CONTAINING LINKS TO 51991 STORIES FROM THE NETWORKS' NIGHTLY NEWSCASTS
     TYNDALL HEADLINE: HIGHLIGHTS FROM FEBRUARY 27, 2009
Now the entire week's news agenda has been dominated by Barack Obama: Monday's Fiscal Summit; Tuesday and Wednesday, his State of the Union style address to Congress; Thursday's FY10 $3.55tr budget; Friday, his speech as Commander in Chief to Marines at Camp Lejeune. The President announced his plan to end all combat operations in Iraq in August 2010 and to terminate the entire United States military presence in December 2011. Obama's speech was Story of the Day and the lead on ABC and NBC. So, of the 15 nightly newscasts this week--five weekdays on three networks--the White House correspondent has been assigned the lead eleven times (4 of 5 on CBS; 4 of 5 on NBC; 3 of 5 on ABC). CBS' Friday lead, by the way, was the deepening recession.    
     TYNDALL PICKS FOR FEBRUARY 27, 2009: CLICK ON GRID ELEMENTS TO SEARCH FOR MATCHING ITEMS
click to playstoryanglereporterdateline
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesPresident Obama sets 2010 troop pullout dateChip ReidNorth Carolina
video thumbnailNBCAfghanistan's Taliban regime aftermath, fightingUSArmy prepares for Kandahar Highway battleRichard EngelAfghanistan
video thumbnailABCWar on Drugs: Mexico narcotics gang warsState Department warns of spring break dangersJim AvilaNew York
video thumbnailABCEconomy officially in recession: 4Q08 GDP down 6.2%Consumers, business, exports, jobs all stallBetsy StarkNew York
video thumbnailNBCEconomy officially in recession: 4Q08 GDP down 6.2%Metrics for detecting signs of recovery laid outSteve LiesmanNew Jersey
video thumbnailABCFinancial industry regulation, reform, bailoutNo CEO receiving TARP funds has lost his jobSharyn AlfonsiNew York
video thumbnailCBSHurricane Katrina aftermath along Gulf CoastLocal FEMA chief accused of abuses, reassignedArmen KeteyianNew York
video thumbnailCBSCommerce Secretary Judd Gregg nomination withdrawnDenies ethics worries over disused Pease AFBNancy CordesCapitol Hill
video thumbnailABCNewspaper industry in financial troubleTitles go bankrupt; Rocky Mountain News foldsLaura MarquezSan Francisco
video thumbnailNBCFood allergies can be dangerous to childrenService dogs trained to detect odor of peanutsRobert BazellNew York
 
TYNDALL BLOG: DAILY NOTES ON NETWORK TELEVISION NIGHTLY NEWS
COMMANDER IN CHIEF WRAPS UP DOMINANT WEEK Now the entire week's news agenda has been dominated by Barack Obama: Monday's Fiscal Summit; Tuesday and Wednesday, his State of the Union style address to Congress; Thursday's FY10 $3.55tr budget; Friday, his speech as Commander in Chief to Marines at Camp Lejeune. The President announced his plan to end all combat operations in Iraq in August 2010 and to terminate the entire United States military presence in December 2011. Obama's speech was Story of the Day and the lead on ABC and NBC. So, of the 15 nightly newscasts this week--five weekdays on three networks--the White House correspondent has been assigned the lead eleven times (4 of 5 on CBS; 4 of 5 on NBC; 3 of 5 on ABC). CBS' Friday lead, by the way, was the deepening recession.

"The President today was careful not to suggest Mission Accomplished," ABC's Jake Tapper noted, referring to the last time a President had declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq. CBS' David Martin (no link) showed us searing images of mutilated military veterans, commenting that "in the back of everybody's mind is the last time a President declared combat ending and troops coming home--that was more than 4,000 deaths ago." ABC's Martha Raddatz offered her perspective on the President's plan: "The war is not over…Obama is trying to end the United States' part of the war."

The United States' occupation force in Iraq has a current strength of 142,000. The President's plan is to keep most combat brigades on duty through the end of this year, when Iraq has scheduled national elections, and then to execute a rapid drawdown during the first six months of 2010, leaving 50,000 troops in place for the ensuing 18 months. Those troops will have what NBC's Savannah Guthrie called "a new mission," namely to advise and equip local forces, to support civilian reconstruction and to counter terrorism. If that does not sound too different from their current combat role, Obama's critics agreed. "Many anti-war Democrats are disturbed," CBS' Chip Reid reported. The December 2011 final exit date, Reid added, was not new policy from Obama. It had already been agreed by US-Iraq diplomacy under the Bush Administration.


STUCK IN THE MUD NBC followed up its Iraq lead with Richard Engel's update on preparations by the USArmy's Tenth Mountain Division in the frigid, frostbite-prone highlands south of Kabul. The troops were setting up "a series of small, primitive outposts" in preparation for an expected spring battle with Taliban guerrillas along the Kabul-Kandahar highway. They are so ill-equipped for local conditions that a supply convoy took seven hours to travel 15 miles. "These roads simply were not built for these heavy American vehicles," Engel pointed out, showing axles waist deep in mud. The MRAP vehicles were too heavily armored, "designed to survive bombs in Iraq not navigate narrow trails in Afghanistan."


