August 19 | 3:45 p.m.

An old-school outburst

Let's begin here with a tip of the hat to Jack Cafferty for what was clearly an impromptu outburst (clearly reflecting a very deep conviction) on the air yesterday afternoon, which I happened to be watching at the time. While I note that the folks at TV Newser also caught on and have preserved his remarks (click here to read them)... Jack's thoughts came at the very moment when I was leaving my office to walk to our newsroom to decide on a lead. The two leading choices were Gaza and BTK, and Jack's words had real resonance with me. We led with the superb reporting of Martin Fletcher from Gaza (who was in the middle of those extraordinary scenes yesterday) and I left the set after the broadcast absolutely convinced that we had done the right thing, and for the right reasons. Jack Cafferty is an acquired taste... one that I acquired years ago when we were both working in New York local news. He's an old school newsman who never got the P.C. memo, and on days like yesterday we should all be thankful for that.

Now to tonight's effort: our afternoon editorial meeting was interrupted by word of the Vioxx verdict, and we suddenly have a new and major story to cover tonight. We have some very good reporting as well from the Pentagon this evening, in addition to news on the subject of immigration in the United States... a subject that heated up even further (not that I thought that was possible) this past week. Our series on gas prices concludes with some GREAT myths about buying gas, like: when purchased at night, you get more for your money, because of air and fluid density and temperature. There are more where that gem came from, and Anne Thompson will take them on. Finally, my favorite story in the broadcast and one close to our home, at least: the summer camp for kids who want to be play-by-play baseball announcers. Mike Taibbi will knock this one out of the park. Please have a good weekend, right after you join us for tonight's broadcast.

Editor's note: Use the mailbag below to communicate with NBC Nightly News or click here to send an e-mail.

August 19 | 9:15 a.m.

Tonight on Nightly News (Steve Johnson, Daily Nightly editor)

With gas prices soaring, advice on how to save is flowing. But is it good advice? Is gas really cheaper on the weekends? On side streets? At night? Does turning off the air conditioner help? We'll sort out the myths, and tell you what really cures the pain at the pump. Tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

August 18 | 5:45 p.m.

A sharp debate (Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent)

The Department of Homeland Security is quietly gauging public reaction to the leak of an idea, suggested by staff members at the Transportation Security Administration, that would undo the post-9/11 rule banning sharp objects onboard passenger jets.

Every day, screeners find more than 14,000 pocket knives, nail scissors, screwdrivers, and other items with points or blades, forcing passengers to surrender them at the checkpoints and slowing down the long lines at metal detectors. As the federal government considers how to improve screening, the TSA's new director is asking for ideas, and one calls for lifting that ban.

Cockpit doors are now reinforced, some security officials say, so passengers can no longer bring a pilot -- and a plane -- down with a knife. But the nation's largest flight attendant union says its members reacted with anger when they heard about the idea, believing that a return of those items would endanger its members and passengers.

"The people in the cabin have no way to defend themselves," said Patricia Friend of the Association of Flight Attendants.

"Maybe you can't get into the cockpit, but you can certainly create an event that would frighten people immensely," she told NBC News.

If the change goes through, passengers would again be allowed to carry objects like scissors and knives with up to four-inch blades, even ice picks and, for hunters, bows and arrows.

Even so, many airline security experts like the idea. They say screeners should be paying more attention to serious threats in carry-ons, like explosives.

And while flight attendants oppose it, pilots support it, arguing that screeners should be concentrating on passenger behavior instead of scanning x-ray monitors for scissors.

Says Captain Bob Hesselbein of the Air Line Pilots Association, "We need to seek out those who have intent for harm, focus our screening on them, and carefully focus on who they are and what they're bringing aboard."

The idea is just now being studied. Any decision is months away. August 18 | 5:30 p.m.

A prolific memo writer (Pete Williams, NBC News justice correspondent)

With two weeks to go before Senate confirmation hearings for John Roberts, the president's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, the National Archives today made 38,546 more pages of documents available. All were from the time Roberts worked for President Reagan in the White House counsel's office.

Roberts was a prolific memo writer, weighing in on matters large and small. He defended the White House decision not to invoke the 25th Amendment governing presidential succession when, on March 30, 1981, Ronald Reagan was shot and underwent surgery in a Washington hospital. The amendment transfers authority to the vice president when a president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," but Roberts said it need not be used when a president undergoes a brief period of disability such as surgery. Besides, Roberts said, Reagan did not want to set a precedent that would bind future presidents.

