The Congressional compromise on a $789bn fiscal stimulus was Story of the Day. Barack Obama emphasized the infrastructure component of the plan--$113bn or so in public works spending--by visiting the Caterpillar factory in Peoria which makes the heavy machinery those projects require. NBC led with the President's Peoria trip. CBS also led from the White House, but chose the latest stumble in organizing a new Cabinet: Judd Gregg the Republican nominated as Commerce Secretary decided to withdraw his name. ABC for its lead disregarded politics and chose the safety of childhood vaccinations instead.    
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailABCEconomy is officially in recessionStimulus spending on infrastructure assessedJake TapperIllinois
video thumbnailCBSEconomy is officially in recessionStimulus tax relief for workforce assessedNancy CordesCapitol Hill
video thumbnailCBSCommerce Secretary Judd Gregg nomination withdrawnPolicy conflicts with Obama were irrevocableChip ReidWhite House
video thumbnailNBCGlobal economic slowdown increases instabilityIntelligence sees bigger threat than terrorismAndrea MitchellWashington DC
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan education: co-ed schools now permittedAid workers teach in shadow of bin Laden's homeMartha RaddatzAfghanistan
video thumbnailABCSatellites collide in orbit, destroyed, burn upSpace junk debris threatens other satellitesDan HarrisNew York
video thumbnailABCChild immunization offers public health benefitsLawsuit claiming causal link to autism rejectedJohn DonvanWashington DC
video thumbnailNBCCommon cold virus coverageGenome of hundred strains of rhinovirus decodedTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSTeenage rehab programs for dropouts, delinquentsPa judges paid kickbacks by private juvie hallSeth DoanePennsylvania
video thumbnailNBCFormer President Abraham Lincoln 200th birthdayHonored by history books, memorabilia, schoolsLee CowanIllinois
OBAMA WINS STIMULUS, LOSES GREGG The Congressional compromise on a $789bn fiscal stimulus was Story of the Day. Barack Obama emphasized the infrastructure component of the plan--$113bn or so in public works spending--by visiting the Caterpillar factory in Peoria which makes the heavy machinery those projects require. NBC led with the President's Peoria trip. CBS also led from the White House, but chose the latest stumble in organizing a new Cabinet: Judd Gregg the Republican nominated as Commerce Secretary decided to withdraw his name. ABC for its lead disregarded politics and chose the safety of childhood vaccinations instead.

The two aspects of the fiscal stimulus to attract attention were its infrastructure spending and its tax relief. NBC's Chuck Todd and ABC's Jake Tapper both covered infrastructure from Peoria; NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and CBS' Nancy Cordes both covered taxes from Capitol Hill. The tax angle was quite straightforward: each worker will get a $400 credit against payroll taxes; Social Security recipients will receive a $250 bonus; and tax breaks will play the role of subsidies for first time buyers of homes, buyers of new cars and students paying college tuition.

The infrastructure spending hit a snag. The President announced that Caterpillar had promised to reverse its recent layoffs if Congress signed on to his stimulus package. "Not so fast," was how ABC's Tapper put it, when CEO John Owens suggested there might not be enough construction in the bill. NBC's Todd heard an Owens hedge in the precise wording of his rehiring promise--"if the stimulus plan passed and other countries followed suit."

GREGG PREFERS SENATE OVER COMMERCE CBS' White House correspondent Chip Reid filed from Illinois but confined himself to the Judd Gregg story. The Republican Senator from New Hampshire announced that "irrevocable conflicts" prevented him from serving "100%" in Barack Obama's Cabinet so he would not serve at all. Reid consulted his Democratic sources on Capitol Hill and came up with this blind quote: "Gregg actively campaigned for the job then erratically dropped out without warning." NBC's Chuck Todd folded some Gregg reporting into his package on the stimulus. The idea of Gregg "an ideological conservative," in the Cabinet was "always sort of an odd fit," he reported. Gregg's decision to return to the Senate "blind-sided" the President.

CBS and ABC brought in their Sunday morning anchors to read the tea leaves. George Stephanopoulos of ABC's This Week reported a turf war between Commerce Department and White House over the administration of the 2010 Census; NBC's Todd reported that too, speculating that it could have been the "raw political reason" for Gregg's cold feet. On CBS, Bob Schieffer (at the tail of the Reid videostream) of Face the Nation reported that Gregg's fellow Republicans were "giving him a lot of static" for his bipartisanship. "They felt he was selling out." Losing its second Commerce Secretary nomination--Bill Richardson was the first--"does not help this administration's credibility," Schieffer asserted.

WALL STREET BUILT A HOUSE OF CARDS Dennis Blair, Barack Obama's new Director of National Intelligence, testified on Capitol Hill about the greatest threat to the United States' national security. No, it is neither global terrorism nor weapons of mass destruction, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported. The shock waves of the global recession are the new bogeyman. Mitchell strung together a montage of jobless peasants in China, protests in Iceland, layoffs in Japan, riots in Latvia, rallies in Bulgaria, stalled construction cranes in Dubai. "Who is being blamed?" she wondered. "The United States," Director Blair testified. "We are generally being held responsible."

Mitchell's report was an apt intro to David Faber's appearance with NBC anchor Brian Williams to promote his CNBC documentary House of Cards. It traced the global reach of the collapse of the housing market here: "So many of the mortgages that were made to people were packaged up by Wall Street and sold overseas. We are inextricably tied to foreign markets."

