Oct. 13, 2005 | 4:00 p.m. EDT

Last post here (Rob Merrill, Daily Nightly editor)

One last post in this format ... DailyNightly.MSNBC.com is live and open for business. Same blog, new look. Enjoy.

Oct. 13, 2005 | 11:09 a.m. EDT

Visit the redesigned Daily Nightly (Rob Merrill, Daily Nightly editor)

You can read all future posts by clicking here.  The URL DailyNightly.MSNBC.com will resolve soon to that page. We hope the redesigned blog is easier for you to navigate, easier to link to and easier for you to post comments.

Oct. 12, 2005 | 4:40 p.m. EDT

Rainy days and Wednesdays...

Anchor & Managing Editor
...always make for short editorial meetings. Not that it's been raining for an excessively long time here in New York, but I did see animals walking by 30 Rock in pairs earlier today. I've never been one of those who says "oh, but we NEED it." It's grim, damp and dark and has been for days. It may actually be an office efficiency tool (by cutting down on outdoor distractions, including any desire to look out the window) as today we all noted how swiftly our editorial meeting flew by. We rocketed through it. A record 19 minutes to agree on, lay out and explain the running order... INCLUDING the often Knesset-like procedure of selecting the "ribbon" graphics that appear as titles on the bottom of the screen during our reports from correspondents.

Seeing Jon Stewart at an event in New York last night (and remarking to someone in the print press that those of us in television who dwell in the "actual news" realm are merely his content providers/pinatas) reminded me to welcome a superb practitioner in the parody community: we are all excited to see Stephen Colbert's new show when it debuts. Stephen is better at fake news than many are at the real thing. This morning's New York Times nicely previewed the extent to which the steak knives are being sharpened for all of us... a welcome system of checks and balances to keep us honest.

To tonight's actual broadcast: the President's words on religion as it pertains to his White House counsel attracted broad interest in our newsroom and others today. We'll obviously update the situation in South Asia, and look at the storm zone in Louisiana where this was a day for residents of the Lower Ninth Ward to return to their homes. There's a thoroughly unpleasant and rather horrifying development concerning abuse from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles today... and we'll take on the emotional and tricky topic of child care and raising children... our report from Janet Shamlian will round out the broadcast.

Oct. 12, 2005 | 2:24 p.m. EDT

Staying warm this winter (Jay Blackman, NBC News Producer)

For months, high energy costs have been the talk in the newspapers and on television. Everyone from the suppliers to the government to President Bush has warned Americans that keeping warm this winter may be more expensive than ever before. Hurricane Katrina and Rita's devastation of the industry infrastructure added to an already major problem. Today, the Department of Energy put it in terms everyone can understand. If you heat with oil, expect to pay $378 more this winter, propane $325 more and natural gas $350 more.

Tonight, NBC Correspondent Tom Costello will introduce you to a Philadelphia resident named JoAnn Baker. Living with a disability and on a fixed income, she is STILL trying to pay off the hundreds of dollars she owes from last winter's energy bill. Like many others in this country, she will struggle this winter to decide whether to eat, take her medicine or turn the thermostat up to keep warm. You'll also hear from a booming segment of the heating business, the wood stove industry, which has seen business double since last winter as people look for ways to save money this winter.

This is our second story on heating prices in as many weeks. It touches everyone who owns or rents... homes and businesses. Last week, we gave you some tips on how to make sure your heat isn't escaping the house and how to make sure the frigid cold of winter doesn't get in . You can also go to www.energysavers.govfor more helpful hints.

Oct. 12, 2005 | 11:35 a.m. EDT

Looking to the polls (Elizabeth Wilner, NBC Political Director)

It's been an unsettling early fall for the country and, consequentially, a tough one for President Bush... two major hurricanes, one of which inflicted some political damage on Bush, and the other which didn't provide him with a chance to recover... soaring energy prices are causing pain at the pump and angst about home heating costs this winter... the war in Iraq and escalating violence leading up to the October 15 constitutional referendum... scandals involving key figures in the administration and GOP leadership on Capitol Hill.