Few details seem to have escaped his eye. A draft of a speech included a joke in which Reagan would say, "I did turn 75 today, but remember that's only 30 Celsius." That would be 23.9 Celsius, Roberts duly noted.

Liberal groups suggested one of the memos released today showed Roberts to be insensitive on women's issues. In approving the choice of a federal employee to receive a scholarship, he noted that her boss said the woman encouraged many homemakers to enter law school and become lawyers. At the end of his memo, Roberts wrote, "Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good," but his remark seemed more a comment on the public's perception of lawyers than on the advancement of women.

August 18 | 4:30 p.m.

Heated deliberations (Brian Williams)

Our afternoon editorial meeting showed a dramatic split in opinion over what our lead story should be. Some argued passionately on behalf of the BTK story out of Kansas (today's witness testimony and the statement of the killer himself) while an equally forceful group argued on behalf of the events in Gaza and the dramatic pictures of today's evictions there. While the debate made for interesting camps among members of our team (those of us with children seemed to mostly skew a certain way) both stories, while poles apart in content... were deemed equal in news value. I'm not quite sure that's fully explainable outside the world of our editorial process. The result of our deliberations will be available for all to see when we take to the airwaves tonight.

We'll also update the war effort in Iraq, along with today's jump in the death toll and the latest recitation of the administration's policy. We'll cover the Pope's much-celebrated homecoming to his native Germany, and what we now know about the young man who was killed by police in the London subway... the early facts that emerged during that frantic post-bombing period differ greatly with what we now know. Additionally, we'll continue our series on gas prices.

And we have a special story tonight from here in New York. As you know, the media love any "trend" story, and to that end, perhaps you've read lately about the increasing number of children "returning to the nest." While this story is about that trend, it's also about so much more: love and sex, heart and home, life and death, family, wealth, celebrity and (like so many New York stories) real estate values. While at its heart the story involves a prominent couple who live on 5th Avenue here in the city, the story generated huge viewer interest when we last aired an update. Tonight a further update. We hope you'll join us.

August 18 | 4:20 p.m.

For Palestinians, a short dream (Tom Aspell, NBC News correspondent)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — As the withdrawal of Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip took a dramatic turn on Thursday — with the Israeli army forced to use water cannons to remove Jewish settlers from a synagogue — Palestinians in other parts of Gaza were watching with great interest, but not a lot of sympathy.

As NBC News Tom Aspell reports from Gaza City, the emotional removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza Strip is not seen as a great victory by the Palestinians, but rather a "short dream" and a small step on the way to the "long dream" of Palestinian independence.

There were dramatic scenes of Israeli troops storming a synagogue in the Neve Dekalim settlement in the Gaza Strip on Thursday in order to drag out screaming Jewish settlers. Are Palestinians in Gaza City watching these images and what is their reaction to them?  

Well, I think they are watching them and of course they are interested to see the way the Israelis are doing it. They are interested in the fact that it’s really non-violent, and they are patiently waiting for it to be over.

I don’t think they are surprised by the process. They had the same information the settlers had all this time that this was coming and that these were the methods that would be used.

They are looking forward to seeing the last of the Jewish settlers pull back from the Gaza Strip and they are looking forward to freedom of movement up and down the Gaza Strip.

For all Palestinians, the settlements were really an impediment to movement. They blocked off large areas of land, a total of about 20 percent of the whole Gaza Strip. They blocked off vital roads leading to the north and south, and east to west of the Gaza Strip — almost randomly at times it seemed.

So, now they will be able to move on all the roads, without Israeli checkpoints and without the settlers. They hope that the whole of the Gaza Strip will be free and accessible for them.

To read more of the interview with Tom Aspell, click here.

August 18 | 4:15 p.m.

What's news in Iraq? (Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent)

How do you decide what is the most important part of the Iraq story today?

Among many moving parts: four U.S. soldiers were killed in Ramadi today by yet another improvised explosive device (in plain English, that means a bomb.)

Separately, we're also told that an angry mob carried coffins through a district of Baghdad and threw rocks at U.S. soldiers, protesting an overnight raid during which Americans killed three civilians suspected of being terrorists.

