfare authorities from the fundamentalist Mormon Yearning for Zion ranch near San Angelo. A further 15 children were taken into custody, making the total 416. "Resources will be stretched," ABC's Mike von Fremd (embargoed link) understated, as each child needs an attorney and a court-appointed guardian. The affidavit detailing an original complaint of abuse by the 16-year-old seventh wife of polygamist Dale Barlow was unsealed. The girl, now pregnant for a second time, complained of beatings, rapes and broken ribs. CBS' Hari Sreenivasan reported that Barlow is believed to be on the run in Arizona. The response to that call led welfare investigators to find "other girls who appeared to be minors and pregnant," according to NBC's Don Teague. They alleged it was a "widespread pattern" on the ranch that girls were "required to engage in sexual activity for the purposes of having children" as soon as the elders determined that girls had "reached childbearing age, approximately 13 to 14 years old."

As venal as this would be, if proven, it is still no explanation for why Texas took all the children, including boys and pre-pubescent girls into custody, not just those teenage girls at risk of forced procreation. ABC's von Fremd claimed the action halted the abuse of "perhaps hundreds of young women"--which must be inaccurate. Of the 416 minors taken into custody, surely a minority would be post-pubescent females. Perhaps von Fremd was thinking of the children's mothers, who were not in care of the state but accompanied the youngsters.


NO OLYMPIC PROPAGANDA Just as ABC's Laura Marquez did Monday, NBC's Peter Alexander and CBS' Ben Tracy (no link) previewed the protests against human rights abuses in the People's Republic of China as the torch relay en route to the Beijing Olympics passes through San Francisco. The day's protests were outside the PRC's consulate; coming up is "major star power," as CBS' Tracy put it, including pro-Tibet movie star Richard Gere and anti-apartheid Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu. Bracing for protests at every torch handover on its global route, the International Olympic Committee is "not considering canceling the around-the-world route," NBC's Alexander reported. San Francisco was chosen for "its large and historic Chinese community," Alexander added, whose leaders object to the protests as "misdirected."

For ABC's A Closer Look, John Berman (embargoed link) wondered how softball players and skaters and water polo players were balancing their dedication to sport with their civic conscience. Several Olympians have formed Team Darfur in protest against "the violence in Sudan and China's sale of weapons to the Sudanese government." Berman reminded us of the black fisted podium protests by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico City Games before quoting from the Olympic Charter: it forbids athletes from staging "demonstrations" or "political, religious or racial propaganda at Olympic venues."


EIGHT FAT YEARS, 15 LEAN ONES ABC's Robert Krulwich unveiled one of his signature cartoon explainers to illustrate economists' fears about the future of the housing market. He showed homeowners "a graph that you may not want to see" showing the inflation-adjusted market value of existing homes since the 1890s. The recently burst eight-year bubble in real assets is an aberration, he observed. For long periods--from 1908 through 1946, for example, or 1953 through 1978--there was no increase in property values whatsoever. The precedent for a bubble such as the one just ended was in Japan--and after their peak, housing prices declined for 15 consecutive years.


DISGUISED AS A CAR SEAT Part two of CBS' series Immigration Nation was ostensibly about the 670-mile border fence along the Mexico line that is designed to deter illegal entry into the United States. Bill Whitaker went through the motions of describing the double fencing and stadium lighting and surveillance cameras and motion detectors and helicopter patrols along its San Diego sector and the delays and cost overruns afflicting much of the rest of it. The real eyecatchers in his story, though, were the surveillance video clips showing the creative ways to try to elude the Border Patrol. "Not even all this can fully shut down the illegal flow." Sure there were the obvious mass rushes at highway crossings and walls scaled and ditches under fences and smugglers' tunnels--but check out the acrobatic ladder hooks and the woman in the inside of a roll of carpet and the man disguised as a car seat.


UPLIFT NOT INFORMATION NBC's closer was a Making a Difference feature took Ian Williams to sunny Sydney where Armand Holland, a green-minded teenager, persuaded his high school to convert its roof to solar panels to make it carbon neutral and even, when it is baking hot, generate surplus electricity to the national grid. Williams was so eager to give us the human interest that he completely ignored the crucial details of the story. How do the panels work? How much do they cost? Is their power cost efficient? Is their manufacture eco-friendly? Is this project scalable? Which corporations stand to benefit?

Instead of information we get uplift, about "a fourteen-year-old's scientific curiosity and desire to help the environment."


GORILLA BLOOD AND FISH SEX Animal stories were chosen to close the newscasts at CBS and ABC. ABC's John Donvan traveled to the National Zoo, where veterinarians are so worried about a recent rash of premature heart disease deaths of male gorillas that they are trying to perform blood tests to look for warning signs. The trouble is that no vet knows how to make the big ape sit still for a syringe prick. CBS' Kelly Cobiella visited Cape Coral Fla where neighbors have believed for years that the "vroom, vroom, vroom" sound vibrating through their homes was caused by a ghost. Now marine biologists have solved the riddle. When black drumfish breed they spawn en masse and the school is summoned to have sex by a noisy underwater mating call which booms "through the sea wall of their backyard lake, reverberating into their walls."


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: bread riots in Haiti approached the gates of the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince…opinion polls show the Democratic contest in the Pennsylvania Presidential primary tightening.