A second Supreme Court vacancy gave the President a chance to reassert control over the national political debate. But his choice of Harriet Miers split his party (not bad public positioning, we'd note, for the nominee to replace the Court's swing vote), which is also divided over government spending on hurricane relief and whether or not to offset that spending with budget cuts in popular social programs.

Not that Democrats are offering the public positive alternatives, appearing to take a "lesser of two evils" approach to winning the middle's hearts and minds. They also remain hamstrung over how to talk about the war.

So with the Miers announcement behind us and the Iraq referendum looming, we figured it was time to take the public's temperature again. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll will be released tonight on Nightly News and in tomorrow's Journal.

Oct. 12, 2005 | 10:13 a.m. EDT

Tonight's promoted story (Rob Merrill, Daily Nightly editor)

Stay-at-home moms vs. working moms: Whose kids are better off? Four years ago, researchers infuriated working women, blaming daycare for causing aggressive behavior. Now the same researchers have a new report with surprising findings about what's really best for children. Correspondent Janet Shamlian has that story for you tonight.

Oct. 11, 2005 | 4:16 p.m. EDT

Inside tonight's rundown

Anchor & Managing Editor
The quake continues to dominate the top of our broadcast tonight. Relief is arriving, and there's a palpable sense of progress in some areas and not in others. We'll lead off with a superb report from Ned Colt and we'll additionally tell the story of an amazing rescue in an area where hope was all but lost. We'll also show you, at the very top of the broadcast, a picture of the crack this quake left in the earth.

We'll cover the President's eighth visit to the storm zone, including what appeared to many of us to be at least a slight change of policy during his Today Show interview ( story here ; video link here ). Also in New Orleans, we have a piece I've been wanting to do for weeks: how the Times-Picayune has been managing to cover the biggest story to hit their city in modern times. We also have an update on that pathetic shipment of FEMA ice we've been tracking ( first story from Sept. 16 here ).

We're also doing a news division-wide effort on the Bird Flu today, and for our part that means two separate reports tonight.

Special kudos go to my friend Richard Engel for the post below from Bagdhad. As you read it, please understand: it is Richard's strong desire to be there. Those who don't understand that may never grasp what we do for a living, or what makes a guy like Richard go. He's young, single and committed... and in my experience, reporting from hot spots requires at least one of those three qualities. And that's not JUST because I haven't been young OR single for a long time...

We hope you join us tonight.

Oct. 11, 2005 | 3:53 p.m. EDT

Back in Baghdad

Correspondent Richard Engel
I didn't want to take a shower this morning. But it had been a muggy night and I was sweaty and groggy and needed a shower.

"I just don't want to," I thought to myself as I awoke to a muffled explosion. A car bomb had exploded at a police checkpoint near our hotel/bureau at 7:45 in the morning, earlier than my alarm. Oddly (and this surprised and somewhat disturbed me) the sound of the explosion (which killed four Iraqi policeman, according to the Iraqi interior ministry) was somehow nostalgic.

I have been away from Iraq (on vacation) for the past three weeks and this macabre wake-up call was, for lack of a better word, familiar. It evoked a feeling of home; that's the disturbing part after nearly three straight years here.

But now I was up, facing the shower. While I was away a stray bullet (I assume it was a stray) had come through a window above the shower, breaking it into shards and boring holes into the vanity case hanging on the wall. The bullet was on the bathroom floor. I have it in my hand now, snub-nosed (blunted from when it hit the tiled wall), brass-colored and about the size of a tooth, only heavier. This bullet had come through the window just about where my head is when I shower.

Violence here has been on the rise since yesterday. There were 16 bomb and mortar attacks in Baghdad yesterday, compared with five or six daily last week. U.S. military and Iraqi government sources say the violence will intensify up to Saturday's referendum with the possibility of a "spectacular attack" (a phrase I've always hated, evoking images of Las Vegas mixed with death) on referendum day itself.

Out of courtesy to my colleagues and public health, I did end up showering. I was in a hurry to get to the Iraqi president's house, where negotiations were still underway. The U.S. ambassador was there, trying to mediate between the Shiites and Sunnis. I arrived at 9:00 a.m., just in time to realize I was far too early. We didn't end up seeing President Talabani or his advisors until nearly five in the afternoon. At about 3:00, there was a mini-revolt and most of the Iraqi journalists left so they could be home in time for the Ramadan breakfast, although I can attest most of them were not fasting and the room where we were waiting was full of reporters smoking and drinking soda.