At home, the New York Times has a story on the front page saying Republican House members, during the lengthy August vacation they euphemistically call "district work periods," are getting nervous about potential political fallout in next year's mid-term elections from this increasingly unpopular war, this as candlelight vigils were organized by MoveOn.Org in hundreds of cities across the country, in response to urgings from anti-war Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan.

And, there's this: at today's briefing, the State Department spokesman said he has "nothing to add" to newly declassified documents, first mentioned last night on Nightly News, that the Pentagon ignored pre-war warnings from State that the U.S. had to plan better to avoid terrorism after Saddam was overthrown.

Released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research group, the February 2003 documents are pretty interesting reading.

State Department officials wrote: "We have raised these issues with top CENTCOM officials and General Garner." (Garner was the Pentagon General briefly in charge of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.)

The memos warned that there could be "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance between the end of the war and the beginning of reconstruction."

So, I called General Garner, now retired and living in Florida.

He told me: "I may have gotten that memo, I don't recall it. They may have sent me a copy but it never got through the intricacies of the Pentagon to me. I can tell you, if I had gotten it, it would have caused some discussion. Remember, I was in the Pentagon and I don't remember any of those people."

The clear impression from my conversation? The State Department and the Pentagon may have been exchanging memos, but they sure weren't talking to each other.

For example, the retired general went on to say: "My question is, how were those issues raised to me?"

But, then he added: "I would have liked to have had knowledge of that, but even with knowledge of that, I don't know what I could have done about terrorism. That would have been a job for CENTCOM (Pentagon slang for "central command," headquarters in Tampa)."

Confusing? You bet. A bystander has to wonder how much of this was caused by the legendary friction between the Pentagon and the State Department during the run-up to the war. But when I asked General Garner about that, he said: "I can tell you, I continue to hear talk of battles between the State Department and the Pentagon and Rumsfeld won that battle or I wouldn't have been there, but Colin Powell and Rich Armitage (Powell's deputy) always gave me all the help I needed, so I never felt a problem."

Perhaps the most important thing that happened today is a speech by the Vice President. Addressing a convention of Purple Heart winners in Springfield, Missouri, Mr. Cheney defended the mission in Iraq, compared it to America's war of independence, and said once again that Iraq is "a critical front in the war on terror."

A brief excerpt from the Vice President's speech:

"This is not a war we can win strictly on the defensive. Our only option against these enemies is to find them, to fight them, and to destroy them."

And, to drive his point home, he brought up 9/11, saying: "Osama bin Laden has said the 'Third World War is raging' in Iraq. 'The whole world,' (quoting bin Ladin) 'is watching this war.' He says it will end in 'victory and glory –- or misery and humiliation.'"

One word of caution with the analogy to the American Revolution: it lasted eight years.

Again, these are just a few of the elements we're juggling tonight as we try to summarize what happened in Iraq, and here at home.

August 18 | 12:05 p.m.

Morning mea culpa (Brian Williams)

About last night's broadcast: immediately after we got off the air it was clear (based on my own gut, those whose opinions I respect, and viewer response) that we had missed the mark on two elements. First, the story that aired as part of our series called PAIN AT THE PUMP on gas prices. Throughout the day and at several different spots in the broadcast, we asked the question "why IS it that gas prices can vary from station to station even on the same street... even right next to each other?" or words to that effect. We called the dynamic "maddening" -- and I'm afraid our attempt at an answer might have been equally maddening. It was the opinion of a good many viewers that our story didn't answer that question in a direct enough manner. For the record: the answer to the question we posed seems to be: the price changes and differentials are both in response to demands from corporate headquarters, and an attempt by individual gas stations to hold onto as many customers as they can. While there were reasons for the disconnect between what we promised and what we delivered... and while the segment was the work of some of our most talented folks... I fully accept the ultimate blame for any miscommunication.

Our other item also had to do with gas prices: at the end of the broadcast we told viewers of a search tool on the website that allows them to type in their ZIP code and find out the cheapest gas prices closest to where they live or work. We have had minor issues with this application before, and so before the broadcast I requested an informal test of the system. Some of our folks in the newsroom started punching in ZIP codes they knew. While we were briefly worried when nothing came up in Manhattan (and attributed that to the density of the city and the relative scarcity of gas stations), it DID seem to work in all the other areas that we tried. We went ahead with the on-air mention... and then the e-mails and calls started to come in. So to our viewers in Portland, Maine; Chicago, Los Angeles, Texas and all the other places where it failed to operate: apologies. We put our imprimatur on something that didn't work in some cases... and while the website folks are hard at work on it, I take full responsibility for both of the above items. While no standards were violated and nobody got hurt, our efforts fell a bit short. We'll go back at it tonight. More on that after our afternoon editorial meeting.

