A Senior White House official told me earlier today the President's speech to the nation (laying out a new strategy in Iraq) will indeed now likely be in January. While this runs contrary to what I was told just yesterday, and while this official understands a lot could happen between now and then (exposing the President to the risk of having to "react" to external events), this official explained the White House would rather "get it (the speech) right... than just get it OUT." Given the voracity of the Washington press corps for a drumbeat/theme story -- the past few news cycles have been dominated by the President's "listening" to various experts and branches of government prior to whatever pronouncement is coming -- and that will likely continue. On CNN (where Jack Cafferty just said "the DECIDER has decided not to decide until January..."), they just ran a large graphic headline saying "WAY FORWARD STALLED." And I note that on MSNBC is the on-screen graphic: SHOULD BUSH CONSIDER FORMING A BIPARTISAN WAR COUNCIL?" With Robert Gates now days away from taking over as SecDef, someone at our editorial meeting noted that Rumsfeld has given an interesting interview to Cal Thomas -- specifically his comments about the phrase "War on Terror."
Our broadcast will likely begin with some combination of the White House and Iraq. Among our other topics tonight: immigration, the Mt. Hood rescue mission, the "other fronts" in Afghanistan (we have some great reporting from Jim Maceda on top of what the New York Times published from the region yesterday) and as promised, a look at who's watching the various charities during this busy giving season.
If you heard this next item on sports radio this morning on the way to work, and doubted its veracity, doubt no more. It's true. In an incident that may say as much about the glaring absence of common sense in our national airline security policies as any other of late, Troy Smith, the winner of this year's Heisman Trophy, was not allowed to take the trophy on board his flight home. He was forced to ship the Heisman. You'll hear more about this item on the air.
WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES
Whenever lightning struck the Coyote, Road Runner, Yosemite Sam or any other of the friends we grew up with, they would instantly dissolve into a pile of ashes. It's the cartoon way. Who can blame a generation of Americans for believing that the same thing happens in real life? Well, cut to today's Science Times section of the New York Times (NYTimes.com login required for link). A reader wrote the editor: "If a high-intensity lightning bolt hit someone, would the person's body turn to ash?"
Where to begin?
The reply from C. Claiborne Ray of the Times debunks the "cartoon ash pile" theory of lightning strikes, and goes on to supply some interesting facts. There are about 70 lightning-related deaths each year, and only 1 in 10 lightning-strike victims survive a bolt out of the blue (and here we're not counting the kind that hit me the day I met my wife), and often victims are left with neurological problems. While a lightning bolt can blow the clothing off your body (insert your own material here), the most common cause of death in such incidents is cardiopulmonary arrest, and not burns (or, as the editor puts it in debunking another cartoon image, being "split in half"). Lightning-strike survivors, we're told, can be easily distracted and irritable, which tells me that about half of my co-workers must have some lightning-strike stories of their own to tell.
And with this discovery in this morning's paper, C. Claiborne Ray of the New York Times takes the title of Second-Best Name I've come across in the last 24 hours. Last night's PBS documentary about England's King Edward and Mrs. Simpson featured comments from Sir Peregrine Worthstone. No more calls, we have a winner.
As we return to the serious business of putting together a newscast, we hope you will join us for the Tuesday edition of the broadcast.