In the end we did get a brief on the Constitution, still tied up in debate over three points: the ability to form regional blocks, the de-baathification process and how the Constitution can be amended. Sunnis want to limit the ability of provinces to group together to form mini-states, an end to the de-baathfication purges and an easy way to amend the Constitution, mostly written by Shiites and Kurds. The Shiites want the exact opposite. More negotiations are expected tomorrow at Talabani's house.

It is, without hyperbole, an incredibly important process. If the Constitution passes Saturday's yes-no vote despite Sunni opposition (a very real possibility), the insurgency led by Sunnis (who already feel isolated and so hopeless many are blowing themselves up) could get worse. If, however, the talks at Talabani's house produce a consensus before the vote (at this point this seems a slim possibility according to negotiators I spoke to today) then there is a chance the Constitution will pass with Sunni support and insurgents will gradually become more isolated. There is therefore some hope; but waking up to violence everyday, in bed and in the shower, it is sometimes hard to see it, and even harder for Iraqis, who are much more exposed to the hardships of life here than any reporter.

Oct. 11, 2005 | 3:04 p.m. EDT

NYC subway threat: Was it a hoax?

Justice Correspondent Pete Williams
Three federal officials say it is premature to conclude that the New York City subway warning informant was involved in a "hoax" by making up his story about a planned attack.

They say that after initially questioning the informant, and subjecting him to a polygraph test, the U.S. military released him. He was not under arrest; he was simply an informant. So, these officials say, no one from the U.S. has yet found the informant to ask him point blank whether he made it up.

That being said, two of these officials say there's "reason to believe" that he made it up, possibly for money. This, one of the officials says, is based on talking to others who know the informant.

So the military has yet to close the loop by going back to the informant, but many federal officials now believe he probably did make it up.

Oct. 11, 2005 | 12:27 p.m. EDT

President Bush on "Today" (David Gelles, Associate Producer, "Today" show)

I just finished eating some of Paul Prudome’s authentic Cajun cuisine: sweet potato omelet, beef stroganoff, and an andouille and cheese muffin followed with some beignets,  courtesy of Cafe du Monde. Thankfully these New Orleans institutions will be back up and open for business next week. It's been a long six weeks for this city and the flavor is literally returning. It's great progress compared to two weeks ago when Matt Lauer and I arrived here in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. Then, military Humvees roamed the empty streets of a city with no running water or electricity.

Restaurants were almost all closed. Now there are HELP WANTED signs virtually everywhere. Burger King is offering $6,000 signing bonuses to employees who agree to work for a year. But the year ahead will certainly be filled with challenges. President Bush told Matt this morning that the rebuilding effort will be up to state and local officials and the federal government’s role will be minimal.  ( Full story here | Video link: President Bush talks with Matt Lauer )

The city is no longer under water. Now the biggest problem will be getting people to live here.

President Bush arrived at our location in Covington just a few minutes before we went on the air. He and the first lady wanted to get down to work helping out on the Habitat for Humanity home. But before he was able to get out the hammer, we got to ask him some tough questions. It’s too early for me to tell if this interview will get a lot of pick up. The president again refused to answer questions about the CIA leak probe.

Editor's note: "Nightly News" will feature a full report on President Bush's eighth trip to the hurricane region tonight.

Oct. 11, 2005 | 9:50 a.m. EDT

Tonight's promoted story (Rob Merrill, Daily Nightly editor)

Bird flu... they say if it moves from poultry to humans, millions in the U.S. could die? Why the sudden scare? Chief Science Correspondent Robert Bazell introduces you to the scientist who first signed the alarm about the deadly virus. We'll also have a report from Hong Kong on how the world is reacting to the threat of a pandemic. For the latest on bird flu, including its symptoms, how to prevent it and how to treat it, click here.