August 18 | 9:30 a.m.

Tonight on Nightly News (Steve Johnson, Daily Nightly editor)

Gas prices are reaching record highs and there's no relief in sight. Or is there? From hitch-hiking to just staying home, some commuters are going to extremes to keep their money out of the gas tank. Can a solution be found in chicken fat? It's all about alleviating the pain at the pump. Tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

August 17 | 4:10 p.m.

Eviction, detection and generation (Brian Williams)

Before the stories that reference the above headline haiku, a word about this space: some of you may have found us as a result of a promotional spot that aired at the end of our broadcast last evening. To all of you: welcome. While this has been a blog in its early stages, it's about to take a leap forward in content and become something closer to our goal for the Daily Nightly as a running narrative of our day, while reporting, gathering facts and compiling the broadcast. We're about to welcome many new regular contributors to the D.N., including correspondents Pete Williams, David Gregory, Jim Miklaszewski, Richard Engel, Kelly O'Donnell, Chip Reid, Andrea Mitchell, Anne Thompson, Lisa Myers, Robert Bazell and Tom Costello. My efforts will continue to get our writers Barbara Raab and Chris Colvin to be as great, as funny and as creative in this space as they are in our newsroom each day. We'll also be hearing from some of our producers and executives (including Bonnie Optekman, Bob Windrem and Lisa Green), and if we can free up five minutes in his work day, we'll start hearing from our Executive Producer John Reiss, the scoutmaster around these parts. In short, this blog should look radically different as it continues to grow in the days and weeks to come. Our goal will continue to be a window into our daily editorial process and as much transparency as possible without handing our daily coverage plan to our worthy competitors. And I'll continue to count my blessings that my assistant, Melissa Ludlum, has so far shown no interest in blogging about her day.

Now to tonight's effort: this was de facto eviction day in Gaza... an emotional scene handled tonight by Martin Fletcher. Tom Aspell will have the Palestinian view of the return of the land.

To my fellow frequent flyers who have harbored questions about the lack of an application of common sense to the airline security procedures: there is hope. Pete Williams will report tonight on a move afoot within the TSA (the folks who have your nail clippers) to relax their "sharp object" restrictions. The flight attendants have another view of this issue. We'll present both tonight.

If you're worried about the Bird Flu, consider hitting mute on your TV set at about the 14-minute mark in our broadcast tonight: our own George Lewis (who I believe was NBC's last correspondent in Vietnam in the latter stages of the war) returns there for us tonight to report on what some say may become a pandemic.

Finally... two stories on energy: generating it (off the shores of Nantucket) and pricing it (how many gas stations can set different prices within a stone's throw of each other?) and we hope you can join us tonight for all of it. August 17 | 3:45 p.m.

Al Zarqawi's ambitions (Robert Windrem, investigative producer)

We noted something interesting and not too comforting the last week: increasing evidence that Abu Musab al Zarqawi has become more ambitious, not just in Iraq, but outside it.

It's always hard to get inside the head of a terrorist, particularly one like Zarqawi, who, unlike his counterparts in al Qaeda Central, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, is uneducated and not persuaded of the value of a pan-Islamist front.  He is a Sunni and has taken more Muslim lives than anyone in the post-9/11 era, most of them Shi'a. 

Still, what we have seen over the past week indicates that Zarqawi, a former Jordanian video store clerk, has much greater ambitions.     

Exhibit 1 was the distribution, over the Internet yesterday, of two Zarqawi attacks on oil pipelines in southern Iraq. Evan Kohlman, who analyzes terrorist websites for us, says that while Zarqawi's group has attacked pipelines before, it is now displaying its work along with comments that indicate the goal of the attacks is to create havoc not just in Iraq, but on world oil markets.