SPRING BREAK PANIC NBC's Mark Potter and CBS' Bill Whitaker covered the frightening Mexican narcoviolence Wednesday. Now ABC's Jim Avila follows up as the State Department issued a warning about spring break. Normally 100,000-or-so college students travel south of the border for their annual festival of drunken debauchery and girls gone wild. This time there is "an official travel alert that bystanders have been injured or killed" in the trafficking cartels' crossfire. The State Department is not just talking about Juarez and Tijuana, it even worries about gunfire in Cancun and Acapulco. ABC's Avila quoted statistics from the office of Mexico's Attorney General that "prove innocent tourists are rarely harmed."


DEFICIT SPENDING AND CONSUMER DEBT Gross Domestic Product statistics for the final quarter of 2008 found activity shrinking at a 6.2% annual rate and so all three networks covered the cratering economy. "The revised number was shockingly higher," stated CBS' Anthony Mason (no link), meaning shockingly lower. Consumer spending declined faster than at any time since 1980 and "business equipment had its worst fall in more than half a century." ABC's Betsy Stark looked at joblessness in California, now more than 10% of the state's labor force, and the worst quarterly decline in exports in 38 years. Her lone ray of hope: "Any improvement in 2009 is likely to come courtesy of the government's giant stimulus plan."

So how will we know when the economy is starting to show signs of health? NBC assigned CNBC economist Steve Liesman to suggest the metrics for its Meltdown: Making Sense of it All series. He pointed to the banking sector as key: when it raises private capital and repays federal bailout funds. "But you cannot get the banks healthy again until you get consumers spending again. After years of loading up on debt consumers are saving more now than they have in years."


A SHARE OF THE CRUMBLING CITI "The government is stopping short of taking full control of Citigroup," announced CNBC's Scott Cohn on NBC as the $45bn that the Treasury Department disbursed to the bank from its TARP program was converted into 38% of its common shares. CBS' Anthony Mason (no link) called it "an accounting maneuver" to reduce Citigroup's debt, increase its capital and strengthen its balance sheet. ABC's Sharyn Alfonsi noted that Vikram Pandit, Citigroup's boss, is still on the job. "He has agreed to be paid only $1 this year and still some taxpayers are asking if he is worth it."

ABC's Alfonsi went down the list of the CEOs of the ten giant financial firms that received most of the TARP bailout: "All still have their jobs." Contrast that with Scotland and Switzerland, where the bosses of the bailed-out RBS and UBS were fired. Unidentified economists justified the government's reluctance to oust executive failures to he thus: "If there is even an appearance that the government is involved in the day-to-day operations of a bank, investors will be spooked and the stock will crumble."

Crumble? CBS' Mason pointed out that those shares of the Citi that we taxpayers purchased cost $1.50 each.


ARMEN POINTS FINGER AT FEMA Armen Keteyian, the CBS reporter who targeted the Federal Emergency Management Agency so remorselessly in 2007 for the toxic formaldehyde fumes in its housing trailers, has FEMA under scrutiny once more. This week, on Wednesday and Friday, he filed Investigations into the agency's New Orleans office. Wednesday he reported accusations that the office's highly-paid managers are deliberately delaying Hurricane Katrina reconstruction as a "huge boondoggle for themselves." Almost $4bn of the promised $6bn is yet to be spent. Now he reports that the New Orleans chief of staff Douglas Whitmer has been reassigned and his boss James Stark is being questioned about whether he lied to a Congressional committee this week about sexual harassment complaints against Whitmer. More than a dozen of Whitmer's workers told Keteyian "the way the office is managed is a disaster."


CBS HAT TIP TO ASSOCIATED PRESS The Associated Press did some legwork after Judd Gregg, the Republican Senator from New Hampshire, withdrew his name as Democrat Barack Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary. At the time Gregg accounted for his cold feet by pointing to ideological differences. Now the AP reports that Gregg received $650,000 from a passive investment in his brother's real estate business from projects at the Granite State's former Pease AFB, "the very same base Gregg helped secure $66m in Congressional earmarks to have redeveloped as a business park," CBS' Nancy Cordes noted. "Gregg insists the AP investigation has nothing to do with his sudden change of heart about the Cabinet position."


INK STAINED WRETCHES The journalists of the network news divisions have finally stumbled onto the plight of their ink-stained brethren. The week started with the bankruptcy of the Philadelphia Inquirer and ended with the shuttering of the Rocky Mountain News. So CBS' Jeff Greenfield and NBC's Lee Cowan--and now ABC's Laura Marquez have contemplated the prospect of a newspaperless civil society. "The root problem for newspapers is the increased use of the Internet," Marquez opined, citing Pew Research statistics that more people read free news online than on printed papers that they purchase. Tyndall Report's longtime friend Jeff Jarvis--ID'd by Marquez not by his free blog buzzmachine.com but by his purchasable new book What Would Google Do?--was given a soundbite to defend online journalism. "Whine and whine" was his gist.


ROCK’O IS THE BESTEST In keeping with the venerable television news tradition of ending the week with a heartwarming animal feature, we bring you eight-year-old Riley Mers and her dog Rock'O, "the bestest friend anyone could ever wish for." Rock'O has liberated the girl from virtual imprisonment, NBC's Robert Bazell told us. She is so severely allergic to peanuts that she is "home-schooled with a friend and kept from going most places." Enter Rock'O, a service dog from the Florida Canine Academy, which mostly trains bomb sniffers. This time the academy switched from explosives to peanuts so Riley, with Rock'O at her side, can roam free.