The world according to Sen. Joe Biden
The news could take our Nightly News broadcast in any number of directions tonight. The weather is making news from Florida through the Midwest, the FBI report (released yesterday) triggered some old emotions and a familiar post-9/11 story line when the New York Times placed it on the front page this morning, South Korea (and thus North Korea) is in the news today due to the president's bilateral meeting ... and we'll take a look at what is a daily issue for those of us who commute each day on the nation's highways: Distracted driving. While I'm indeed writing this while talking on the phone, it's different than operating a vehicle at 70 mph.
Finally, on our broadcast tonight, a little night music: the Baghdad Symphony... silent during much of the fighting... playing tonight in what may be the most heavily-defended concert in the history of civilization.
And a Dateline preview: I've been asked to tell our readers of an upcoming Dateline Sunday segment about pets. It features not only the two Scotties who enjoy their run of the White House, but the mutt who enjoys her run of the Williams' household. It will be on the Dateline page of this Web site once the segment airs Sunday evening.
We wish you all a good weekend, and hope you'll join us for tonight's broadcast.
Coming up tonight on Nightly
In Virginia, they paved the road to paradise with the help of more than $100 million taxpayer dollars. Find out why something as simple as a poorly written contract helped inflate the cost of a highway. And find out why four years later, it's still a "Fleecing of America."
Gitmo, cloned cars & that memo to Downing Street (Brian Williams)
Right before our afternoon editorial meeting devolved into a discussion and subsequent online search for the hottest cell phone ring tones (which have all the calming qualities and melodic nuance of a dentist's drill), we actually had a thorough discussion of the stories before us today.
At or near the top of the broadcast tonight we'll look at the issue of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a good Google search project for those not up on history is to find out just how it is that a huge portion of the island nation of Cuba is U.S. property). The prison on the base has become what producer Barbara Raab calls "a true flash point" ( Amnesty International used the word "gulag" to describe it, a term strongly rejected by President Bush ) and there are many people now calling for closing it altogether. Further, we'll take a look at the inmates being held there... how long they've been there, and what their likely legal future may entail.
We'll follow-up on the Army recruitment story we led the broadcast with last night , a look at the newest trend in car thefts (something else for all of us to worry about) and the dirty little secrets of several prominent Americans whose military records were released by the National Archives today.
And I cannot draw enough attention to our closing piece tonight. It's worth alerting friends, family and neighbors. It's worth a fresh tape in the machine or alerting your digital video recorder. And it will only air once because of restrictions on music used in the piece. It's about the college graduating class of 2005. They are also known as the class of 9/11, as they all arrived at college during the sparkling transition from summer to fall in 2001. Since they've been in school, the world around them has been transformed... a point several commencement speakers made this year. You'll see some familiar faces, you'll see some people for the first time, and if you are anything like us, your emotions may get the better of you during this superb and emotional look at the sendoff for this year's college graduates.
One more note to those of you who are part of the mass e-mail project on the so-called Downing Street Memo: That's enough, we get it ... it's an important story ... and all you're doing now is taking up computer space. And a hint to those of you who thought you were being stealthy about the e-mail campaign: When you all use the same quote from Thomas Jefferson, it makes a guy like me suspicious. We're well aware of the story, we've covered it, and likely will again.
Tonight on Nightly...
You've heard about identity theft. But did you know criminals can steal your car's identity? It's true, and it can cause trouble for you down the road.
Plus, our salute to the Class of 2005. Their freshman year was marked by tragedy, but there's hope on graduation day. Brian's been talking about it since Monday ... tune in for it tonight!
Military recruitment on the wane (Brian Williams)
In this nation with an all-volunteer military, we owe an enormous debt to those who serve. One of the wonderful things about my job is the time I get to spend with people in uniform, usually as they do their jobs, and sometimes when they are in palpable danger. Those who have seen this nation's fighting force in action, this reporter included, find them to be a very impressive, well-trained group, with a few notable exceptions. It's against the backdrop of ongoing conflict on two separate fronts that some recruitment figures are leaking out of the Pentagon, showing what a lot of Americans predicted: After years of extended deployments, unprecedented use of the National Guard and Reserves and a general strain on existing forces and resources, recruiting young people to join the armed forces is becoming more difficult. Tonight we'll look at this issue and how the burden of protecting the nation falls to separate sub-groups within our society . Jim Miklaszewski will kick off our reporting from the Pentagon.
We're also airing a cautionary tale that you might have seen promoted on NBC for this evening's broadcast: Plastic surgery in Mexico . The ads promise operations for half the normal cost of cosmetic surgery, but tonight potential patients will be warned, as producer Bruce Cummings put it in our editorial meeting, "you pay your money and you take your chances."
And with a reminder that our splendid piece on this year's best commencement speeches is coming up TOMORROW evening, we hope you'll join us tonight.
Coming up tonight on Nightly
Plastic surgery at less than half the price! That's the sales pitch in Mexico, where Americans are being lured for cheaper liposuction, face lifts and more. But what are the risks? It depends on who you ask...
