The 2,000-mile-long icestorm that downed electricity powerlines, made highway driving treacherous and toppled limb-heavy trees was the unanimous selection for Story of the Day. More than 650,000 are suffering blackouts and so far 36 people have died. The front of sleet and freezing rain stretched from Texas to Maine--but all three networks chose Oklahoma as the state that most vividly put winter on display.     
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video thumbnailNBCWinter weatherIcestorm stretches from Texas to New EnglandDon TeagueOklahoma
video thumbnailCBSWinter weatherFrost threatens California's citrus orchardsSandra HughesCalifornia
video thumbnailNBCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesConfusion over command for US troops in BaghdadRichard EngelBaghdad
video thumbnailABC
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Iraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGen Raymord Ordierno describes Baghdad enemyJonathan KarlBaghdad
video thumbnailCBSIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesGIs rescue surgeon trapped by Haifa St fightingLara LoganBaghdad
video thumbnailABCIraq: US-led invasion forces' combat continuesDemocrats divided on whether to cut off fundsMartha RaddatzWhite House
video thumbnailNBCIsrael-Palestinian conflictSecretary Rice sets up Olmert-Abbas talksAndrea MitchellRiyadh
video thumbnailNBCChild abduction in Missouri: two boys found aliveTeenager, aged 15, was hiding in plain sightKevin TibblesMissouri
video thumbnailCBSChild abduction in Missouri: two boys found aliveClues were visible on social networking WebsitesDaniel SiebergNew York
video thumbnailABC
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Civil-Rights-era leader MLK archive conservedMayor of Atlanta raised funds to keep papersKate SnowNew York
SOONER ICESTORM The 2,000-mile-long icestorm that downed electricity powerlines, made highway driving treacherous and toppled limb-heavy trees was the unanimous selection for Story of the Day. More than 650,000 are suffering blackouts and so far 36 people have died. The front of sleet and freezing rain stretched from Texas to Maine--but all three networks chose Oklahoma as the state that most vividly put winter on display.

NBC's Dan Teague called the tingling pattern of icicles "surreal--a page taken straight out of Dr Seuss, a winter abstract that is anything but serene." CBS' Kelly Cobiella visited the shelters of Muskogee, filling up because homes lack heat and electricity: "Blame it on a familiar enemy"--El Nino, she suggested. ABC's Mike von Fremd explained the meteorology in more detail: Canadian Arctic air lies underneath warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico; when rain falls from above it freezes as it passes through the cold air, creating ice pellets instead of snow.

Both ABC and CBS followed up with the impact on the California citrus orchards. NBC had decided to have George Lewis preview the Central Valley cold snap on Friday. CBS' Sandra Hughes told us that the avocado crop had been wiped out, with damaged trees not bearing fruit for the next two years. ABC's Brian Rooney warned that the price of fresh oranges increase: a similar freeze in 1998 produced a 50% hike.

MILK CARTON UPDATE The heartland was well represented on the network news agenda--not only Oklahoma but Missouri too. The plight of 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, living with his alleged abductor for four years, was recapped by all three newscasts. ABC's Barbara Pinto (subscription required) said they "appeared to be father and son," living there "in plain sight" of his apartment block neighbors. CBS' Bianca Solorzano added that they saw the teen left home alone with his door open and that he was "allowed to roam freely."

The teenager was found alive because police were searching for a second boy, Ben Ownby, aged 13, snatched while alighting from his school bus last week. NBC's Kevin Tibbles promoted NBC's exclusive interview with Ownby and his family to be aired on Tuesday's Today.

CBS' technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg pursued the angle that Hornbeck had posted his identity on a variety of social networking Websites--and even submitted a comment to his own parents' site devoted to searching for him. The Internet age may have made pictures on milk cartons seem obsolete, a former FBI agent suggested to Sieberg, "but with all these Internet footprints, if a child goes missing, searching online can be like finding a needle in a stack of needles."

