COMMENTS: Temper Temper

A light day of news saw no international news warranting coverage by a foreign correspondent--not Fidel Castro's announced intention not to return to office in Cuba, not Iran's acquisition of nuclear power plant fuel from Russia. Neither was there consensus on the day's lead story. NBC chose news from its own network, where talkshow hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien have decided to cross their own striking writers' picket line. ABC led with the countdowns to the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. CBS picked Christmas shopping. Amid all this aimlessness, CBS' campaign feature in its Primary Questions series attracted most airtime, qualifying losing one's temper as Story of the Day.

Christmas is coming and retail sales are "now expected to be the slowest in years," warned CBS' Anthony Mason. He quoted President George Bush's warning on the economic outlook: "There are definitely some storm clouds and concerns." Both Mason and ABC's Barbara Pinto pointed to a fall in sales of women's clothing. Mason called it "an ominous sign." Staying with the President's meteorological analogy Pinto called apparel "an important barometer of this shopping season." This year's popular presents--UGG boots, Nintendo Wii, flat screen TVs--"are all reruns from Christmas past." Pinto pointed out that "there is worry about inflation"--food and especially gasoline. CBS' Cynthia Bowers picked up on food inflation. She called the price of milk "really hard to swallow" and blamed cereals. "The grains it takes to feed animals and make many foods--corn, soybeans, wheat, rice--have all recently hit record highs."

ABC closed with Bill Weir's (no link) tribute to the "staggering logistical feat" of the overnight parcel delivery business, an industry laboring right now through its busiest 24 hours of the year. FedEx, for example, delivered 11.3m packages overnight. Weir traced the progress of one gift box of holiday chocolates from a confectionery boutique in New York City to a lucky non-locavore recipient in Savannah Ga. To travel that 800 miles as the crow flies, FedEx took the chocolates on a non-carbon-neutral detour through "the busiest freight hub in the world" in Memphis, where a jet lands at its sorting center every 30 seconds.


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