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Hard day's news

We have two big stories up top tonight and both go right to the heart of everyday life. The first is confirmation of a story that I think we all already know: health care depends on your class and other socioeconomic factors. Specifically, there are entire subgroups of women who receive alarmingly poor cancer care, based simply on who they are, and certain judgments that are made about them.

The second story involves a magazine, and our most precious cargo: the most prominent consumer publication in the country, CONSUMER REPORTS, is taking back their last big story: car seat safety. While they hired an outside firm to test the seats, the outside firm got it wrong. A lot of seat makers got praised and slimed in the process, and a lot of families spent a lot of money on safety -- based on bad data.

From the political/Iraq category: when you consider that the Bush policy on Iraq is based in large part on the performance of one man, this can't be welcome news. Maliki gave a print interview last night and said some unkind things about the U.S. role.

Weather across parts of the nation is still miserable. As you switch off your lights tonight and set your heat to the nighttime setting, please think of the 200,000 Americans who have neither because of the ice storms.

We have a wonderful story tonight from Lester Holt (you may have seen the promo) featuring new assistance for people with disabilities.

Finally: we lost Art Buchwald. He was an American original, a Marine veteran and a Pulitzer winner. A Washington fixture for several decades -- and a man who had the best friends in the world. One of them was Tom Brokaw, and in looking through the material today I realized that the best way to remember Art is to re-air some of Tom's last conversation with him.

I was asked to write this story in this space today. I had a meeting with a co-worker from Tulsa, Okla., this morning and explained to him why I've never gotten over my feelings about Tulsa. Almost 25 years ago, while living in Kansas and working across the state line in Missouri, I found myself driving a new car on the interstate in Tulsa. My previous car, a slant-6 Dodge Dart, threw a rod one day, and to be honest, I parked it where it died, in a cornfield outside Cherokee, Kansas. It may still be there. My boss at the time worked a deal with Coffeyville Motors in Coffeyville, Kansas, to sell me a Ford Escort demonstrator vehicle (it had some miles on it and was painted what I used to call "chick-magnet beige") at a good price. I was making $168 a week (and could afford no health insurance -- for seven long years, for that matter), so I made a deal with my boss to work overtime and a 7-day-a-week schedule to pay it off. I had owned my car for a week when, just as Oral Roberts University came into sight on the interstate, the rear trap door of a gravel truck opened in front of me, and the stones broke my headlights, windshield and pockmarked by hood and roof. I was crestfallen, broke and couldn't afford my own deductible. I'm not sure where I found the money or how I got it all fixed, but I've never gotten over Tulsa -- which I know is a great city in a state I've traveled thoroughly (especially Oklahoma City, the Pitcher, Commerce and Miami area, and Grand Lake) that is full of great people. But those pebbles will get you every time. That's the story I was asked to tell.

So many of my friends at this network have already written for the new World Blog -- Paul in Tel Aviv, Mary in Havana -- yesterday's posting by Richard Engel is required reading for anyone wanting to understand Iraq right now. This is a great idea, and we've got to get some of this on the air tonight.

We hope you can join our broadcast tonight.