ODDS 'N' ENDS OFF THE BROADCAST BEAMS:
* Credit the Maryland-based Discovery Channel of basic cable service for scoring a journalistic coup this weekend: At 8 p.m. on Sunday, the two-hour "Carter Center Briefing: Crisis in the Gulf" will feature former President Jimmy Carter's perspectives on the current crisis in the Persian Gulf.
Despite his one-term administration's perceived problems, especially the lengthy holding of hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, Carter's repute as a voice of authority and influence in international affairs has never been higher (save, perhaps, for the months after he engineered the Camp David summit between Israel's Menachem Begin and Egypt's Anwar Sadat).
From The Carter Center in Atlanta, the former president is scheduled to moderate a discussion of the events leading up to Iraq's invasion of neighboring Kuwait and the implications of the internationally backed military mobilization there by the U.S.
"I believe this special briefing can provide insight into the long-term impact of these events," says Carter in a prepared statement announcing the program.
Among the scheduled guests are Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter years, James Schlesinger, former energy secretary, and Admiral William Crowe, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other panelists include a number of academic experts on the Middle East, as well as government representatives of the Soviet Union and other nations.
* Speaking of Middle East news, no cable-connected viewer could be too surprised at the recent news that the combined CNN and Headline News channels topped cable ratings in August.
CNN and especially Headline News have been the places to turn for the latest fast-breaking developments in the area, rather than waiting for Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather to show up at dinner time, or for local news operations to skim the highlights before getting to the weather report.
And Defense Secretary Richard Cheney's testimony to Congress this week, presented live by CNN, had more information than his boss' subsequent prime-time show.
In fact, says CNN, during August prime-time hours the combined news services topped the 1 million households ratings threshold for the first time in their history.
* Still in the Middle East, that was a relatively tart tongue-lashing which White House Chief of Staff John H. Sinunu gave Deborah Norville earlier this week during an interview on NBC's "Today" show, following President Bush's address to Congress.
First, after Norville asked several essentially redundant questions about a time line for U.S. withdrawal from the area, Sinunu said that "despite your fixation" on the question of time, it is not possible to predict.
And when she prefaced a question about Bush's remarks on the capital gains issue by saying, "It's my understanding that . . .," Sinunu shot back, "Then your understanding is wrong . . ."