The results of the off-year elections were the Story of the Day. The headline was Republican success in Virginia and New Jersey. The governor of both states had been a Democrat: GOPer Robert McDonnell won an open seat in the former; Chris Christie defeated incumbent Jon Corzine in the latter. ABC and NBC both led with the voting. CBS chose the discovery of a charnel house in a Cleveland neighborhood, with the remains of eleven murdered women.    
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video thumbnailNBC2009 off-year elections surveyedRepublicans gain, voters anxious about economyChuck ToddWhite House
video thumbnailCBSReal estate housing market construction, sales, pricesMortgage rates may lose Federal Reserve subsidyAnthony MasonNew York
video thumbnailNBCBank credit, debit card rates, fees, chargesCongress may ban retroactive interest hikesLisa MyersWashington DC
video thumbnailABCCIA accused of rendition, torture of suspectsSpies convicted of kidnapping imam from MilanBrian RossNew York
video thumbnailNBCIran politics: election result protestedPiggyback on official mass rally, face teargasAli ArouziTeheran
video thumbnailABCLebanon's Hezbollah militia arms tradeIsrael interdicts Syria-bound Iranian freighterSimon McGregor-WoodJerusalem
video thumbnailCBSTimor Sea polluted by oil pipeline leakSeabed pipe explodes under drilling platformJohn BlackstoneCalifornia
video thumbnailCBSSerial rape-murders exposed in Cleveland mass graveNeighbors accuse police of ignoring clear leadsRandall PinkstonCleveland
video thumbnailCBSSchoolyard bullying of students is prevalentTourette's Syndrome boy is prevention activistKelly CobiellaFlorida
video thumbnailABCRestroom hygiene attracts filling station customersBuc-ees Beaver chain keeps porcelain gleamingRyan OwensTexas
GOP SWEEPS VIRGINIA & JERSEY The results of the off-year elections were the Story of the Day. The headline was Republican success in Virginia and New Jersey. The governor of both states had been a Democrat: GOPer Robert McDonnell won an open seat in the former; Chris Christie defeated incumbent Jon Corzine in the latter. ABC and NBC both led with the voting. CBS chose the discovery of a charnel house in a Cleveland neighborhood, with the remains of eleven murdered women.

Nate Silver, the Politics Done Right blogger at, complains about analysts who account for electoral changeovers with the explanation that the victorious side won over independent voters. "It is a lot like saying: 'The Yankees won Game Six last night because they scored more runs than the Phillies.'" All elections are won by persuading persuadable voters, he argues, and by definition, they tend to be registered independents.

Silver lists Republican strategist Karl Rove and Washington Post writers and Rep Jim Cooper (D-TN) as offenders, offering "what passes for analysis." The nightly newscasts offer further fodder: "Crucial independents flocked to the Republicans"--ABC's John Berman…"Republicans won the independent vote by a wide margin"--NBC's Chuck Todd…"The striking finding is the dramatic move of independents to the Republicans"--CBS' Jeff Greenfield.

Admittedly, there were other explanations for the Democrats' losses, what NBC's Todd called the party's "first bad November election night since 2004." ABC's George Stephanopoulos (at the tail of the Jake Tapper videostream) generalized that "in hard times the economy is always the #1 issue and voters almost always punish the party that is in." ABC's Berman pointed to a lack of enthusiasm among Barack Obama's base: "Younger voters, the President's strongest bloc, stayed home." On CBS, Bob Schieffer (at the tail of the Greenfield videostream) focused on Virginia, where Obama had prevailed in 2008 with an urban-suburban vote in the northern suburbs and a heavy black turnout: "So what did the Democrats do? They run someone for Governor who is a rural candidate, little known in northern Virginia, who could not seem to connect with African-American voters." As for New Jersey, Corzine was "just so unpopular."

By the way, the night was not a clean sweep for the GOP. ABC's Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl (in the middle of the Tapper videostream) pointed out that Democrats prevailed in the two special elections for empty House seats.

THE COST OF MONEY The Federal Reserve Board decided to leave short-term interest rates unchanged at the minimal 0.25% annual level. CBS and NBC both filed spinoff stories. NBC's Lisa Myers pointed out that cheap rates are not being passed along to credit card customers. Quite the contrary: she offered the example of a Citibank customer with a $10,000 balance whose payments have been hiked on already incurred charges over the past year from 7% to 15% to 26% to 30%. The House of Representatives voted to ban such retroactive hikes forthwith. "The bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain. Banks are lobbying vigorously to stop it."

CBS' Anthony Mason told us that the Fed reduces interest rates for homebuyers by "spending well over $1tr to buy up mortgage loans from banks." Its authority to buy the paper expires in five months. When the purchases end "the cost of borrowing could quickly soar," Mason predicted. "That would be bad news for the housing market still struggling to get back on its feet."