"Al-Qaida's Jihad Committee in Mesopotamia -- led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- has released two video clips featuring the aftermath of attacks on 'crusader oil pipelines' in Samarra and Al-Anbar, Iraq," Kohlman wrote us. "Zarqawi's group has never before released such footage, nor can I recall a single instance in which they have even claimed responsibility for the destruction of oil pipelines in more than a year.

"The release of this video seems to be a fairly explicit effort on the part of Zarqawi to further ramp up global oil prices and weaken the U.S. economically."

Exhibit 2 came to us yesterday as well, an early analysis of the importance of the Turkish arrest of a Syrian man they believe was a significant player in the aborted attacks on Israeli cruise ships, which caused Israeli authorities to divert four ships to another port 10 days ago.

The U.S. believes the man, Luwai Sakra, is an "external operations chief" for Zarqawi and that the operation to blow up Israeli cruise ships in Alanya harbor two weeks ago may have been a Zarqawi operation.

There is no doubt, U.S. intelligence officials say, that Sakra had roles both in that aborted attack and the successful attacks on Jewish synagogues and British interests in Istanbul in 2003. But because of Sakra's ties to various organizations, it's hard to pin down who he was working with this time. The Istanbul attacks, for example, are believed to have been al Qaeda-financed, but locally executed, attacks.

"He played a key role in all three," said one intelligence official. "The man has got some credentials... a long operational past with contacts with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, with al Qaeda Central, and other extremist groups operating in the region... including the Muslim Brotherhood."

What is clear, say Kohlman and U.S. officials, is that Zarqawi is desperate to become a force in the world of militant, violent Islam... not bad for someone who three years ago was someone who few had heard of and even fewer thought was that important.

August 17 | 3:45 p.m.

Bank accounts for terrorists (Robert Windrem, Investigative Producer)

In April, Lisa Myers, our senior investigative correspondent, reported how federal law enforcement agencies were looking into one of the Arab world’s biggest banks.  They wanted to know if the bank had adequate safeguards to prevent terrorists from laundering money through the bank. 

This afternoon, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced a $48 million fine against the Arab Bank -- Jordan’s largest financial institution -- for failure to implement safeguards against terrorist financing and money laundering.

The fine, which will be satisfied by a lump sum payment of $24 million, stems from an investigation into the Arab Bank’s New York Branch which found, among other things, that 40-60 known or suspected terrorists, maintained accounts with the Bank.  That finding, in turn, led U.S. regulators to shut down virtually all of the Bank’s U.S. operations, including its multi-billion dollar wire transfer business.

Arab Bank said the fine was excessive ``given the nature of the particular allegations, mitigating circumstances like the evolving legal standards, and the penalties imposed previously on other banks.''

As Lisa also reported in April, the FBI’s terrorist financing section is now examining whether the bank’s conduct violated other U.S. laws.

August 17 | 3:30 p.m.

The computer files (Bonnie Optekman, Vice President, News Assurance)

It was approximately 5:45 p.m. last night when I received a call from our News SVP, Steve Capus. "Have you been following this new virus?" he asked. What I said was "uh, no… but I’ve been away from my desk for awhile." What I was thinking was, "Yikes, did I miss a page? Did I have my Blackberry on ‘silent’? Did the plethora of electronics I carry around fail to advise me about either a breaking news story, or worse, a breaking news story that might affect NBC News? "Turn on CNN," Steve said. There it was. A breaking news story about a computer virus outbreak. I wasn't happy.

I called NBC Universal’s Chief Technology Officer, Darren Feher. "What’s the story on this new virus, Darren?" "Oh," he said matter-of-factly, "yes, we’ve been on it for two days. Yesterday, we heard about it from GE, got the patches from Symantec and proactively pushed them. The entire enterprise has been updated and there have been no infections in NBC Universal." He double checked with Jonathan Chow, Director of Information Security. "Yep, we're good."

I called Steve with this news but I needed more reassurance.

I called Darren back.

"Darren, how bad is this worm? Is this any worse than other infections that have come up?" "No," he said. And as he did, I saw that Microsoft was classifying this as a low-level infection.

Allison Gollust, News VP for Corporate Communications, was the next to call. "Bonnie, have we been affected by this new virus?" "Absolutely not," I was able to say with more confidence in my voice. "We’re fine."

After reassuring a few more callers, I walked down the hall to the Nightly News folks just to fill them in. I believe Steve got to them ahead of me so they were unconcerned.