BAGHDAD TURMOIL Last week's debate about Iraq policy focused on the White House and Capitol Hill. Now it switches to Baghdad where things are as confused as can be. NBC's Richard Engel covered a press conference held by Gen George Casey, the departing commander of US troops, and Zalmay Khalilzad, the departing US Ambassador. "American forces will remain under American command. Period. No issues," was Casey's soundbite. "Iraqis will be in the lead," was how Khalilzad put it. Engel's conclusion was understated: "Disputes remain."

Then there is the question of whether the new plan for Baghdad will involve a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, the militia headed by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Engel asserted: "US troops want to tackle Shiite militias accused of acting as death squads." When ABC's Jonathan Karl (subscription required) talked to Gen Raymond Odierno, the commander of ground troops in Baghdad insisted that his forces would not attack the Mahdi Army because al-Sadr controls a bloc in the Iraqi parliament, and is therefore not an "extremist" but "part of the political process."

ABC stuck with the domestic political debate over Iraq. Martha Raddatz performed a headcount among Democrats to see if there were votes to block the Pentagon's $100bn request for supplemental Iraq funding next month. "They could try to stop me," conceded President George Bush in a soundbite Raddatz quoted from CBS' 60 Minutes. Raddatz called John Edwards the leading advocate for blocking funds while Hillary Rodham Clinton was "not so definitive." So Raddatz expects no block, only a "symbolic resolution."

POST-SURGICAL FOLLOW-UP On Friday CBS' Lara Logan brought us the harrowing story of Baghdad's leading liver transplant surgeon, trapped in his Haifa Street apartment by the week-long fighting there, "witnessing executions, neighbors and friends killed." Logan followed up with action videotape of a USArmy cavalry raid, inspired by her reporting, to rescue the surgeon and his family and his daughter's dog and drive them in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle to the safety of the Green Zone.

RICE SHUTTLE Only NBC filed a report on diplomacy in the region. Andrea Mitchell accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Riyadh after she had organized peace talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The State Department contradicted Mitchell's suggestion that Rice was making the effort as a "trade-off" for Egyptian support for the US troop reinforcement in Baghdad. Mitchell was skeptical that the Olmert-Abbas talks would amount to anything: even if they reached a deal, "they might not be able to sell it to their own people or rival factions in their governments."

PAPER TRAIL The Martin Luther King Day holiday was a day off for Charles Gibson at ABC (the other two networks had their regular anchors). Substitute Kate Snow (subscription required) closed with a tribute to Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, who was 18-years-old when she saw King's Dream speech in person. The mayor raised $32m in eleven days to prevent the MLK Archives from being fragmented by a sale at auction by Sotheby's. King's papers were "rescued from shoeboxes, garbage bags and aging folders" in the home of his late widow Coretta Scott King. They have been kept together and will be housed at Atlanta's Morehouse College. Some of them went on display, Snow told us, including his celebrated Letter from Birmingham Jail.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT For dessert, as it were, ABC and CBS both offered features about nutrition that does not come from food. In her In Focus feature, CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi publicized the book Natural Causes by Dan Hurley, who claims that the $20bn-a-year nutritional supplement industry produces no benefits to the 38% of Americans who use them: "There is no good evidence that these products are safe and effective and there is plenty of evidence that many of them are unsafe or ineffective or both," the author asserted. Alfonsi showed us an extreme case--a woman whose nose was burned off from using an herbal skin paste. The industry, needless to say, disagrees with Hurley, dismissing the book as "not credible."

ABC's John McKenzie scrutinized the fatty acids known as Omega-3, now being added to orange juice and peanut butter and cereals and salad dressings. When derived from sardines or anchovies they may help one's heart, without even making Tropicana's new OJ fishy, McKenzie's taste-tester promised us: "It does not taste like Caesar Salad at all." When their source is flax, the benefits are less proven and the safety remains uncertain, McKenzie warned. "The science is much less conclusive…the best way is the old-fashioned way. Eat fish."

MENTIONED IN PASSING The network newscasts do not assign correspondents to all of the news of the day. If Tyndall Report readers come across videostreamed reports online of stories that were mentioned only in passing, post the link in comments for us to check out

Today's examples: Iraq hanged two more top Baath Party leaders, one of whom, Saddam Hussein's half brother, was decapitated by the noose…genetic researchers have found a possible marker for Alzheimer's Disease.