Changes at the top of NBC News (Brian Williams)
A melancholy mood permeates the newsroom today, coming off last night's gathering in Midtown Manhattan to mark the retirement of NBC News Executive Vice President Bill Wheatley. Bill has been, since the mid-70's, our heart and soul in many ways. Whether it is a question about news coverage, ethics or personnel, Bill's judgement is always reliable, and he has always put the News Division's best interests ahead of all else. He's a man of wise counsel, vast experience and great modesty. Last night we told him in no uncertain terms just what he has meant to us over these many years. This would be a worrisome vacancy for NBC News were it not for the fact that Bill's replacement, Steve Capus, brings the very best talents to the job. And we here at Nightly News should know: He's been the Executive Producer of this broadcast for the past four years. And as Steve moves up, so does John Reiss (pronounced REES), who has been Steve's deputy, and who will make a great executive producer. It is a nice coincidence that this also marks my 6-month mark since inheriting the chair from Tom Brokaw. We work hard to make sure that our broadcast is the very best and I'm flattered beyond words at the dedication of our staff on a daily basis.
Editor's note: You can read the official press releases from NBC News here: Steve Capus promoted to Senior Vice President, NBC News and John Reiss named Executive Producer, NBC Nightly News.
On tonight's broadcast we'll look at General Motor's attempt to steer in a new direction, and the hardship that will result from its decision to lay off 25,000 employees. We'll take a look at the Bush/Blair meeting at the White House late this afternoon, and I'd like to close out the broadcast tonight with two people we don't see too much of these days: Former President Gerald R. Ford and former First Lady Betty Ford. Both have played a huge role in modern American history and I'm happy to report that both are doing well and look great.
Jim Maceda's full Q&A from Baghdad has dropped. Click here to read it.
The view from Iraq
Editor's Note: NBC correspondent Jim Maceda is currently on the ground in Baghdad. His most recent report on Nightly News was about "Operation Lightning," the counterinsurgency offensive underway by the Iraqi government. Click here to watch the video . This morning, he answered questions asked by an MSNBC.com editor. This is a partial transcript. A full link to the Q&A will post later today.
Q: What do the conflicting reports of progress in terms of arrests and at the same time as increasing violence say about the state of the war at the moment?
Jim Maceda:I think what it says about the state of the war is that it’s a war. And like all wars it’s work in progress. It’s not clear-cut and there are no frontlines. This is a war where there is a 360 degree battlefield, 24-7. So it is not a contradiction at all to have successes on one front and setbacks on another. It would be misleading to say, and we were very careful not to, to draw any conclusions after three or four days of a relative lull. There were about three or four days where the overall level of violence dropped significantly — the numbers of dead dropped down to nine or ten a day, compared to the 20 or 30 that we had been reporting every day since the new government.
But, three days later, we are back down to pre-"Operation Lightning" levels. Now, what does that say about tactics? A lot or nothing, it really depends. We just need more information. We don’t know whether it was a strategic break being taken by the insurgents to prepare for future attacks during that three or four day lull. We don’t know if it was sheer coincidence or if it was the stifling 115 degree heat that just put a damper on things. It’s hard to say. But, what is clear is that this kind of low-grade war will be fought in peaks and valleys. It will be fought in spikes and lulls.
Now, we saw a lull for three days and today we are seeing another spike in violence, and this is just going to continue. There is no doubt. I would think, and many believe, that this will continue at least through the end of this year and until new elections.
Editor's Note: Here's an early look at one story we're working on for tonight's broadcast...
Remember kindergarten? Recess, snacks, naps... Well, not any more! Modern pressures have hit the kindergarten and much more learning is expected from the little ones. They say better reading and writing is the goal, but is the new way really a good way for kids?
High court weighs in on medical marijuana (Brian Williams)
As our staff continues to shake off the effects of the first warm and sunny weekend in the New York area in what seems like months, the U.S. Supreme Court came out this morning with a late-term decision that offers an interesting window into the court and raises a lot of questions. As you may know, even though marijuana possession is a federal crime, 10 states currently allow its medicinal use. While today's decision has more to do with laws than it does green plants per se, it affords those of us who are court buffs another fascinating decision in the life of the Rehnquist court. As part of our coverage tonight, we intend to look at reaction in Congress and in the world of medicine.
Also this evening, Andrea Mitchell will take a look at Howard Dean's... shall we say... "interesting" tenure thus far as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And in our ongoing effort to cover every aspect of life for those Americans in uniform, we have a poignant story tonight on the good people who care for the personal effects of our heroes who give their lives for our country. It is not to be missed.
And if I might, an unusual preview: One of the great traditions on this broadcast is our sampling of the commencement speeches from graduation season, just now drawing to a close. Our compilation from the best of the class of 2005 graduation speakers will air this Thursday evening. All I can tell you is this: After an advance screening for a select few members of the staff, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Nor, I'm guessing, will there be one in your house come Thursday night.
Editor's Note: Among the stories you'll see tonight on the broadcast, Little Leaguers and Tommy John surgery. That's right; a big-league medical problem is now plaguing Little Leaguers. Kerry Sanders reports tonight on why more and more teenager ballplayers are undergoing major reconstructive surgery . Are coaches and parents pushing child athletes too hard?
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