Positive news from Ford Motors continued a recent spate of economic headlines. Last Thursday, CBS and NBC led with news of growth in the Gross Domestic Product. Friday, CBS kicked off with White House claims that its fiscal stimulus had averted unemployment for 640,000 workers. Now all three newscasts lead with the unanimous Story of the Day, Ford's announcement that it made almost $1bn in profits in the third quarter of 2009, its first profitable report in 51 months.    
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video thumbnailNBCAutomobile industry in financial troubleFord Motors finally profitable after 51 monthsPhilip LeBeauMichigan
video thumbnailABC2009 House races: special election in NYSConservative challenge forces GOPer to withdrawJohn BermanNew York State
video thumbnailNBCInfluenza season: swine strain H1N1 virus outbreakWHO monitors spread across northen hemisphereDawna FriesenLondon
video thumbnailNBCFood industry packaging label guidelinesKellogg's claims for immunity boost challengedTom CostelloWashington DC
video thumbnailCBSAlzheimer's Disease coverageHospice urged for terminally-demented patientsJon LaPookNew York
video thumbnailABCAfghanistan politics: presidential election voteRunoff canceled, President Karzai is winnerJim SciuttoAfghanistan
video thumbnailCBSAfghanistan politics: presidential election votePresident Obama has reservations about outcomeDavid MartinPentagon
video thumbnailABCUSNavy builds ship from World Trade Center steelUSS New York enters NYC Harbor, sailors saluteDavid WrightNew York
video thumbnailABCCathedral bell ringing disturbs peace in PhoenixNeighbors object, bishop takes misdemeanor rapDan HarrisPhoenix
video thumbnailCBSAnvil shooting is tradition from pioneer daysGunpowder blasts heavy metal high into airSteve HartmanMissouri
FORD MOTORS GRABS UNANIMOUS POSITIVE NOTICES Positive news from Ford Motors continued a recent spate of economic headlines. Last Thursday, CBS and NBC led with news of growth in the Gross Domestic Product. Friday, CBS kicked off with White House claims that its fiscal stimulus had averted unemployment for 640,000 workers. Now all three newscasts lead with the unanimous Story of the Day, Ford's announcement that it made almost $1bn in profits in the third quarter of 2009, its first profitable report in 51 months.

The flacks at Ford could not have wished for better publicity. ABC's Chris Bury pointed out that the latest Consumer Reports quality ratings rank 90% of its cars "above average or better, easily beating General Motors, leaving Chrysler in the dust." He added that Ford's Focus and Escape were the only models from an American automaker among the top ten subsidized by this summer's federal Cash for Clunkers program. He cited one explanation from the company's dealerships: "Ford's decision not to take billions in government loans--as GM and Chrysler did--convinced consumers it would survive."

CBS' Dean Reynolds added that Ford was not only gaining market share and making profits in North America; it netted $247m in South America, $193m in Europe and $27m in Asia. "Ironically being profitable could come at a cost," CNBC's auto industry correspondent Phil LeBeau noted on NBC. A proposed concession-laden no-strike contract with the United Autoworkers was rejected by a 70% vote of the rank-and-file workforce. "Keep in mind Ford still has $27bn in debt, so it is not out of the woods completely yet."

SPOTLIGHT ON THE GRAND OLD PARTY CBS did not consider the off-year elections newsworthy enough for even a mention on the day before the vote. NBC and ABC both ran a quick debrief by their in-house political gurus, Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos respectively. They both pointed to a power struggle inside the Republican Party. Stephanopoulos cast it as "conservative challengers to moderate Republicans;" Todd as "massive infighting between the establishment wing of the party here in Washington and the conservative grassroots."

Only ABC's John Berman was assigned to cover an actual contest. He was dispatched to Watertown NY for the House race between Democrat Bill Owens and Conservative Douglas Hoffman. Berman showed us the campaign headquarters of Republican Dede Scozzafava, "now completely shut down," after the GOP had spent a futile $1m on her behalf. "Try to follow this," Berman suggested. "A Republican drops out of a race, which might guarantee Republicans keep the seat, which might be bad for the Republican Party, long term."

ROVE & GORE ARE MILES APART CBS anchor Katie Couric continued her one-on-one online interview series @katiecouric. This time Couric claimed an Exclusive as she sat down with Al Gore, to allow the coverboy of this week's Newsweek to publicize his latest book Our Choice.

What about the cost of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 15% through a cap-and-trade system to prevent global warming? Couric quoted Karl Rove's estimate of an annual $1,600 for each household. Gore answered that it would cost "a postage stamp a day for the average family," which works out at $160. That difference is an order of magnitude. Whose estimate does Couric find credible?

What about a Pew Research opinion poll that finds 57% of the population agreeing that there is solid evidence of manmade climate change? Couric pointed out a downward trend compared with a 71% level 18 months ago. It is still "a solid majority," Gore asserted. "There has been a very well financed, very well organized campaign by some of the largest carbon polluters to try to sow doubt." He argued that eventually Americans learned to stop smoking cigarettes and to wear seatbelts in their cars. An "organized, persistent" campaign will stop fossil-fuel pollution, too.