I still wondered why I didn’t hear about the patches being pushed. I usually get informed so that I can let people know if their work is going to be interrupted by a message or a reboot. I found the answer to that question this morning. The patches were pushed by silent install. No reboot necessary. No need for me to coordinate down time. (But after today's events, my I.T.colleagues said they'd be good enough to advise me even of silent installs affecting the news division in the future.)

It’s never fun when I have to send out notes about possible interruptions in service to do maintenance before anything is wrong. You have to find a time that accommodates every broadcast and make it as unobtrusive as possible. In this case, not only did I not have to do that, because the "patients" never knew they were taking preventative medicine for a virus they didn’t know about, but we got the medicine out in time.

Let me say I sympathize with those in our business who were affected. They are friends as well as colleagues. Besides, machine maladies affect all of us at one time or another and to varying degrees, so I would never criticize. (Never tempt the fates.)

But for me, it was a good day.

(Full disclosure, our machines are approximately 80% covered and should be done by today. I'll be sending a note out soon to advise people.)

August 17 | 11:30 a.m.

Tonight on Nightly News (Steve Johnson, Daily Nightly editor)

Our special series on Pain at the Pump continues: A gallon of gas is one price in one place, yet down the street it's completely different. And a few hours later, the prices change again! What's going on? How can you get the best value every time you tank up?

Tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

August 16 | 4:30 p.m.

If it's Tuesday, it must be... (Brian Williams)

To start, my favorite item from TODAY IN HISTORY: on this day in 1948, Babe Ruth died at the young age of 53. His casket was placed at the entrance of Yankee Stadium, where for two days mourners and fans filed past.

LESSER ITEM IN HISTORY: Exactly 10 years later, the Ciccone family of Bay City, Michigan, welcomed baby Louise into the world, not knowing that she would later change her name to Madonna, and unable to predict that exactly 47 years later to the day... she would fall off a horse and break her collar bone and several ribs.

Back to the broadcast: no mention of dogs in this space today. However, for the second day in a row, we do have a number of interesting and disparate stories from all over the globe... from Vietnam to Gaza to Kansas and south to Texas.

Starting in Gaza as we very well might tonight: the removal of 8,500 settlers appears to be heating up as we approach air time. Our correspondent Martin Fletcher actually called in with fresh (and not positive) developments while we gathered in the afternoon editorial meeting.

We'll also take a look at the war effort, and where it intersects with politics. We'll check in on Crawford, Texas' newest permanent fixture: war protestor and the mother of a fallen soldier, Cindy Sheehan. On the topic of politics, we admit to having engaged in one of the oldest practices in journalism recently: we sent a reporter out to a point on the map. Our idea: pick a place, any place, in a Bush-friendly Red State, and sample attitudes toward the President, which is just what Carl Quintanilla does tonight.

We will take on the topic of suddenly hot hybrid cars tonight. The lesson appears to be distilled down to this: if you're buying one out of concern for the environment, great. If your goal is to save money in terms of gasoline consumption, think again. Details to come.

Roger O'Neil will close us out tonight with a terrific look at an awful idea: remember that space-age baggage handling system at the new Denver Airport? Remember New Coke? Same thing. We hope you'll join us.

August 16 | 4 p.m.

What teens are reading (Janet Shamlian, NBC News)

Our story on teen fiction touched a nerve with viewers. Many parents told us they had no idea what their teens were reading. They were surprised by the content of some of the current best sellers. One dad said he thought a book in his kitchen belonged to his wife, after reading the back cover. It turned out to be his daughter's book.

Our librarian viewers say there is a wealth of excellent and well-written teen literature available... books that can change kids' lives. They stress parents must be involved in the selection process.

A mom from New York tells us she allowed her daughter to read a book on date rape, because it gave her daughter helpful information. A Kentucky mom wrote to us about the same book. It was assigned to her daughter as a summer reading project, and the mom found it inappropriate. Both parents made informed decisions about their individual child.

I'm a mom of five. Four of my children are reading. I don't think I can pre-read every one of their books, but I can do my homework through book reviews and the informed suggestions of others.

As one viewer told us, what may be most interesting is in a time of technology overload for teens... that they choose to read at all.

Click here to read and watch Janet Shamlian's report on teen reading.

August 16 | 8:45 a.m.