Oct. 10, 2005 | 4:23 p.m. EDT

Shaking our confidence

Anchor & Managing Editor
Would anyone blame any sane person for wondering about our world right now? The news out of Asia is staggering and the numbers have grown exponentially over the weekend . There's no getting a real handle on the dead, injured and homeless quite yet... we will endeavor to gather the very best information, pictures and interviews for tonight's broadcast.

One story we can tell here will NOT be fully told on our air tonight, due to time constraints: it speaks to the destruction, the desperation and the difficulty in the quake region: one of our veteran foreign producers, Carol Grisanti, was flying in a helicopter with the Pakistani information minister surveying damage when they attempted to land in the town of Balacot. The helicopter they were flying in was rushed by survivors, many of them (how familiar this all sounds) angry with the government over the response and the pace of relief deliveries. The helicopter was forced to lift off again, and was not able to fit any of the wounded survivors on board, despite their family's pleas. Carol reports after flying over the town of Bajh (population approximately 100,000) that there were no visible survivors and no place stable enough (or rubble-free enough) where they could put the helicopter down. It's beyond grim, and it will take us all some time to get our arms around the scope of this story. Again, think of the relief agencies... with the Red Cross already running at capacity (at least domestically), several people this morning mentioned AmeriCares, known for its direct airlift of donated supplies to hard-hit areas. While they pride themselves on their ability to cut through government red tape, I suppose terrain and damage on the ground become major concerns for them as well. I just finished watching the evening news broadcasts live from London on the British networks ITN and BBC with our senior producer for foreign news, M.L. Flynn — both of us commented on the unending disasters calling for our sympathy, empathy and compassion as observers.

There's another incoming video feed today that is truly hard to watch... worse when you consider it was in an American city that has been through so much lately. The beating of a man by police in New Orleans has already resulted in legal action . The pictures are gruesome, and I note that even the Associated Press (whose television crew and producer were involved in recording the images) put the scene in the context of the difficulties faced by that city's police after Katrina... the long shifts, sleeping in cars, many of them without homes and family members. We'll cover the incident on the broadcast tonight with the appropriate dinner-hour warning.

Also tonight, we'll have the latest on the subway threat here in New York, which is now officially over. The city has returned to its normal stressful footing... and speaking of the terrorist threat...how many people noted the exchange on MSNBC between Keith Olbermann and Craig Crawford? TVNewser did.

While we always strive for good news in the broadcast, tonight that's a tall order given all that's going on in the world. Tonight we have a story on the progress being made in the fight against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome ... which we'll chalk up as a positive if lives can be saved.

We hope you can join us...

Oct. 10, 2005 | 2:34 p.m. EDT

Reading the political tea leaves (Elizabeth Wilner, NBC News Political Director)

The tea leaf-reading department here at NBC is looking at how the current U.S. political climate might affect the two parties' odds in key upcoming elections. Polite "no, thank you's" from two strong would-be Republican candidates for the Senate have Washington buzzing that the GOP's bumpy ride these days is affecting candidate recruitment for 2006. We're setting our sights a little nearer — on the upcoming elections November 8, now less than a month away, and the chance that voter turnout will be lopsided, with one party feeling a lot more motivated than the other.

It's not hard to list reasons why the GOP's conservative base might not feel much like voting right now: Harriet Miers' much-debated qualifications; Karl Rove's fourth grand jury appearance; Tom DeLay's indictment; Bill Frist's stock sale; an expanding federal government; a Washington spending spree on hurricane relief; and delayed votes on tax cuts and major tax reform.

Beyond feeling deflated over these developments, the base might have a touch of combat fatigue, between two huge pushes to get out the vote in 2002 and 2004 and the hard-fought judicial wars this year. It's possible that President Bush and his party may have gone to the well so many times that their troops are worn out.

We certainly wouldn't rule out the possibility that conservative voters might regain some spring in their step by 2006. But to the extent that they don't turn out in force for a toss-up contest like the governor's race in Virginia, or the battles over parental notification and paycheck protection in California, then the talk on November 9 will be about a dispirited, weary Republican base — and how that is a hallmark of a "six-year itch" election in which the president's party suffers big losses.

Editor's note: Elizabeth Wilner and the NBC News Political Unit write a daily briefing on politics called "First Read." You can read it here and sign up to receive it via e-mail here.