‘FLU, ‘FLU, ‘FLU CONT’D Both ABC's Lisa Stark and CBS' junior in-house physician Jennifer Ashton updated us on the vaccine against the H1N1 swine strain of the influenza virus. CBS' Ashton confirmed its efficacy for pregnant women and advised that children younger than ten years of age be given two shots, three weeks apart. NBC filed its 'flu update from London, as the virus spreads during the northern hemisphere's winter. Dawna Friesen found outbreaks in Ukraine and Romania and worries in Saudi Arabia. Public health officials want all of the three million Hajis heading for Mecca later this month to get a 'flu shot before they make their pilgrimage.

NBC's Tom Costello noted the coincidence that Kellogg started making Immunity product claims on its cereal boxes just after the first outbreak of H1N1 occurred in May. Kellogg bases those claims on boosted levels of vitamin and antioxidant additives. Now consumer protection authorities in San Francisco want to see Cocoa Crispies' Krispies' "scientific and consumer research" to prove it. Kellogg contacted Costello to assure him that the firm "is not trying to capitalize on the 'flu outbreak."

WHAT’S THE CONTROVERSY? CBS' other in-house physician also filed, Jennifer Ashton's senior Jon LaPook. Although LaPook claimed he had uncovered a "controversial" new study, that sounded like hype since he never explained what that controversy might be.

The study analyzed patients in the terminal stages of dementia--those who cannot speak six words at a time and who are completely dependent on another's care. It concluded that their life expectancy averaged 16 months and that they received too little palliative care. The solution, according to Dying from Dementia, an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that such patients should be cared for by a hospice not with "extraordinary measures like feeding tubes and emergency room visits."

Since when has something so obviously humane been deemed controversial?

RUNOFF ELECTION? NEVER MIND "The election cost $300m, took tens of thousands of troops to secure and left dozens dead but today it ended without a final vote." Thus ABC's Jim Sciutto picked up on a mood of relief in Kabul as Hamid Karzai was declared re-elected as President of Afghanistan after his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, decided not to contest a runoff. "Many Afghan and western officials had already grown uneasy with Saturday's runoff vote, wondering why risk Taliban attacks against an election with only one candidate." Sciutto quoted Peter Galbraith, the onetime United Nations diplomat who blew the whistle on Karzai's systematic fraud during the first round of voting: "The real winner of this election is the Taliban, because this election has undermined Afghan confidence in democracy."

Only ABC had a correspondent file from Afghanistan. All three newscasts covered the response to Karzai's victory-by-default from the Obama Administration. NBC's Chuck Todd saw Barack Obama "reluctantly trying to talk cautious optimism about a new relationship" after months of trying to distance himself from Karzai. ABC's sardonic Jake Tapper found the White House "pleased that it did not devolve into a constitutional crisis." From the Pentagon, CBS' David Martin observed that US soldiers "are fighting and dying to support a government that has yet to prove worthy of the name." Unidentified "officials" predicted that unless Karzai disavows his corruption and incompetence "the Afghan people will cast the vote that really counts--and side with the Taliban."

DOES KARZAI AWAIT DIEM’S FATE? Last week when NBC anchor Brian Williams reported from Afghanistan, he twice (here and here) equated US military outreach efforts to the civilian population with the flawed hearts-&-minds approach during the Vietnam War. Now that Williams is back in New York he pursued the Vietnam analogy with NBC's in-house historian Michael Beschloss. Beschloss obtained audiotapes of John Kennedy discussing South Vietnam in 1963. JFK was plotting the CIA's coup against President Ngo Dinh Diem. He thought Diem's regime was "so corrupt and autocratic that they would really undermine the American war effort," Beschloss explained. JFK wanted the coup to result in exile but it ended in assassination instead: "No one likes anybody killed but I mean…we have lost hundreds in Vietnam," the President shrugged.

Historian Beschloss concluded: "What we would not give to be able to hear tapes of President Obama, right now, having similar conversations--not about a coup against President Karzai--but about what we do…"

TOO YOUNG TO REMEMBER THE OLD SKYLINE The photo-op of the crew of the USS New York in dress blues saluting Ground Zero as the ship steamed through New York Harbor past the Statue of Liberty inspired reports from CBS' Jim Axelrod and ABC's David Wright. The prow of the amphibious transport is cast from seven tons of steel that was retrieved from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. That was eight years ago, ABC's Wright reminded us: "A lot of these sailors and Marines are too young to remember the old skyline of lower Manhattan. They were just schoolkids when the Twin Towers came down. For them, 9/11 is not so much the day everything changed. It is simply the world they grew up in."

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR, MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE Bishop Rick Painter disturbed the peace. He violated the noise pollution ordinance in his Phoenix neighborhood. He was slapped with a misdemeanor when his neighbors took him to court. They complained that he was ringing the bells of his newly-built Cathedral of Christ the King every half hour every day from morning till night. "There is a Biblical injunction to Love The Neighbor," ABC's Dan Harris reminded the bellringing bishop. Why not ring only on Sundays? "But see, God is not just God on Sunday." The bishop is suing the city, alleging unConstitutional restriction on his freedom of religious expression.

SHOOTING THE ANVIL Gay Wilkerson really disturbs the peace. Anvils are his "obsession," CBS' Steve Hartman assured us…he is "captivated" by their shape…they are his "fixation"…but what he likes most of all is blow them up real good. Place one heavy metal anvil on top of another with a pound of gunpowder packed between them and light the fuse and you have--Anvil Shooting, an American tradition since the days of the pioneers. Check it out on Assignment America. "It is kind of a guy thing," Hartman understated. D'ya think?