Meanwhile on CBS, Armen Keteyian filed an Investigation into the fallout from the burst bubble in Florida. A business called Outreach Housing run by Blair Wright promised, for an upfront fee of $1200, to help foreclosurebound homeowners renegotiate their adjustable rate mortgages. Now the state of Florida is suing Outreach for running a scam. Keteyian confronted Blair in an underground Fort Lauderdale parking lot. Blair blamed the banks as the "bigger villain in all this."

RADDATZ HITS A TRIPLE Well done Martha Raddatz at ABC. It is some achievement to file a story that shoehorns a Soviet collective farm, the Rotary Club of La Jolla and Osama bin Laden's polygamous lifestyle into a single narrative.

She was filing the second part of her Where Things Stand feature on Afghanistan. Monday Raddatz reported on the ABC-BBC-ARD opinion poll that found mounting pessimism and insecurity. Now she monitors the international aid effort to improve education. She introduced us to the "improbably named" La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary Club School, student body 3,800, staffed by Dr Dave Warner of San Diego, a self-styled member of the nerd surge. As improbable as the name might be, its location near Jalalabad was just as striking. Across the street is the bombed out ruins of Najin al-Jihad, a onetime Soviet collective. Until 1996 the Star of the Holy War had been bin Laden's home: "He lived there with three of his wives."

ANIMATED SPACE JUNK Analytical Graphics at got all the credit for Dan Harris' report on ABC about the collision of a pair of orbiting communications satellites 500 miles above Siberia. Cosmos 2251, a one-ton decommissioned Russian military satellite, crossed paths with Iridium 33, which has commercial customers and is used by the Pentagon. The upshot of the impact is a cloud of space junk that is hurtling round Earth at 17,000 mph. Other satellites "will now have to play dodgeball for decades to come," Harris warned. Analytical Graphics supplied the not-to-scale animation to illustrate the risk from debris.

DONVAN HAS AUTISM ON HIS MIND Autism is John Donvan's special beat at ABC. Of the 28 stories Donvan has filed for World News in the past 28 months, ten of them have been about the mental disorder. Put another way, Donvan's ten autism stories represent more than a quarter of the entire three-network coverage (36 stories) of the disorder during that period.

So it was no surprise that ABC not only assigned Donvan to an autism-related ruling by a federal court, it also made Donvan's healthcare report its lead on this day of such heavy fiscal and political news. The court found that the MMR vaccine, given to children to prevent measles-mumps-rubella, is safe. "Not even close"…"no link shown"…"unconvincing"…"unsound and unpersuasive"…"Alice in Wonderland" reasoning…"a complete rejection." This was how Donvan reported the court's dismissal of the claim by 5,000 families with autistic children that MMR shots had damaged their brains. The lawsuits have caused a split in the Autism Speaks advocacy organization, Donvan added, with some members resigning in protest against its call for continued investigation of vaccine safety.

NBC and CBS covered the immunization ruling too. NBC's Pete Williams reported that public health officials criticize the autism lawsuits for eroding faith in the virtues of shots. Outbreaks of whooping cough, measles and meningitis have been blamed on immunization backsliding. CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook advised that autism resources need to be spent on early diagnosis and treatment instead of costly research into a potential vaccine link and, "if it is not caused by vaccines, figuring out what is causing it."

COMING IN FROM THE COLD The day's second major healthcare story came from biotech. Both NBC's Tom Costello and ABC's Ned Potter covered research into the common cold published in Science magazine. "The rhinovirus--it is what makes us sneeze and cough and feel miserable," NBC's Costello explained. Yet a cure is elusive because the virus comes in 100-or-so strains. As ABC's Potter put it, "the cold has been tough because it is really the colds, plural." He added that for the elderly and asthmatic children, those colds "can be dangerous." Genetic researchers announced that they have now decoded the DNA of each strain so they can now work on that cure. NBC's Costello was skeptical: "It costs an awful lot of money to do that and, of course, for most of us the cold is just a nuisance."

JUDGES POCKET FOR-PROFIT JUVIE HALL KICKBACKS The most outrageous story of the day came from Scranton Pa yet only CBS found it worthwhile to assign a reporter to the scandal. So hats off to Seth Doane who brought us the guilty pleas of Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan. In a case of Dickensian proportions, the juvenile court jurists admitted pocketing $2.6m in kickbacks from privately-owned detention facilities. These for-profit juvie halls paid the judges by the month for each teenager's sentence. The judges were incarcerating thousands of kids for offenses as trivial as "stealing change from cars pr writing prank notes," Doane told us.

A small quibble--Doane did not even identify the firms that run the juvie halls. Follow-up please.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HONEST ABE All three newscasts closed with a tribute to the Great Emancipator on the 200th anniversary of his birth. This year the USMint is coining four new Lincoln pennies. On CBS, the Early Show's Jeff Glor checked out an exhibit at New York City's Federal Hall. NBC's Lee Cowan was in Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln's museum is "the most visited Presidential library in the entire country." ABC anchor Charles Gibson covered the "teaching moment" of students performing a simultaneous nationwide reading of the 272-word, ten sentence Gettysburg Address. Lincoln's political opponents accused him of being two-faced, Gibson recalled. "Not the handsomest of men," the railsplitter replied: "If I were two-faced do you think I would be wearing this one?"