Tonight on Nightly News (Steve Johnson, Daily Nightly editor)

We're all suffering from pain at the pump, and because of those high gasoline prices, hybrid cars are hot. But is it hype? They can save you money in the long run. But how long is that? There's a lot to know before you buy a gas-electric vehicle.

Tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.

August 15 | 4:45 p.m.

How every dog begins the day (Brian Williams)

In keeping with our stated policy of honesty, candor and at least a good-faith attempt at transparency each day in this space... the following is an accurate depiction of our afternoon editorial meeting: I took one look at the rundown of stories for tonight's broadcast (taking into account disparate subject matter, our choices for today and the limited opportunities for "flow" between stories) and pronounced it "a dog's breakfast." Let me quickly backfill: this is no reflection on the stories themselves (there are plenty of notable developments taking place around the world today) or the correspondents, producers and others breaking their backs to get all of this on the air tonight (say nothing of the dangers of reporting from Iraq these days). It's just that some days it instantly and reflexively comes together... and on other days, we have a lot in common with Purina.

Now to the news: did anyone else get a kick out of the effort, apparently launched over the weekend, to begin referring to those meeting in Iraq to formalize a Constitution as "framers"? And while I suppose the REAL Framers, during that hot summer in Philadelphia, would gladly have opted for a 7-10-day delay... they kept going. While the situation in Iraq isn't at all analogous, this delay is a reality... and might have been the only real option open to all parties. Richard Engel will join us from there tonight. Andrea Mitchell will take on the interesting story out of Washington these days: the doubts being expressed (only not by humans with actual names) that three major goals can be met in Iraq during this Presidency: a self-sustaining oil business, a model democracy, and security for all.

Elsewhere in the broadcast tonight: the mysterious plane crash outside Athens (and the apparent hoax making news tonight), and today's revelations about the prior opinions of Judge John Roberts.

It's appropriate to point out that on this day in 1945, gasoline rationing ended (having been in effect during the War) and Americans were no longer limited to 35 miles per hour on all roads. It's also appropriate, then, that we'll look at gas prices tonight: how far they've come and how much higher they may go.

And while we may not leave the audience with a smile tonight... we'll get off the air tonight with an interesting story for all parents of teenaged girls: watch what they're reading. We'll explain. We hope you'll join us.

August 15 | 2:30 p.m.

Custard in Crawford (Kelly O'Donnell, NBC Nightly News)

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush has spent nearly a year of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford — and wherever he goes, the White House press corps follows. 

This summer’s visit is a five-week “working vacation,” as his advisors call it. The president is never really on vacation even when he has few or no public events. The tools of his office travel easily making him the ultimate telecommuter.

For those of us assigned to the White House, summer means a ticket to central Texas complete with 90-plus degree heat, turbo winds and healthy sized bugs.

‘Katie’s Custard’ between stories
Instead of the cramped media offices back in the West Wing, a press center is set up for each visit inside the gym of a Crawford public school several miles from the Bush’s 1,600 acre “Prairie Chapel Ranch.” 

The media provide security at the school and only credentialed journalists are permitted. 

White House reporters do not have free access to the president’s property. Each day a small, rotating group of reporters representing the different types of media: wire services, newspapers, magazines, radio and television is assembled as a “pool.”  

The pool is called to the ranch if there are news events or photo opportunities and the material gathered is shared with the rest of the White House Press Corps. This means most of our time is spent under the basketball nets and lighted scoreboard of the Crawford gym.

TV transmission gear is set up to broadcast videotape to all the networks.  Folding tables and chairs create computer workstations for dozens of journalists. 

Local restaurants deliver a buffet of breakfasts, lunches and arguably too many treats. 

One group favorite is Katie’s Custard. Many here have passed long hours enjoying the rich, creamy custard and abundant toppings brought in by Katie, the custard company’s namesake.

Katie is an adorable little girl who visits each day under the watchful eye of her mom.

Click here to read more of Kelly O'Donnell's report

August 15 | 9:15 a.m.

Tonight on Nightly News (Steve Johnson, Daily Nightly editor)

We want our kids to read more, but what exactly are they reading? One mother says she was " shocked, actually." Some books written for teens are filled with adult situations. Bookstore owners say they don't see a problem. Said one: "Kids want to read about real life." But are these books helping kids navigate adolescence, or just minting money for publishers?

Tonight on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.


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