SPIES EMULATE POLANSKI ABC covered a court case in Milan from New York. The court convicted 23 CIA spies in absentia for kidnapping a local Moslem imam. The so-called rendition saw Abu Omar snatched off a street in broad daylight. The cleric claims his kidnappers shipped him to Egypt where he was tortured. ABC's Brian Ross handled the story from New York because he landed an Exclusive interview with one of the defendants. "Clearly we broke the law and we are paying for the mistakes right now," Sabrina deSousa admitted. deSousa is no longer on the CIA payroll. Ross noted that all 23 are "now considered fugitives and have been advised they should never again leave the United States for fear that some other country might turn them in to the Italians."

TEHERAN & BEIRUT Ali Arouzi, NBC's man in Teheran, told us that he had to report on the day's political rallies in the Iranian capital from a stage-managed event: "The press were constricted to an area outside the United States embassy." Yet he filed a report narrating amateur videotape from elsewhere in the city where "shots were fired in the air, tear gas was fired and demonstrators were beaten with clubs, batons and fists." The rival gatherings marked the 30th anniversary of the start of the Teheran Embassy hostage siege. The official rally was in opposition to the United States and Israel; the unofficial one protested the rigging of this summer's election. "The opposition has vowed to convert all future holidays into opportunities for political protests."

Iran was also involved in the story Simon McGregor-Wood filed for ABC from Jerusalem. He told us that the Israeli navy had intercepted a freighter off the coast of Cyprus en route to Syria from Egypt. The boarding party found "artillery shells, hand grenades, mortar rounds, Katyusha rockets, all hidden behind less controversial cargo." Israel's Defense Ministry claimed that the ship originated in Iran and that its cargo was destined for the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon. McGregor-Wood cautioned that even though the United Nations banned such shipments in 2006, "today's interception will not substantially reduce Hezbollah's military power."

WHERE IS THE TIMOR SEA? It is not often that the waters between Australia and Indonesia make news on American television. Admittedly CBS' John Blackstone filed from California not Australasia but his videotape showed sea birds, whales, porpoises and turtles coping with a giant oil spill in the Timor Sea--and the spectacular fireball that destroyed the Montara Platform. An underwater pipeline ruptured, leaking explosive gas into the air and polluting oil into the water. For those pushing the slogan Drill, Baby, Drill, the leak comes "at an awkward time," Blackstone deadpanned.

CHARNEL HOUSE NEXT TO SAUSAGE FACTORY CBS sent Randall Pinkston to Cleveland to cover the rape and murder charges leveled against Anthony Sowell, in whose house and garden eleven corpses had been unearthed. "Outraged local residents accuse authorities of ignoring their concerns about missing women for years," Pinkston reported, adding the macabre detail that "the stench of death" coming from the house had been ignored: "The smell was erroneously believed to be coming from a sausage factory next door." NBC's Mike Taibbi told us that the Cuyahoga County coroner wants families with missing female kin to submit DNA samples to help identify the dead women.

Sowell had a criminal record as an attempted rapist and was registered on the county's list of sex offenders. ABC had Pierre Thomas take A Closer Look. Cuyahoga County has 3,400 sex offenders on its registry and a staff of eight officers to track them. Sowell was required to check in with authorities every 90 days. "And he did." From California, CBS' Bill Whitaker covered the investigation into the supervision of Phillip Garrido, the registered sex offender charged with keeping an eleven-year-old kidnapped girl prisoner for 18 years--"all while being closely monitored by parole agents; he even wore a GPS ankle bracelet."

CBS' Whitaker concluded that the biggest criticism of the sex offender registry system is a "failure to prioritize." Teenagers caught texting naked pictures of themselves to their friends receive as much scrutiny as ex-con child rapists.

WEBSITE, WRISTBANDS, MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKING--AGE NINE "Do you get picked on any more?" "No, because all my friends defend me." That was the triumphant answer from Jaylen Arnold. He became an anti-bullying activist after enrolling in a new school only to be teased mercilessly because of his Tourette's Syndrome twitches. The nine-year-old claims he "made a Website" to protest his treatment. He has become a motivational speaker as a result. He distributes Bullying No Way! wristbands, Lance Armstrong style. CBS' Kelly Cobiella praised him for displaying the American Spirit.

Check out the Jaylen's Challenge site and it looks nothing like the authentic work of a nine-year-old. Cobiella's uncritical admiration strikes a false note.

BLADDER OF STEEL The public relations operation for Buc-ees Beaver hit a home run on ABC. The chain of 30 filling stations in Texas could not have hoped for better publicity from Ryan Owens' closing feature. Buc-ees' unique selling proposition is spotlessly clean bathrooms, "a business built purely on porcelain." Owens even a persuaded a customer to offer her TMI endorsement: "I started my morning from Houston with a thermos of coffee…wait…and hold it…until I got to Buc-ees!"