Oct. 10, 2005 | 12:35 p.m. EDT

Adjusting to the 'new' New Orleans (Al Henkel, NBC News Producer)

The city and state here estimate that a million refrigerators will need to be replaced. When the power went out, the food left in them rotted so severely that the stuff became toxic waste, and leached into the plastic and piping. There are hundreds of them on every street, even in areas that are not flooded and only lost power. I think the number will be higher, because most people had more than one, and that doesn't count restaurants that had small models in addition to the large commercial ones.

Unbelievably, traffic is becoming a problem again. I have always found New Orleans to be a difficult place to get around, (the streets were mostly laid out in the 1800's, at least downtown) and for the past six weeks, traffic law abeyance has been interesting to say the least. Driving the wrong way on a one-way, or up the wrong entrance ramp, cutting across the interstate, and going the wrong way on I-10 or the cross-town expressway has been the norm. There were so few people in the city right after the storm, you just put on the emergency flashers and were careful when you got to an intersection. After driving like that for a few weeks, you start to feel like that's the way it should be.

The most interesting thing for the past few days has been the smells. This weekend we were shooting a story next to a five-star restaurant that was being cleaned. Imagine a garbage can, filled with really ripe things, sealed up and left in the Louisiana sun for five weeks. Now open the can and crawl inside. That’s just about every eating establishment in the city, five-star to fast food; all had things rotting in the cooler. Walking through New Orleans was once a joy; you could smell the special of the day from each place, sometimes good, usually excellent. Now the smell of what's cooking fights with the stench of rotting food and garbage.

Oct. 10, 2005 | 10:23 a.m. EDT

Signs of life in New Orleans

Correspondent Carl Quintanilla
The sun is setting over the top of the Superdome. I am in shorts and a T-shirt, going for my first jog through New Orleans since returning to this city nearly a month after covering the first days of Katrina's aftermath.

It's a gorgeous night.

The weather is cooler now. I have to watch for cars, but at least they're cars and not camouflaged Humvees with National Guard troops eyeing me suspiciously. When I left New Orleans on Sept. 10, it was a chaotic city seemingly without hope. Tonight, downtown is quiet, with just the faintest evening pulse.

As I run along Poydras Street — one of the main strips here with big hotels that once fed the city's convention business — I get the occasional awkward stare from cops and relief workers. Do I run funny? It's as if they have to remind themselves why someone might actually be running down a city sidewalk. "Oh my God, he's — he's EXERCISING!" These are things people here have taken for granted for a long time.

I take a right on Loyola Avenue.

Traffic is largely made up of buses tonight, carting loads of Latino workers back to their temporary housing after a day of cleaning the nastiest parts of the city. Today, we met two dozen Brazilians scrubbing the meat locker of an empty retirement home. The meat inside had sat rotting for 20 days. They receive $10 an hour — nearly double the laborer's wage in their hometown of Dallas.

Still running. I begin to see sights familiar to me from the flood's early days: a Chevron station I once couldn't get near without wader boots is closed, but finally operational. The French Market, a local square, was an eerie no-man's land last time I saw it; tonight, three teenage skateboarders are practicing tricks along the curb.

As I start heading back to the hotel, I cut through the heart of the French Quarter, and that's when I realize: if you look at New Orleans in just the right spot, you'd think it were back in business. Bars are hopping, the patrons once again drinking beer in plastic cups out on the sidewalk. Souvenir shops are literally "open" for business — their front doors propped ajar, letting the air-conditioning and Zydeco music spill outside. They sell shirts that read "I Survived Katrina." Another features a hurricane symbol and says: "Forget Iraq. Rebuild at Home."

Some of the folks on the street tonight are probably reporters, or maybe FEMA workers. But as I run past a young couple, holding hands, I think to myself, "Now, they have GOT to be on vacation."

It strikes me that New Orleans has become a "company town" — just as Everett, Wash., once was to Boeing or Flint, Mich., to General Motors. Everyone here now works for the same organization: that nameless entity intent on restoring what was here before. Tonight, running past them, I'm reminded that normal-life activities CAN come back to this place.

They already have.

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